Wednesday, March 27, 2013
New England Roundup: Maine
By Matt DiFilippo
Martha Veroneau’s season was driven by one memory, and capped with a flashback to another.
Veroneau was the star player on one of the most exciting teams in the state — the Waynflete girls, who won this year’s Class C state basketball title by defeating Calais in the final girls high school game ever at the Bangor Auditorium.
Although Veroneau set individual records in the 2012 tournament with 47 points and nine 3-pointers in a game, the Flyers lost to Hall-Dale in the regional final.
“Last year, after we lost in the regionals, everybody remembered sitting in the locker room and being so disappointed,” Veroneau said, “because we were so close.”
Veroneau was the major reason there were no such regrets this year. In five postseason games, she averaged 27.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 6.2 steals per game. She scored 19 points in the fourth quarter of the state final as Waynflete won by four.
“She’s the most impressive athlete I’ve ever coached — male or female,” said Waynflete coach Brandon Salway, who has also coached boys' basketball and soccer in his 24 years on the sidelines. “She raises the level of every team she’s plays on.”
The state final was Veroneau’s last high school game. She finished with 1,465 points and 186 3-pointers.
“She had the green light since she was a freshman — a bright green light,” Salway said.
Veroneau stands five-foot-six, but sometimes played the post on defense for Waynflete. On offense, the ball was in her hands as much as possible.
“She had tremendous ball-handling skills,” Salway said. “We really haven’t been pressed in four years. Teams try occasionally, but she was just able to break through the press with her speed and agility.”
Salways and Veroneau also brought up how much Veroneau enjoyed playing on this team with this group of girls. The Flyers got together recently in Salway’s office and watched the state championship game.
That night, things didn’t go so well for the Flyers for much of the game. Calais led 34-22 at the half, was up by as much as 14 in the third quarter, and still held a 44-36 lead after three quarters.
“I think we all could see [watching the game] that we were a little nervous to be on that stage,” Veroneau said. “Coach told me, ‘You’re better than this.’ I was shooting some way deep 3-pointers that I normally wouldn’t have, just because I was so nervous. I think I was trying too hard.”
The turning point, Salway said, was when tournament officials brought out the Gold Ball trophy and set it on the scorer’s table. Salway said Veroneau changed when she saw that, and Veroneau dominated the rest of the game, hitting several key free throws in the final two minutes.
It brought back memories of Veroneau growing up and shooting in her driveway, imagining that the state championship was in the balance and she was shooting the crucial foul shots.
“Those scenarios that I made up as a kid, I was actually in them,” Veroneau said. “It was just surreal.”
Salway said Veroneau has drawn a lot of attention from Division II and Division III schools, and there’s little doubt she’d be an impact player at the Division III level.
“At least one Division Three coach told me if she was his point guard next year, he’d be an NCAA tournament team the next four years,” Salway said.
The catch is that Veroneau won’t be anybody’s point guard next year. She’s headed to Boston College, she’s going to focus on nursing, and she won’t be playing sports.
“I just love the atmosphere there,” Veroneau said. “I’ve had second thoughts if that was the right call, because I’m missing basketball so much these past few weeks, but I think it will all work out.”
For Veroneau, it might be even tougher for her to realize that her high school basketball career is over.
“We had a great run at it,” she said. “We had memories together, and we had friendships that will last forever.”
CHAMPIONSHIP GAME STAR EYES TRANSFER Only a couple weeks after leading Penquis Valley High School to the Class C boys’ basketball state title, Isaiah Bess made it public that he wants to transfer to Hampden Academy. The Broncos won the Class A state title this year.
Marc Calnan of Examiner.com originally reported that Bess was transferring, then later reported the same day that the transfer was unofficial.
“I think the move will help me in terms of education and will help me prepare for college in a few years,” Bess told Calnan. “I am definitely a people person so seeing 750 new faces which involves meeting new people will be fun for me, also experiencing new challenges every day. The sports seasons should also be a good time.”
MAGNUSSON RESIGNS AT CONY After leading the Rams to the Class A state championship game in 2012 and the regional final from the No. 9 seed this winter, Cony girls’ basketball coach Karen Magnusson resigned. Magnusson and her husband, Travis, the boys’ basketball coach at Dirigo, are due to welcome their first child in August.
“I felt like I was choosing between my own kid and my basketball family,” Magnusson told the Kennebec Journal. “It hurt because I want to be there. It’s going to hurt until I have my baby then I want to spend time with my child. I want to be a great mom.”
Magnusson was a star player at Cony and then the University of Maine at Farmington. Even while Cony was making a run through the Eastern A tournament. she provided color commentary on television broadcasts of some games in other brackets.
Magnusson told the Kennebec Journal she plans to return to coaching in two of three years. Cony athletic director Paul Vachon added that Magnusson “can work for us anytime.”