Women's basketball blooms in the summer
Summer in Maine provides opportunities you just don’t find at any other time of year. This includes women’s basketball where summertime provides a chance for recent high school graduates and current college players to play with some of the best in the state.
The 10-team Hancock Women’s Summer Basketball League has been around for many years. The league is currently housed at Southern Maine Community College under the direction of SMCC women’s coach Becky Roak, who played basketball at Portland High School and The University of Maine at Farmington. The league’s players come from many of the communities within (and some from beyond) The Forecaster’s coverage areas.
Typically, players sign up as a unit. Several of the teams have a college connection and may include current squad members, incoming first-year players and graduates. This year’s college teams were The University of New England, Maine Maritime Academy, SMCC and Central Maine Community College. For these teams, it is a chance to get a preview of next winter’s rivals. Other teams are formed by players who have competed with or against each other perhaps in high school or in amateur leagues. Individuals without a team are also welcomed and placed on a team. Players must be at least 18-years of age.
The season runs from early-June through mid-July with each squad playing a nine-game schedule. The top eight teams advance to the playoffs, with the semifinals and finals being played on the same evening.
In the first semifinal, The Beavers defeated Hancock Lumber 49-40. Hancock’s roster was a blend of players from the Lake Region area and from Portland High and includes current Bulldogs coach Jan Veinot. The Beavers listed former Cony High teammates Karen Sirois and Ashley Underwood, who went to excel at the University of Maine Farmington and Orono respectively.
The second semifinal was an interesting match-up pitting elements of Deering High’s 2004 state champs, MCAH (Maine Coast Adult Health), against Prompto, a team with players from the Rams’ 2008 and 2009 Maine Class A repeat champions. The MCAH roster included Deering grads Megan Urban (2004), Megan Tetrault (2001), and former Rams coach Neile Nelson. Prompto players included Diana Manduca and Maria Apon (2009), and Claire Ramonas (2010). Ramonas is entering Regis College in Weston, Mass., this fall, while Manduca will return to Colby College for her sophomore year. As a first-year player, Manduca averaged 8.7 points and was named to the All-Maine Rookie team. She led the Mules in steals, free throw shooting (.872) and was second in assists.
MCAH led most of the way, but a late Prompto rally sent the game into overtime. For MCAH, Urban (fifth all time shooting percentage and sixth in career blocked shots at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass.) showed great skill in the low post, using either hand to score. Former Lewiston High/Bowdoin College standout Kristi Royer Ouellette and Westbrook High/St Josephs College grad (and top local distance runner) Sheri McCarthy Piers also had key baskets for MCAH, which won 71-69 on a last-second shot by 2010 Scarborough High graduate Christy Manning. Manning, who is off to Holy Cross in Worcester this fall, was a key player on the Red Storm team which knocked off Deering in the regional final and prevented the Rams from winning a third consecutive state crown this past March.
Late in the semifinal game, Nelson limped off the court with an ankle injury. Her team played without her in the final, losing to the Beavers 64-58.
Nelson has enjoyed participating in the league for several years. She reminisced about playing with Christy Manning’s mother, Lisa Blais Manning (Westbrook High/Old Dominion College) in 1997 when the league was run by the Westbrook Recreation Department. Nelson, the St. Josephs College career leader in 3-point shots, enjoys the camaraderie with, among others, her former Monks teammate, Piers, commenting, “It is so much fun and a good release."
Nelson values the league’s mission and “unity” remarking how she likes to “watch the younger players improve, give them a challenge a couple times of week and help them get better.” When asked about a return to high school coaching, Nelson said it is possible when her children are a little older and able to come to practice.
One of the younger players in the league is Zoe Sobel, a 2009 graduate of Waynflete School, who will be entering Wellesley College this fall. A talented runner, Sobel will join the cross country team. She then hopes to walk on to the college’s basketball team, which has seven returning players and five recruits.
Sobel gives the league high marks and feels it will help her chances to make Wellesley’s hoop team.
“It is great to have the league”, she said, “There are many strong players, bigger and faster (then in high school) The play is much more aggressive, but not dirty. There are less calls. You see how the college game is reffed.”
Sobel also noted that the league allows young players to experience some of the more subtle differences between the high school and college game, for example, with foul shots. In college, players can step into the lane once the ball leaves the shooter’s hands, where in high school you can’t move until the ball hits the rim. It’s a change in rules and timing. The 5-foot-6 Sobel had to play under the basket in high school. The league gave her the opportunity to gain experience as a guard, the position she would most likely play in college.
The Cape Elizabeth resident learned about the league while playing in South Portland last winter. She signed up as an individual and Becky Roak placed her on the SMCC team. Sobel says the wide age range among players is a positive thing,
“The veterans are so nice, everyone is great, if they knock you down, they pick you up.”
It is evident that the Hancock Women’s Summer Basketball League is appreciated by players of all ages. It has played an important role in the well-being of Maine women’s basketball for some time.