After an opening night victory, the Waterville girls basketball team suffered six straight losses and appeared out of the Class A North tournament picture. The Purple Panthers responded and won six of their next seven games before losing to Skowhegan on Tuesday night.

Waterville (7-8) stands eighth out of the 10 teams eligible for the tournament with games remaining against Mount View, Morse and Messalonskee.

“We went to a smaller lineup,” Waterville coach Rob Rodrigue said. “It presents problems but it presents problems for the other team, too, because we have five ball handlers.”

The early-season losing streak began with a 54-32 loss to Oceanside in which junior Jordan Jabar was in foul trouble. Last week, the team avenged the loss with Jabar scoring 27 points.

“She’s very versatile,” Rodrigue said of the 5-foot-9 Jabar. “She can play in the post and she’s tough in the open court.”

Senior Fotini Shanos is averaging a double-double since returning from a concussion but the biggest change in the lineup has been the insertion of sophomores guards Mackenzie St. Pierre and Sophie Webb.

“We started believing in what we’re doing,” Rodrigue said. “It’s a whole new tempo for us.”

When St. Pierre and Webb came into the lineup, two seniors now come off the bench.

“The two kids that went to the bench have embraced that role,” Rodrigue said.

• • •

Barring an upset, Winslow should win its final three games to finish 15-3 in Class B North. Two of the Black Raiders’ losses have been to Class A teams Lawrence and Skowhegan while the other was to Lincoln of Class B South.

“We’ve grown since then,” Winslow coach Lindsey Withee said.

The Raiders avenged the Lincoln loss with a 48-33 win at home.

“Lincoln’s a very good team with good size,” Withee said. “Our defense kept us in the game then we scored 25 points in the fourth quarter and made our free throws (15 of 20).”

Winslow only has two seniors on its roster as well as three freshmen. Senior Delaney Wood is the team leader while junior Heather Kervin averages 15 points and 10 rebounds a game. Freshmen Weslee Littlefield and Paige Trask both start while Maeghan Bernard, another freshman, contributes off the bench.

The Black Raiders are in the odd position of not having played any of their prospective tournament opponents during the regular season.

“We’re going scouting this weekend,” Withee said.

• • •

Monmouth Academy coach Scott Wing spends as much time as anyone on late-game situations. The Mustangs have won two games by a point this season, among them a buzzer beater over previously unbeaten Boothbay. They’ve also dropped a game by a point and Tuesday night survived an upset scare from Hall-Dale before winning by two.

Wing and the Mustangs went over end-of-game situations during the Christmas break and practice those on the clock once or twice a week. When sophomore Hannah Anderson drained a shot at the buzzer to defeat Boothbay, it was off a set play. Wing realizes that’s not always the case when fans are screaming and the pressure is on.

“Lots of times (in practice) I let the kids figure it out for themselves,” he said, adding they can learn from their mistakes.

Monmouth (13-2) stands second to top-ranked Boothbay in the Class C South standings and handed the Seahawks their only loss.

“It really did give us a shot in the arm,” Wing said. “We need to prepare ourselves for the tournament. It was huge.”

There aren’t a lot of similarities between the two teams. Boothbay boasts three players six feet or better in its lineup while the Mustangs have just one player over 5-8.

“We are tiny,” Wing said. “We’re outmatched by everybody we play, We play pretty tough defense.”

Senior Haley West, at 5-foot-8, draws the oppositions post player and is one of the best at defending them in the Mountain Valley Conference. And the Mustangs have a pair of scorers in sophomore Tia Day and senior Sidney Wilson, who rank 1-2 in the MVC in 3-point shots made. Anderson has been the team’s biggest surprise as both a scorer and defender.

“She’s somebody we now put on the other team’s best player,” Wing said.

There’s few gimmes in the MVC, as evidenced by Tuesday night’s narrow win. The Mustangs face another test Friday when they travel to Madison, a team that defeated them at home earlier in the season by a point.

• • •

Hall-Dale jumped into the Class C South tournament picture with its win against Lisbon last week. The Bulldogs (6-9) are 12th out of the 14 teams eligible for the postseason.

“First of all it felt good to win,” coach Jarod Richmond said. “For Heal points it was very important. Four of our losses have been by five points or less.”

Make that five following Tuesday’s 39-37 loss to Monmouth. The game began a daunting stretch of four regular season ending games against four teams ahead of the Bulldogs in the standings. They play Boothbay at home Friday then travel to Carrabec for a game Tuesday. They end the season at home against Dirigo on Feb. 4. Richmond hasn’t looked at the games as a single block.

“We don’t approach it any differently other than it’s the next challenge ahead of us,” he said.

Hall-Dale returned just four players from last season with significant varsity experience, among them senior sisters Thea and Dani Sweet

“We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the season.” Richmond said. “Now that we have that experience, the girls understand the speed of the game.”

The Bulldogs have good size in 6-foot senior Kayla Johnson and Sydney Perry. Johnson is the team’s second leading scorer behind Dani Sweet and Perry has begun to develop an inside presence, Richmond said. Haley Houdlette, Lilly Ly and Emma Begin — all first-year seniors — have also come on strong.

“Our goal over these last four games is to bring our defensive number down,” Richmond said.

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