The Waldorfs and Statlers donning balconies and bleachers around the state had plenty of fodder for punchlines Tuesday night in Winslow.

Faced with the prospect of a second consecutive blowout at the hands of a Class A opponent, Brenda Beckwith asked her Winslow girls basketball team to employ a very simple strategy: Keep the ball for as long as possible, for minutes at a time if you can, and keep undefeated Skowhegan from letting its offense run roughshod on you.

The Black Raiders stood with the ball on their collective hip when they weren’t guarded directly. If they were, they dribbled straight into the waiting arms of a teammate, handed it off, and did the same again. They looked off shots they’d otherwise have taken, dribbled through the lane on occasion only to pass up the easy layup in favor of kicking the ball back out to the perimeter to begin the whole process anew.

The results were predictable. Winslow didn’t score a single point in the second quarter. Neither team ever cracked double digits in any eight-minute stretch. There were fewer field goals (13) than minutes played (32). There were just two shot attempts — combined — in the second quarter. Each team had possession of the ball only seven times in the first half.

It was agonizing. It was frustrating. It wasn’t easy to watch. It certainly failed to be entertaining.

But the funny thing is, it worked.

The strategy worked well enough that Winslow — beaten 69-49 at Lawrence last week in a game that wasn’t even that close — was within three points of the lead with 4:34 remaining. The Raiders eventually succumbed, 22-14.

“Some people were commenting that they wanted their money back,” Beckwith said after the game. “Unless all things are equal, you’ve got to find what the other person’s weakness is or find some way to minimize what their strengths are. That’s what I was looking to do. It wasn’t done to belittle anybody or to take away from the game of basketball.

“It’s a viable option, and it was for us.”

That Winslow didn’t win does account for something — saving face versus playing to win are two different things.

There is no shot clock in Maine high school basketball, nor should there be.

Despite rising insistence from the “experts” that the game needs it, that offense is dull and there’s a lack of urgency, it wouldn’t solve any of the problems of Maine’s high school basketball landscape. A shot clock would only exacerbate the issues — forcing teams to play at an uncomfortably faster pace than they would like, forcing them into bad shots to beat the clock.

A shot clock would prevent what transpired in Winslow on Tuesday, however. Skowhegan and Winslow entered the contest averaging 55.6 and 54.9 points per game, respectively, yet managed mustering just a small a fraction of that.

The beauty of high school sports is that this isn’t the NBA or major college basketball.

It’s high school basketball, folks. It’s about the practices, the games, the bus rides, the student-athletes and the experiences. Unfortunately, it’s also about mismatched scheduling with teams playing up and down in class within their own conference framework.

One thing that could not be argued as Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher held the ball herself at midcourt for more than two and a half minutes in the second quarter — clearly uncomfortable in the spotlight but in a fine response to Winslow’s game plan by turning the tables on the Raiders — was the palatable buzz in the Winslow gym.

The players, the students, the communities at large, were clapping and chanting and enjoying every moment of a bizarre situation. The Winslow players bought into the game plan and executed it, ripping a line right off the Skowhegan practice shirts: “We before me.”

“You can’t tell me that the people and the fans didn’t have a blast,” Beckwith said. “That was great high school girls basketball.

“Typically, I want to press you all game, I want to get up and down the court and shoot threes. That to me is a killer. But I can’t run with (Skowhegan). No way.”

It could be argued that Skowhegan, held to just three points in both the second and third quarters, shares some of the blame in this. Had they been more effective in their full-court press, the Raiders never would have been able to set up shop. They could have defended better and denied lanes and passes along the perimeter. They could have been more precise with their own offensive sets and produced more points, forcing Winslow to have to open the game up earlier.

Skowhegan didn’t do much of that, at least not until the fourth quarter. And the result was predictable, at least as far as Beckwith was concerned — 16 of the game’s 36 points were scored in the final eight minutes, and Skowhegan improved to 15-0 by pulling away.

“We made some turnovers, and it killed us,” Beckwith said. “It killed us (against Lawrence), too. The difference was that we didn’t have a 30-point deficit staring us in the face.

“I thought it was fun. It’s too bad people don’t know the game well enough to know the situation we were in.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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