Since giving up 29 points in the fourth quarter of a loss to Messalonskee on Dec. 29, the Skowhegan girls basketball team has relocated its defensive presence. The Indians are allowing 34.3 points per night over the last three games, capped by a big 44-42 victory over Oxford Hills on Tuesday.
Skowhegan coach Heath Cowan said the team’s defensive effort for four quarters was a key difference between that win and some of Skowhegan’s tough losses earlier in the season. Cowan pointed to the second quarter, when the Indians scored four points, but stayed close by holding Oxford Hills to eight in the quarter.
“As long as you’re in it defensively,” Cowan said, “you’re never going to be out of the game, because you’re going to be able to string stops together. I still think we can play a little bit better, but definitely, we showed some toughness.”
Different players are starring depending on the game, and Cowan thinks that’s how basketball should be played.
“It’s team,” he said. “It’s not one kid trying to do it all. We’re sharing the ball, and offensively and defensively, we’re more connected.”
Skowhegan is now 5-4, with Friday night’s game at Cony next on the schedule. While Cony is in 10th place and currently out of the playoff picture, Eastern A is so tight that Skowhegan might be in 10th if the Indians had lost to Oxford Hills and Dominique Lewis’ 3-pointer didn’t enable Lawrence to beat Cony by one point on Tuesday.
Cowan believes any one of the eight teams that ends up at the Augusta Civic Center can run the table and represent Eastern A in the state final.
“Sometimes coaches just say that because it sounds cool,” Cowan said. “But honest to God, it’s ‘Come show up and play, and we’ll see how it turns out.’ “
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Mt. View coach Erica Gabbianelli says she doesn’t talk to her players about Heal points very often, because the standings change so often. But she does remind them that they still have a shot at the postseason.
That’s a different mindset for the Mustangs, who finished 2-16 last winter. There have still been some setbacks for Mt. View this season, like a 60-point loss to Nokomis on opening night, but there have also been wins over Maine Central Institute and Morse, and a few games where the score was closer than expected. Mt. View is 2-7 after Tuesday’s two-point loss to Waterville, and is 14th and just out of the playoffs in Eastern B.
“I think the important thing is my kids are having more confidence right now,” Gabbianelli said. “We’re ahead of where we were last year at this point. They want to be here, and they’re working hard to try to get better.”
The focus now for the Mustangs is to avoid beating themselves — they made three turnovers in the final minute against Waterville, for instance. What’s making that a possibility is that Mt. View has a lot of players contributing. Senior guard Janelle Thornley has been consistent, and Kaitlin Leavitt, Alexis Morse, Brooke Tripp, and Courtney Morse have all had their moments.
“We have our freshmen now to the point where they’re coming in and giving us some good relief minutes, and playing defense the way we want to play — and throwing in some points, too,” Gabbianelli said.
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There will be more victories for Erskine Academy next season for a couple of reasons. First, the Eagles have eight new players this season who will return next year. And second, the school is likely dropping from Class A to Class B.
The enrollment figure submitted to the Maine Principals’ Association in April is 621 students which puts the school well below the Class A threshold. Coach Scott Corey added a move to Class B would also cut the team’s travel in half.
The Eagles fell to 0-9 following Tuesday night’s loss to Brewer, but Corey isn’t complaining.
“I have been overall pretty pleased with how this team has come together,” he said. “We have eight new kids. They’re having fun and they’re doing the best they can.”
Freshman point guard Mallory Chamberlain scored a career-high 18 points against Brunswick last week, making six of seven field goal attempts. Senior Bridget Humphrey is having a monster season and is among the leaders in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A South division in several categories. The 5-foot-10 forward averages 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds a game.
“She’s always had that potential,” Corey said. “She’s just a different kid this year, her demeanor, her maturity.”
Humphrey see the floor well and finds teammates, but it’s her ability to run and jump that separates her from the pack.
“If she can get herself to the backboard, she jumps and she finishes,” Corey said.
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Revenue from the recent Capital City Hoop Classic was down nearly 30 percent, according to tournament chair Dave Rollins.
“We were at a three-year low,” Rollins said.
Rollins attributed the decline to two factors — poor weather on Saturday and the lack of compelling matchups. Because the tournament was played Friday and Saturday, many of the participants had regular-season games on those days and a couple had to reschedule. The tournament used to run over four days and non-countable dates have since been limited by the Maine Principals’ Association and the Class A season has been shortened.
“It’s not just our tournament,” Rollins said. “The shine is off Christmas tournaments in general.”
The best attended game was the tournament’s only regular-season matchup between the Cony and Lawrence boys. Rollins and some of the tournament committee say they will explore this option, but may have to refund some of the gate to entice teams to give up a home date.
“I think that’s our best hope,” he said. “I want to experiment with that.”
Gary Hawkins contributed to this report.
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243