WATERVILLE — It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t smooth. It was far from perfect.

For the Waterville girls basketball team, however, it was a win. Which, with two 4-1 Class B North rivals squaring off, was all the Purple Panthers wanted.

Sadie Garling scored 10 points, Kali Thompson added eight in a crucial effort off the bench, and Waterville beat border rival Winslow 40-33 in the first of two regular-season matchups between the two regional contenders.

“I’m waiting for us to shoot it well,” Waterville (5-1) coach Rob Rodrigue said. “We’re not shooting it really well, but we’re grinding out some points, and we play pretty good defense, as long as we don’t give them the uncontested one-pointers.”

Considering the history between the two teams, Rodrigue had a feeling it wouldn’t be an easy night.

“It doesn’t matter the records when these two teams have played,” he said. “One of my first years here, they beat us by 32 and 29, and we knocked them out of the tournament. It’s always like that. … It doesn’t matter who’s good, who’s not good, they come over here, we go over there, it’s going to be a fight.”

Bodhi Littlefield scored 10 points for Winslow (4-2), while Grace Smith had nine and 10 rebounds and Silver Clukey had six.

“That’s what Bob’s press does. It throws you out of rhythm, and you can’t get into that flow,” Winslow coach Brenda Beckwith said. “When we did have a wide-open shot, because we know they come at you and they’re bigger than us, we rushed our shots and didn’t set our feet and do all that.

“But that’s what good teams do. They’re going to make you do that, and they did a nice job with that. But we’ve got to knock down some shots.”

Neither team was able to gain an offensive rhythm, but with Winslow threatening to rally after Smith’s layup cut the Waterville lead to 32-27 with 6:28 to play in the game, the Panthers closed it out. After Thompson and Maddie Martin (four points, eight rebounds) hit free throws, Thompson had a big putback — one of her seven second-half rebounds — to prompt a Winslow timeout with 3:39 left and the lead back up to nine points.

“She’s a player that can play multiple positions. She can guard you in the post, but we can also put her right in front of our press. She’s athletic as all get-all,” Rodrigue said. “And there’s not a kid, I don’t think, that works harder on the glass. If you watch, she’s on every rebound.”

Thompson, who finished with 13 rebounds overall, said she has embraced her ability to make a difference off the bench.

“Coach always talks about how we have a really deep bench, so you have to be ready to go in and keep our team going,” she said. “Coach said you have to be tough out there, fight for the ball and give it all you’ve got. If you want it, you’ve got to fight for it.”

Waterville continued to pull away. Garling hit a free throw, then made a layup as the Panthers broke the Black Raiders’ press to make it 39-27 with just over two minutes to play.

“We really don’t like to press, because we just don’t have the legs to do that, we don’t have the size, people just throw over us,” Beckwith said. “They throw it over our heads, they’re off to the races, and they’re very good at that.”

That press had Winslow flustered right from the start, as the Black Raiders had only four points after the first quarter and 11 at halftime.

“We try to force them to play at our pace,” Rodrigue said. “I don’t think you can replicate that in practice. I don’t think you can rep the different tempos that we press with. It’s not always the same thing.”

The Panthers were having similar problems, however, as Winslow’s man-to-man defense prevented the Waterville shooters from finding much space and kept the Waterville team within range at 17-11 at halftime. The Panthers, however, never lost the cushion, and came away with a win that may not have been pretty, but will look pretty good in the standings.

“Our mental toughness is there,” Garling said. “We’re definitely used to it by now. These tough games are really a motivation.”

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