Jill Joyce will be a key post player for the Maine Girls’ Academy basketball team, which will be in the mix in Class AA South this season.
Coach: Billy Goodman (sixth year, 108-18 overall record, three state championships)
2016-17 record: 8-12 (Lost, 53-23, to eventual champion Gorham in Class AA South semifinals)
Top returning players: Madison Legassey (Senior), Jill Joyce (Junior), Catherine Reid (Junior), Serena Mower (Sophomore), Hope Olson (Sophomore)
Pivotal games: Dec. 22 @ Deering, Jan. 11 @ Gorham, Jan. 13 SOUTH PORTLAND, Jan. 19 @ Portland, Jan. 23 THORNTON ACADEMY, Feb. 2 CHEVERUS, Feb. 8 @ Scarborough
Coach’s comment: “We’re a lot better at this point than we were last year. We only have two seniors, so we’re still young, but the girls have a year of experience. They’ve gotten better and should be more confident. We’re looking to build on last year when we started over and still got to the Civic Center. We need to shoot better and we want to finish strong. I’m really excited.”
The Forecaster’s forecast: After a rare rebuilding season, which still wound up going better than most expected, the Lions are ready to be a top contender once again. While MGA finds itself in a very tough region, there’s good reason to think it will only get better in the weeks to come and will be a force to be reckoned with in February.
The Lions return Mower, who made the SMAA All-Rookie team as a freshman after averaging 2.6 assists per game. She’ll run the point and pace the offense. Look for Legassey and Reid (2.7 assists per contest) to knock down shots from the outside. Joyce is a matchup nightmare in the post and she’s only getting better. MGA also features multiple players who can play more than one position, a group that includes Olson, sophomore Katie Fitzpatrick, a transfer from Greely, freshman Storey Smith and senior Emily Weisser, who is battling her way back from a knee injury and should be back in the lineup by the first of the year.
A year ago, the Lions were their usual strong selves on defense, but really struggled putting the ball in the basket. This season, MGA appears to have the pieces in place to be more effective offensively and if that’s the case, the opposition will have its hands full. Teams better have enjoyed beating the Lions a year ago, because they’re primed to return to form and could be one of the last teams standing.
Coach: Sean Flaherty (fourth year)
2016-17 results: 12th @ Class B state meet
Top returners: Gabby Begos (Senior), Charlotte Spies (Sophomore)
Coach’s comment: “After losing several state qualifiers and experienced swimmers to graduation, we’re excited to rebound with new and younger talent. Returners will look to score in more events and improve our relays at both the conference and state meets. Blake Wescott will make an immediate impact in the conference and Class B championships in her high school debut.”
The Forecaster’s forecast: Maine Girls’ Academy again has a small but potentially powerful team.
The Lions will miss departed standout Ana Neff-Jendrasko, but Begos and Spies will look to fill the void. Begos, MGA’s Fall Athlete of the Year, swims the distance freestyle and butterfly. Spies hopes to contend in the 100 and 200 freestyle, as well as the breaststroke. Freshman Blake Wescott could make an immediate splash in the freestyle, fly, breaststroke and individual medley.
Serena Mower had a solid freshman season and will be a key returner this winter for the Lions.
Hope Olson also saw big minutes as a freshman and will play an even bigger role this winter.
Catherine Reid has hit a lot of big shots over the years. She’ll be a matchup nightmare again.