A year away from varsity competition has benefited the Winthrop High School girls basketball team. The Ramblers played only a junior varsity schedule last year after taking their lumps at the varsity level the year before when participation was down and the team was young.

“The 10 freshmen and sophomores we had were getting discouraged,” head coach Joe Burnham said. “We had a chance to work on our skills at the right speed.”

Winthrop opened its varsity schedule Friday night with a 41-29 loss to Hall-Dale. The Ramblers stayed in the game, trailing by just two midway through the fourth quarter.

“Their seniors stepped up,” Burnham said of Hall-Dale.

There are no seniors on the Winthrop roster, which features four juniors among its 12 members.

“We definitely had to make the jump back up to varsity,” Burnham said. “We have a pretty talented freshman class.”

Burnham has involved himself at the youth level and it’s already paying dividends. The eighth grade middle school team has a couple of impressive wins so far and younger teams are flourishing at the in-house and travel team level thanks to the help of several parents.

“I wanted to get really involved with the youth feeder program,” Burnham said. “It’s pretty flush right now.”

• • •

Richmond hadn’t beaten Rangeley since Jamie Plummer played three years ago. That changed on opening night in Rangeley when the Bobcats pulled out a 42-40 overtime victory.

“It was a very big win for us,” Richmond coach Mike Ladner said. “They beat us three times last year (including the tournament).”

Sophomore Sydney Tilton led Richmond with 18 points, including a crucial 3-pointer in overtime. Ladner plays the 5-foot-10 Tilton inside as well as the backcourt.

“I’m going to have her do a little bit of everything,” he said.

She’s also expanding her shooting range, exemplified by what Ladner says was her first varsity 3-pointer Friday.

The Bobcats have the luxury of depth this season and used 10 players against Rangeley. The situation was helped by the arrival of three transfer students, Ashley and Mackenzie Abbott and Kyla Johansen. The Abbott sisters — Ashley is a freshman and Mackenzie a junior — came from Boothbay and are very quick, Ladner said. The 6-foot Johansen came from Washington state and gives the Bobcats some needed size.

Ladner wants his team to press and run and expects to see a lot of zone defenses.

“We’ve been spending a lot of time on outside shots,” he said.

• • •

Fans at Gardiner’s first home game last Friday were greeted with a bright new floor and a lighted scorer’s table.

The floor isn’t totally new, just refinished, but it certainly spruces up the gym.

“It’s been many years since they have broken down the floor,” Gardiner athletic director Steve Ouellette said. “It was sanded down and they repainted the lines.”

A new Tigers logo at center court and lettering on each end line were also part of the facelift. The floor appears much lighter, which in turn brightens up the gym.

The scorer’s table is lighted in front and includes lettering and a logo, as well as a focal point near center court. It was paid for by donations from Gosline-Murchie Insurance and the Gardiner Boosters Club.

“We had talked about having a better presentation,” Ouellette said. “It really looks good.”

• • •

Winslow has added three freshmen, including two starters, to a solid group of returning players. The Black Raiders coasted to an opening night win against Mount View in which the freshmen accounted for 25 points. One of them, Paige Trask, connected on four 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished with 14 points. Weslee Littlefield also starts while the third freshman, Maeghan Bernard, comes off the bench.

With no players taller than 5-8, coach Lindsey Withee is looking to press and run.

“We’re playing 10 people,” Withee said. “Five in and five out.”

The Black Raiders have a number of solid returning players, including juniors Heather Kervin and Clara LeClair and sophomores Maddy Roy and Sarah Guimond. Jenna Petrovic and Delaney Wood are the lone seniors on the team.

“We have great leadership,” Withee said.

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