The 2014-2015 Mount Desert Island High School junior varsity boys’ basketball team included, standing, from left, Conner Malbon, Spencer Michaud, Ezra Johnson, Remmington Berzinis-McLaughlin, Mac Shea, Kaleb Payson and Coach Matt Umphrey; kneeling, from left, John Norwood, Matt Lambert, Jimmy Carroll and Derek Manzo. Not pictured: Elijah Wiggins. PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

JV boys earn respect

BAR HARBOR — Coach Matt Umphrey of the Mount Desert Island High School junior varsity boys’ basketball team got goosebumps when varsity Coach Justin Norwood turned to him after a JV game and said, “Your guys play hard.”

“That to me was the best compliment I could ever get as a coach,” Umphrey said. “When I relayed it to the players, it really meant a lot to them, too – to have the varsity coach see that.”

The team had a stellar 16-2 record on the regular season, plus two wins in pre-season scrimmages. One of those was against Brewer, a Class A program.

“I like playing that Brewer game,” Umphrey said. “We’ve been doing that for a couple of years now. They’re a bigger school, so I look at their team and think, ‘This is gonna be a battle.’ Then we squeak it out and win by one point. It’s happened that way the last several years. It’s a good confidence builder.”

This year deviated a bit from the normal flow in the boys’ basketball program because several sophomores went straight to varsity from last year’s freshman team. “Luckily, that freshman team last year was good from top to bottom,” Umphrey said. “The ones I got were good players too.”

They were also good sports and hard workers, he said. “From day one when we had our first meeting, they were focused on our team. They were willing to do whatever I asked them to.”

Even with his high expectations, he said, he was pleased by how well the players performed. “I don’t know if I would have predicted that kind of record, looking at the players that skipped JV and went to varsity. But if anything, that kind of motivates me.” It must have motivated the players, too, because they not only won, but many wins were blowouts.

“I always have a speech prepared for the low point in the season,” Umphrey said, “usually in January, when some guys start to get tired of it. But I didn’t need it this year. I didn’t need to go there. At our home game against Ellsworth, we had a big lead at halftime, but they came back in the second half, and we almost lost. I told them, ‘Hey, let this be the low point of our season,’ and I think it was.”

Umphrey had nine players in practice most days. “At this level,” he said, “you don’t spend as much time on x’s and o’s.” They worked on fundamentals and skills. A small group meant more repetitions and more coaching attention for each player.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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