Kents Hill finally returned to action against Sacopee Valley on Wednesday. It was their first game in 26 days and just their second of the season, and the rust showed. The Huskies lost, 43-27.

The Huskies hadn’t played since Dec. 12, a 38-35 win at Hebron. Their season and home-opener against Richmond two days before was postponed due to a leaky gym roof.

Not only had the Huskies not played in nearly a month, they also had a lot fewer practices than anyone because so many of their players are from far away and leave campus during the two-week holiday break.

Coach Stella Leach downplayed the layoff, noting it’s not unusual for teams at the private school to have to work around school breaks.

“I think the team is used to this kind of schedule,” she said.

She said she asked players to work out independently and play some basketball over break to stay in shape and fend off rust. Players returned to the practice court on Monday (the roof has been fixed) and had another session on Tuesday before hosting Sacopee in their first game back Wednesday.

The postponed Richmond game has been rescheduled for Jan. 21, which meant Wednesday’s game kicked off a stretch of 10 games in 21 days. It’s a stark contrast to the light December schedule and one that could tax the Huskies physically, but Leach thinks her team can benefit from being immersed in competitive basketball leading up to what she hopes will be another tournament berth.

“The girls can definitely get worn down but the other side of it is there really aren’t any down periods between games,” she said. “We can take what we learn from each game, practice for a day or two and apply it immediately to the next game.”

The Huskies received some reinforcements for the rest of the season. Cara Corey, a senior guard/forward who transferred from Maranacook Community School this year, returned after being sidelined by a concussion suffered during soccer season.

With captains Emma Curnin and Allie Helfrich leading a senior-laden team that finished 12-5 last year and reached the Western C quarterfinals, Leach believes the Huskies could be a force in the region.

“I think we have some really strong seniors and a few really strong captains and I think that’s going to make a big difference for us,” she said.

• • •

Nokomis coach Michelle Paradis noticed her young team shying away from contact early in the season, so she’s taken up some football practice techniques to try to get them to toughen up. And it appears to be working.

“We’re so young and so physically weak that some of the girls would change their shot completely or give up the ball if we saw somebody running at us because we were so afraid of contact,” Paradis said. “I actually got some football bump pads out so we could make them realize how much more physical the high school game is and get them to finish with contact. Now we use them every day in practice — doing layup drills, doing box-out drills.”

The Warriors, who have just one senior, Mikayla Charters, and two juniors on their roster, have won four in a row and five of their last six to improve to 6-4. Their biggest win came last Friday, when they beat Camden Hills, 59-36. The Windjammers were 7-1 at the time.

Nokomis’ play of late has the coach reevaluating her expectations for her team. The Warriors were plotting a slower rebuilding process after graduating eight seniors from last year’s team, which went undefeated during the regular season before losing in the Eastern B semifinals.

“My expectations now are way beyond where I thought they would be at this point,” she said.

Charters, a 5-foot-8 guard/forward, provides leadership and steadiness for the Warriors. Sophomore forward Olivia Brown, who scored 18 in the win over Camden Hills, has emerged as one of the top underclassmen in the conference and is playing with more and more confidence each game.

The Warriors travel to Belfast on Friday, then see teams for the second time this season when they host unbeaten Spruce Mountain on Tuesday. The Phoenix won the season-opener between the two teams, 55-37. But Paradis believes opponents will encounter a tougher and more poised team the second time around.

“From our very first game, we’re way past where I thought my team would be,” Paradis said. “I’m really happy with how the season is going so far.”

• • •

Hall-Dale climbed to the No. 4 spot in the Western C Heal point standings with Saturday’s 49-46 win over previously unbeaten Oak Hill. The win avenged a 31-point loss to the Raiders on Dec. 11 and was the Bulldogs’ second straight victory in a close game. They had also beaten Madison, 57-55, and now stand at 5-2.

Coach Brandon Terrill said the keys for the Bulldogs are defense and rebounding. They take a team approach to both, with an emphasis on outworking the opposition.

“We’re usually outsized, so we have to sort of outhustle people for rebounds and on defense,” Terrill said. “I think we’ve gotten better and better at that.”

“We’re just coming together as a team, understanding our schemes and just improving,” Terrill added.

Junior guards Dani and Thea Sweet have provided a spark this season. Despite being just 5-foot-3, the sisters aren’t afraid to mix it up in the paint. Both contributed key rebounds in the win over Oak Hill and showed they’re eager and able to take the ball to the basket and push the tempo.

“They’re both so fast that all year long they outrun people and they get a ton of opportunities,” Terrill said. “When they finish, they’re tough to stop.”

After five days to savor stopping Oak Hill’s win streak, Hall-Dale returns to action at Mt. Abram on Thursday. After that, the Bulldogs will have a stretch of six games in 12 days that starts with a home tilt against Mountain Valley next Monday.

• • •

A number of locals rank among the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A statistical leaders, which the conference released on Monday.

Messalonskee’s Sophie Holmes leads the conference in scoring, averaging 21 points per game. She’s also second in rebounding (10.8), fourth in 3-pointers made (16) and eighth in free throw percentage (71.4).

Dominique Lewis of Lawrence leads in assists per game (5.5) and 3-pointers (21), is tied for sixth in free throw percentage (73) and is eighth in scoring (11.8). Teammate Nia Irving leads in rebounding (16.2) and ranks third in scoring (18.8) and ninth in free throw percentage (70.1). Another Bulldog, Paige Belanger, is averaging a double-double, ranking sixth in scoring with 12.3 ppg and third in rebounding average at 10.2. She’s also third in the free throw standings at 79 percent.

Mt. Blue’s Caitlin Kane is fifth in scoring (14.6).

In the team rankings, Lawrence is tops in the league averaging 62.25 points per game, followed by Edward Little (50.8) and Messalonskee (49.8). Oxford Hills leads in team defense, allowing 32 points per game. Lawrence is second (35.1) and Bangor (36.1) is third.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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