After finishing 5-14 last season, Carrabec has shot up near the top of the Western C girls basketball standings. After Monday’s win over Telstar, the Cobras were 10-3 and in third place in Western C.
Carrabec owns wins over No. 5 Monmouth and No. 6 Dirigo, and will get a chance against No. 4 Madison next Thursday. The Cobras played No. 1 St. Dominic once this season, losing 39-32 in late December.
Carrabec coach Skip Rugh said the team’s success is because of two things every coach hopes for — a positive attitude throughout the roster, and attention to doing the little things.
“It’s been stressed from the very beginning, to put positive energy into the gym, and not negative energy,” Rugh said. “We’ve spent a lot of time talking. I’ve got some videos that we’ve been watching lately. It’s been a total team effort.”
Emma Pluntke and Macy Welch are Carrabec’s only regular starters. They’re neck-and-neck in scoring, and Pluntke leads the Cobras in rebounding.
“After that, the other three starters could be any of six or seven (players),” Rugh said. “It all depends on how we’re playing, and where we’re at, and what the matchups are. We’ve got two to three that can fill just about every position.
“Even the kids who may not play as much, they’ve been engaged, cheering on their teammates, and being part of the game,” Rugh added. “It makes all the difference.”
Undefeated Spruce Mountain is the top team in the Mountain Valley Conference, and defeated Carrabec, 47-27 on Saturday. The Cobras will get another shot at Spruce Mountain on Feb. 6.
“We saw where we need to be,” Rugh said. “They’re an extremely well-coached and disciplined team. We saw what we need to handle if we want to take this as far as possible.”
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Junior Bronte Elias was one of the best all-around players for Madison before suffering a season-ending injury to her knee on Dec. 16 against Hall-Dale. Elias, a 5-foot-9 forward, was a solid player on both offense and defense for the Bulldogs. Madison went on to win that game (in part because of Elias’ 12 points and 10 rebounds) and is 6-3 since that game. The three losses are by a total of 15 points.
“I think they’re handling it very well,” Madison coach Al Veneziano said. “They obviously miss a player like Bronte, but I think that they work hard every day in practice, and they do good things, and they’re improving.”
There was naturally an adjustment period after Elias went out. After beating Mtn. Valley, the Bulldogs then lost back-to-back games against Oak Hill and St. Dominic on the road. But many of the strengths of the team — balanced scoring, good shooting, strong defense — are still there.
“Basically, after she got hurt, we had to go back to preseason-type stuff,” Veneziano said. “You’ve got to go back and you’ve got to re-learn some things — different roles, and things like that. It’s coming. I think this team can do nothing but go up, and I think they’re up for that challenge.”
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Winslow has 10 wins this season with a total of 12 players in the program. Another impressive thing the Black Raiders are doing is interacting with the younger students in the community. Winslow coach Lindsey Welch said the Raiders recently started a pen pal program with Vicki Burbank’s fifth grade class.
“The varsity girls will start writing to them, and then they will write back to us — trying to keep that communication, and just trying to be a role model for the kids, and just basically giving back and being part of the community,” Welch said.
Welch said the idea came from health teacher Kendra Littlefield, as an offshoot of the program where the Winslow boys basketball team reads to elementary school students.
“We’re going to try to go down every couple weeks, and at the end of school year, we’re going on a hiking trip with them,” Welch said. “We’re trying bring some of the kids to the school, and come to a couple of the games. We just really want to make that connection to the younger kids. These kids look up to these varsity players a lot, and these girls are great with them.”