This has been a building season for the Waterville Senior High School boys basketball team. Monday’s 54-51 win over Erskine, the Purple Panthers’ first victory of the season, was the step the team needed.

“It’s definitely a positive to get into the win column,” Waterville coach Nick Pelotte said. “You start piling up those losses, and doubt can creep in with younger players.”

Waterville (1-10) is short on experience this season. With players learning varsity basketball on the job, the Panthers have often been caught thinking about their next move, rather than making it instinctively.

“At times, they can get a little robotic in terms of what we ask them to do. Sometimes they forget they actually have to play the game,” Pelotte said.

Pelotte said he saw that behavior in a recent loss at Maine Central Institute. In Monday’s win over Erskine?

“I saw the exact opposite,” Pelotte said. “We shot with the most confidence versus Erskine. It was, ‘I want to shoot the ball because I know I can make it.'”

Waterville trailed the Eagles by 10 points going into the fourth quarter. The confidence really began to manifest itself in that final period, Pelotte said. It helped that Colby College men’s basketball coach Damien Strahorn brought members of his team to the game, and the Mules loudly cheered on the Panthers.

“It felt good that people were supporting them,” Pelotte said of his team. “We want to get better each day, which for the most part I think we’re doing. Hopefully the win will give these guys some confidence.”

Waterville continues its tough Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A schedule home against Oceanside (8-2) Friday.

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Temple Academy is on pace to reach the Class D South tournament for the first time since rejoining the Maine Principals’ Association with the 2014-15 season. The Bereans are 6-4 entering Friday’s game against Greater Portland Christian (1-9), good for seventh place in the region, but a playoff spot is by no means a lock.

“There’s no guarantee of that yet,” Temple coach Tom Simmons said. “We won two games and dropped three spots in the Heal points system.”

Temple has a few strong wins that should bolster their tournament resume and help when the Heal points shake out at the end of the season. The Bereans opened the season with a win over Seacoast Christian (7-5), split with Vinalhaven (5-7), and won at Rangeley (3-8).

“We’ve taken care of the wins we needed to take care of,” Simmons said.

Simmons looks at Friday’s game against Greater Portland Christian as sneaky tough. While GPC has just one win, the team has games against Class C Buckfield and Waynflete among its losses. Temple hosts Islesboro (5-4) on Saturday, the team right behind the Bereans in the playoff chase.

Temple is led by senior Brad Smith. The 6-foot-3 senior averages 26.5 points per game, and also leads the team in assists and is second in rebounds, Simmons said.

“He’s our all-around horse,” Simmons said of Smith.

Six of Temple’s final eight regular season games are at home.

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Effort hasn’t been a concern at Mount View, and coach Chad Larrabee doesn’t expect it to be down the stretch, as the Mustangs (4-6) fight for a playoff spot in Class B North. Mount View is currently ranked tenth in the region. The top 12 teams in Class B North advance to the playoffs.

“The boys always play hard,” Larrabee said. “We don’t always execute. Being more consistent with execution is what we’re looking for down the stretch.”

Defense has been the key for the Mustangs in big wins over Belfast and Skowhegan.

“We like to pressure full court. We’re still learning and getting better,” Larrabee said.

The Mustangs face a tough schedule in the coming games, including two games against Class A Nokomis (7-4) in the next week, as well as rematches with Spruce Mountain and Skowhegan. Larrabee pointed to seniors Devon Davis, Colby Furrow, and Joey Dana as key to Mount View’s success.

“Davis averages 13 rebounds per game and has taken over some games. Colby has scored over 18 points a few times, and Joey is our point guard, and has had some big games,” Larrabee said.

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Around the state: Hampden extended its home winning streak to 61 games with Monday’s win over Lawrence. The Broncos (10-1) play at Messalonskee on Friday night… Mt. Desert Island is 12-0 and the lone undefeated team in Class B North. The Trojans host Central on Friday, then make the long trip to Aroostook County next weekend to play at Presque Isle on Friday and Caribou on Saturday… Machias is 12-0 and in first place in Class D North. Now the Bulldogs have a new 1,000-point scorer, James Meresreau, who reached the milestone earlier this week.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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