Now that the Lawrence and Rangeley girls basketball teams have celebrated players reaching the 1,000 career points milestone, they are ready to make the second half push and try to retain the top seed in their respective regions.

“It was a personal goal to get 1,000 points, but it’s not exactly the main priority,” Lawrence junior Nia Irving said a day after scoring her 1,000th career point in the Bulldogs’ win over Brewer. “I’d rather win a gold ball.”

On the same night Irving was making history at Lawrence’s Folsom Gym, Rangeley senior Taylor Esty scored her 1,000th career point in a win at Buckfield.

“Someone asked me two or three weeks ago how close I was, and I was like, ‘I don’t know, 200, 300 points?'” Esty said on Thursday night. “When I found out I was only two away on Friday, I was like ‘wow.’ I honestly didn’t think I was that close.”

Both Lawrence and Rangeley are undefeated, Lawrence is 12-0 and Rangeley is 10-0, and the goal for each is to finish the regular season strongly and be playing its best basketball at tourney time.

Three of Lawrence’s final six games are against teams with a winning record. The biggest game will be the next to last game of the regular season, at Bangor (11-1). That game could be for the top seed in Eastern Class A.

“We don’t want to have an early exit like last year,” Irving said, referring to Lawrence’s quarterfinal loss to Messalonskee in the 2014 tournament.

Rangeley has a big game on Friday at Forest Hills (11-1). The Lakers finish the regular season with four games at home.

While Irving is focused now on the Bulldogs’ team goals, she was excited to join her sister, Brogan Liberty, in Lawrence’s 1,000-point club. Liberty was the last Lawrence player to score 1,000 points, reaching the milestone in 2008.

“My favorite thing about it is joining my sister,” Irving said.

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With two consecutive wins, Waterville is showing improvement. A 47-40 win over Maine Central Institute on Tuesday pushed the Purple Panthers to 4-8, and came against a team that beat Waterville by 22 points on the opening night of the season.

“We’re young. We anticipated some growing pains,” Waterville coach Rob Rodrigue said. “We’re starting to grow up a bit.”

Waterville’s roster includes six freshmen and four sophomores. One of those sophomores, forward Jordan Jabar, has paced the Panthers offense, scoring 27 in last week’s win over Camden Hills, and 22 points on Tuesday. Junior forward Fotini Shanos recently returned from an ankle injury and that has bolstered Waterville’s lineup, Rodrigue said.

Improvement has come with increased confidence, Rodrigue said. The Panthers are starting to play stronger defense, applying pressure without fouling, and turning that defensive effort into offensive opportunities. Waterville also has improved at the free throw line. The Panthers were 19 for 24 from the line against Camden Hills, and 15 for 21 against MCI.

Waterville is currently in 11th place in Eastern Class B, and that would get the Panthers into the tournament. A few wins in some upcoming games would cement Waterville’s playoff status.

“We can work on controlling the controllable,” Rodrigue said. “We can control how hard we play.”

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Around the state: Thornton Academy (10-1) has allowed more than 30 points just twice this season, once in a season-opening 37-34 win over McAuley, and a 50-33 win over South Portland… Since that opening night loss to Thornton, McAuley has won 10 consecutive games. The winner of the last four Class A state titles, McAuley goes for 11 wins in a row on Friday at home against Sanford… Four-time defending Class D state champ Washburn was 10-0 going into Wednesday night’s game against Easton. The Beavers have had just one close game, a 47-44 win over Fort Fairfield.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM