Cony and its new all-out defensive philosophy remains a work in progress under first-year coach T.J. Maines. The Rams dropped to 0-2 after blowing a 17-point fourth quarter lead to Lewiston in a 64-63 loss Tuesday night. Maines has been using 10 or 11 players in an effort to pressure the ball all over the floor.

“Whoever I think is going to play, I try to get them all in during the first quarter,” he said. “I feel strongly we need to have a lot of guys ready to play.”

Maines said there’s a core group that needs to play in crunch time, but that can vary depending on who has the hot hand.

“I don’t think they know who they are,” he said. “I want them to compete every day in practice.”

The Rams have forced a lot of turnovers so far, but they’ve also committed several that hurt them in losses to both Brunswick and Lewiston. They committed 24 against Lewiston while forcing 33. And as fast as they are playing, Maines would like to see them pick up the pace. They took 60 shots against Brunswick and 68 against Lewiston.

“We’d like to take 70 to 72 shots a game,” he said.

The Rams play at Lawrence tonight and face a young team similar in experience to themselves.

“We played them in the summer,” Maines said. “They’ve got some good young players. In the scoring area, they make it difficult to get to the rim,”

• • •

Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy doesn’t expect to rely on one scorer as he did most of last year but it was nice to see junior Joe Harnett have a big night in the season opener against Maranacook. Harnett scored 25 points, including four 3-pointers, in a 67-61 win against the Black Bears.

“He was on the roster last year,” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said of the 6-foot guard. “He played a lot of JV. He’s a legit scorer. He’s a slasher and he can shoot the 3.”

Cassidy said Harnett connected on seven 3-pointers in one half of an exhibition game this summer against Waterville. Cassidy hopes the Tigers have several scoring options this season. Junior Seth McFarland scored 15 against Maranacook and juniors Brad Weston and Josh McKelvey are also capable scorers.

“We feel we can move the ball around,” Cassidy said. “We have three point guards and a four-man big rotation. We feel like we’re nine deep.”

The Gardiner girls and boys play a doubleheader at Leavitt on Saturday.

• • •

A couple of weeks after leading Cony to the Class B football state championship, senior quarterback Ben Lucas decided to join the basketball team. Lucas originally decided not to play basketball this season but changed his mind. He was in street clothes for last Friday’s season opener but is playing this week.

“Coach (T.J.) Maines and AD (Paul) Vachon had a lot to do with it,” Lucas said of his return. “It’s been a part of my life for so long, I felt I had to give it a go.”

Lucas said he had a few bumps and bruises following the football season but otherwise emerged in good shape.

“I was a little sore from football but I wasn’t really ready for it mentally,” he said.

The 6-foot-4 center led the Rams in rebounding last season and should fill a void in that department. He said he’s not that concerned about conditioning.

“I’m still in good shape,” he said. “Give me a hard week of practice and I’ll be all right.”

Lucas played about eight minutes in Tuesday night’s one-point loss to Lewiston.

“He makes such a difference just being in there,” Maines said. “Defensively, he’s a strong presence and he rebounds the ball well.”

• • •

Maranacook coach Rob Schmidt is finding a lot of minutes for his younger players, some of those out of necessity. The Black Bears played their first two games without starting guards Caleb Jackson and Kent Mohlar, both of whom are sidelined with ankle injuries. Maranacook lost a close game at Gardiner in its opener before getting past Erskine on Tuesday.

“They’re both looking at next week at the earliest,” Schmidt said. “They’re going to start jogging a little bit. But I don’t think they’ll have meaningful minutes until after Christmas.

Mohlar, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, came into his own last season as a clutch scorer and strong all-around player while Jackson, a 5-7 senior, is an excellent outside shooter.

“It’s nice to have all these players step up and young players have good games,” Schmidt said. “But when it comes right down to it, we’d like to have those two guys in the lineup. They’re experienced, they’re very athletic and they open the floor up for us with their shooting range which is a big piece we’re missing right now.”

• • •

Richmond, a team carrying six freshmen, is off to a 2-0 start following wins against Rangeley and Buckfield.

“Both games we’ve gone 10 or 11 deep,” Richmond coach Jon Spear said. “I’ve got quite a few interchangeable players.”

Junior Bailey Johansen scored 14 points against Buckfield and Cameron Emmons, another junior, added 12. Sean Bernier, Tyler Soucy and Mike Stewart, all of whom played last season, have also played well to date. Spear is encouraged by the play of freshmen Cody Tribbet and Matt Holt and said Brendan Emmons will also contribute when he recovers from an injury. The Bobcats are playing a pressing man-to-man defense for the most part and forced turnovers, but their inexperience has also shown through missed layups and free throws. Tonight they play at Greenville.

“They’re going to be a tough matchup,” Spear said. “We can’t have that against Greenville.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638[email protected]Twitter: @GaryHawkinsKJ

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