If you’ve watched a football practice, you may have seen blocking pads — the rectangular pads that players hold while they slam into each other.

You probably haven’t seen them at a girls basketball practice — unless it’s at Nokomis.

Nokomis coach Michelle Paradis was unsure how her young team would handle the physical nature of high school basketball. So the Warriors brought in a drill where one player holds a blocking pad in the paint, and another player goes for an open layup. The player shooting the layup is bumped with the pad, to simulate the contact that comes with shooting a contested layup.

“It’s actually helped us a lot — especially Olivia,” Paradis said.

“Olivia” is sophomore Olivia Brown, who scored 18 points Friday in a win over Camden Hills, and followed that up with 21 points in Tuesday’s victory over Maine Central Institute.

“She’s starting to play well, so her confidence is boosting, and boosting, and boosting,” Paradis said. “She goes harder to the basket now. She shoots a mid-range jumper, where at the beginning of the year, we’d be lucky if she would face the basket.”

The Warriors, who graduated their entire starting lineup after going undefeated in the regular season last winter, have showed increased confidence as a unit after relying heavily on senior Mikayla Charters during the early going.

“She literally plays every position that we have on the floor,” Paradis said. “She is the rock of our team, but they did really well — she had two fouls in the first four minutes of a game against Camden. I sat her for a quarter and a half. Those girls played well. It was almost like they were challenged.”

After a 2-4 start, Nokomis has won four in a row to move to seventh in the Eastern B Heal points — less than three points out of the No. 4 slot. After taking on Belfast on Friday, the Warriors host Spruce Mountain on Tuesday. Nokomis led Spruce at the half in their season opener, but ended up losing by 18. Spruce is still undefeated at 10-0.

“I honestly didn’t think that we would be where we are right now at the beginning of the season,” Paradis said. “I had to change my expectations. I had to move them up. I honestly think that we have gone more than 500 percent (better) from the season opener with them.”

• • •

When Rangeley defeated Valley, 56-20, on Tuesday, that was actually more points than the Lakers usually give up in a game. A little over halfway through the season, Rangeley is 9-0, and is allowing 16.1 points per game.

“We spend a lot of time on (defense),” Rangeley coach Heidi Deery said. “We’re constantly looking to improve. We’ve made some big adjustments this week. We’re just looking to be prepared for the tournament.”

Deery said she and her returning players believe the Lakers could have won last year’s Western D final with better defense. As it was, they lost by one point on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Offensively, the Lakers are also doing quite well. They’ve hit 70 points four times already this season.

“We have moments of really moving well without the ball, and that’s a big focus of ours this year,” Deery said. “We want five offensive threats on the court.”

The Lakers definitely had that in a recent win over Islesboro. In that game, six different Rangeley players made at least four field goals.

“We just know that from November to Fenruary, teams get better,” Deery said. “What we talk about every practice and every game is, we want to be better when we leave here.”

• • •

Mt. Abram’s first win of the season came Tuesday night with a 39-24 decision over Telstar. Mt. Abram coach Larry Donald said Telstar had only five healthy players for the game, but he was impressed with how hard they played.

The Roadrunners have also been stalked by injuries. Brooke-Lyn Millbury has had issues with her calves and will be out at least 10 days, Alora Ross might be out for the season with a knee injury, and Starr Osgood has missed a few weeks because of a bad ankle.

All three of those players are starters, and Millbury and Osgood are the team’s only seniors.

“It’s been kind of tough on that route,” Donald said. “We are adapting as much as we can.”

Donald said he’s been spending a lot of time of fundamentals. He told his players not to worry about the scoreboard. Mt. Abram won two games last season, so Donald wanted his players to shoot for winning at least three this winter.

“Looking ahead at our schedule, I’d like to think we can pull out two more wins,” he said. “Even against Madison, we had a one-point lead at the quarter (and) we were down four at halftime. We’re starting to figure out how to play deeper into the games.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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