2011-12-06 / Sports

Lawrence takes over boys hoops

Veteran Gardiner coach replaces Wayne Benjamin
BY BOB CONN Times Record Staff


WISCASSET HIGH SCHOOL boys basketball captains this year are Devin Grover (30, top photo) and Caleb Bryant (24), while in the bottom photo, first-year coach Dana Lawrence (right) works with his players. 
BOB CONN / THE TIMES RECORD WISCASSET HIGH SCHOOL boys basketball captains this year are Devin Grover (30, top photo) and Caleb Bryant (24), while in the bottom photo, first-year coach Dana Lawrence (right) works with his players. BOB CONN / THE TIMES RECORD WISCASSET

Dana Lawrence is used to blowing things up, being that he is a “blaster” for Maine Drilling & Blasting out of his hometown of Gardiner. This has been his trade for the past 27 years while raising two daughters, with a grandchild due to arrive in July 2012.

In his off-time, Lawrence enjoys coaching basketball, something he has done for the past seven seasons at Gardiner High School.

Now, he has a new challenge in front of him, and he doesn’t need a stick of dynamite this time, taking over a senior-laden Wiscasset High School boys basketball team after Wayne Benjamin resigned after two seasons.

“We have come together as a team, and one of the things I have stressed is it takes more than just one or two players to have success,” said Lawrence, who coached the Tiger girls’ jayvee team for five seasons before working with the Gardiner jayvee boys unit the past two. “This job was an opportunity to finally get to the varsity level. I have been ‘teaching’ basketball for a long time, and I like this challenge at Wiscasset.”

The Wolverines were 13-5 last season, good for the No. 5 seed in Western Maine Class C. But, a tough 50-48 double overtime loss to Waynflete ended Wiscasset’s season in the Western C quarterfinals.

“He is very defensive-minded, and works us hard on the fundamentals,” said senior guard Devin Grover, one of the three co- captains for Lawrence. “He is a lot more intense than Wayne was, and has already made us into a close-knit team. Our goal is to take that next step and win a couple games at the Augusta Civic Center in the playoffs.”

“These players have high expectations of winning and building something here,” said Lawrence, whose squad is slated to host Mountain Valley on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. in its Mountain Valley Conference opener and follows it up with a road game at rival Boothbay on Dec. 13. The Wolverines host Lisbon on Dec. 20, and have key matchups with Dirigo (home, Jan. 23), Monmouth ( away, Jan. 26) and St. Dom’s (home, Jan. 30; away Feb. 6). “I see us going to Augusta. I liked what I saw in our Alumni game.”

Lawrence has seen some things early he feels his squad needs to improve on to have success.

“We have to be more disciplined, something we have worked hard on in our limited practices up to this point,” said Lawrence. “This group is very athletic and has a great knowledge of the game. They just really need a little direction.”

Lawrence likes the uptempo game, and feels he has the squad to press the issue.

“It takes five on the court and nine kids on the bench ready to come in and contribute, especially if we are going to run the court and put the pressure on defensively,” said Lawrence.

Boys team

Grover is one of six returning seniors on the squad. Jason Weatherbee (forward), Caleb Bryant (F, co-captain), Jordan Jones (G, co-captain), Cory Hodgdon (G) and Ben Sutter ( G/ F) have played together throughout most of their basketball lives.

“We won the seventh-grade championship together,” said Grover.

Returning juniors are John Rines (G/F) and Eddie Stewart (G/F), while sophomore Austin Haskell (G) returns to the fold.

Newcomers are seniors James Andretta ( G) and Casey Dalton (G), junior Zach Ellison ( G) and freshmen Dale Peaslee (G/F, transfer from Cony) and Travis Padilla (G/F).

“I know we can have success, but as I told the players, I can put in all the time in the world, but if they’re not willing to work hard, we will go nowhere,” said Lawrence. “This team is ready to go, and I look forward to a good season.”

Girls basketball

Patrick Quinn is back for a second season as the Wolverines finished 3-15 and out of the playoff picture last year.

“This season, 16 girls came out with positive attitudes and great enthusiasm,” said Quinn, whose squad is slated to host Mountain Valley on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. “With Jay, Livermore Falls ( now Spruce Mountain) and Georges Valley (combined with Rockland to form Oceanside) leaving the conference and the Western C tournament expanding to two- thirds of the teams making it, we have a real shot at a preliminary tournament game. This is a goal that we are working hard to achieve.”

Quinn lost graduated players Becca Slack and Alli Johnson, but returns seniors Kayla Connors (center) and Carolyn Footer (guard/forward), junior Heidi Pinkham (G), and sophomores Briana Goud (G/F), Kasey Cromwell ( G), Sam Sutter ( F/ C) and Maddy Wehrle (F).

Newcomers are freshmen Alecia Faulkingham ( G), Kayla Gordon (F), Miranda McIntire (F) and Hanna Foye (G).

“We have depth, skill and flexibility with our post play, especially from Kayla Connors,” said Quinn. “She is one of the better inside players in the conference (11 points and 11 rebounds a game last year). Carolyn Footer is a 3-point threat, while Briana Goud and Kasey Cromwell are working hard to assume more responsibility in the backcourt. They emerged as leaders during the summer league.”

Quinn expects Hall- Dale, Madison, Boothbay, Spruce Mountain and Mountain Valley to contend in the Mountain Valley Conference, with Mt. Abram and Monmouth close behind.

“ We are aiming to work hard, communicate effectively and stay positive,” said Quinn, whose charges face key contests against Boothbay (@, Dec. 12; H, Feb. 9), Lisbon (H, Dec. 19; @, Jan. 18), Dirigo (H, Jan. 24), St. Dom’s (H, Jan. 31) and Madison (@, Feb. 7). “I think our girls have made great strides after a productive summer season. Wiscasset is a soccer town, but we are trying to put basketball on the map.”

Swimming

Longtime coach Don Strout is back, coaching both Wiscasset and Lincoln Academy, with the Wolverines slated to open Dec. 9 at home against Erskine Academy.

“ We are not a big team again this year, with just 11 swimmers, but they work well together and are very close,” said Strout. “ We have kids who have been with Long Reach and the ( Wiscasset) Unsinkables. They know each other, so the goal as always is to quality as many as we can for states.”

Strout graduated a talented group of boys, including Ross Hanley and John McLeod.

“ Both went to states and New Englands last season,” said Strout, who also lost Ryan Urquhart and Brian Campbell, each state meet qualifiers.

Juniors Ryan Hanley (state qualifier), Matt Mills and Josh DeLong are back and joined by freshmen Camden Reiss and Kyle Viele.

“We are still trying to determine what their events will be since neither freshman has swam competitively,” said Strout.

The coach lost none of his girls, returning seniors Sidney Morin, Abby Foster and Alyssa Urquhart, and sophomore Sarah Hanley, who qualified for the state meet last year.

Wiscasset Community Center “Unsinkable” swimmers Maeve Carlson and Julia West are newcomers, giving the girls six swimmers with experience in big meets.

“Julia is swimming at or near state- cut times in the breaststroke already,” said Strout, whose squad faces a tough Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference slate despite being a member of the MVC. “This has a huge impact on the kids’ spirits. It has taken away the opportunity to compete in a championship format meet.

“Plus, we continue to have little depth at Wiscasset, which impacts their ability to compete with the larger teams. But, this group works very hard and performs well individually.”

Wiscasset visits Morse on Jan. 20 and hosts Cony Jan. 27.

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