Herons start hunt for playoffs

01/14/2016 by Mike Zhe

PORTSMOUTH — There’s no longer a fear of the unknown. Just an appreciation of the reality.

After a three-week break between semesters, the men’s and women’s basketball teams from Great Bay Community College returned to action Wednesday night. Both were treated rudely by established Southern Maine CC teams, with the men losing, 101-60, and the women falling 88-18.

The men are now 3-12 (1-6 Yankee Small College Conference) in their debut season.

‘We knew going in this was a very challenging league,” said Great Bay men’s coach Dave Sokolnicki. “Being a first-year program I thought we did a good job competing, especially after Thanksgiving.”

Due to injuries and a departure — Anthony Shea, one of the team’s top scorers in the first semester, left the team — Sokolnicki was only planning to dress eight players for Wednesday’s game.

One of them was guard Ben Landry, the former track and basketball standout from Portsmouth High School, who joined the team over break. Landry led the Clippers in scoring with 16 points a game as a high school senior in 2012-13.

‘We’re definitely excited to have him,” said Sokolnicki. “He’s quick, he handles the ball, he can score and he can play multiple positions.”

Behind leading scorers Eric Leslie and Karim Wynn, who sat out Wednesday with an injury, plus guys like Vinnie Knounxay and Tristan Arthur, the Herons still think they can cut the gap between themselves and the elite before the season’s done. They take heart from taking first-place St. Joseph’s (Vt.) to overtime in a 92-87 loss on Dec. 13.

“It’s really still a work in progress and we’re trying to get everyone in to the best of our ability,” said Sokolnicki. “After Thanksgiving, we had to kind of change direction offensively about how we play. … We don’t have enough guys to force the pace.”

The Herons’ modest first-year goal is to get into the eight-team YSCC tournament, which will be held at Central Maine CC in Auburn on Feb. 18-21. Only two teams in the 10-team league won’t qualify.

“Absolutely. It’s been our goal from day one to get into the playoffs,” said Sokolnicki. “You get in and anything can happen. … I really like the direction we’re going, how we’re playing compared to the first game.”

The Great Bay women, meanwhile, are trying to change their direction. Their season took an abrupt turn when point guard Markey Flewelling went down with another ACL tear in early December, ending her season and leaving the team without a floor leader.

The Herons were 6-2 at that point. They’re 0-4 since, with three of those losses by at least 20 points.

“We were super-fortunate to have Markey come in,” said Great Bay coach Allyson Britton. “Her presence on the court and her leadership was key. Now we’re working with our other ball-handlers to step up.”

The team added two players over the break — former Nute High School standout Annessa Cummer, who was senior last year, and California native Mindy Prieur. It’ll be up to guards like Nichole Marrero and Jordyn Cronen to pick up the dribbling slack.

With some early-season wins, the Herons (4-4 in the YSCC) are positioned well to qualify for their conference tournament at CMCC.

“I don’t think the loss of Markey should impact that,” said Britton. “We’ve got to win the games we should win and hopefully get a couple surprises in there.”

Both teams return to action Saturday when they play at St. Joseph’s (Vt).

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