This is the time of year for calculations and scoreboard watching for high school basketball coaches who hope to get their teams into the tournament.
Cony entered Thursday night’s game against Oxford Hills at 4-9 and two spots away from a tournament preliminary game in Eastern Maine Class A. Gardiner climbed a couple of spots to 16th place and three spots away from a tourney prelim in Eastern Maine Class B following its big win against Oceanside on Saturday .
Both coaches see a path to the tournament.
Tonight, Gardiner (4-8) hosts Belfast (6-6), a team in the 13th and final tournament spot in Eastern B.
“We have to get this one and three more,” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said. “We feel that the math is there.”
Unlike many of Gardiner’s opponents this season, Belfast is not very big and may be the only team the Tigers have a height advantage against.
“They’re a very quick team,” Cassidy said. “They have three very strong guards.”
Cassidy made some changes to his lineup recently, moving junior Trevor Austin and Logan Hallett into starting roles.
“We’ve mixed up our starting lineups with more emphasis on defense,” he said. “It gave our two sophomores (Seth McFarland and Brad Weston) a chance to relax a little bit.”
McFarland and Weston came off the bench Saturday and both played well. McFarland hit a game-winning 3-pointer with four seconds left.
Gardiner’s two returning veterans, Tyler Jamison and Dennis Meehan, are both playing well. Jamison is averaging 17.5 points and eight rebounds a game, both team highs, and he’s also passing the ball well.
“He’s drawing triple teams,” Cassidy said. “Teams are very aware of him. He’s being very unselfish.”
Cony (4-9) was in 11th place in Eastern Maine Class A before Thursday’s game, two spots away from a tournament berth. The Rams play both teams ahead of them (Oxford Hills) on Thursday night and Mt. Ararat on Feb 1. Shooting, or lack of it, has been a problem for the team all season.
“My kids have played hard all year,” Cony coach Tim Bonsant said. “If we could make a 15-foot jump shot we’d be 9-4. I don’t know (the problem). We shoot hundreds of shots in practice. It’s mostly mental.”
The Rams are also having trouble finishing games, often fading in the fourth quarter. Bonsant has used several different combinations of players this season and has received contributions from all of them, but not on a consistent basis.
“My sophomores are coming along,” he said, citing Liam Stokes and Ben Leet. “Also Mitchell Bonenfant. We going to need these guys coming down the stretch.”
Ben Lucas, who missed the last game with the flu, and Alex Neill have been consistent rebounders while Kyle Elvin has played well defensively. Monday, he held Edward Little’s high-scoring Quin Leary to two points.
“He’s got the heart of a lion,” Bonsant said. “He hustles all the time.”
The Rams also have point-worthy games left against Lewiston and Hampden, both at home.
“The guys aren’t down,” Bonsant said. “They get along real well. I have two great captains in Chandler Shostak and Zack Lachance.”
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As suspected, the Hall-Dale boys basketball team has lost senior Zac Plummer for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Seniors Harry Cheung and Ezra Jones are combining to fill Plummer’s minutes, but he’ll be difficult to replace.
“He was a huge part for us,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “Both as a locker room guy and what we try to do.”
Many of the team’s offensive sets began with the 6-foot forward and he guarded the other team’s best guard.
“He’s got the poise of a winner,” Ranslow said.
The Bulldogs are also awaiting the return of senior center Sam Shepherd who sprained his ankle two weeks ago.
“Sam’s out of his walking boot but he hasn’t returned to any basketball activities yet,” Ranslow said. “He’s certainly out for the rest of this week.”
Shepherd is the team’s top rebounder and an intimidating shot blocker. Sophomore Bryson Camp is filling in for him.
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A drop from Class A to Class B can’t come quickly enough for Erskine coach Ben Willoughby. Next fall, the Eagles will drop to Class B in every sport. The Eagles are the smallest school competing in the Class A division of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and have taken their lumps this season.
Erskine is 1-12 after graduating eight seniors from a team that squeaked into the tournament last season and finished 8-10.
“We’re playing against schools that are over twice as big as we are,” Willoughby said. “They have more athletes. Usually it’s depth. I think a lot of times in Class B you don’t have the depth.”
The Eagles have played well against Brunswick, Lewiston and Messalonskee this year and trailed Bangor by just a point at the half.
“We’re not a bad basketball team,” Willoughby said. “We’re battling. It’s just you get to the second half . . . “
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638