Waterville freshman Jordan Jabar has played only seven varsity games, but she’s already learned the value of respecting every opponent.
Hosting winless Belfast on Saturday afternoon, the Purple Panthers were expected to win easily, and they did. Jabar scored 16 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as Waterville recovered from a sub-par first quarter to take a 48-26 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B girls basketball victory.
“They’re very good defensively,” Jabar said. “You can’t come out thinking that you’re going to automatically beat them. You have to play every second of every game like it’s the biggest game you’re going to play.”
Belfast (0-5) hustled and played aggressively throughout the afternoon, and quickly led 2-0 after a long jumper by Mariah Sturgis (12 points). The Lions were ahead 4-3 after one quarter as both teams struggled to hit shots. Waterville senior Colleen O’Donnell did not play the first quarter, although Panthers coach Rob Rodrigue would not get in to why. O’Donnell played the last 24 minutes and finished with 17 points, 10 steals, six rebounds, and three assists.
“She came in and did a great job, second, third, and fourth quarter, obviously,” Rodrigue said.
O’Donnell was a huge factor at both ends of the floor in the second quarter, as Waterville ran off eight straight points to lead 11-4 with 5:20 left in the first half. The Panthers led 21-8 by halftime.
“We really just had to keep moving, and push ourselves, and keep shooting,” Jabar said. “It helped getting Colleen back into the game. She’s a big part of our team.”
The Lions shot 20 percent from the floor on the day, and couldn’t string enough consecutive baskets to mount a comeback. Waterville moved the ball well and hit from the outside, as Jabar, Fotini Shanos, and Hannah Allen (nine points) all connected from three-point range. For the game the Panthers were six of 12 from long distance, which would be impressive if they were shooting alone in their driveways.
The Panthers led 34-17 after three quarters, and that gave them a chance to try different things with O’Donnell on the floor. While she usually plays point guard, she set up in the post while Jabar, Shanos, and Emma Cristan handled the ball.
“It was nice to see us respond to a little bit of adversity and come out and take care of a team at home,” Rodrigue said. “We’ve played a lot of close games recently, so it was nice to get one where we get some younger kids in, and really get after it a little bit.”