Two-time defending Eastern B champion Nokomis is in the midst of a stretch where the Warriors are simply far too strong for their competition. Of its six games before the end of December, Nokomis plays only two teams with a .500 record. Against those two teams, the Warriors beat Winslow by 37 and Waterville by 30.

At the same time, the Warriors must keep improving and prepare themselves for the games that are going to be close. Coach Kori Dionne said that’s happening in practice.

“All season long, we’ve had competitive practices,” Dionne said. “The way we practice, and the way we push each other in practice, is going to be crucial to keeping us sharp and keeping us focused.”

Dionne said the team has bought into this approach, that it’s not a case of one or two players trying to set the tone and carrying everyone else along.

“The reason why our practices are that intense and that competitive is so many girls want it to be that way,” Dionne said. “We have everybody pushing each other.”

The average score of a Nokomis game so far is 60-18, and some reserves like sophomores Lindsay Whitney and Taylor Shaw are taking that opportunity to impress.

“The (jump) that those two have made from last year to this year has been pretty significant,” Dionne said.

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Waterville is off to a 2-2 start after finishing 4-14 last winter. The Purple Panthers are still in the building stage, but would qualify for the Eastern B playoffs if they began today.

One reason the Panthers are playing as well as they are is that different players are handling the scoring. Ashleigh Gagne had 17 points and 12 rebounds in an opening-night win over Maine Central Institute. On Tuesday against Mt. View, the Mustangs focused on Gagne, but Waterville still pulled out the win.

“(Mt. View) double-teamed Ashleigh every time she touched the ball,” Waterville coach Rob Rodrigue said.

Lauren Crane had 10 points in that game, and Shannon Ritter his some big free throws in the fourth quarter. Whitney Scott also provided a scoring spark off the bench in a recent game. Point guard Colleen O’Donnell is another player who offers a lot on the floor.

“She’s done a fantastic job defensively for us, as well as handling the ball,” Rodrigue said.

Waterville’s next two regular season games are against Gardiner and defending state champion Leavitt, both of whom are undefeated.

“The one thing I ask my kids to do all the time is to compete,” Rodrigue said. “For us to lay down as a team is just not acceptable for us. We talk about working hard, going after every loose ball, and we can be successful that way.”

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Mt. Abram’s second game of the season was an embarrassing 59-25 setback to defending Class C state champion Hall-Dale. The Roadrunners rebounded in their next game, losing 49-47 in overtime to Madison, another of the top teams in the Mountain Valley Conference.

“I was very pleased,” Mt. Abram coach Doug Lisherness said. “We came out much more relaxed than we were down at Hall-Dale. Much, much more intensity.”

Lisherness said Mt. Abram made the Bulldogs work for their points and at the other end, were maybe a couple breaks away from getting the win.

“It seemed like we had three or four shots that were down in the cylinder,” Lisherness said. “I don’t know how they went out, but they did. I thought we gave up one easy basket all night. I don’t care if you’re watching pro, college, high school, or whatever, there is bound to be an easy basket given up in that game.”

Two players, especially, took a step forward in the Madison game. Annie Dexter, whose minutes are limited by asthma, played a season-high in minutes and finished with seven points, nine rebounds, and two blocked shots. Junior guard Mikayla Luce also stood out.

“Mikayla Luce had a very good game, just an all-around game,” Lisherness said. “She had 18 points, a few assists, a few steals, and played some very hard-nosed defense.”

Mt. Abram was supposed to play Monmouth on Wednesday night, but that game was postponed due to icy road conditions. That will be played today as part of a quadruple-header, with the junior varsity games at 2 p.m. and 3:30, followed by the girls varsity at 5:30 and the boys varsity at 7.

“They’re 2-2 and darn near upended Mountain Valley (4-0),” Lisherness said. “That’s not going to be an easy game for us, that’s for sure.”

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Winslow began its season with games against Nokomis and Leavitt — the two teams in last season’s Class B state final. The Black Raiders lost both handily, but regrouped to post wins over Waterville and MCI and are now 2-2.

Winslow coach Tom Nadeau said the Raiders played with more aggressiveness on the floor and more patience with each other in their two wins, and developed more confidence. Winslow has been hit by injuries. Wednesday’s canceled practice would have been the first time everyone was available.

“We had three kids with concussions in preseason,” Nadeau said.

Nadeau likes that different players are standing out, depending on the game, but it’s clear the Raiders will rely heavily on seniors Elizabeth Ferry and Mariah Chenard.

“Elizabeth Ferry has really picked up her game, which we needed her to, and Mariah Chenard has done a lot of the little things for us,” Nadeau said.

 

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

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