Coaches often worry about their players losing their focus after too many practices without playing an actual game, but Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy was starting to wonder if the opposite might be true after his Tigers played four games in five nights this past week.

“We had our first practice since last Wednesday (on Wednesday night). I never saw a group so anxious to practice,” Cassidy said. “We’d played four straight games since our last practice.”

Cassidy is happy with how his team handled the stretch while earning a split. They were blown out by Oxford Hills from Class AA to start, but as they have done all season, the Tigers bounced back from that defeat to outlast Maranacook in a double-overtime thriller, then beat Erskine by 19. They then hung with perennial power Hampden Academy for the first half before the Broncos pulled away.

Despite a sub-.500 (7-8) record heading into Thursday night’s game against Messalonskee, Gardiner finds itself in the hunt for a top-six seed and a first-round by in the Class A North tournament. Cassidy figures they need to win two of their three remaining games — home against Messalonskee and Skowhegan and at Oceanside — to lock the bye down.

Cassidy is looking forward to how his young team responds to its latest challenge.

“We’ve got three seniors out there leading us and a lot of young guys just getting consistency,” Cassidy said.

Jordan Lamb, Eli Fish and Brian Dunn form the senior backbone. To open things inside for Lamb, who is frequently double-teamed in the post, Cassidy inserted sophomore Isaiah Magee at the point and put Dunn and Fish on the wings. Dunn posted 34 points and 15 rebounds in the Maranacook win. Fish, an excellent 3-point shooter, has consistently hit double figures. Lamb, meanwhile, is taking advantage of the stretched-out defenses by getting points in the post and off the offensive glass.

Magee has brought athleticism to the point and shown a willingness to learn how to make the offense run efficiently, Cassidy said. Fellow sophomores Cole Heaberlin and Ben Shaw have contributed, while juniors Hunter Chasse and Eli Kropp have provided quality minutes.

• • •

Winthrop High School will be honoring the 1965 Class L (B) state championship team at halftime of the Ramblers’ home game against Boothbay on Monday.

Led by Winthrop’s all-time leading scorer, Dennis Clark, the Ramblers went 16-2 and beat Bucksport, 71-61, in the state final.

Clark led the team scoring 22.5 points per game, while forward Charlie Gordon broke the school rebounding record. Ray Chipman was the head coach and went on to coach at the University of Pittsburgh from 1980 to 1986.

The team was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame last August.

The game against Boothbay is scheduled for a 7 p.m. opening tap.

• • •

Those attending games this week may have noticed the officials using pink and blue whistles. IAABO Board 20 officials representing central Maine are using the whistles to raise money for the American Cancer Society as part of Officials vs. Cancer.

Board 20 officials have donated a portion of their pay to the campaign. Since 2008, they’ve raised over $1,000 for the American Cancer Society.

• • •

Around the state: Longtime Boothbay coach I.J. Pinkham earned his 600th career win with a victory at Carrabec last Friday… Richmond and Buckfield, two teams that moved up from Class D to Class C with reallignment to five classes, look like good bets to makes the Class C South tournament. Richmond (9-4) is ranked 10th in the region, while Buckfield (7-9) is ranked 12th. The top 12 teams in Class C South go to the playoffs… Since a 23-point loss at Easton on Jan. 17, Southern Aroostook has won six games in a row by an average of 27.5 points.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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