February 17, 2005
When the 2005-20006 University of Maine at Fort Kent Lady Bengal's Basketball season kicked off, not too many people knew what to expect.
The team graduated five seniors and had only one regular returnee from the previous season.
Yet despite the young squad and some early season injuries, the Lady Bengals have reeled off 12 straight wins and have improved to 16-9 overall and finish with a school record undefeated regular season record in the Sunrise Conference at 8-0.
"The joy of watching this team do so well is that they are all great member of our academic community," according to President Richard Cost.
"Some students walk around every day with a big smile and a cherry disposition, and this team is loaded with those students. It just makes you feel good to see them doing so well," added Cost.
Head Coach Lucas Levesque believes his teams' balance and chemistry has a lot to do with their success.
"We're just playing great team basketball and our perimeter defense is forcing teams to be uncomfortable for 40 minutes. Everybody has stepped up and that has really helped us turn the corner." said Levesque.
Three of the Lady Bengals starters this year did not play last season because of the rigorous academic demands at the school.
"Now that the rust has gone and the three of them have adjusted to their teammates, it's like they've been playing together for years."
The team is lead by junior point guard Dana Lemon of Richmond, Virginia who Coach Levesque calls "the glue that keeps us together".
"She's a one woman press breaker on offense and probably the best defensive player I've ever seen at this level. She is the prototypical point guard for our system as she can dominate a game without having to score a single point," said Levesque.
Picking up the scoring slack this year is two junior guards, Nicole Corbin of Van Buren, Maine and April Allen of Milo, Maine. They are both excellent shooters that compliment each other extremely well.
"If they focus on one, the other will hit big shot after big shot." according to Levesque.
Corbin has three games this year with five or more three pointers, including a 35 point effort in a seven point win against the College of St. Joseph's in Vermont. Allen has had her big games as well, including going 7 of 9 from behind the arc in a win over Rivier College earlier in the year. But despite the big games early, during the streak the team has been extremely balanced, constantly posting four players in double figures.
The Lady Bengal's inside game has been equally strong and improving every game. Starting at center has been freshman Arcilla Jeffers, a six-footer from the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts, who has been extremely strong on the glass and vastly improved on the offensive end.
"She is a tough match-up for a lot of teams because she is so strong and athletic, her potential is remarkable," said Levesque
Playing along side Jeffers is junior Traci Weatherhead of Limestone, Maine who despite her lack of size, has arguably been the team's most consistent player inside.
"Traci has a very high basketball IQ, which allows her to be successful despite the fact that she is smaller than a lot of people she defends and gets defended by. She has been a huge addition to this team," notes Levesque.
Not only have the Lady Bengals set a school record for consecutive wins, but they also beat two great Maine Small College programs for the first time in school history with wins over Husson College and St. Joseph's. Ultimately, Coach Levesque and his players just want playoff wins and the automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament.
"We were there two years ago and we want to be back, all we're doing now is great, but our number one goal was to get to Iowa, and that's what we want to do," said Levesque.
The team has three games left before their postseason begins and they hope their great play will carry on.
The UMFK Lady Bengals remain at #38 in weekly NAIA II ratings and #1 in the Sunrise Conference Four Tournament. The tournament is scheduled to be played at Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, Vermont on February 26 and 27.
Story written by Head Women's Basketball Coach Lucas Levesque.
Photo will follow and taken by Leggs Labbe