The Waterville Senior High School boys basketball team can clinch a playoff spot for the first time since the 2003-04 season with a couple more wins.

The Purple Panthers were 7-5 heading into Thursday night’s game against Maine Central Institute and had a 12-point lead over Mt. View for the 13th and final playoff spot in Eastern Class B.

If Waterville reaches the playoffs, it would be its first trip to the tournament in Class B. The Panthers left Class A after the 2004-05 season. Waterville’s last playoff game was a loss at Messalonskee in the 2004 Eastern Class A preliminary round.

Reaching the playoffs this season has been Waterville’s goal since ending last season with a 3-15 record.

“At the end of last season, at the team meeting, when we’re handing the gear in, it was an expectation,” Waterville coach Jason Briggs said. “Them, through the spring and summer and fall, it became a priority.”

Making the preliminary round would be a big step forward for the Panthers. Waterville hasn’t reached the regional quarterfinals since 2001, when it lost to eventual Class A state champion Bangor in the Eastern A tournament.

Waterville went into Thursday’s game against MCI with a three-game win streak, including a tough 56-55 win over a good Oceanside team. That win, plus an early-season victory against Leavitt, will help pump up Waterville’s Heal points.

“A lot can change. We talk about getting better each day, and that’s our focus,” Briggs said. “Hopefully, with these last three wins, we can keep it going.”

The Panthers play Saturday at rival Winslow.

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The top teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A are about to beat each other up again. In the coming days, there are quite a few games that will determine playoff seeding.

It starts tonight in Farmington, where Hampden (12-1), the top team in Eastern Class A, takes on Mt. Blue (10-3). Mt. Blue comes into this game with a five-game winning streak, but the Cougars, ranked fifth, need some wins to climb into the top four. Mt. Blue plays at Bangor (10-3) and Lawrence (9-4) next week.

Hampden follows tonight’s trip to Farmington by hosting Lawrence on Tuesday. The Broncos needed a fourth quarter rally to win 49-47 at Lawrence earlier this season.

After hosting rival Messalonskee tonight, second-ranked Lawrence plays a tough three-game stretch against Hampden, Mt. Blue and Bangor. The Mt. Blue game is Lawrence’s only home game in its final four contests.

Bangor, the third-ranked team, hosts Mt. Blue on Tuesday and travels to Auburn to face a tough Edward Little (8-5) team Friday.

Of the top teams, No. 4 Lewiston (10-3) has the easiest schedule remaining. The Blue Devils have just two games against team with a winning record, Brunswick (9-4) and Edward Little.

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At 6-7, Madison is in sixth place in the Western Class C standings, but the Bulldogs have some games that, should they win, could provide the points needed to climb into fifth place and avoid a preliminary round game once the tournament starts.

Madison played Thursday night at Boothbay (10-3) and travels to Monmouth (2-11) on Monday before home games with Wiscasset (7-6) and Mt. Abram (2-11). The Bulldogs close the regular season on Feb. 8 at Winthrop (2-12).

“Our big point games are Boothbay and Wiscasset,” Madison coach Mike Packard said.

The Bulldogs earned an important win over Telstar last Saturday, their second win this season over the Rebels. Packard also was happy with the way his team played in a tough 67-61 loss to Class B Mountain Valley.

“We have a good bunch of guys, and we’ve put some pretty good games together,” Packard said. “If we find the right form and gel, we can compete with anybody.”

The game against Mt. Abram on Feb. 6 is the third meeting of the season between the teams. When Carrabec decided not to field a boys varsity basketball team this season, Madison and Mt. Abram were scheduled to play each other three times to help make up for the Cobras absence.

“We’ve got good leadership on a team. We’ve got a handful of guys who can score. We’re rebounding better. We’ve got a bunch of guys who want to compete as a team,” Packard said. “We just want to get to the postseason and be playing well when we do, like everybody else.”

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Organizers of the Maine McDonald’s High School Senior All-Star Basketball games are accepting nominations for the 2012 Spirit of the Game Award. Two high school seniors, one from the East and one from the West, will be honored March 9 and 10 during the Maine McDonald’s High School Senior All-Star Weekend at Husson University in Bangor.

The Spirit of the Game Award was created in 2009 to honor two high seniors who embody the spirit of basketball, exhibit sportsmanship, support and inspire their teammates and coaches and show an ability to overcome obstacles. In 2010, the awards were renamed to honor the inaugural winners, Joshua Titus of Auburn and Patrick Thibodeau of Cumberland.

Spirit of the Game nomination forms can be downloaded or completed electronically at http://vote.mainemcdonaldsbasketball.org/public-voting and click on Josh Titus and Patrick Thibodeau Spirit of the Game Award.

To request a nomination form in the mail, call Kevin Mitchell at 755-9470, ext .105. The deadline for nominations is Feb. 13.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]


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