Mt. Blue will play without starting point guard Eric Berry for at least one more game, coach Jim Bessey said. Berry sprained an ankle in an exhibition game over the holiday break.

“It won’t be this week,” Bessey said of Berry’s return. “We’re hoping against Edward Little (next Tuesday) he can play a little, then really go against Lewiston on Friday.”

Berry is a threat to score and one of the top passers in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class A division. In his absence, senior Steve Yardley moved from the two guard to point guard, and seniors Chris Malone and Aaron Gagnon have split time at the two. Malone scored seven points in last week’s 62-50 win over Lawrence, and Yardley and Gagnon combined for 14 points in Tuesday’s 63-46 win over Messalonskee.

“We’ve found more depth, and other guys have stepped up,” Bessey said. “We’re looking forward to getting Eric back. He’s an essential part of everything we try to do.”

The Cougars play at Brunswick tonight.

* * *

Last week, Waterville picked up one of its biggest wins in recent years, defeating a very good Leavitt team, 49-43. The Purple Panthers followed that with a 55-32 win over Morse, and are 4-3 heading into tonight’s game at Medomak Valley (6-1).

Waterville is in eighth place in the Eastern Maine Class B Heal point standings.

“We’re starting to play physical, and when you play physical and defend, you have a shot,” Waterville coach Jason Briggs said. “These kids are concerned about us getting better and getting to Bangor… Early in the year, it was ‘where do we fit?’ Now it’s ‘let’s win.’ “

A key for the Panthers, who already have surpassed last season’s win total (three), is balance, Briggs said.

“We don’t have a go-to kid, that’s obvious,” Briggs said, “but have a few who consistently get six, eight (points).”

Seniors Max Brown and Josh Gormley are the team’s most consistent players, at both ends of the court. J.P. Michaud, a 6-foot-7 junior center, scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the win over Leavitt (6-2), which was undefeated when it came to Waterville on Dec. 28.

Waterville’s most valuable player so far may be sophomore Chris Hale. Already a captain, Briggs called Hale the “best leader I’ve had.”

“The numbers don’t show it, but limiting turnovers, controlling the tempo, Chris has been huge,” Briggs said.

Controlling the tempo is important for the Panthers, who by slowing games down and playing patient basketball have held opponents to an average of 45.7 points per game.

In the second half of the season, the Panthers need to improve their offensive execution, Briggs said. Waterville is averaging just over 50 points per game. Briggs said he’d like to see that improve to around 55.

* * *

Since an opening night loss at Winslow, Nokomis has won six games in a row. The Warriors, however, are about to face arguably the toughest stretch in the KVAC B this season.

After playing at Morse tonight, the Warriors have consecutive games against Camden Hills, Medomak Valley, Gardiner, Leavitt and Oceanside, five of the top teams in the league. Combined, those opponents have a 29-8 record.

“But it’s a good time, from my perspective, to have five tough games,” Nokomis coach Carl Parker said. “Three of the five are at home, and we’ll see what we’re made of.”

Whatever the Warriors are made of, it’s resilient material. Nokomis trailed Mt. View by 13 points at halftime before rallying for a 57-55 win. Against Lincoln, the Warriors trailed 15-2 in the first quarter, but surged to tie the game at 17-all at the end of the quarter, before taking a 66-55 win.

The Warriors have depth, with three seniors and eight underclassmen contributing. Nokomis averages three players scoring in double digits each game.

“Other guys are scoring eight or nine,” Parker said. “We have depth, so when we put players in, they can score … We have great competition in practice. That competitiveness breeds players playing better.”

Ethan Pearl has been a force on the boards, Parker said, averaging more than 13 rebounds per game.

“Ethan Pearl has been as effective for us as anyone’s best player,” Parker said.

* * *

Former Nokomis star Chris Braley will have a homecoming of sorts Saturday, when his Phillips Exeter basketball team plays at Maine Central Institute. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.

MCI is 4-6, while Phillips Exeter is 7-0.

In a 78-54 win over Trinity Pawling in the Seacoast Classic the weekend before Christmas, Braley scored 24 points. In a Dec. 14 game against Milton Academy, Braley scored 21 points to help the Lions take a 59-49 win.

Braley averaged 25.6 points and 12.9 rebounds for Nokomis last season, helping the Warriors reach the regional quarterfinals for the first time in eight years.

Calais native Cam Shorey also plays for Phillips Exeter.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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