Messalonskee leads Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A in offensive and defensive statistics so it’s no surprise the Eagles are currently 10-0 and atop the North division standings.

One of the keys to the team’s defensive prowess is limiting opponents’ scoring chances.

“We mostly go man and we don’t press a lot,” coach Keith Derosby said. “With some of our length and rebounding we’re holding teams to one shot.”

The Eagles have two of the taller guards in the state in 5-foot-11 junior point guard Ally Turner and 6-1 freshman Gabrielle Wener. Turner generally takes an opponent’s top scorer while there are several other strong defenders and rebounders, including 5-10 McKenna Brodeur, Sophie Holmes, Lydia Dexter and Makayla Wilson. And the Eagles transition quickly from defense to offense.

“The kids run the floor really well off rebounds,” Derosby said. “We have a lot of players who know where to go when the ball is moving and we’re making the extra pass.”

Derosby plays 10 players a game and said everyone is on the plus side in scoring differential while on the floor. Holmes, the team leader, leads the KVAC in scoring at 22.4 points a game. She also leads the KVAC in steals at 3.6 and averages 7.1 rebounds per contest. She recently missed her second free throw of the season but is the league leader in that category, too, at 95 percent.

“She just continues to mature,” Derosby said. “She prides herself on other aspects of the game, making her teammates better, and she’s an undervalued defender. She’s the first one in the gym and the last one to leave.”

Wener grew up playing guard and has retained those skills as she’s grown. Opponents often expect her to outlet the ball after a rebound but she has shown the ability to take the ball end to end and score.

“She has great instincts,” Derosby said. “She does not play like a freshman. She’s kind of helped put us over the top.”

The Eagles push each other in practice to stay sharp and focused, Derosby said, but have a tough stretch of games looming against Hampden, Skowhegan, Nokomis and Gardiner.

• • •

There was no great epiphany required after Winslow struggled out of the gate, losing its second game of the season to Maine Central Institute and squeaking past Waterville in the third. The Black Raiders just needed a few adjustments on offense.

“We lived by the three and we learned we can’t do that,” Winslow coach Lindsey Withee said.

The Raiders (9-1) have rolled since, beating Class A schools Lawrence and Skowhegan along the way.

And it’s not that they’ve given up on 3-point shots. In a win against Skowhegan on Monday, they made six, including five from sophomore Paige Trask.

“We just try to get the ball inside-out,” Withee said.

The Raiders also learned to compete and win without senior all-star Heather Kervin on the floor. Kervin, who is 96 points shy of 1,000 for her career, sat out much of the game in foul trouble.

Withee played 10 players in the game, although she may have lost junior tri-captain Maddie Roy for a few games after she sprained her ankle. Roy is coming off an ACL injury suffered last spring and returned to the team more quickly than expected. Freshman Silver Clukey is also back from an ACL injury and made a key 3-pointer in the win against Skowhegan.

Withee has alternated junior Sarah Guimond and sophomore Weslee Littlefield at point guard. They complement each other well, with Guimond more of a defensive specialist and Littlefield a scorer. In the victory Monday, they were both on the floor at the same time.

“They’re doing a great job taking care of the ball,” Withee said.

In addition to playing Lincoln Academy twice, the Black Raiders also have home games against MCI and Waterville on the schedule. They stand fifth in the latest Heal point standings behind Houlton, Hermon, Central and John Bapst, teams they will not see in the regular season. They did, however, play Hermon and Central in the preseason and will expand their scouting as the schedule winds down.

• • •

Gardiner isn’t looking past any opponents but it’s difficult to ignore the task it faces at the end of the regular season when it plays Oxford Hills, Hampden, Messalonskee and Skowhegan, teams with a combined 26-5 record.

“That’s the stretch that’s going to decide where we fall in the tournament,” coach Mike Gray said.

The Tigers are 8-3 and fifth in the Class A North standings as they prepare to host Maranacook on Friday night. They were upset by Medomak Valley on Saturday before bouncing back to beat Brewer on Monday.

“We weren’t ready to play and I was worried at some point that was going to happen,” Gray said of the Medomak loss.

The Tigers defeated Medomak 68-30 in the season in opener, although 5-foot-11 junior forward Gabby DePatsy missed that game for the Panthers due to injury. DePatsy was there for the rematch and scored 28 points to lead her team to a 14-point victory. Absent in that game for the Tigers was senior center Mary Toman, who missed her fourth game due to a knee injury. Toman, who averages 15.6 points and 10.8 rebounds a game, returned in the Brewer win.

“She looked a little rusty but just having her back on the court is big,” Gray said.

Sophomore Aimee Adams started in Toman’s place and played well, particularly in a win over unbeaten Nokomis. Adams had come off the bench when Toman needed a break, but Gray is considering playing both of them together.

“It’s a game at a time decision,” he said. “When we play bigger teams, we’ll play two posts. We knew (Adams) would give us toughness underneath. We didn’t know how she was going to respond being in a big spot.”

The Tigers haven’t been shooting the ball as well as Gray would like. They shot just 20 percent from the floor against Medomak and are only hitting at a 32 percent clip for the season.

“Some of it is focus,” Gray said. “I don’t think we’ve taken a lot of bad shots.”

Gray said the team’s low shooting percentage has been offset somewhat by limiting turnovers and shooting well from the free throw line.

Senior point guard Lauren Chadwick has been a key in both areas. She scored 22 points in the win over Nokomis with just one turnover and had 23 points and six steals in the win against Brewer. She’s averaging just under 15 points a game for the season and is shooting 91 percent from the foul line.