The Winslow boys basketball team knows it’s a role model for elementary school kids on the court. Now the Black Raiders are trying to be role models in the classroom, too.

Coach Jared Browne, parent Judi Bouchard and Winslow Elementary School teacher Kendra Littlefield are working on a literacy campaign called “Today a Reader, Tommorow a Leader.”

“Coming into the season, we had a young team and we needed to find a way to grow up,” Browne said. “The young kids really look up to the varsity kids. This shows there’s more to life than basketball. We thought this would be a great way to get our kids involved in the community.”

The Black Raiders posed for reading promotion posters which are now hanging throughout Winslow Elementary. During study halls, the Winslow basketball players are going to the elementary school to read to classrooms and mentor individual students.

Each Black Raider is featured on a bookmark which lists his favorite book and why he likes to read. For instance, senior forward Austin Ireland lists his favorite book as “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” by Dr. Seuss. As to why he likes reading, Ireland said “I like to read because it takes me out of the real world and puts me in a world of my own.”

Elementary students are trying to collect all 15 bookmarks, Browne said.

“Kids are already swarming our guys. The bookmarks are a hot commodity right now,” Browne said.

Before Winslow’s Jan. 31 game against Leavitt, the players will sign bookmarks in the Winslow High School lobby. The team is also having a book drive that night, to donate books to he Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter library.

“We’re gearing it towards children’s books,” Browne said, “but certainly, we won’t turn down adult novels.”

* * *

Entering Thursday night’s game against Gardiner, Waterville had won four games in a row to improve to 6-5. After being on the playoff bubble, the Purple Panthers have climbed into ninth place in the Eastern B standings.

“Our defensive intensity is picking up, which is leading to offensive opportunities,” Waterville coach Jason Briggs said.”

The Panthers slow start can be attributed to a few things, Briggs said. One is the loss of David Bailey for the season to a shoulder injury suffered in the football playoffs. Another is football, period. The Panthers made a run to the Pine Tree Conference Class B championship game, leaving some basketball players beat up at the start of the season.

Five of Waterville’s final seven regular season games are at home. Briggs said the team is improving, noting the play of guards Josh Gormley and Jordan DeRosby. The Panthers haven’t peaked yet, Briggs said.

“We’re getting there. We’re not close to where we want to be,” Briggs said.

* * *

One of the hottest and most surprising teams in the Mountain Valley Conference is Mt. Abram. The Roadrunners are playing well, and are in the playoff hunt for the first time in years.

Since an 0-4 start, the Roadrunners are 6-1. Mt. Abram improved to 6-5 with a 58-53 win at Telstar on Tuesday. That matched the teams highest win total in six seasons.

The Roadrunners haven’t reached the playoffs since the 2006-07 season, when they went 6-13 and lost in the preliminary round. Mt. Abram is eighth in Western C, and if they stay there or climb a few spots, they’ll host a preliminary round game.

Senior Ian James has been an offensive sparkplug for Mt. Abram during its streak. James scored at least 23 points in four of six recent games, including 28 in a win over Madison, and 27 in a win over St. Dom’s.

* * *

Around the state: One of the tightest playoff races in the state is in Eastern B. Just nine points separate sixth and 11th place… Undefeated Portland (10-0) will be tested next week with games against Westbrook (9-2) on Tuesday and Deering (10-1) on Thursday… At 11-0, Houlton is in first place in Eastern C. Houlton has four wins of 10 points or fewer… In Eastern D, both Jonesport-Beals (9-0) and Washburn (11-0) are undefeated, but neither is in first place in the region. That honor goes to Central Aroostook (10-1).

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com