The Valley High School boys basketball team is in third place in the Western D standings, behind Hyde and Forest Hills. With games against both those schools in the next six days, the Cavaliers can take over the top spot in the region.
“These are huge games, really,” Valley coach Wade Morrill said. “To us, it basically comes down to, if we can take care of business in these games, we can go in (the tournament) No. 1.”
The Cavaliers (10-2) already played close games with both Hyde and Forest Hills. Valley beat Forest Hills 54-53 in Bingham, and lost at Hyde 72-69 in double overtime.
When Hyde comes to Bingham tonight, Valley must do a better job handling the Phoenix’s pressure, and limit Hyde’s transition opportunities, Morrill said.
“We really played extremely well at Hyde. We held them to 38 points for three quarters,” Morrill said. “In the fourth quarter, Hyde really stepped up its defensive pressure. They’re very quick, and leaked out over the top for some easy layups.”
The Cavaliers must also do a better job at the free-throw line.
“At Hyde, we missed a one-and-one that would have given us a six-point lead with 1:40 to go,” Morrill said.
Since losing to Hyde, the Cavaliers have won five games in a row, and Morrill said an improved defensive effort is a big reason for the success.
“Every single player has gotten better defensively,” Morrill said. “They’ve developed a great team chemistry. Guys work hard for each other.”
Senior Carrington Miller scored his 1,000th point in Tuesday’s 92-39 win over Buckfield. Morrill said he was glad Miller hit the milestone at home, and hit it before this tough stretch of games.
“Not that it’s a distraction, but it’s a big thing. Some kids start thinking about it, ‘Hey this is the night I’m going to get it,’ and they start to press a little and do things they normally wouldn’t do,” Morrill said.
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After years of struggling to find wins, Nokomis has the chance to reach the tournament for the third consecutive season. To make a deep run in the playoffs, the Warriors (7-6) need to find some consistency, coach Carl Parker said.
“It boils down to our intangibles,” Parker said. “Who is going to step up and lead, really lead and hold other players accountable?”
The Warriors have some strong wins this season. Nokomis won at Winslow in December, and earlier this month defeated Oceanside, then the top-ranked team in Eastern B, 62-41. Since that big win over the Mariners, however, Nokomis is 1-2, with two-point loses to Leavitt and Belfast sandwiched around a win over Morse.
“I think we’re improving, skill-wise,” Parker said. “We need to get that one loose ball, that one rebound, that one play you have to make. It’s not always at the end of the game.”
Senior guard Spencer Hartsgrove has been the scoring leader recently, averaging 28 points per game in the Warriors’ last three games. Other players, including Will Cartright, Andrew Cartright and Chandler Foss, have played well at times, Parker said. Consistency will determine the fate of the season, Parker said.
“Who’s going to be that catalyst? I think we could be a handful down the stretch, or we could struggle,” Parker said.
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Next week features a handful of games that could determine playoff seeding for a few central Maine teams. Here are a few of the games to watch:
* Hampden at Lawrence: The undefeated Broncos beat Lawrence by 25 points on Dec. 18 in a game that wasn’t that close. Still, this game features the top two teams in the Eastern A standings.
* Oceanside at Winslow: Oceanside beat Winslow 80-53 in Rockland in the season opener. Now, the Black Raiders are one of the hottest teams in the Eastern B, winning nine straight games, while the Mariners have lost two of their last three games.
* Camden Hills at Waterville: Camden Hills beat the Panthers in overtime on opening night. Waterville has been hot of late, winning six in a row, and is making a run at a home game in the preliminary round.
* MCI at Belfast: Belfast holds a five-point lead over MCI for the final playoff spot in Eastern B. A win could vault the Huskies over the Lions.
* Messalonskee at Brewer: A win would help Messalonskee’s playoff chances. The Eagles are two points behind Oxford Hills for the final spot in the Eastern A tournament.
* Valley at Forest Hills: The Cavaliers beat Forest Hills 54-53 when they met in Bingham on Jan. 2. Both teams are in the hunt for the top seed in Western D, along with Hyde.
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Around the state: Washburn’s Mitch Worcester joined the exclusive 2,000-point club Tuesday, scoring 39 points in a 69-61 win over Fort Fairfield. Worcester and Washburn are 12-0… Undefeated Falmouth (12-0) has some tough games coming up, including a pair of games against Wells (9-3) and a rematch with York (11-1)… Houlton (14-0) has held four consecutive opponents under 40 points… Presque Isle is 11-2 and in first place in Eastern B, but the Wildcats play four of their final five regular season games on the road.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242