(PRESQUE ISLE, ME) -- The University of Maine-Presque Isle men's basketball team took a large step in the right direction in head coach Jim Casciano's second year at the helm. Presque Isle went 11-14 in 2012-13 after a 3-17 campaign just one year earlier.
The Owls set the tone early, giving notice that they would not be the same "easy out" that opponents had seen in previous years. Through the first nine games of the season in fact, Presque Isle was 6-3 and riding a 4-game winning streak.
Buoyed by another solid year by Patrick Manifold (Sr./Great Yarmouth, UK) (17.7ppg, 8.9 rpg) that included the 6'8 forward's 1000th career point, the Owls improved their points per game by nearly 13 (59.6ppg to 72.2). The backcourt was strengthened by junior transfer Claude "Shmoke" Louis (Jr./Union, NJ) (14.9 ppg) and the emergence of returner Michael Warner (Jr./Norwich, UK) who improved his points per game from 8.8 to 13.8.
As with any team taking steps towards year in, year out success, the young Owls struggled with consistency in the second half. From the new year on, the squad never won, nor never lost, more than two games in a row.
But when they were "on", were they ever on. While hosting the University of Maine-Augusta on January 19th, the team pumped in 21 three-pointers on the way to a 121-61 win over the Moose. Two games later, the Owls flirted with the century mark again while sweeping their season series with SUNY-Canton, 96-73.
From the fans' standpoint, UMPI's sweep of northern rival UMaine-Fort Kent, might be viewed as the biggest highlight in 2012-13.
After the season, Casciano sat down to reflect on his team's performance and began to look toward o 2013-14.
What are your thoughts/feelings on the season overall?
Jim Casciano: Mixed emotions. On the one hand I am pleased that we improved our win total by 8 games and that we improved in just about every statistical category. On the other hand I feel that we could have easily won 14 or 15 games.
What were the keys to your 8 game improvement this season?
JC: Players' second year in the program was big. The core of the team now having familiarity with me, my system and philosophy, allowed us to do more. Player improvement, especially Patrick along with player additions such as Shmoke, Chase (Vicaire), and Jayson (Burke) gave us depth that we did not always have in our first season together.
What areas of the team showed the most improvement as the season progressed?
JC: Our ability to score more kept us in games and taking care of the basketball was a key to that. Additionally we improved our free throw percentage, overall defense, confidence, and expecting to win.
What did your seniors bring to this year's team and how do you start replacing that heading into next season?
JC: It will be difficult for us to replace Patrick and will probably approach his position by committee. The seniors gave us great leadership, toughness, and experience.
What are areas that you would like to show improvement in next season?
JC: Free throw shooting percentage, points allowed, rebounding, and assist to turn over ratio are all categories that we can and will need to improve in if we want to take that next step to becoming an above .500 program.