After a pair of relatively easy wins, the Gardiner boys basketball team gets thrown into the fire tonight in Waldoboro against Medomak Valley.

Not only do the Panthers have one of the more rabid fans bases in the state, they’re big and talented — and tonight perhaps a little angry after Tuesday’s 71-70 loss to Camden Hills.

“The big three are pretty tough,” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said, referring to rugged 6-foot-7 center John Murray and senior twins Alex and Isaac Greenrose, both 6-3. Ryan Ripley, a 6-5 junior, also has played well.

“We’re going to have to have a couple of our guys play bigger than they are,” Cassidy said. “Alonzo (Connor) and Matt (Hall) will get a lot of time on the floor.”

Connor and Hall are both 6-1, while Aaron Toman is the tallest player on the team at 6-4. The Tigers have rebounded well so far, thanks to a strong effort from their backcourt and reserves.

“Our kids have a lot of spirit, that’s for sure,” Cassidy said. “They’re practicing hard, working hard. We like the way our guards have come together.”

After being a backup at point guard last season, senior Justin Lovely has taken over and played well. So has shooting guard Jake Palmer, who, along with Toman, is a returning starter.

“I think he has the desire to be one of the top players in the league,” Cassidy said of Palmer. “After two games, he looks like one of the top players in the league.”

Former Gardiner and University of Maine standout Sean McNally is assisting Cassidy this season, and at 6-7 he is able to simulate taller opponents in practice.

“He’s (Maranacook’s) Kyle Boucher and Murray this week,” Cassidy said. “You can imagine how helpful that is to us.”

McNally attends all the practices and also helps in scouting.

“He’s really a resource for me,” Cassidy said. “I can bounce things off him.”

• • •

Cony fell to 0-2 after its 71-56 loss to Edward Little on Tuesday night in Auburn. The Rams lost their opener last week in Brunswick.

Both teams were picked ahead of Cony in the preseason poll and have lived up to their billing.

“We’re still trying to define our roles,” Cony coach Tim Bonsant said. “We’re having a lot of turnovers per game, and I need more out of our big guys.”

Walker Cooper, a 6-6 senior, is holding his own and averaging 18 points per game despite being double-teamed. Bonsant would like a little more production out of 6-3 sophomores Ben Lucas and Alex Neal, although he realizes that may take time.

“They haven’t got the confidence yet,” he said. “I’ve got to remember they’re only sophomores.”

After struggling against Brunswick, senior Josiah Hayward turned in a strong effort with 15 points against Edward Little.

“We’re going to get a couple of home games and see what happens,” Bonsant said. “We’re going to be a work in progress.”

• • •

Hall-Dale coach Jim Patrick is never sure which pair of guards will be on the floor at the end of each game since he rotates them every four minutes. Tuesday night against St. Dominic, it was Mike Woods and Tyler French, and they helped seal a 54-52 win.

“Woods and French just caused a lot of trouble defensively,” Patrick said. “They got some steals and got some layups.”

Woods sealed the game when he stole the ball with 12 seconds left and laid it in to give the Bulldogs a four-point lead. Austin Bechard and Ben Crocker are the other guards in the rotation and are equally effective. Patrick also rotates Ezra Jones and Harry Cheung with Zac Plummer and Brad Shepherd in the frontcourt.

“I’m subbing four in and giving the fifth guy a break a minute later,” Patrick said.

The fifth guy is junior center Sam Shepherd, who has blocked six shots in each of the team’s first two games.

“They’re clean,” Patrick said of the blocks. “Some of them he’s far away from the shooter. We’ve recently been teaching him how to direct his blocked shots.”

The Bulldogs (2-0) host Mt. Abram tonight before facing a big test Tuesday in Boothbay.

• • •

Richmond coach Phil Houdlette can’t specifically recall the last time the Bobcats began a season 0-2.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” he said. “It would probably be back in the days of the Mid-Maine Conference. It was a long time ago.”

The Mid-Maine flourished in the 1980s and early ’90s, when Class D Richmond played against Class B and C competition. They have dominated Western Maine Class D lately, winning five of the past six championships.

This year, the Bobcats are as green and small as they have ever been.

“We really are young, and our older kids don’t have any experience,” Houdlette said. “They haven’t played a lot of basketball.”

The Bobcats lost their opener, 41-36, to Seacoast Christian, then dropped a 42-40 decision to Buckfield on Tuesday night.

“(Tuesday) night we were down 17 at one point,” Houdlette said. “We had a couple of steals and played with some passion. With two or three minutes in the third quarter and the fourth quarter we really played with some emotion.”

Houdlette said he has been getting an emotional performance from senior Kade Strout, who had 12 points and 15 rebounds Tuesday.

“He’s rough around the edges, but as far as heart and desire he has plenty of it,” he said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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