That Travis and Karen Magnusson would become high school basketball coaches, given their backgrounds as point guards and students of the game, seemed inevitable. So does the success that the husband and wife coaches are having this season at their respective schools.
Travis, who coaches the Dirigo High School boys team, came within a whisker of a perfect season before falling to Spruce Mountain, 39-34 Wednesday night. Still, his Cougars finished the regular season at 17-1 and enter the upcoming Western Maine Class C tournament as the top seed. Karen, who coaches the Cony High School girls team, finished at 18-0 Thursday and her Rams will enter the Eastern Maine Class A tournament as the top-seeded team.
There wasn’t much talk between Karen and Travis about going unbeaten this season — both recognize winning a state title as a larger goal — but it’s still hard to avoid.
“Honestly we try not to do it,” Karen said. “But it’s something that comes up with other people.”
The couple rarely get to see one another’s teams play since they usually play on the same night. Fans at both schools, however, recognize what’s going on.
“It’s almost like we share our programs with each other,” Karen said. “His fans ask how I’m doing and my fans ask how Trav’s doing.”
The Magnussons are both basketball junkies, a passion that began long before they met at the University of Maine at Farmington a few years ago. Karen Sirois starred at Cony in Augusta while Travis played for Georges Valley in Thomaston. Both played point guard at UMF and each of them totaled over 1,000 points and 500 assists in their careers.
Farmington women’s coach Jamie Beaudoin and men’s coach Dick Meader saw coaches in the two long before their playing careers ended.
"I knew from the first moment I watched her play that she was going to be a coach," Beaudoin said. "She was able to see things on the floor that many times an experienced coach wouldn't pick up on. She's just a student of the game."
Meader echoed those thoughts about Travis, who served as a varsity assistant at UMF the year after he graduated. Travis was hired as boys coach at Livermore Falls a year before Karen go the job at Cony so she helped him out and gave him an unbiased look at the players and the team.
"There was nobody I listened to more, especially with my team that first year," Travis said.
Travis turned the Livermore program around, reaching a tournament prelim game his first year in 2009 and the tournament itself the next two. He lost his job when Livermore and Jay high schools combined this year to form Spruce Mountain, but when the Dirigo job opened up he applied. The Cougars reached the state final last year and return many of those players.
The Magnussons talk basketball most of the time, often while breaking down film at home another or swapping drills.
"I get some of my plays and sets from him," Karen said. "I know his personnel, we definitely help each other out. Sometimes we sit up until 11:30 or 12 talking about it. We watch game film together. It's like having an assistant coach at home."
They also share a similar philosophy, borne from the way they played the game.
"We both like to run and gun, play pressure defense and give our players freedom to take shots." Travis said. "As I've gotten older I've realized the importance of quality shots."
The Magnussons are competitive by nature and haven’t played a serious game of 1 on since Travis came away with a bloody nose when the got together on the court in college.
"He's competitive and I'm competitive so we never really have the fun 1-on-1," Karen said.
Well, they did have a little fun on the court on the day they were married, playing a friendly game, she in her wedding dress and he in his tuxedo.
They’ll get a chance to watch the other’s team play in about 10 days when their teams will be favored to win regional championships at the Augusta Civic Center.
SOPHOMORE REACHES 1,000 POINTS
Several high school players around the state have topped the 1,000-point career plateau this season, none more impressive than Van Buren sophomore Parise Rossignol, who accomplished the feat in just 32 games. This year she is averaging 29.4 points per game for the Crusaders.
Leavitt junior Kristen Anderson recently eclipsed the 1,000 point mark as did junior Jordan Knowlton of Camden Hills. Others who have done it this season include seniors Morgan Cahill of Yarmouth, Traip Academy’s Selena Lorrey, Windham’s Meghan Gribbin, Mountain Valley’s Ayla Allen and Leavitt’s Adrianna Newton.
