A veritable Cerberus of Maine basketball posting:
Left to right: Cheverus High School, future Bobcat Ryan Weston, the 2002 Brunswick Dragons
1. Last night Cheverus defeated the heavily favored Bangor Rams 49-41 to capture the Maine High School boys’ basketball crown. This definitely has a Giants/Pats vibe to it — there was a bunch of hype about the ’07-’08 Bangor team being the greatest team in the history of Maine (let me pre-empt the comment responses… ”Isn’t that like being the smartest kid on the short bus?”).
From the recap, it sounds like the vaunted Rams frontcourt wasn’t able to get going and Cheverus rallied behind essentially a home-court advantage (Cheverus is based in Portland, which is the site of the Cumberland County Civic Center, where the game was played) and the play of tourney MVP Mick DiStasio.
It’s kind of hard to understand unless you live there, but high school basketball is huge in Maine (and if you’re in southern Maine, division III women’s basketball is huge because of the Bowdoin/Bates/USM powerhouses). It pretty much single-handedly keeps MPBN (formerly PBS), which broadcasts every game, ticking, and captivates the houses of people who live in rural areas. My grandma, for instance, watches every game, all day, for the duration of the tournament, from the Class D girls’ teams that I could beat 1-on-5 all the way up to Class A boys’ teams who send players to Division I colleges, like Florida State (Brunswick’s Ralph Mims ’03) and Maryland (Deering’s Nik Caner-Medley ’02).
Ralph appears to be proud of his school
2. Bangor frontcourt beast Ryan Weston is headed to the ol’ alma mater, the fine Bates College. Bangor has turned into a pretty serious recruiting ground for the Bobcats: we got Father Scott’s Favorite Basketball Player Ever At Any Level (Zak Ray), Alex Gallant, and now Weston, plus Brewer’s Chris Wilson, all in the last five years. Though Weston came up short in the state final (generally not a great sign), he has dominated throughout the year and should be a menace in NESCAC, where talented big men are almost sure things. This of course does not include former Massachusetts High School Player of the Year Jimmy O’Keefe, who went to Bates and decided to be mediocre for two years.
Ryan won’t even have to get used to new school colors
Weston sounds like a stand-up kid in defeat, for what it’s worth:
“They hit their shots down the stretch, and we were unable to get a hand in their face on a lot of shots in the second half,” said Bangor center Ryan Weston, one of 11 Ram seniors playing their final high school game. “They’re a great team. Take nothing away from them. They executed better than we did in the second half, and we couldn’t get the momentum back.”
Weston is a state all-star and a finalist for Maine’s Mr. Basketball. Welcome to Lewiston, Ryan.
3. Reading about this reminded me of one of my favorite moments as a sports fan. Way back in 2002, when Pax was filling out his AARP application, Father Scott was a senior at BHS and started following Brunswick’s boys’ basketball team, which, on the strength of a strong youth rec program and the coaching of former University of Maine player Todd Hanson, became a strong program through the 90s and early 00s.
Led by senior Dan Hammond (one of the few people I’ve ever seen who could be described as a leader since about age 9, and one of the smartest players I’ve ever seen) and future Seminole Ralph Mims, the Dragons looked pretty unstoppable. They rolled through competition in the tourney and reached the final against the heavily favored Deering team, led by the aforementioned Caner-Medley. All the papers were picking Deering (though Brunswick, at a robust population of 25,000, is probably about the 5th biggest town in Maine, Deering is closer to Portland and thus gets more press) mostly because of Caner-Medley, and a kid I think named Walter Phillips, who I’ve since lost track of.
After literally I think the only pep rally my school ever held, a remarkable number of BHS kids went down to the Cumberland County Civic Center to, paraphrasing Coach Hanson at the rally, take away the home-court advantage Deering was expecting.
It wasn’t even a contest. We got out to a huge lead, and the 6’7″ Caner-Medley spent his time auditioning for college, launching threes even though he drew two quick fouls on Dan (who went on to play at DII Bryant University, and became a fan favorite) in the first quarter and could have easily tried to abuse him underneath and put him in further trouble. We ended up winning by 22, and it was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had at a sporting event, being in a sea of orange and black while our underdog team absolutely dominated.
Reminiscent of the Dragon defense on
Raef LaFrentz Nik Caner-Medley
Interestingly, in light of Bangor’s recent hype, Kennebec Journal Morning Sentinel journalist Travis Lazarczyk recently recapped his greatest teams in Maine of the last 10 years, and my alma mater showed up 2nd:
2002 BRUNSWICK. The Dragons beat a favored Deering team that featured University of Maryland-bound Nik Canner-Medley [ed. note: it's Caner-Medley. Guess he wasn't that great] by 22 points in the state championship game, 83-61. Dan Hammond and Ralph Mims, then a sophomore, starred for Brunswick.