After cruising to three comfortable wins, the Temple Academy girls basketball team faces a couple of critical tests when it hosts Vinalhaven in Class D South games on Thursday and Friday.

The Bereans haven’t had much luck against the Vikings in the past three meetings, all played on Vinalhaven Island. Perhaps the 45-minute ferry ride took its toll.

“For some reasons, a lot of the girls got sick,” Temple coach Mike Gorman said. “We’ve never played them at full strength.”

Sickness aside, the Vikings (4-0) present some problems with their size and experience. They return several players from last year’s 14-4 squad led by 5-foot-10 center Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes.

The Bereans went 12-6 a year ago and won their first-ever tournament game. They graduated just one senior from that team and return leading scorer Kiara Carr.

“She works very hard,” Gorman said.

Gorman said his bench has showed marked improvement led by junior Alison Frankenfield and Sarah Desrosiers.

“We can go nine deep comfortably,” he said.

Rebounding will be a key against Vinalhaven. Sophomore Olivia Baker is the team’s tallest player at 5-8 while 5-6 junior Selam Heinrich may be the team’s best rebounder.

“She’s a deceivingly good rebounder,” Gorman said. “And she may be our best on-ball defender.”

Improvements to the gym have made a difference at the Waterville school as well. The carpet floor has been replaced with wood and has been lengthened and widened to full size. New lighting has also been installed.

“It’s bigger, it’s lit up, it’s a lot better,” Gorman said. “You can spread the floor more.”

• • •

Monmouth is 4-0 heading into Thursday’s showdown at unbeaten Boothbay (5-0). The teams were consensus picks to lead the Mountain Valley Conference this year and are considered contenders for the Class C state championship.

The Mustangs handed the Seahawks their only regular-season loss last year at the buzzer and this year will play them twice.

“We could end up playing them four times,” said Monmouth coach Scott Wing, referring to the MVC championship game and the Class C tournament.

Wing hopes his depth will wear down the taller Seahawks, who feature a 6-1 point guard in Faith Blethen and three players at 5-11.

“If we let them catch the ball inside, we’re dead,” Wing said.

Junior Hannah Anderson is working her way back into the Monmouth lineup following a knee injury and is a key scorer and rebounder for the Mustangs. Junior Maddi Amero, the team’s tallest player at 5-11, also has a knee injury and her playing status is in doubt. Among the newcomers, freshman Kaeti Butterfield and sophomore Destiny Clough have played well off the bench and added to the team’s depth. In a recent win over Mountain Valley, Wing played 11 players in the first quarter.

“I have confidence in so many kids,” he said.

Scoring has been evenly spread thanks in large part to junior point guard Tia Day, who is averaging eight assists a game.

“That’s almost unheard of in high school,” Wing said. “They can stop her from scoring but they can’t stop her from passing.”

Junior Abby Allen usually guards the top offensive player and has quietly piled up statistics, scoring 12 points and grabbing nine rebounds against Mountain Valley.

• • •

When Joe Burnham took over as Winthrop’s head coach four years ago, the Ramblers were forced to played an exhibition schedule due to lack of players and experience. They have since bounced back and stand at 2-2 in Class C South.

“We had a little bit of success at the end of last year and had a pretty strong summer,” Burnham said. “We’re not where we need to be yet but I’ve been extremely happy with how hard we’re playing. We’re translating that effort into victories.”

This year’s group of seniors — Adlin Chaparin, Shie Smith, Brianna McClure and Matti Rice — started with Burnham four years ago and he said “they’ve done a tremendous job mentoring.”

Chaparin is the team’s leading scorer and the 5-10 Smith is averaging double figure rebounds per game. Freshmen have also contributed. In an overtime win against Oak Hill, Aaliyah Wilson Falcone scored the game-tying basket and Jillian Schmelzer the game winner in the waning seconds.

Burnham said his team has a long way to go — Tuesday the Ramblers lost by 30 points to Monmouth — and he’s still focusing 75 percent of practice on fundamentals. But he handed out a playbook this season for the first time in four years and there are enough players in the program to have a junior varsity team.

“When I was hired four years ago I told them my goal was to have a JV team in four years,” he said.

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