Gardiner coach Mike Gray went into Friday night’s season opener against Maranacook thinking he might whittle his rotation of players.

Instead, he found added depth as he rotated two groups of three guards throughout the game and three interior players in two positions. In all, Gray used 11 players in a 50-42 victory against a Black Bears team picked by many to be among the best in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.

“What we figured out is we have three guards,” Gray said. “The whole second half I kept two groups together.”

Gray played Nicole and Lauren Chadwick along with Abby Dunn in one guard group and Savannah Vinton-Mullens, Morgan Carver and Haley Tomberlin in the other.

“We didn’t intend to keep those groups together the whole game, but it built some continuity,” Gray said. “I think that’s going to be a big thing for us.”

Seniors Ally Day and Camden Cone and junior Rachel Quirion got most of the minutes inside. After graduating four long-term starters, Gray wasn’t sure where his team would stand this season. He was encouraged by the fact they beat Cony in an exhibition game.

“If we can beat a good Class A team, I think the girls thought after that we can play with anybody,” Gray said. “I think we’re a little bit ahead of where we thought we’d be.”

Gray was especially pleased with his guard play. Freshman Lauren Chadwick scored 10 points while Carver, a junior, scored 11. With three veteran guards in front of her, Carver saw limited playing time last season.

“We told her over and over again last winter, your time is going to come,” Gray said.

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Despite graduating just one player from last year’s Eastern Maine finalist team, Cony has struggled adjusting to new coach Ted Rioux and life without Josie Lee.

The Rams lost their season opener to Brunswick before beating Lewiston 67-52 on Tuesday night.

“We’re not there yet defensively,” Rioux said. “We have a lot of things to shore up on defense.”

The offense struggled in the 56-53 loss at Brunswick but got on track against Lewiston by hitting 10 3-pointers. Hayley Quirion connected on four 3s while Alyssah Dennett and Emily Quirion each made three.

“When those wing players knock down shots, it’s going to open the pick and roll we like to use,” Rioux said.

It also opened things up for Emily Quirion, the team’s senior point guard who scored a game-high 33 points.

“Emily’s getting into the lane and getting to the foul line,” Rioux said. “She also has a nice three-point shot and she’s taking the right shots.”

The Rams face another test Friday night when they host Lawrence, led by sophomore Nia Irving, who averaged 19.6 points and 13.4 rebounds a game last season.

“They’re a very good basketball team and we’re going to have to neutralize a dominant post player,” Rioux said.

The Cony coach is also aware of Lawrence’s other weapons, including point guard Dominique Lewis and forward Paige Belanger.

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As expected, Richmond lost its season opener to tall and talented Rangeley last week. The Bobcats graduated most of the team that accounted for the last three Western Maine Class D championships and are starting over with an inexperienced lineup.

“We’re going to take our lumps but we’re not going to get kicked around too bad,” Richmond coach Molly Bishop said.

Bishop is using 10 players and may use more when Kaylah Patterson and Camryn Hurley return from injuries. The Bobcats bounced back Tuesday night with a 50-34 win against Buckfield in which they scored 21 points in the fourth quarter.

Sophomore Kelsea Anair scored 16 points and freshman Meranda Martin scored eight points to go with seven assists and six steals. Richmond plays at Greenville tonight and hosts Machias on Saturday.

• • •

Monmouth played a nearly flawless game in knocking off Oak Hill, 53-52, in its season opener.

“The Oak Hill game is probably the best I could expect of our kids,” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said. “We were clicking on all cylinders.”

The Mustangs failed to click Tuesday night when they dropped a 50-32 decision at St. Dominic after trailing by just two points at the half.

“The kids who played well in the first game didn’t play well in the second,” Wing said. “That’s what happens when you play sophomores.”

Wing still believes he has a tournament team and thinks Oak Hill is among the best in the Mountain Valley Conference.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638ghawkins@centralmaine.comTwitter: @GaryHawkinsKJ