AUGUSTA — Incremental as they are, tidal shifts aren’t always noticeable. One minute you’re walking across a sand bar along the coast, the next the water has risen to waist level and you’re swimming once again.

For a Cony High School girls basketball team that hasn’t played a postseason game since the 2014 regional semifinals, the tide is rising. Even if the outside world hasn’t quite taken notice.

Yet.

“We don’t have anything to lose. We’re not state champions. We haven’t been to the playoffs in six years,” Cony senior forward Carly Lettre said. “If we don’t make the playoffs, it won’t matter to anyone. No one else will care.”

Heading into Tuesday night’s 51-46 loss to Camden Hills, the Rams had already won more games this season than they did last season. Or the season before that. Or the one before that.

In fact, with three wins at the midpoint of the campaign, Cony (3-7) was on pace to win more games this season than in any of the last three seasons combined. The Rams won just once in 2016-17, head coach Adam Rich’s first winter on the bench. They then won only two games in each of the next two seasons.

After starting a lineup consisting almost entirely of freshmen last year, Rich has seen the team’s confidence and — more importantly, perhaps — its level of play start to rise.

It was a change he first noticed last season.

“Now that they’re all sophomores, they’ve grown up a little bit and I expect them to do that more next year, too,” Rich said. “The kids have responded and stepped up their game. We had the conversations last year of ‘Welcome to high school, it’s different than junior high.’ They were in games, but couldn’t finish them off. It comes with being young.

“This year, the conversation turned to being in those games and now is the time to get over the hump.”

The players are enjoying themselves now that they’ve narrowed down their identity to a team that prides itself on a zone defense and easy transition baskets. That enjoyment breeds more confidence, and that confidence is starting to produce results.

“It’s kind of fun. We’re kind of in an easier position now,” Cony junior guard Julia Reny said. “We’re kind of the underdog in a lot of our games. It’s fun to come out and surprise people, because they don’t expect much from us. But then we get out on the court, and they see that we can really play.”

After an 0-5 start last month, Cony won three of its next four before losing to CamdenHills 51-46 on Tuesday. That included the first win of the season at Morse on Dec. 23 — when Rich said it all started to “click” — and a win over Maranacook during a holiday break tournament at the Augusta Civic Center.

For a program with seven state championships and 12 regional titles on its collective resume, the goal for Cony this season is as simple as it is obvious. The Rams want to be on the eight-team dance card when the Class A North tournament tips off at the Civic Center next month.

Entering Tuesday’s contest against Camden Hills, Cony sat ninth in the regional standings, only fractions of a Heal point or two from qualifying for the postseason.

“Winning the first couple of games gave us a lot more confidence and helped us learn to (finish games), and learn to play as a team,” Cony senior Carly Lettre said. “Since I was in third grade, my thing was I spent my winters here watching all those girls that played here. They were everything I looked up to.

“Since it’s my senior year, my big thing is I want to help build the program. I feel like the last four years we’ve started doing that, and this year I think we’re finally getting over that hump.”

The Rams, both the coach and the players as a group, are noticing that change is imminent.

“The record right now is not really what I’m looking at,” Rich said. “I’m looking at the program as it’s moving forward. As this season’s progressed, they’re responding to the challenge a little bit better this year.”

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