Gardiner faces its toughest stretch of the season beginning tonight, weather permitting, at Leavitt.

The Hornets are the defending Class B state champs and have just one loss, a 68-60 defeat to unbeaten Camden Hills last week. Gardiner (9-0) is scheduled to play at Camden Hills on Saturday.

“They both have a lot of offensive firepower,” Gardiner coach Mike Gray said. “Leavitt, they get up and pressure full-court. Camden’s going to get up and pressure you as well. If we can handle the press we can get some layups.”

Should tonight’s game get snowed out, it will likely be rescheduled for Friday.

Leavitt returns two key players from last year’s team in guard Kristen Anderson and forward Adrianna Newton, while Camden Hills is led by junior forward Jordon Knowlton.

“It’s a quick turnaround with a couple of huge nights for us,” Gray said. “There’s no reason why we can’t beat either of those teams.”

The Tigers will have a few days off next week to prepare for a home game against Nokomis, considered the top team in Eastern Maine Class B.

• • •

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.

• • •

Erskine put together its best effort of the season Friday night only to come up short in a 48-47 loss to once-beaten Skowhegan.

The Eagles led nearly the entire game before the visiting Indians tied the game on a free throw with about two minutes left. With the score still tied, Erskine got the ball back with 15 seconds left and turned it over. The Eagles nearly stole the ball for an open layup but in a game-ending scrum on the floor, Skowhegan’s Amanda Johnson was fouled and hit a free throw with no time on the clock.

“My kids haven’t played that well in two years,” Erskine coach Scott Corey said. “It was 32 minutes of what we need to do to give ourselves a chance to win.”

The Eagles were coming off a subpar performance against Brunswick and used it for motivation.

“They were  not happy about their performance Tuesday against Brunswick,” Corey said. “They were very angry.”

The Eagles played without point guard Megan Moore who had an injured thumb and forward Amy Phillips (bruised tailbone). They got a strong effort from Bridget Humphrey before she fouled out, Hannah Peabody and Ashlee Crowell-Smith, who hauled in 12 rebounds.

Senior Meryl Bond scored a team-high 16 points for the Eagles and is among the team leaders in every offensive and defensive category.

“She’s in the best shape of her life,” Corey said of the 5-foot-6 guard. “She’s just a good athlete, she’s a great teammate, she’s a great leader.”

• • •

Monmouth has survived despite a rash of knee injuries. The Mustangs lost three players, including two starters, to knee injuries before the season began. During Christmas vacation, the Mustangs lost another player, junior Bri Hicks, to yet another ACL injury.

“Now we’re six deep,” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said.

The Mustangs are 5-5 heading into Friday’s game against Winthrop and in contention for a Western Maine Class C tournament berth. Most of their games have been close with the exception of a 49-30 loss to unbeaten Madison.

“It was a seven or eight point game with four minutes left,” Wing said. “We were controlling the pace in that game, trying to keep their possessions down. That’s probably the best we’ve played this year.”

Monmouth dropped a four-point decision to St. Dominic without leading scorer Kristine Kahl in the lineup but will get another shot at the Saints later in the season. Wing calls senior Molly Menice “the biggest pleasant surprise” of the season.

“She handles the ball when we need her to and she guards the other team’s best ballhandler,” Wing said. “She’s stepped it up.”

The Mustangs are in ninth place in Western Class C with point-worthy games left on the schedule. The top 12 teams qualify for post-season play.

“We’re hoping we can still pull off a .500 season,” Wing said.

• • •

Aside from a two-point win over Rangeley, Richmond has gone unchallenged this season. The Bobcats are 7-0 heading into this weekend’s doubleheader on Vinalhaven Island. The team will leave at noon Friday and get off the boat on the island about 4 p.m.

They’ll play Friday night, stay overnight with host families and play again Saturday morning. Coaches and parents will stay at the local hotel. Historically, it’s difficult to play back-to-back games and win them both but Richmond is clearly the stronger team based on common opponents.

“I’d have to say we’d be pretty disappointed if we came away with a split,” Richmond coach Molly Bishop said.

Junior center Jamie Plummer is having a sensational year, averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds a game and the rest of the team is falling into place.

“They’re learning to shoot in the spots they should be shooting from,” said Bishop, citing Danica Hurley, Bri Snedeker and Noell Acord.

The Bobcats are playing without junior Emily Leavitt who has a back injury but they expect Payton Johnson to return next week after missing the season so far with a concussion.

The Bobcats handed Rangeley its only loss so far and will play the Lakers on their home court Jan. 27.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638
[email protected]