The Deering/Portland Unified basketball team has enjoyed on-court success and has helped grow the sport in its short history. Maine now has over 50 teams taking part in the highly-touted activity.
Another Unified basketball season has begun and once again, the big news is that the sport continues to grow, both in participation and in popularity.
When Unified basketball began in 2015, 17 schools fielded a team. This winter, three times that number are taking part.
Teams play between six and eight regular-season games. Three athletes and two partners play at a time and partners are limited to scoring no more than 25 percent of a team’s points.
Five Forecaster area squads are looking forward to big things this winter.
Cape Elizabeth was 1-5 last season in its debut. This year, Sarah Boeckel, the team’s coach, looks for big things from senior Ian Robertson, juniors Brian Hunter, Andy Erskine, Jameson Vickery and Elliot Voltz and sophomore Ethan Powers.
“We have a great group of partners that do an awesome job of working with and supporting the athletes,” Boeckel said. “We’re looking to building on our growth from (last year).”
The Deering/Portland co-op was a perfect 8-0 in the regular season a year ago, but opened with a narrow 55-46 loss to Westbrook last week. This winter, coach Chris Hazelton says his squad has high hopes.
“I know a state championship is on much of the team’s minds,” Hazelton said. “If, at the end of the season, every single student on the team wants to come back and play next year, regardless of our wins and losses, then we know we’ve accomplished what’s most important.”
Freeport debuted with a 4-2 record in 2016-17. This winter, coach Bill Ridge is expecting good things again, as Isaac Porter and Leo Li are top returners.
“First of all, this season is about getting better and having fun,” said Ridge, who also coaches the Falcons boys’ basketball varsity team. “Enthusiasm is a priority. If players, coaches and fans have the right attitude, this is absolutely one of the most rewarding programs that the high school offers. This season should come more naturally. We have more partners returning from last year who became more comfortable in their roles throughout the inaugural season. I expect this season to be fun and beneficial for everyone involved.”
Greely was 4-4 in 2016-17 and returns six of last year’s seven top scorers. Players to watch include senior Connor Hines, juniors Maddie Conklin, Olivia Davis, Ryan Lynch, Sydney Pettengill and Charlie Saffian and freshman Colby Rose. Rangers coach Derek Soule is excited about what lies ahead.
“Our goals are to create a positive team atmosphere, improve our skill level as individuals and as a team, to give maximum effort, to gain confidence and have fun,” Soule said.
Yarmouth, one of the state’s original programs, was 2-4 last winter. The Clippers return sharpshooter Colin Cook, who holds the record of six 3-pointers in a game. Freshman Collin Luedke has size and will be a force in the paint. Freshman Sam Daley is another player to watch, one who boasts speed and the ability to finish. That adds up to a squad that coach Tim Redman is excited to lead.
“The Yarmouth Unified team is a small, tight-knit group of partners and athletes this season,” Redman said.
The season goes through the end of February and is followed by a postseason tournament. The state final is March 20. Lisbon is the defending state champion.