When Mt. Blue beat Brunswick on Friday for its fifth win of the season, the Cougars equaled their victory total of the previous three seasons combined.

Even after Tuesday’s loss to Edward Little, Mt. Blue is 5-4 and in fifth place in the Eastern A girls basketball standings.

Corinne Dingley is Mt. Blue’s only senior, but the Cougars have played a lot of games during the last few summers. Coach Tom Philbrick believes that’s sped up the maturation process. Turnovers are down, rebounds are up, and he is seeing a more composed team overall on the floor.

“Most of our play is just reaction to situations that we’re accustomed to being in,” Philbrick said. “Our defense is stronger than it has been. We seem to be communicating better.”

Another part is a physical fitness and training program with local trainer Kawika Thompson, the father of sophomore guard Kiana Thompson. All of it is showing on the court, as the Cougars lost by one to Skowhegan and own victories over Messalonskee and Oxford Hills.

With that success has come new expectations, and with 10 teams between four and eight wins in Eastern A, every game is important.

“The previous years, I had to be patient, just allow the mishaps, just because confidence wasn’t there and we had to take it one step at a time,” Philbrick said. “This year, I’m holding them more accountable. I’m barking a little more, just because our play has come up to that level.”

Philbrick is of the school that every team should have a goal of winning a regional title, and he has talked about that with this team.

“Is it realistic? Yeah, it is,” he said. “Are we going to need some luck? Of course we’re going to need some luck.”

The Cougars are a little banged up. Philbrick said leading scorer Gabby Foy has “almost a walking pneumonia,” Jaycee Mullen has a rib condition, and sixth man Alyssa Williams is out with a concussion.

But a lot of players are also filling in when needed. Miranda Nicely, who is 5-foot-10 and can play all five positions, had 18 points on Tuesday. Dingley held EL’s Crissy Lewis to two points in that game. Mullen continues to work hard through the pain, and point guard Amy Hilton is doing a very credible job running the offense.

“She’s like my coach on the floor,” Philbrick said of Hilton.

Beyond that, Philbrick said the bench is making key contributions, many of which are on non-game days.

“You should see our practices,” Philbrick said. “They’re pushing (the starters) every day in practice. I can’t say enough about the people who are coming to practice, and not getting the playing time that they want, but they’re totally committed to this team.”

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Weather permitting, the most important stretch of the regular season starts tonight for Nokomis. The Warriors face Camden Hills (9-0), Medomak Valley (6-3), Gardiner (9-0), and Leavitt (9-1) in succession. The Camden Hills game is scheduled for 7 tonight in Rockport.

“The next four games should be challenges,” Nokomis coach Kori Dionne said. “I think that’s important for us, that we be in games where we’re challenged.”

Nokomis has won the last two Eastern B titles as the fourth seed. But this season, if the Warriors can’t get one of the top three seeds, they’ll need to win a preliminary game. Presque Isle should have one of those three spots locked up, with Nokomis, Camden, Gardiner and possibly Mt. Desert Island fighting for the other two byes.

“If we’re talking about the difference between automatically being in the tournament and having to play a prelim, we really need to take care of business these next four games,” Dionne said.

Nokomis is 8-0, and only one of those wins was by less than 30 points. That was a 51-45 victory against Morse on Friday.

“They were 2-5 coming in. They didn’t play like a 2-5 team,” Dionne said. “That is the worst I’ve seen (our) girls play in probably two years. You could tell, even in the locker room after the game, when we talked about it, it was a wake-up call. It was definitely eye-opening.”

Dionne feels one reason the Warriors are undefeated is their depth.

“In the eight games that we’ve played, almost each game has been a different high scorer,” she said. “And I don’t put anybody on the floor who’s not going to (do the job) defensively.”

* * *

Cony travels to Skowhegan on Friday night for a mid-season exam for both teams. The Rams are 9-0 and atop the standings in Eastern Maine Class A while the host Indians are 8-1 and in third place.

“They’re probably a little better offensively than we are,” Skowhegan coach Heath Cowan said.

The Rams are averaging 60 points a game to 48 for Skowhegan. Both teams have had close games this season, but Cony has the edge when common opponents are compared.

“We’ve certainly got to slow down (Mia) Diplock,” Cowan said.

Diplock leads Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A South division players in scoring at 17 points per game and is third in assists. Teammate Josie Lee leads the division in rebounding at 11.9 per game and is fifth in scoring at 11.6.

“When they’re shooting the ball from the outside, they’re real tough,” Cowan said.

The Indians have relied on senior Amanda Johnson (14.5 ppg) and junior Adriana Martineau for scoring, but Cowan said they play better when they’re balanced. They look to Andrea Quirion and Chelsey Whittemore for interior scoring and rebounding. Six of Skowhegan’s wins have been by four points or less.

“They’re extremely aggressive and they’re very good defensively,” Cony coach Karen Magnusson said. “They’re tough. That’s why they’ve only lost one.”

The Indians are still dealing with the loss of junior Cheyenne Malloy, who has missed four games with a foot injury. Junior Desiree Brochu has taken over her starting spot.

Gary Hawkins contributed to this report

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

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