WATERVILLE — Waterville Senior High School boys basketball coach Wade Morrill described this as his team’s Hell Week. Beginning with Friday night’s game against Camden Hills, the Purple Panthers play four games that could decide their playoff fate. Three of those games are against Camden Hills, Oceanside and Winslow, the top three teams in the Eastern Class B Heal point standings. The fourth is against a Mt. View team fighting with Waterville for a playoff spot.
Waterville’s Hell Week is off to a divine start, thanks to Friday’s 62-56 win over Camden Hills.
“This was massive, and we knew that coming in,” Morrill said. “It’s going to be a tough week for our guys, but this is a good way to start it.”
Waterville, now 8-5, is now on much more solid ground, playoff-wise. The Windjammers dropped to 11-3.
“It was huge for us. We hadn’t beaten anybody who was worth any points. These guys are worth a lot,” Waterville senior guard Justin Jabar said.
Waterville won the game with an impressive second-half effort. Trailing 38-27 at the half, the Panthers scored the first nine points of the second half to cut into Camden’s lead. Waterville took the lead for good, 47-46, with a pair of Chris Hale free throws with 1:19 left in the third quarter.
“The first half came down to, we just didn’t finish well. We missed a lot of layups and left a lot of points on the board,” Morrill said. “We talked about just continuing to do the things we were doing.”
The Panthers’ game plan was to attack the basket and get to the foul line, and in the second half, it worked. Waterville made 11 of 14 free throws in the second half, and big man Owen Brown was 5 for 5 at the line in the fourth quarter, including 4 for 4 in the final 24 seconds to ice the win.
“Upfake, because they always try to block, and get the foul,” said Brown, who led Waterville with 26 points and 15 rebounds.
Waterville led by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter before the Windjammers cut the lead to two, 56-54, on a short jumper by Merrill Hall with 3:05 to play. That was as close as Camden would get.
“This was the first time all year we made critical free throws,” Morrill said.
Camden Hills built its first-half lead on the hot hand of senior guard Chandler Crans, who scored 19 of his 26 points in the first half. Crans made three of Camden’s six first half 3-pointers, but made just one in the second half.
“Our two top guys had to pinch a little bit on (Crans), because he was making everything,” Brown said.
“We knew they were going to come out and bomb away,” Morrill said. “If they’re going to hit them, as long as they’re contested, we’re doing our job.”
Jabar scored 14 points and had four steals for the Panthers. Hale and Alan Wood each scored 10 points for Waterville. Connor Graffam had seven points and eight rebounds for Camden.