FAIRFIELD — Lawrence is in the rebuilding stage, a stage where competing on most nights would be a step forward. But if the Bulldogs want to see what they can get to, the team they faced Friday afternoon is a good example.

While the Lawrence girls were 0-18 last season, Mt. Blue was 0-18 the year before that. The Cougars are now a playoff contender, and improved to 3-3 with a 49-26 victory over Lawrence in Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A girls basketball action.

The final score is an accurate reflection of the game. Lawrence recently lost point guard Danielle Armour to a knee injury, and was vulnerable to Mt. Blue’s all-out, trapping, full-court pressure. The Bulldogs turned the ball over 30 times, including 17 times in the first half.

“Coach says we’re going to be man-to-man, in your face,” said Mt. Blue sophomore Miranda Nicely, who scored a game-high 10 points. “That’s just what we do as a team.”

While Mt. Blue led just 10-5 after one quarter, it was clear the Bulldogs (1-4) would have offensive problems. Lawrence had just four field goal attempts in the first quarter, against 10 turnovers.

“They were a lot more physical than we were, and prevented us from making our cuts,” Lawrence coach John Donato said.

The Bulldogs focused their defense on Mt. Blue guard Gabby Foy, and held her to nine points. But in addition to Nicely’s 10 points, Amy Hilton and Mackenzie Conlogue each scored eight. Conlogue hit two long jumpers at the start of the second quarter, and after a follow-up basket by Nicely, the Cougars had quickly stretched their lead to 16-5.

“People scout you, and they played the Foy girl man-to-man, in a box-and-one,” Mt. Blue coach Tom Philbrick said. “They’re trying to take her out, because she’s definitely an offensive threat, so other people have to step up. That’s what we’re getting better at. I thought Mackenzie Conlogue stepped up and hit some big shots.”

Mt. Blue led 23-9 at halftime and by 22 in the third quarter. Lawrence made a run against Mt. Blue’s bench at that point, as Shelby Rudnicki hit two shots and Paige Belanger (eight points) made six straight free throws.

“We’re staying in games a little bit longer this year,” said Donato, whose team starts two freshmen and two sophomores. “It’s a growing process. We’ve just got to work hard to be in games. I don’t even care if we win them — I just want to be in games, so the game isn’t decided in the first half, like it was today.”

Mt. Blue is also fairly young — Corinne Dingley is the only senior — but the Cougars have more experience playing together. They’ve won two straight, and their three wins this season are just one less than their total for all of last winter.

“We had a slump, but we don’t give up,” Nicely said. “We just work out of it. We set our goals high, and we plan to meet them, no matter what.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

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