After an opening-night loss at Boothbay, the Monmouth boys basketball team has won three straight, already equaling last season’s win total.
Like many of the teams in the Mountain Valley Conference, the Mustangs remain a work in progress. They beat a solid Hall-Dale team to begin their win streak then struggled to a four-point win against Telstar.
“That was a game of how good we could be,” Monmouth coach Lucas Turner said of the Hall-Dale win. “A couple of nights later when we played Telstar we went back to some old habits.”
The Mustangs have much more depth than they had last season and it’s helped. Junior Marcques Houston got into foul trouble in Tuesday night’s win against Winthrop and finished with just two points, but others took up the scoring slack.
“When you go nine or 10 deep you don’t need everybody scoring,” Turner said.
The 6-foot-3 Houston missed last season with an injury and has been a valuable addition to the team. Junior Brandon Goff is a steady scorer while senior Billy Cummings has developed into a good 3-point shooter and averages just under 10 points a game. The biggest surprise has been the emergence of 6-4 sophomore Kasey Smith.
“He really came to practice and tryouts ready to work,” Turner said. “He starts for us now. He kind of forced us into playing him at the four.”
The Mustangs host Mountain Valley tonight before the Christmas break.
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Gardiner senior Jensen Orewiler has come through in the clutch twice for the 3-1 Tigers. He scored eight points in the fourth quarter on opening night in a comeback win against Morse and Tuesday scored eight in the final quarter again, including a game-winning 3-pointer in a 56-53 win against Mt. View. Orewiler hit his 3 with about four seconds left to play.
“We called a timeout and set up a play so we’d have a secondary option for a putback,” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said. “He was watching the clock and saw he had to take it. He was three feet back from the 3-point line.”
The Tigers (3-1) play at Maranacook tonight in a key Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B matchup. Cassidy is concerned about containing 6-7 center Kyle Boucher and 3-point shooter Taylor Wilbur. He had a couple of former players — Aaron Toman and Jake Palmer — both playing college ball this year, simulate the Maranacook players in practice this week.
“We’re going to have to look for defensive schemes to contend with those guys,” Cassidy said.
The Black Bears (1-3) won their first game of the season Tuesday night against Leavitt and coach Rob Schmidt did it by platooning five players at a time every four minutes.
“Something like that might play into our hands so we can rest some of our guys,” Cassidy said. “We’re not real deep.”
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Lawrence coach Mike McGee is taking a realistic look at Tuesday night’s 62-37 loss at Hampden Academy. The Bulldogs scored only 13 points through the first three quarters and were never in the game.
“We weren’t ready for that type of game,” McGee said. “We still have our football legs.”
The Bulldogs missed a week of practice because many of McGee’s players played in the state championship football game. Hampden and Lawrence were picked 1-2, respectively, in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A preseason coaches poll, but it’s clear the Broncos are way ahead of the Bulldogs right now.
“They are very cool, level-headed and composed,” McGee said. “Their confidence is sky high because they’re (defending Eastern Maine) champions.”
Conditioning aside, McGee wasn’t particularly happy with his team’s shot selection. Leading scorers Spencer Carey and Xavier Lewis combined for three points and shot 1 for 22 from the floor.
“It was shocked to say the least,” McGee said. “We decided to settle for jump shots.”
The Bulldogs played without 6-foot-4 senior Nick Noiles who was recovering from a strep throat. McGee said he would have made a difference against Hampden’s size but wouldn’t have changed the outcome.
“I’m happy being 3-1,” he said. “We’re no where near where we’re going to be in a few weeks.”
The Bulldogs over the next week play Skowhegan, Mt. Blue and Cony, three teams that have combined for two wins. The game against Cony is part of the Capital City Hoop Classic at the Augusta Civic Center on Dec. 28 and is a countable regular-season game.
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Madison coach Mike Packard is slowly getting his starting lineup back on the floor. The Bulldogs were 1-3 heading into Thursday’s game against Spruce Mountain, but should be a playoff contender once everyone returns to the lineup. They got senior guard Dylan Price back last week and he responded with 24 points and eight rebounds in a win against Mountain Valley.
“He brings a great deal of energy,” Packard said. “He’s very quick.”
Senior forward Austin Kane, a first-team Mountain Valley Conference selection last season, is expected back by the beginning of the January. Both he and Price fractured the same bone in the same hand in practice, Price by getting stepped on and Kane by banging into a wall.
“(Kane) is good for almost 20 (points) a night,” Packard said. “He rebounds as well and he’s a decent defender.”
Derek LeBlanc, another starter, has been out with a high ankle sprain but is expected back this week, while senior Tyler LaFreniere (concussion) and freshman Chase Malloy (fractured wrist) are also out of the lineup.
“You’ve got to be positive about it,” Packard said. “A lot of guys have been thrown into the fire and are going to be better for it in the long run.”
Because of poor weather and makeup games, the Bulldogs have only practiced for 1 hour, 10 minutes this week.
“I can’t wait to get back to practice,” Packard said. “We went into the season thinking we had a chance to beat anybody in the conference on a given night. Now we’re hoping to get enough wins for a playoff berth.”
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638