Highs and lows are typical for any sports team each year. In our case, we had some incredible highs and some heartfelt lows.
Let's begin at the end! The squad finished the year at 20-11 and lost to SMCC 84-74 in the Yankee Conference tournament held at SMCC.
Now, back to the beginning. After a year (2015-16) where the Mustangs traveled to Uniontown, PA for the USCAA National Tournament, CM was looking at 2016-17 with great anticipation. Back from the 2015-16 team were Rob Skinner, Pietro Badalassi, Kaleb Benjamin, Zavier Roman, Anthony York, Jonathan Moore, Levi Lapham, and Kionno Nelson. However, gone from that squad was runner up player of the year Carrington Miller. Despite the loss of Carrington, we brought in some talent: our second Aussie, Cam Duncan, Cornelius Lawhorn out of Warner Robbins, Georgia, sharpshooter Josh Cote from Dover, New Hampshire, Sheveran Hardy, former NHTI player, Quinn Mitchell, former Dean player, Akeem Laurie from New York, and Mainers Nick Bagley, and Charles Cedre. Picked up for the second half were Kevin Teixaria and Carlos Miranda.
The first half also included some players who could not make the cut, academically, physically, emotionally, or simply did not buy into our system.
The team finished the first half with a 10-3 record and nice wins over VTC, College of St Joes, SMCC, and a huge win over ranked Williamson Trade School.
As we began the second half, a trip to Rhode Island to play CCRI and Dean College showed the resiliency of the squad. Having practiced only a few days, the boys traveled to CCRI and came back from an 18-point deficit with seven minutes to go to beat the Knights in overtime 86-83. A day later, a tough Dean College squad dropped CM 89-85.
The turning point in the second half turned out to be the home game against UMPI. Pietro Badalassi, our Australian sensation, innocently twisted his ankle early in the contest. We thought it was just a sprain. It turned out he missed the remainder of the regular season! I understand losing a key player can have an impact on a team. I had no idea how important P is/was to our squad. After losing to UMPI in a game we should have won, we traveled to Vermont to take on VTC and College of St Joe's. Without P, physically, we got beat down and lost our toughness. Rob went out a few games later with a tear in his quad. Within days returning home, illness struck our squad. Cornelius, KB, Levi, and a few others came down with flu like symptoms and were out of action. To make matters worse, I came down with the same flu.....We all wondered what else can go wrong. We found out-- sharpshooter Josh Cote went down with a knee injury that finished his year.
Our motto became, next man up! And others stepped up and contributed. We were able to regroup and win seven in a row heading down to SMCC for the return engagement of the year. By this time, our lineup was reworked, revamped, and a very different rotation than we had all season. Regardless, SMCC handled us in South Portland by a 76-67 margin.
On to the playoffs and hoping P can return! He rehabbed night and day to get ready. SMCC hosted the Yankee Tournament this year and were a favorite going in. Whenever a team hosts, it is a given they have an advantage like no other team. Game one pitted CM against the University of Maine at Machias. Though beating them already twice this season, the boys did not take the game lightly. We took a deep breath and held P out. Everything turned out ok with CM winning 76-59. The next day was the third meeting of the season against SMCC. The winner would play for the Yankee Championship the next day against NHTI.
Six minutes into the game and with the starters not playing well, we put P into the game. The crowd responded and so did P. Although he was maybe 50% at best, his presence on the court provided an emotional lift to the team. Great bench minutes by Kionno Nelson, Charles Cedre, Jonathan Moore, Anthony York, and Nick Bagley kept the Mustangs in the game. However, this was SMCC's night. Chase Soares and John Morgan led the SeaWolves combining for 52 points to lead their team to an 82-74 win.
We proudly graduate four players this year. Pietro Badalassi, Jonathan Moore, Anthony York, and Rob Skinner are all moving on. We think P and Rob will be receiving full or half scholarships at four-year colleges. Ant will be saving the world from crime and Jonathan will be moving on to work on his Bachelor's degree.
At the Yankee Banquet, Pietro was recognized as the runner-up Yankee Player of the Year. Rob was voted first team all Yankee Conference.
All in all, an interesting year. Many players had opportunities to step up. Some took advantage, some did not....
The good news is the ship keeps sailing. Our recruiting for next year is moving along in a positive direction and our players who are returning will be working hard in the off-season to compete next year. I suspect CM will be back in the mix again and with the fan support we receive, bring in players who will proudly wear the red and black similar to the players before them!