The Winslow High School boys basketball team earned an important win on Tuesday when it beat Morse. The Black Raiders, were 6-2 before Thursday’s win over Maranacook, jumped to sixth place in the Eastern B Heal point standings with the win over Morse. They could climb even higher.
“Morse is a good team,” Winslow coach Jared Browne said. “They’re going to keep winning games, and that will help us.”
Since starting the season 1-2, the Black Raiders have won five straight games. The Morse game was a good example of how Winslow looks when things are going well. The Black Raiders played strong defense, and scored in transition.
“(Morse) came out early and slowed the game down,” Browne said. “In the second half, we had a lot more defensive intensity. I just watched the film (Wednesday) night, and most of our points came in transition.”
The Black Raiders average just over 71 points per game, and have scored at least 60 points in every game. The offense is led by guards Trevor Lovely and Nason Lanphier, and forward Justin Martin.
“I’m happy with the way we run the floor. We’re using our athleticism. We’re forcing a lot of turnovers and scoring in transition,” Browne said.
In the second half of the season, Browne would like his team to be more physical when it takes on some of the bigger teams, and do a better job protecting the ball in its halfcourt offense.
Winslow hosts Mt. View on Saturday, and plays a key game at Oceanside on Tuesday. The Mariners beat Winslow early in the season, 83-76.
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A scheduling quirk left Mt. Blue with just seven home games this season and 11 on the road. Going into Thursday’s game at Skowhegan, the road warrior Cougars were 2-7, but new head coach Dave Pepin was happy with his team’s progress.
“We’ve come so far,” said Pepin, who also coaches baseball at Mt. Blue. “We’ve definitely made strides in the right direction with our defense.”
The Cougars went 1-17 last season, and were among the worst defensive teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference. At the halfway mark of this season, Mt. Blue is among the top defensive teams in the league, allowing 53 points per game.
“I’m very proud of that effort,” Pepin said.
Where the Cougars need to improve is offensively, and without much size, that may be difficult. In almost every game, Mt. Blue is overmatched in the low post. In a recent 49-37 loss to Lewiston, the game was tied 20-20 before the Blue Devils size just wore Mt. Blue out.
Illness and injury have kept point guard Nate Backus out of the lineup for much of the season. The senior has played only three games, Pepin said, and that has also slowed Mt. Blue’s offense.
A bright spot has been the play of freshman Zack Mittelstadt, who leads the team in scoring at 14 points per game, and is shooting 42 percent from 3-point range.
“He’s very smart. He’s a very good shooter. He seems to use his body to protect the basketball very well, which makes him play more like he’s 6-3 instead of 6-1,” Pepin said. “It’s a big step up for him, coming from eighth grade last season, but he’s making huge strides.”
The Cougars have just three more home games. The road-heavy schedule has Mt. Blue on the bus for the final four games of the regular season. The good thing, Pepin said, is the schedule should flip next season.
“Next year, they’ll all have to come to our place,” Pepin said.
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Rangeley picked up first its first win of season Tuesday, a 45-44 victory over Greater Portland Christian.
The Lakers are young, with just one senior on the roster and three eighth graders, two freshmen, and five sophomores, and Rangeley has played one of the toughest schedules in Western Class D so far. The Lakers’ opponents are a combined 27-15. Four of them — Hyde, North Haven, Greenville, and Valley — are ranked in the top five in the region in the Heal point standings.
On Friday, the Lakers take the ferry ride out to Vinalhaven for a pair of weekend games against the Vikings.
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Around the state: With approximately a month left in the regular season, there are nine undefeated boys basketball teams in the state. Hampden, Bonny Eagle and Portland in Class A, Greely in Class B, Houlton and Dirigo in Class C, and Easton, Forest Hills and Hyde in Class D. At least one team will fall from the unbeaten ranks soon. Portland plays at Bonny Eagle on Tuesday… Hyde has yet to allow more than 36 points in a game… Hampden’s average margin of victory is 27.4 points. The Broncos (8-0) have three wins by at least 34 points.