WATERVILLE — Mia Diplock and Carylanne Wolfington already knew each other well when both started their college basketball careers at Colby College four years ago. They’d played youth soccer together in sixth grade and were AAU basketball teammates while growing up at neighboring schools — Diplock at Cony High School, Wolfington at Hall-Dale High School.

Their athletic and academic careers intertwined even more at Colby, and now those careers are winding down with their best season yet as they play this weekend for a spot in the New England Small College Athletic Conference championship.

“This is the perfect way to go out. I don’t really want it to end, but it’s been a really fun past couple of weeks,” Wolfington said. “Going farther than we’d ever been at Colby has just been so much fun. I love it. I’m really excited about this weekend.”

“The past four years of being together has been awesome. I’m definitely not ready for it to end,” Diplock said. “I think we’ve really taken a lot of strides these last four years and I’m just happy with the outcomes.”

One of the outcomes is yet to be determined. Making their first trip this weekend to the NESCAC final four since 2012 and seeking their first conference title, the Mules have their work cut out for them if they want to extend their season and their seniors’ careers.

Top-seeded Tufts (22-2, 10-0 in NESCAC) awaits fifth-seeded Colby (15-10, 6-4 NESCAC) in the conference semifinals at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Medford, Massachusetts. The Jumbos, featuring another Cony alum in sophomore guard Josie Lee, are the two-time defending NESCAC champion and have reached the Division III final four the last two years.

In Waterville on Jan. 9 the Jumbos beat the Mules, 54-45, in their only matchup this season. Colby hung within a couple of possessions until the final minute and is aiming at pulling off the upset and earn their first trip to the NESCAC championship since 2010. But the senior co-captains can’t help but consider how far they’ve come in four years.

“All of our hard work is really paying off and we’re accomplishing our goals. It’s been amazing,” Wolfington said.

Along with classmate Desiree Smith, Diplock and Wolfington were the gems of coach Julie Veilleux’s first recruiting class at Colby. Wolfington, of Hallowell, was a two-time Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year at Hall-Dale and led the Bulldogs to a Class C state championship as a junior in 2011. Diplock, of Vienna, was the KVAC South Player of the Year and a Miss Maine Basketball finalist who led the Rams to the Eastern Class A title as a senior in 2012.

“I love recruiting the state of Maine, and it was nice to get those two,” Veilleux said. “Those two had played AAU together and … they definitely knew each other and were excited about playing together.”

Wolfington, a 5-foot-7 forward, saw more of the playing time as freshman, but she and Diplock, a 5-foot-8 guard, both have had to adjust to unfamiliar roles at Colby.

The Mules didn’t have much size when they first arrived, so Wolfington, primarily a perimeter player in high school, had to play with her back to the basket more. She more than held her own against players who were often three or four inches taller.

“She’s very strong and she can rebound well,” Veilleux said.

In the last couple of years, the Mules have added more size, which has allowed Wolfington to thrive as more of a “stretch four,” or a power forward who sets up on the perimeter, She was fifth in NESCAC in scoring and third in 3-point shooting last year and was named to the All-NESCAC second team and All-Maine first team. This year, she became the 17th Mule to reach the 1,000-career-point mark while leading the Mules in scoring (13.2 ppg), and again ranks third in the league in 3-point shooting (40.4 percent).

Opposing coaches have to consider her quickness, strength and versatility when matching up with Wolfington.

“She’s really forced teams to have to think about mismatches,” Veilleux said.

Meanwhile, Diplock, a point guard at Cony, had to bide her time and scraped for minutes backing up Diana Manduca at the point. She cracked the starting lineup her sophomore year — starting in all 24 games, like Wolfington — and quickly earned a reputation as one of the top defenders in the league. Last year, as MaryKate Caverly emerged to take over point guard duties, Diplock moved to shooting guard, where she feels more comfortable. She responded by finishing second on the team in scoring behind Wolfington and was named all-Maine second team while solidifying her standing as a defensive force.

“We can depend on her to go on a point guard, an off-guard or shooting guard and she really has been very versatile in that,” Veilleux said.

Both players embrace their versatility and evolving roles on the team.

“We do a little bit of everything, I guess (we) do whatever it takes to win,” said Wolfington,

“They’re very versatile,” Veilleux said. “I think Carylanne has more on her to score consistently just because that’s what she’s consistently given through the last two to three years. But Mia’s right there as well, and we encourage her to take what she has. And I think that’s the beauty of our offense.”

Veilleux looks for everyone to contribute at the offensive end rather than rely on two or three scorers, and different people have stepped up in that department at key times. Caverly is the latest example, having scored a career-high 23 points in the Mules’ 75-66 quarterfinal win at Connecticut College.

But Veilleux looks to her co-captains for leadership. Diplock, a neuroscience major, and Wolfington, a psychology and government major, both downplay their importance in that role, saying their teammates are very self-motivated and buy into the team philosophy. But Veilleux credits that to the seniors leading by example, especially when she challenges the younger players to get better.

“Ideally as a coach, that’s what I want,” Veilleux said.

Perhaps Diplock and Wolfington fit that ideal because they remember what it was like to be wide-eyed freshmen, wondering what their future in Colby basketball held.

“It’s a huge transition coming from high school into here,” Diplock said. “I think we were fortunate enough to not only have each other but to have Desi as a third senior. All of us together have grown. Our friendships have grown. And we have teammates from the last four years who will be our friends forever.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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