No team in Maine and perhaps in New England epitomizes the feeling of small-town basketball the way the Jonesport-Beals Royals do.
The towns of Jonesport and Beals Island are located along the coast in Washington County in a region commonly known as Downeast Maine. They’re separated by a short bridge that spans a channel known as Moosabec Reach and many of the residents fish the blustery Atlantic year-round or drop lobster traps into Penobscot Bay.
There are still elementary schools in each community but the high schools combined over 40 years ago to form one of the state’s boys basketball powers in Class D.
Shortly after they combined ,the Royals reeled off five state titles in the early ‘70’s, under legendary coach Ordie Alley. Alley stepped down five years ago for health reasons but still attends games regularly to watch his grandson Matt play. In all, Jonesport-Beals has won nine state championships and played for 13. But it’s been since
1993 since the Royals last claimed a Gold Ball, the trophy symbolic of a state title.
‘They’re getting itchy,” athletic director Diane Clark said of the fans. “I think this year there’s added excitement.”
The added excitement stems from the team’s record — they were 14-1 heading into Wednesday’s game against Deer Isle-Stonington — as well as a special dedication for the season.
Sophomore and last year’s sixth man, Tyler Turcotte, was killed in a one-car accident over the summer and the team has dedicated the season to him.
“It was the kids themselves,” Clark said of the idea.
The Royals will get a chance to avenge a loss this Friday when they host Class C rival Calais. Their other big rival is Machias, a team they defeated Tuesday night.
“When we play Calais or Machias this place is packed,” Clark said.
This year’s teams features a lot of Alleys and Beals, two family names that figure prominently in the history of the area. Sophomore Garrett Beal is the leading scorer on a well-balanced team while 6-foot-6 Justin Alley and 6-5 Zack Smith give the team good size for a Class D school.
Matt Alley is the point guard. In all there are two Alleys and three Beals on the 11-man team.
The breakdown between the two communities is a little lopsided, especially considering there are 1,400 residents in Jonesport and about 600 on Beals Island. Nonetheless, seven of the team members come from the island and just four from Jonesport. And like any good Maine Downeast basketball team, the Royals like to run.
“Jonesport-Beals is always a run-up-and-down, as-fast-as-you-can team,” Clark said.
The fans love this style of play as much as they love their Royals. Last year, they were beaten by a couple of points by eventual state champion Schenck of East Millinocket in the tournament semifinals and are looking for more this year. They know they’ll have the complete support of their fans when they travel to the Eastern Maine tournament at the Bangor Auditorium later this month.
“Pretty much everybody goes,” Clark said. “The last person turns out the lights.”
BOYS BASKETBALL TOP 10
Cheverus (17-0) The Stags continue to take care of business by beating Sanford (56-47) and Deering (43-36 ). Next up: South Portland in the regular season finale.
Camden Hills (17-0) The Windjammers blow out Medomak Valley 84-39, a team they beat by two points early in the season, then topped Gardiner 86-50.
Bangor (16-1) The Rams are peaking at the right time. They’ve run off 16 straight wins, the latest against Skowhegan (59-35) and Mt. Blue 63-57.
Edward Little (16-1) The Red Eddies, led by Bo Leary, are aiming for the third straight Eastern Maine title. They recently beat Morse (66-32) and Mt. Ararat 74-51.
Hampden (15-3) The Broncos, who handed Bangor its only loss, are coming off wins against Mt. Blue (73-61) and Messalonskee 56-43.
Thornton (14-3) Led by the all-around play of Andrew Shaw, the Trojans topped Massabesic (76-66) and Scarborough 33-31.
Bonny Eagle (14-3) The Scots moved into second place in Class A West following wins against Gorham (87-55) and Westbrook 60-46.
Mt. Blue (13-4) The Cougars continue to play everyone tough but came up against a a couple of powers in losses to Hampden (73-61) and Bangor (63-57).
Ellsworth (17-0) The Eagles beat Hermon (57-43) and Mattanawcook as they look forward to a tournament showdown against Camden Hills.
Presque Isle (16-1) The Wildcats are a sleeper in Class B East. They recently beat Old Town (52-33) and Fort Kent (65-29). They finish the season Friday at rival Caribou.
GIRLS BASKETBALL TOP 10
McAuley (16-1) After handing Deering it’s first loss of the season (47-43) the Lions inexplicably lost to Gorham 37-27, scoring just seven points from late in the first half on. They’ve since beaten Massabesic (56-29) and Cheverus (58-39).
Deering (15-1) The Rams bounced back from their showdown loss to McAuley with wins against Windham (55-40) and Marshwood (51-30).
York (17-0) The Wildcats, who have yet to be challenged this season, topped Cape Elizabeth 58-15 and Falmouth (60-22).
Morse (16-1) The Shipbuilders stopped a strong Edward Little team, 44-36, before knocking off Cony 71-47 and Erskine (63-29).
Gorham (14-3) The Rams pulled off the upset of the season so far with their 37-27 win over McAuley then followed with a win against Windham (58-43).
Cheverus (13-4) The Stags beat a good Sanford team 50-47 then lost 59-39 to McAuley.
Leavitt (17-0) The Hornets continued on their collision course with York in Class B West with wins against Gardiner (74-36) and Maranacook (62-34).
Edward Little (14-3) The Red Eddies gave powerful Morse a good game before falling 44-36 then defeated Mt. Ararat (49-34).
Hampden (16-2) The Broncos defeated Mt. Blue 53-24 and Messalonskee to wrap up the regular season.
Sanford (13-4) The Indians lost a tight one to Cheverus (50-47) before bouncing back with a win against Noble.
HOCKEY TOP 10
Lewiston (12-0-2) The Blue Devils blanked Messalonskee 7-0 before playing to a scoreless overtime tie at Falmouth.
Biddeford (11-0-2) The Tigers, who have won three of the past four Class A state championships, continued to rule Class A West with a 7-0 rout of Kennebunk and a 6-4 win over Thornton.
St. Dominic (10-3-1) The Saints played to a 3-3 tie against Waterville then beat Bangor 4-2.
Falmouth (6-4-3) The Yachtsmen continue to play everyone tough, beating Scarborough 3-1 before playing to a scoreless tie against unbeaten Lewiston.
Brewer (13-0-1) The Witches remained atop Class B with a15-0 win against Hampden and a 5-4 overtime victory over John Bapst.
Thornton (8-5-0) The Trojans stopped Portland 8-1 before losing 6-4 to Biddeford.
Greely (11-1-1) The Rangers, No. 1 in Class B West, stopped York 3-0 and Camden Hills 5-1.
Waterville (7-7-1) The Purple Panthers were beaten 6-2 by Bangor but bounced back to play a 3-3 against St. Dom’s.
Houlton/Hodgdon (13-2-0) The team remains a threat in Class B East after beating Presque Isle 6-4 and Old Town 3-2.
Maranacook/Hall-Dale/Winthrop (10-4-0) The Hawks are making a name for themselves in Class A East after recently shutting out Mt. Ararat and Brunswick.
State championships in Class A, B and C are on tap this weekend at the Augusta Civic Center. Noble has won 10 of the last 12 Class A state championships and is favored again while Camden Hills is a good bet to repeat in Class B. In Class C, Foxcroft Academy is looking to dethrone three-time defending champion Lisbon.
GIRLS' ICE HOCKEY
The state ice hockey gets under way this weekend. St. Dominic (17-1-0) is the top seed in the East while Scarborough (12-4-2) is the top seeded team in the West. The championship will be played in Lewiston on Feb. 19. Cheverus is the defending state champ.