The fast start has turned into a strong season for the Maranacook boys basketball team — one potentially good enough to earn the No. 1 seed in Class B South going into the postseason.

Coach Rob Schmidt, however, says there isn’t a pressure that comes with holding the top spot. The Black Bears figured they’d be good. And they figured that that would mean attention.

“I think the expectations of this team have been very high from the get go,” he said. “I think we feel like that’s where we belong, and we know that with that attitude comes pressure, but I think these guys have responded to the pressure for the most part. They’re not really fazed by it, it’s just what they’ve grown to expect.”

At 11-2 entering Wednesday, the Black Bears sat in first place ahead of 12-1 Mountain Valley. With games against Mount View, Morse, Belfast, Winslow and Waterville — a combined 15-52 — Maranacook is looking at a realistic chance of winning out, and Schmidt said the team has kept the same approach as the wins have piled up.

“We try to work real hard and we try to push the ball,” he said, “and throughout the season we’ve tried to rely not as much on the 3-pointers. That’s all stayed consistent.”

There have been a few changes for the Black Bears, however. One is that sophomore guard Cash McClure has begun to establish himself as the leading offensive threat and go-to scorer.

“Night-in and night-out, he’s the most consistent shooter, he’s probably one of the guys that’s the truest scorer in the sense that he’s not all 3-pointers, it’s not all jump shots,” Schmidt said. “He is our go-to guy in those situations. But not to the point where we’re really strapped if he’s in trouble.”

Depth has been an asset all season for Maranacook, and if anything, it’s only improved. Illness and health concerns have forced some younger players like sopomores Joey Dupont, Tim Worster and Eljas Bergdahl to step up, and Schmidt said that should only help going forward.

“You just never know. It’s Maine in the winter, and guys get sick. It’s something you have to deal with,” he said. “But the deeper the bench is, the more options you have to make up for that, and the less panic you’re in.”

• • •

Even in what’s been a difficult season, Gardiner has seen a star emerge.

Logan Carleton has come on lately for the 2-12 Tigers, averaging 21 points over the last three games and posting one high-scoring outing after another throughout January. He scored 20 points Saturday in a win over Nokomis, he scored 30 in a loss to Skowhegan Thursday, and he scored 26 points in a loss to Erskine on January 7.

Coach Aaron Toman said the junior’s improved production has been the result of an improved confidence on the court.

“It starts with him getting to the basket. … He’s a very athletic kid who can really finish off a drive, and that just opens up the rest of his game,” Toman said. “He’s got a decent outside shot, can knock down shots, but he’s really committed to going to the rim. That just opens up the perimeter for him, and his game expands. And he can be a tough matchup because of that.”

Toman added that scoring has only been part of Carleton’s progression.

“He’s an athletic kid who can score, but what I’m most impressed with in his growth and his leadership is his commitment to crashing the glass,” he said. “Trying to keep others involved, and really trying to work on the defensive end.”

The Tigers have been feeling the growing pains with a young roster, but Toman said his players have taken steps forward since the start of the season.

“Early in the year we had some tough competition and we’d play certain teams, we’d go down by 10 and it would snowball. It’d be 15, and 20,” Toman said. “But over the past few weeks, the boys have really buckled down and kept their composure and competed until the end, and clawed their way back into some games.”

• • •

Hall-Dale’s Alec Byron scored his 1,000th point, and he picked a big game in which to do it.

Byron reached the milestone during the Bulldogs’ 87-76 win at Boothbay in a matchup of teams atop both the Mountain Valley Conference and Class C South. The senior guard connected on a jumper at the end of the third period to reach 1,000, and finished with 18 points in the victory.

Byron was pivotal in guiding the Bulldogs to last year’s Class C state championship game, being named the MVP of the C South regional tournament.

• • •

As of now, Richmond is a playoff team — but the Bobcats face a tough task in staying that way.

After starting 1-9, Richmond has won three in a row, and currently sits in the 12th and final C South spot at 4-9.

The road ahead, however, is a brutal one for Richmond, which built its three-game winning streak against Wiscasset, Telstar and Carrabec — a combined 2-36. Four of the Bobcats’ remaining five games are against not just contenders but title hopefuls, with two against Hall-Dale, one against Winthrop and another against Monmouth coming up. All three entered Wednesday in the top three in the C South standings.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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