It’s been a season of highs and lows for the Maranacook boys basketball team. Now coach Rob Schmidt is just focused on where the roller coaster ride ends up.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to win some games,” said Schmidt, whose Black Bears sit at 4-7 and ninth in the Class B South standings. “And with seven games left, they’re all tough games for us. There’s not an easy team on the rest of the schedule. So we’ve got to win three or four of those anyway to really solidify a playoff spot.”

Few teams can match the wild path the Black Bears took to mid-January. Maranacook’s ledger includes both a five-game losing streak, which began the season, and a four-game winning streak that immediately followed it. The Black Bears could easily be higher in the standings, with four losses by three points or fewer. They could easily be lower, with two wins by that same margin.

Making it even more startling is that the hot-and-cold season comes on the heels of a 2015-16 campaign in which Maranacook was as consistent as any team around, rolling to the postseason at 16-2. But after a few key offseason departures, the most significant of which was leading scorer Kent Mohlar, it’s been a struggle for the Black Bears to play the consistent winning basketball they mastered last season — particularly late in games.

“You’ve got to start looking at lots of little things, like turnovers, missed layups, missed free throws, opportunities throughout each game that we’re just not taking advantage of,” Schmidt said. “I think those opportunities, or missed opportunities, are adding up. In a one- or two-point game, that’s the difference.”

That was particularly the case during the five-game losing streak. Maranacook competed but consistently fell one or two plays short, losing its first four games by a total of 12 points.

“You’re dealing with high school players. We’re going to miss layups, we’re going to turn the ball over, we’re going to miss foul shots,” Schmidt said. “All of that stuff happens with every team, it’s just a matter of cutting down on it as much as possible.

“And our mistakes, there’s not a lot of them, but they do add up.”

The tide turned when the Black Bears began to show more patience with the ball, holding it rather than dribbling right away. They turned it over less, passed it better and found easier baskets than they settled for before.

Schmidt calls it “basketball intelligence,” and while the Black Bears haven’t erased the mark on their record from the poor start, their coach said it no longer lingers in their minds.

“I think the first (five) games of the season, I think that’s behind us. We know we missed some opportunities, but we’re not dwelling on it,” said Schmidt, whose team plays Gardiner Friday night. “I don’t see that (slow start) snowballing. If anything, it’s motivation.”

Now the issue becomes whether Maranacook’s recovery will be complete enough to earn a playoff spot. With their ninth-place position in Class B, the Black Bears are in the final slot to qualify.

“We’re right on the bubble right now,” Schmidt said. “We’ve got to get some Heal points and we’ve got to get some wins for our pride and to really justify the fact that that hard work is worth it.

“I don’t believe there’s any panic there. I think there’s a sense of pride. These guys are all winners.”

• • •

Injuries have been a nagging storyline for Gardiner this season, but good news is coming from what was originally looking like one of the team’s worst setbacks.

Junior center Connor McGuire is due back from a high ankle sprain at the start of next week, according to coach Jason Cassidy, who communicated with the team’s trainer on Tuesday. Cassidy, whose team is in playoff position at 6-5 in Class A North, said the swelling and bruising from the sprain have started to diminish, and that McGuire has already lost the walking boot and started mobility exercises and shooting to prepare for his return.

“They’ll get him moving in a gym here pretty soon,” Cassidy said Tuesday. “The team’s excited to have him back, obviously. He did an awesome job rebounding and scoring points for us, so we’re very anxious for his return.”

The prognosis was far worse when McGuire injured the ankle coming down with an offensive rebound Jan. 10 against Leavitt. McGuire was taken to a hospital where the early report was that the ankle was broken, another blow in a season that has seen center Ben Shaw lost for the year with a torn labrum, guard Ben Babcock miss time with a hamstring injury and the team endure a bout with the flu that forced the Tigers to bring up junior varsity players for a game with undefeated Medomak Valley.

McGuire’s diagnosis changed to a sprain, and the news regarding the Tigers’ top rebounder began to brighten in the following days, leading to the update earlier this week that the junior would be out of action for only two weeks.

“This one’s kind of surprising from what we thought at the beginning,” Cassidy said.

• • •

Gardiner isn’t the only team welcoming back a key player. Winthrop recently added Nate Scott to the roster after the senior guard spent the first seven weeks of the season recovering from a broken leg suffered during the Class D South championship football game.

“His rehab went well, and he got to be cleared a little bit quicker than we thought,” coach Todd MacArthur said.

Scott — who broke the leg in the first half of the game and played the second with the injury — made his return against Carrabec, playing under 10 minutes, then saw his workload increase against Lisbon and Boothbay as the Ramblers improved to 12-0.

“There’s a little bit of rust, but one of the things I’m excited about in getting him back is you get a kid with a full tank of gas,” MacArthur said. “Everybody else is kind of at that midseason grind. … But with Nate, he goes in there and he hasn’t played all season. Every time he goes in there it looks like he has more energy than anybody.”

Scott brings the quickness and agility that allowed him to thrive as a running back for Winthrop/Monmouth, and MacArthur said he expects him to move into a role as either a sixth man or backup point or shooting guard.

“His athleticism is second to none,” MacArthur said. “He brings a dimension to our team that gives us a different look and obviously improves us.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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