The Rangeley girls basketball team was prepared for its overnight trip to Vinalhaven Island last week. The Lakers left Friday morning at 8:30 for the three-hour trip to Rockland, where they boarded a ferry for the 75-minute ride to Vinalhaven. They returned Saturday at 6 p.m. with a pair of victories over the previously unbeaten Vikings.

The Lakers prevailed 55-35 on Friday night but as is often the case on these trips, Saturday morning games are much tougher. They won 48-38 in a game that wasn’t settled until late in the fourth quarter.

“They’re a good team,” Rangeley coach Heidi Deery said. “We had to be mentally prepared to play them back to back.”

Part of that preparation includes practices every Saturday morning. Not only does this prepare the Lakers for trips to Vinalhaven or North Haven but it also gets them ready for the Class D tournament, which begins on Saturday mornings at the Augusta Civic Center.

The trip to Vinalhaven was also a team building experience. Players slept on blow up mattresses on the gym floor, and parents who also made the trip brought a lot of food along for the team.

“It was one of the best trips we’ve had over there,” Deery said.

The Lakers (10-1) graduated several players from last year’s regional championship squad and opened the season with an overtime loss at home to Richmond. They’ve since run off 10 straight wins.

“It’s been a slow process this year but we’re picking up steam,” Deery said.

Senior Blayke Morin is the leading returning player, and the 6-foot-2 center is coming into her own as the team’s top scorer, rebounder and defender. Senior Maddie Egan, a co-captain with Morin, is coming off an injury but rounding into form despite limited playing time. She scored 10 points in the Saturday win against Vinalhaven. Junior Celia Philbrick and sophomores Sydney Royce and Tasha Haley round out the starting lineup.

The team has five freshmen and three eighth-graders; two of whom — Lauren Eastlack and Amelia McMillan — see a lot of playing time. Deery has her team press from start to finish in hopes of forcing tempo. They’ll get their next big test Tuesday in Richmond.

“They’re a physical team,” Deery said.

• • •

Carrabec is one of a number of Mountain Valley Conference teams in Class C South capable of beating any opponent. The Cobras are 7-4 with three close losses, including one by a point to Monmouth, They recently beat Madison after losing to the Bulldogs earlier in the season.

“We were more patient on offense and took what the defense was giving us,” coach Skip Rugh said of the Madison win.

The Cobras, who play Oak Hill on Friday, have won three straight since losing to Class B power Mountain Valley.

“We’re passing the ball and making good decisions,” Rugh said.

The Cobras return five seniors from last year’s 12-8 team but are also getting significant contributions from some of their younger players. Sophomore Bailey Dunphy stepped in when Hannah Atwood went down with an ACL injury in the Monmouth loss and has played well. Atwood missed nearly all of last year with the same injury and Rugh said she may try to brace her knee and play later in the season.

“She’s been playing since third grade,” he said. “Basketball is her life.”

Sophomore Melanie Clark and freshman Makayla Vicneire have also contributed to a team led by senior Mickayla Willette. The Cobras will be tested Jan. 23 when they host Boothbay.

• • •

Richmond is in the midst of its toughest stretch of the season. The Bobcats (8-1), who lost their first game of the season last Saturday to Old Orchard Beach, play two games over the weekend at Vinalhaven (8-2) before returning home to host once-beaten Rangeley on Tuesday.

“We couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn,” Richmond coach Mike Ladner said of the 41-30 loss to Old Orchard. “We shot 2-for-19 from three-point range.”

The Bobcats also missed a dozen free throws in the loss. Sophomore Sydney Tilton continues to lead the team in scoring and rebounding, but there are several capable players on the team, including senior Autumn Acord, Kalah Paterson and Kelsea Anair along with junior Meranda Martin. The addition of transfer Kyla Johansen and sisters McKenzie and Ashley Abbott give the Bobcats plenty of depth. Freshman guard Caitlin Kendrick is also coming into her own, Ladner said.

“We’re playing 10,” he said. “I rotate six guards. It’s just a matter of finding the right combination.”

Richmond moved into Class C under the Maine Principals’ Association reclassification but plays primarily a Class D schedule.

“We’re not seeing the style of teams in the (Mountain Valley Conference),” Ladner said. “So our practices are pretty intense.”

• • •

Maranacook graduated seven seniors from last season’s Class C regional championship team and has understandably struggled. To compound matters, the Black Bears lost three-year starting point Catherine Sanborn, who transferred to Kents Hill, and were also bumped up to Class B this year.

Coach Jeannine Paradis has four freshmen and two sophomores on a team with little experience and has concentrated on fundamentals.

“I have to find a different way to teach the same things,” she said. “Now I have to go back to the basics myself. I feel at times I’m going back to my first year as head coach.”

Paradis said the team is making strides, adding “we’re not that far off.”

However, there are few easy nights in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.

“We’ve gone up against some good experienced teams,” she said.

There have been some bright spots — junior Justice Merrill scored 17 points in a recent close loss to Maine Central Institute and sophomore Lauren Clough added 14. Grace Despres, a freshman, is playing point guard.

Paradis has concentrated on the middle school level and works with a group Sunday evenings. She also run skills camps for players in grades 4-8 in the fall and summer.

“These kids deserve good coaching,” Paradis said. “I’m letting them know I’m in it for the long haul.”


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