Lawrence’s Kobe Nadeau(11) nearly has the ball stolen by Winslow’s Isaiah Goldsmith during a game last season in Fairfield.

Monday’s 20-point win over Messalonskee ended the toughest stretch of the regular season for the Lawrence boys basketball team. The Bulldogs played six games in 10 days, each against a team fighting for a playoff spot in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class A division. Lawrence went 3-3 over this stretch of games, but closed it with strong wins over Hampden and Messalonskee. At 7-6, Lawrence currently sits in third place in the Class A North Heal Point standings.

As could be expected, defense has been the key to the Bulldogs’ recent success.

“What we’ve been doing better consistently is ball pressure,” Lawrence coach Jason Pellerin said. “I thought it was good at the beginning of the season, but it’s gotten better.”

Pellerin described Lawrence’s defensive mindset as “trying to be as disruptive as possible.” In Monday’s 57-37 win at Messalonskee, that was the case. The Bulldogs took seven charges in the win, and that helped avenge an early season loss to the Eagles.

“The kids are in better position to make those types of plays,” Pellerin said.

Role players off the bench, including Jake Patterson, Dylan Martin-Hachey, Zach Nickerson, and Nik Pomerleau, have played strong minutes, Pellerin said.

“We’re diverse enough and deep enough where we’re able to get contributions from our bench,” Pellerin said.

Just one of Lawrence’s final five regular season games is at home in cozy Folsom Gym. The next two games are on the road against longtime rivals Winslow and Mt. Blue. As of Wednesday, Mt. Blue was just over a point behind Lawrence for third place in Class A North.

“Winslow will be tough because it’s a rivalry game,” Pellerin said. “Mt. Blue is another old time rivalry that’s sprung back to life.”

• • •

At 13-0, Forest Hills has all but wrapped up the top seed in the Class D South tournament. The No. 2-No. 4 seeds are very much in play, though. At 9-4, Valley has a 16-point lead on Temple Academy for second place. The Cavaliers can strengthen their hold on the two seed with a win at Temple Thursday.

Valley defeated Temple, 46-37, when these teams played in Bingham earlier this month.

“We’ve improved a lot,” Valley coach Curtis Miller said. “We’re rebounding really well and finally figuring out things defensively.”

In winning four of its last five games, Valley held opponents to an average of just over 50 points per game. Early in the season, getting all five Cavaliers on the same page defensively was a struggle, Miller said. Now, they’re playing as a cohesive unit more often. In a pair of wins over Rangeley and Pine Tree Academy last week, Valley held each opponent to five points in the first quarter, setting a strong defensive tone early.

“Defensively, we still have lapses. We’re doing good in close games. We just need to lock things up and tighten up on defense,” Miller said.

Senior guard Joey Thomas has potential to be an offensive force for the Cavs in the playoffs. Thomas scored 29 points, including six 3-pointers, in the recent win over Rangeley, and 18 points in the win over Pine Tree.

“He’s electric at home,” Miller said of Thomas.

Should Valley win at Temple (9-4), third place in the region could come down to the regular season finale when Temple plays at Rangeley (9-4) on February 5.

• • •

After an 0-6 start, Mt. Abram won five of its last eight games to improve to 5-9, and the Roadrunners are squarely in the mix for a Class C South playoff game. Mt. Abram last reached the playoffs in 2013.

“We have had much more success in recent games and is exciting to start heading in the right direction of starting to play towards the team’s potential,” first-year coach Dustin Zamboni said. “Our team continuity has improved, we are developing more comradery in giving the ball up to teammates and running lanes. We have been doing better with communication and team defense as well as finishing the possessions with team rebounding.”

Last week’s 54-38 win at Madison is a good example of Mt. Abram’s perseverance. Down 13-2 after one quarter, the Roadrunners hung around before pulling away with a 24-8 run in the fourth quarter.

The Roadrunners have a pair of tough games coming up against Winthrop and Boothbay, two of the top teams in the Mountain Valley Conference, before closing the regular season with trips to Telstar and Wiscasset, a pair of teams Mt. Abram beat in the first meeting.

“I do believe we still have a long way to go but good to see we are on the tracks headed in the right direction,” Zamboni said.

• • •

Around the state: Entering Wednesday’s game, there were just three undefeated boys basketball teams in the state, Class B North Hermon (13-0), Class D North Woodland (11-0), and Class D South Forest Hills (13-0)… The top two teams in the Class C North Heal Point standings are set for a showdown on Thursday, when No. 1 Central Aroostook (13-1) plays at No. 2 Houlton (10-3). Houlton follows that tough game with another Friday, when it hosts No. 3 Mattanawcook Academy (10-1)… A rematch of one of the better games so far this season in Class A North is Thursday, when Mt. Blue (9-3) plays at Hampden Academy (11-3). Mt. Blue took a 73-72 win over the Broncos on Dec. 28.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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