Messalonskee surprised quite a few girls basketball observers by beating Brewer 38-31 on Tuesday night. Brewer had defeated Mt. Blue, one of the preseason favorites in Eastern A, and the Eagles were coming off a 24-point loss to Bangor and a 16-point loss to Lawrence.
“The kids just really came out to play,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “I say that tentatively, because they come out to play every game, but they didn’t seem to have that doubt.
“The girls really held their composure. Brewer came at us hard. They kept making little runs to keep the game close.”
The Witches were averaging an even 50 points per game before scoring 31 against Messalonskee.
“No one got clean looks,” Derosby said. “If we could, we minimized second shots. Things that we’ve been working on all year, we kind of pieced it together.”
The veterans have helped set the tone for the Eagles. Kelsey Mayo has been steady in the middle, and Mikayla Turner is versatile enough to play both point guard and in the post. Kassi Michaud missed all of preseason with a shoulder injury, but is getting stronger each night out. Derosby said players like Emily York and Nikki and Delaney Collier have chipped in with subtle contributions.
Messalonskee was slated to play in Medomak Valley’s holiday tournament, but Derosby said the Eagles had to back out because of budget cuts.
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Winslow has had a brutal schedule so far. The Black Raiders are 1-3, and those three losses (to Oceanside, Leavitt, and Nokomis) were all to teams that are currently undefeated.
“I’m very happy where we are,” first-year Winslow coach Lindsey Welch said. “Every day we have improved, and every game we have improved.”
Senior guard Erica Bertolaccini has been out during the regular season while recovering from a concussion.
“It’s day-to-day,” Welch said. “As soon as she has a symptom-free day, she has to sit out six more days.”
Sophomore Hannah Doble and freshman Delaney Wood have taken turns starting with Bertolaccini sidelined.
The Raiders are allowing 39.5 points per game, and held Nokomis to 36 in Tuesday’s loss. Welch said the defense has been a team effort, with different players starring each game.
“We’re a very small team,” Welch said. “Every day, I feel we can always improve on boxing out and defense. We’re very young. We need to take care of the ball a little bit better.”
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Maine Central Institute just missed out on its first win Tuesday night. The Huskies battled back from eight-point deficits in each half, and had the ball with a tie score and less than 20 seconds to play. MCI ended up losing to Waterville, 38-37.
“It seems like we’re always kind of fighting that uphill battle, and always maybe one step from getting over the hump,” MCI coach Jason Allen said. “I certainly would have liked to have picked up a couple of wins along the way. But I feel like they’re competing and battling, and giving me pretty much everything they have every night. We’re just not quite there yet.”
While 60 or 70 points used to be the mark of a good offense, many teams don’t hit 50 unless they’re playing overmatched competition. The Huskies aren’t at that level, but they are a better offensive team this season. Against Waterville, MCI had only five turnovers in the second half.
“We are doing a better job of scoring the basketball — better than I had anticipated,” Allen said. “We’ve scored in the 30s every night. That’s given us a little bit of a chance to stick around.”
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Kents Hill athletic director Jim Smucker has returned to the sidelines after a six or seven-year hiatus from coaching the girls basketball team.
“I love it,” Smucker said. “It’s a good group of girls who compete each day and learn.”
The Huskies compete in Western Maine Class C and have a couple of disadvantages. First, they play just 14 games rather than the usual 18, and second, they’re practice time is limited.
“They just went on break,” Smucker said. “There’s no practice for two weeks.”
One advantage Kents Hill has is it draws students from around the state, country and the world in some instances. This year’s team is 1-1 and returns several experienced players including Caroline Tortorella, Marissa Tarrio, Ashley Doyle and Emma Curin. They’ve also added Messalonskee transfer Sara Grenier, a junior, who leads the team in scoring. Faith Forsythe, a sophomore transfer from Lawrence, is the team’s sixth person despite playing her first year of basketball.
The Huskies play a competitive schedule that includes Western Maine Conference teams Waynflete, Old Orchard Beach and Sacopee Valley as well as Class D powers Richmond and Rangeley.
Gary Hawkins contributed to this report.
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243