With just five games left in the regular season, the Messalonskee High School girls basketball team is starting to calculate playoff math. The Eagles are 6-7, and approximately nine points behind Cony for the ninth and final playoff spot in the Eastern A tournament.
With some games to play against playoff contenders, Messalonskee has the potential to earn a spot in the postseason, beginning with Friday’s game at Lawrence.
“We have a lot of points on our schedule, that’s the good thing,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “They’re all winnable if we play well.”
Four of Messalonskee’s final five opponents — Lawrence, Brewer, Skowhegan and Mt. Blue — are ahead of the Eagles in the standings, and a win over any of them would boost Messalonskee’s playoff chances. The key is playing a complete game, Derosby said.
“When we shoot the ball well, we’re not defending like we should, and vice-versa,” Derosby said. “We’re shoring up our defense right now.”
Derosby said he liked the way the Eagles finished Tuesday’s 61-49 loss to Bangor.
“We need to come out with the same intensity we finished (Tuesday’s) game with,” Derosby said.
With one win in their last four games, the Eagles also need to remain confident, Derosby said.
“Sometimes that doubt creeps in after a few loses,” Derosby said. “These girls need to realize they can play with anybody.”
* * *
Madison is in first place in Western C, and while the Bulldogs would love to retain the top spot, the goal for the rest of the regular season is to be playing well entering the tournament.
“You’ve got to look at just getting into the tournament,” Madison coach Al Veneziano said. “It’s pretty wide open, I think.”
The 11-3 Bulldogs are ahead of second-place Boothbay by the slim margin of .3703 points. The top three teams in Western C get byes out of the preliminary round right to the regional quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center, and Madison looks to be in good shape to stay in the top three.
“We’d love to be in the top three and get that week to practice and work on things,” Veneziano said. “At this point, we’re making sure we’re playing well. We’re working on end of game situations, to put games away a little bit.”
Senior guard Sam Bruce leads the Bulldogs, averaging 16 points and 2.7 assists per game.
“Sam’s a scorer,” Veneziano said. “She works very hard to get open.”
Madison hosts Hall-Dale on Friday.
* * *
Forest Hills is 10-2, but coach Mike LeBlanc sees some things the Tigers can improve on before the regional tournament next month. For starters, the Tigers need to do a better job at the free throw line. As a team, Forest Hills is shooting just 38 percent at the line.
“We’re just looking to improve every game, so we execute when we get to Augusta (for the regionals),” LeBlanc said. “We’ve had games where we’ve played very well, and we’ve had letdowns. We need to be consistent.”
Junior guard Kori Coro leads the Tigers in scoring, but offensive balance has been a team strength.
“It’s a different person every night,” LeBlanc said.
One player who has excelled in a new roll is junior guard Dana McNally. The Tigers’ leading scorer over the past few seasons, McNally is now more of a distributor, and she’s doing a great job getting her teammates involved with the offense, LeBlanc said.
“She’s more of a floor leader, and she generates a lot for us,” LeBlanc said. “When she plays well and does the things she’s capable of doing, we do much better.”
In Monday’s 66-40 win over North Haven, McNally scored nine points on three 3-pointers, her only three shots of the game. McNally also had 12 assists.
“She sees the floor very well,” LeBlanc said.
Forest Hills hosts Buckfield on Friday.
* * *
Waterville is 2-11, but the Panthers are showing improvement. Four recent loses were by 10 points or less, including Saturday’s 43-40 loss to Lincoln Academy. Foul trouble and youth are two big factors in a lot of Waterville’s loses, coach Rob Rodrigue said.
“I think that’s a big piece of it,” Rodrigue said. “We’re ending games with a lot of young players on the floor… We’ve got a lot of people playing. We’ve got four or five freshmen getting a lot of minutes.”
The Jan. 17 loss at Gardiner illustrates Waterville’s troubles. The Panthers led the game late in the third quarter, but also had four players with four fouls. Gardiner went on to win, 47-37.
With so many younger players gaining experience, Rodrigue feels this season is a good learning experience for his team.
“Hopefully next year and in years to come, they’ll be ready to play in this faster environment,” Rodrigue said. “They’re working their tails off for me. We’re doing everything right, we’re just not making shots right now.”
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242