WATERVILLE — When the Waterville Senior High School boys basketball team plays good defense, it’s tough to beat. The Purple Panthers force turnovers, and those turnovers become easy transition baskets.

On Thursday against Gardiner Area High School, the Panthers played one of their best defensive games of the season. Waterville pulled away in the second quarter, turning steals into layups, and cruised to a 76-55 win.

“It’s just something we drill constantly, every day in practice. It’s kind of what we emphasize. The offense will kind of come. If we’re playing good D, scoring will come to us,” said senior guard Josh Gormley, who had 25 points, six rebounds, seven assists and eight steals for the Panthers.

The win was the fifth in a row for Waterville, which improved to 7-5. Gardiner is now 3-8.

“We thought we should be at a better place then where we were at. We’re starting to play together, and that’s the main thing,” Gormley said.

Ahead 18-17 after one quarter, Waterville outscored the Tigers 16-5 in the second. Gardiner committed eight turnovers in the second quarter, and had trouble against Waterville’s full-court pressure. Two of Gormley’s baskets came in the second on layups after a steal near midcourt.

“It all stems from the defensive pressure,” Waterville coach Jason Briggs said.

Waterville led 34-22 at the half, and opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run.

“They got those steals early and got easy looks. It was 34-22, and then we had to take chances,” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said. “They can really run this year. They’re a very good ball team.”

Waterville focused on trying to stop Tyler Jamison, Gardiner’s leading rebounder, and controlling the glass. While Jamison scored a game-high 26 points, 11 came in the first quarter and 10 points in the third. Nobody else scored in double figures for the Tigers.

“The focus was Jamison, so that didn’t work too well. We know what he’s capable of,” Briggs said. “Gardiner’s going to be physical, and if we can match them and win the rebounding war, we were pretty confident.”

Added Cassidy: “That’s the pattern the last three games. Jamison’s carrying us on the offensive end. We’re playing a lot of young guys. They’re trying to learn, trying to contribute, but sometimes we put the ball in his hands and we do a lot of watching.”

Jordan DeRosby scored 15 points for Waterville, while Justin Jabar added 13. J.P. Michaud had seven rebounds and a pair of blocks for the Panthers.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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