WATERVILLE — Entering this season’s Eastern Class B boys basketball tournament, Waterville Senior High School gets the title “Team Nobody Wants to Play.”
There’s not a hotter team in the region than the Purple Panthers, who closed the regular season with a 76-61 win over rival Winslow. The win was the 11th in a row for Waterville, which won each game in the streak by at least 10 points.
“A great way to end the (regular) season. The team pulled through when we needed, and we just kept the lead,” Waterville senior guard Jordan DeRosby said.
Both Waterville and Winslow ended the regular season 13-5, but while Waterville is soaring, the Black Raiders dropped three of their last four games.
“They’re a really good team, and you can’t give up 76 points like we did tonight and beat a good team,” Winslow coach Jared Browne said.
The key to Waterville’s streak is teamwork, DeRosby said.
“That was our flaw in the beginning of the year. We fixed it, and now we’re going to just keep on rolling,” DeRosby, who scored a team-high 17 points, said.
Added Waterville coach Jason Briggs: “The kids are playing together. Everyone understands their role. That’s a big, big piece. We’re riding the leaders.”
Each of those leaders stepped up Thursday. Senior Josh Gormley had 16 points and 10 rebounds, while junior Chris Hale added 14 points and 12 boards. Justin Jabar scored 16 points for the Panthers, who led 25-14 after the first quarter. It was the exact opposite of their game at Winslow on Dec. 21, when the Panthers tried to climb out of an early deficit and lost, 68-61.
“That was when we were still in our little slump. We got up out of that,” DeRosby said.
Waterville did a nice job getting out on Winslow’s strong perimeter shooters, preventing the Black Raiders from getting many open shots early in the game. Winslow guard Trevor Lovely, one of the top scorers in the conference, was held to just three points in the first half.
“We did a better job getting to shooters. That was the key, get out to shooters, and the kids did a good job,” Briggs said.
The Black Raiders cut Waterville’s lead to 29-25 when Josh Kervin hit a pair of free throws with 2:32 left in the second quarter, but the Panthers pushed the lead back to nine points, 38-29, when Hale hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer just before the half.
Gormley hit a buzzer-beating 3 of his own at the end of the third quarter, and Waterville led 62-52 going into the fourth.
“They closed out on our shooters. We really didn’t do a great job closing out on their shooters,” Browne said. “You’ve got to give them credit, too. Gormley hit a couple big shots. I think Jabar had 13 in the first quarter. They came out on fire. It was their senior night, and they did what you do on senior night, and that’s step up.”
Nason Lanphier led Winslow with 19 points, and Lovely added 14. Austin Ireland had 12 points for the Black Raiders, while Justin Martin had 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242