On the boys side, Leavitt senior Jordan Hersom, who recently won the Fitzpatrick Trophy as the state’s top football player, recently topped 1,000 points. Hersom is also closing in on 1,000 career rebounds. Other 1,000 point scorers this season include senior Josh Britten of Yarmouth and Jordan McLaughlin of Washburn.
GRAZIANO AWARD WINNERS
Logan Mars of Scarborough and Thornton Academy’s Luke Libby were named recipients recently of the Frank J. Gaziano Award in a ceremony at the Augusta Civic Center. Mars was named the state’s top offensive lineman while Libby was selected the top defensive lineman.
The award, now in its second year is named in honor of Frank Gaziano who graduated from Holy Cross in 1941 and played professionally for the Washington Redskins and the Boston Yanks.
Mars and Libby each won a $2,500 scholarships. Runners-up on defense were Matt Ross of Cape Elizabeth and John Bapst's Max Andrews.
Offensive line runners-up were Rudy Pandora of Lewiston and Matt McLean of Windham. All four runners-up received $500 scholarships. Nate Porter of Portland (offense) and Christian Deschenes of Cheverus also were finalists.
Boys' basketball Top 10
1. Hampden (17-1) Broncos finish as top team in Class A East. Only blemish a three-point loss to Lewiston.
2. Deering (15-2) Stags knock off Cheverus to cement top spot in Class A West.
3. Portland (13-4) Bulldogs hit late-season stride, propelled by victory over Deering.
4. Bonny Eagle (13-4) Scots part of large Western Maine group that could win it all.
5. Mt. Blue (14-3) With two talented big men, cougars as good as anyone in East.
6. Falmouth (17-0) Yachtsmen survive overtime test against York to remain unbeaten.
7. Mount Desert Island (17-0) Trojans finally make believers of skeptics in Eastern Maine Class B.
8. Lewiston (14-3) Talented Blue Devils come away with recent big win over Brunswick.
9. Cheverus (12-5) Tough to count out any team coached by Bob Brown.
10. Medomak Valley (16-2) Panthers finish regular season with big win against rival Oceanside.
Girls' basketball Top 10
1. McAuley (17-0) Defending state champs roll into Western Maine tournament as top seed.
2. Cony (17-0) Rams rule East, looking for first unbeaten season since 2005.
3. Scarborough (16-1) Coach Tom Maines has Red Storm running, pressing and winning.
4. Nokomis (17-0) Defending Class B Eastern Maine champs have eye on big prize this season.
5. Deering (13-4) After slow start, Stags peaking at right time.
6. Marshwood 914-3) Hawks on eight-game winning streak since loss to Westbrook.
7. Leavitt (15-2) Led by high-scoring Kristen Anderson, defending Class B champs looking for repeat.
8. Presque Isle (17-0) Wildcats averaging 70 points per game and have yet to be challenged.
9. Edward Little (14-3) Red Eddies on five-game roll since loss to Cony.
10. Messalonskee (13-4) Led by Mary Badeen and Megan Pelletier, Eagles look to make noise in Class A East tournament.
Boys' hockey Top 10
1. Thornton (11-1-1) Big win against Bangor cements top spot for defending class a champs.
2. Falmouth (8-3-1) A tie and a win against Thornton puts Yachtsmen in state title conversation.
3. Brewer (14-1) Loss to Bangor only blemish for defending Class B state champs.
4. Lewiston (10-3-1) Blue Devils approaching playoff stride: Test against Falmouth next.
5. St. Dom’s (9-5-0) Saints coming off win against Biddeford: Bangor next.
6. Messalonskee (12-2-0) Two close losses tow Brewer only blemishes on Eagles’ record.
7. Bangor (10-3-0) Rams look to recover from lopsided loss to Thornton.
8. Scarborough (10-2-1) Red Storm have signature win against Falmouth to their credit.
9. Greely (9-3-1) Rangers in contention in Class B West.
10. Cape Elizabeth (8-3-2) Capers on four-game win streak as they head into stretch run.