Valley hoops teams hope explosive offense, stingy defense will lead to postseason success

ST. JOHN VALLEY, Maine — The Fort Kent girls finished the regular season 12-6, including a dramatic come from behind one-point victory against St. John Valley rival Madawaska in the final game of the season. The Warriors’ lost two of their final five games, but finished ranked 7th in the Maine Principals Association Heal Point Standings and are headed to the Class C postseason.

“My team is playing well heading into postseason play. We have been able to win some (Heal) point worthy games,” said head coach Kelly O’Leary.

The tournament starts for the Warriors when they host the 10th ranked Fort Fairfield Tigers on Tuesday. Fort Kent won both matchups against Fort Fairfield this season, although both games were tight ones, 40-31 and 33-29.

Warrior Eden Paradis rushes past Rylee Albert of Ashland during a boys varsity basketball game at Fort Kent Community High School on Friday, Jan. 19. (Jessica Potila | SJVT/FhF)

Hard play and a strong defense have led to success for this year’s Warrior girls, O’leary said. And the effort has been from the team as whole, he added.

“The development of the bench players have really helped our team improve,” the coach said.

O’Leary’s starting five athletes all have played in the postseason and have competed well, he said. This will be the coach’s third playoff game since taking over the team.

O’Leary commented that he has no injury concerns going into the prelim game. “We are healthy and ready to play,” the coach said.

The home court has been a happy place for the Warrior girls, who went 7-2 this year. That should bode well for their preliminary playoff game against Fort Fairfield (12-6) in Fort Kent beginning at 6 p.m. on Feb. 13 at the Community High School gymnasium.

The Warrior boys and their potent offense enter the postseason ranked 5th.

The team scored a season high 102 points against Washburn and also netted 91 against Wisdom, both Class D schools. The Warriors scored 60 or more points 13 times this year.

Fort Kent (14-4) is hosting a prelim playoff game on Wednesday against 12th ranked Dexter High School (11-7).

“The team is doing fine and looking to make an impact in the tournament,” head coach Derek Cooper said. “We will have to play a prelim, but we are anxious to give our fans one more home game for the ones that can’t come see us play in Bangor.”

The team was equally strong on the road as on its home court, going 7-2 in each case.

“Mental focus, transition offense, solid man to man defense and ball movement,” will be the keys to the team’s postseason success, Cooper said.

The head coach said he expects his captains to provide team leadership on the court.

Cooper added that he is proud of how well his players have gelled this season and come together as a team.  

“It’s a family environment and it makes player communication a lot better” he said.

Although last year was Cooper’s first trip as a coach to the Bangor Cross Insurance Center, he and his teams have played in at least a prelim game every year he has been the coach.

The Fort Kent boys game against Dexter High starts at 5 p.m. on Feb. 14 at the FKCHS gym.

The Madawaska girls (12-6) are ranked 9th and travel to Piscataquis Community High School at 5 p.m. on Feb. 13, to take on the 8th ranked Pirates in a Class C prelim game.

The Owls enter the postseason on a bit of a streak, having won four of their final five games, with the lone loss coming via the 32-31 away game against Fort Kent.

Warrior Cassidy Lovley charges toward the basket as Hannah Nadeau of Madawaska defends during a girls varsity basketball game at Fort Kent Community High School on Monday, Feb. 5. (Jessica Potila | SJVT/FhF)

“We were playing pretty good, until everyone got sick,” head coach Dean Gendreau said. A bout of stomach and congestion ailments had much of the team running on less than full power in the final week of the season, he said. “We had no energy.”

Despite this, though, Gendreau said his squad is ready for the postseason.

“The girls are excited,” he said. “We are hopeful for a win (against Piscataquis). Even though it would mean we’d then go against the number one team (Houlton).”

Gendreau said the Pirates have great play at point guard and that will be a focal point of his Owl defense.

The coach said his team has good height and size when it comes to controlling the paint and getting to rebunds. The Owl girls, though, have not been an offensive powerhouse this year, with their highest scoring game being just 56 points.

“Honestly, I feel we have a decent chance,” said Gendreau. “If we can keep it low scoring. We will need to get some fastbreak points and avoid going against their set defense.”

For the Madawaska boys (11-7), this season has been a great first one for new head coach Peter Clavette and the team’s success has been a pleasant surprise.

“We are doing well, competing and growing,” Clavette said.

The team won just two games last year. This year they enter the postseason ranked 13th and will be traveling to Mars Hill to take on fifth ranked Central Aroostook High School (13-5) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

While the Owl defense has sometimes been less than stellar, the team’s fast paced offense has shown up when needed during the regular season.

The road has also been kind to the Owl boys, with the team going 6-3 away from Madawaska. The squad was 5-4 at home.

Clavette said “patience, hard work and heart … lots of heart,” have been the recipe for this season’s turn around and will be key to postseason success.

The only injury Clavette is keeping an eye on heading into the playoffs is Ben Hebert’s back injury, although the coach anticipates Hebert will be a go for Wednesday’s game.

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