HERMON — The Acadian Basketball Association (ABA) took their first ‘A’ division Eastern Maine Basketball League Championship this year when the undefeated seventh- and eighth-grade girls ‘A’ team defeated Hermon Jan. 25.
At halftime of the championship game, coach Mike Swanson said, the MDI girls were up by only four points. “They knew about our half-court trap,” he said, “they had practiced for it. So in the second half of the game, we extended it to full-court. Maddy Candage was reading it like a middle linebacker. Before you knew it, four minutes in, we were up by 16. It was pretty neat to see.”
A strong and responsive defense, Swanson said, is “a ticket to the next level. Being able to read the person you’re guarding is so important.”
In a semifinal game this season, his team learned an important lesson about defense. “There’s gonna be nights where you can’t throw it in the ocean,” he said. “We were playing great defense, and one of our better scorers was struggling. We were up 30-5. I said, ‘What did I tell you? Defense is what’s going to keep you on the floor.’”
Swanson and Greg Linscott have coached this level together for many years. “Greg started with me when my son was in sixth or seventh grade. We sort of do good cop, bad cop – he’s really good at running practices and working on fundamentals, and I make game adjustments.”
Swanson is proud of this group, especially for how well they get along on and off the court. “They’ve all figured out their roles. There doesn’t seem to be any jealousy or egos.” That will serve them well when they play for MDI. “It’s fun to watch the kids coming up through,” he said. “When they get to high school, there’s more pressure, but that light bulb goes off, and some of the stuff they’ve been taught really kicks in. It’s rewarding for the parents to see, too.”
Before these eighth graders try out for MDI High School teams next year, though, they have the second half of the ABA travel season ahead of them. They’ll be coached by Justin and Katie Norwood. “Katie really wanted to coach them all season, but she couldn’t,” Swanson said, so they worked out the handoff. “They’ll learn the same stuff, maybe a different way,” he said. “It will be good for them.”