High school and middle school sports

Two Hawks fly around to keep island basketball teams in game

North Haven needs all to pull in same direction to keep hoop boat running smoothly — and on time
By Ken Waltz | Jan 31, 2019
Courtesy of: Layla Sparhawk North Haven's Sophie Hansen, left, and Isabelle Haskell.

North Haven — When living on a small island in Penobscot Bay, it is important for all community members to pull together to make things happen — even to field a basketball team or two.

And two eighth-graders at North Haven Community School have taken that sentiment to heart this winter.

Isabelle Haskell and Sophie Hansen have made a significant commitment — and extended themselves emotionally and physically — to help their school play high school varsity and middle school basketball.

Haskell and Hansen play for the island middle school team and coach Foy Brown, while they also suit up for Laura Barrett MacDonald's high school Hawk squad.

The Maine Principals' Association allows Class D schools, the smallest educational institutions by enrollement in the state, to use eighth-graders on their high school teams, thus, eighth- through 12th-graders can play on the North Haven squad.

As they say, in the case of Haskell and Hansen, there is no rest for the weary.

Haskell, a 5-foot 3-inch guard, and Hansen, a 5-7 forward, have worked especially hard to make things, well, work, including early mornings, late nights, double practices and trying to be overall team leaders — and keep their grades, overall energy and spirit high.

Haskell's mom, Collette, said the girls committed to both Hawk teams because, without them, there would not be a varsity squad and the Busline League, or middle school, squad would have only five players.

As it is, both island teams have about enough each game, with maybe a substitute or two, if everyone is healthy and available to play. The varsity team, for example, has six players, including two juniors, two freshmen and two eighth-graders.

"They felt compelled to support their school, friends and teams," Collette said. "With our school numbers falling so low, they saw a place that they could help out and they jumped in. Rather than let one team down or another, they rose to the occasion."

"I find it very difficult to choose to play for one or the other," Haskell said. "I play on varsity because there wouldn't be a team. We only have six players this year, playing with that group of girls because they are my good friends. Playing varsity is also a pretty big deal and I am really proud to make a contribution at that level. We play against older girls and it is much more challenging. I play on the Busline team because I've played with that team of girls for awhile now and I am also close to them as well. I also feel they could use me a lot because I'm older and most of the teams we are playing against are around my age."

"It is definitely a lot of work to play on both teams and a huge commitment to make," Hansen said. "We have three hours of practice after school every day, 1 1/2 hours for each team, and games every weekend and sometimes during the week, which makes us miss school because of the ferry schedule, so we always have a lot of homework. Catching up is very challenging."

For the girls, it means they can be at school for 11 or 12 hours a day, including practicing basketball for three or more hours a day for two teams.

And, of course, there is the travel to road games, across the water on ferry boats or private boats, then bus trips to far off places or to Midcoast schools in Waldo, Knox and Lincoln counties.

When there are not competing games scheduled, but the middle school team has a game, the varsity has early-morning practices, which adds to the daily schedule and grind for the youngsters.

There have been weeks where the student-athletes played eight games in five days, or five games in three days. In fact, sometimes traveling from one town to another to make two games in a day, and on one weekend traveling to a varsity game in Jonesport for a Friday night and Saturday games, and playing both games entirely.

After the morning game in Jonesport, which is 120 miles and a two-hour-and-45-minute trip from Rockland, the girls were "zipped" back to the area, where they where transported by private boat to make the afternoon Busline League games.

"They got into the gym with three minutes to spare, and they played that game for the full four quarters," Collette said.

Needless to say, there are a lot of moving parts to make it all work, to navigate the boat, so to speak, to keep it on time and in the correct port.

Haskell also committed to being the bookkeeper for the boys middle school team for as many games possible to help the overall cause.

"They committed to the sport and we committed to help them get to as many of the crossover games as possible," Collette said of the girls and their teams. "While doing this they have kept all of their academics in top standing, continued with their clubs and other activities."

Hansen also has been hampered by injury, but continues to do her best. "Another struggle that I have is that I have a injury in my ankle which makes it hard to play," she said. "Playing on two different teams is really difficult. Despite all the time energy and work we have to put in, it is a lot of fun, and a great way to give back to my classmates and the whole community."

While the high school team makes trips to Forest Hills of Jackman, Jonesport-Beals, Pine Tree Academy of Freeport, Temple Academy of Waterville and Kents Hill, the middle school team plays in the small school North Division with Hope, Islesboro, Searsport, Drinkwater in Northport, Vinalhaven and Lincolnville, which means occasional trips to those places.

The coaches, athletic director (Laura Barrett MacDonald) and teachers have worked hard to make it work for the girls, from shifting practices, reworking game times to allow for both games to be played, to being supportive and available for academic help.

"They have been so loyal to both teams," MacDonald said. "From three hours a practice a day, to doubleheader games some days, to leaving a high school basketball game from Jonesport driving to Rockland getting on Isabelle’s dad's lobster boat to make the Busline game. These girls push through and show up ready to play no matter what. They each bring something to [varsity] our team of six and I am extremely proud on how hard they have worked this season."

While the younger and older Hawks have not won a ton of games this winter — the high school team is 1-14 and the middle school team finished 2-10 and seventh before it lost to No. 2 Vinalhaven 43-8 in the first round of the playoffs —  the players have enjoyed every second of their court experiences, treks by water and land around the state and look to bright, successful basketball futures.

"Both of these young ladies are strong students and athletes," said NHCS Principal Ken Spinney. "Their individual talents go well beyond the court. Although I'm new to the community, I've learned how hard our citizens work and see these values carry over into students. Sophie and Isabelle demonstrate leadership abilities and consistently put forth great effort. With low numbers on our Busline and varsity girls basketball teams, they have to work extra hard with all the practicing and games.

"I'm extremely proud of both girls for setting a great example for their peers, putting in extra effort, additional time, and leaving it all on the court. Playing on both teams also means more time in the gym and on the road where they have to learn how to manage their time well, which is a wonderful skill to prepare for a bright future. Given they are only in eighth grade, they will only continue to grow and represent our school and community well. I look forward to seeing this in the future."

There are many youngsters on the area islands and mainland — as well as their families — who sacrifice and work extra to help their teams and schools "stay in the game."

For two children on North Haven, it is what they do for the love of the game, teammates, coaches and school.

Haskell, who also enjoys skiing, snowmobiling, lobstering and cooking, is the daughter of Ryan and Collette Haskell, while Hansen, who also likes to act, babysit and play the fiddle, is the daughter of Morty Hansen and Michelle Kirchner.

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