When the Cony and Maranacook boys basketball teams last met, the result was a classic, the kind of game you talk about for days and weeks after.

For example: Look no further than the two teams’ coaches.

“I can’t tell you how many people were like ‘Hey, that was the best high school game I’ve seen in a long time,’ ” said Cony’s T.J. Maines, whose team eked out a 92-89 win in the Augusta Civic Center after trailing by 11 points with under five minutes to go. “Everybody compared it to our (73-71 win) against Medomak last year in the playoffs. … It was a really fun game.”

“A lot of people think kids from Maine can’t play, and a lot of people think it’s not a good quality of basketball,” Maranacook coach Travis Magnusson said. “I’d think you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere a better basketball game than that.”

And there’s a sequel on the way, as Cony (8-2) will head to Maranacook (6-2) on Saturday for a rematch at 5:30 p.m. Burbank Memorial Gym was packed for a showdown between the teams last year, which Maranacook won 72-60, and it’s a guarantee seats will be hard, if not harder, to find this time as well.

“We’re excited to play,” said Maines, whose team has followed up that victory with a win over previously undefeated Medomak Valley and triumphs against Lawrence and Camden Hills. “We needed that win to beat a good team. … We needed to beat an upper-echelon team. We had a couple of chances before that and didn’t do it.”

Maranacook has followed that game with wins over Oceanside and Winslow, and Magnusson said he’s looking forward to the second crack at the Rams, if only to see how his team handles what promises to be a frenzied environment.

“These games don’t make or break us. We’re kind of waiting to see what we are in February,” he said. “But what I like about this game, more than anything, is it’s definitely going to be a tournament atmosphere. I think it’s going to be a packed gym, and it’s going to be some pressure as far as that goes, with a big crowd in a game our guys definitely want to win.”

Both teams know the game can’t look like a carbon copy of the first. For Cony, that means a better job of contesting Maranacook’s shots — Tim Worster scored 26 points, Cash McClure had 24 and Casey Cormier scored 20.

“We’ve got to find their shooters a heck of a lot better,” Maines said. “We can’t let Worster stand still and take open jump shots, because he’s going to kill us. Being prepared for Cormier’s pull-up game, finding Cash earlier in transition, those things defensively are all going to be really important.”

Magnusson was critical after the first game of his team’s defense, one that allowed Simon McCormick to keep the Rams in it with a game-high 33 points.

“Normally against a guy like Simon, you want to attack the paint and make him kick it out. You can’t really do that, because Cony has those guys that just are lights-out from the 3-point line,” he said. “We’ve got to pick our battles and see what we can do with them.”

 

• • •

 

Skowhegan was 4-3 to begin the week, and coach Tom Nadeau said the record wasn’t a coincidence.

“We’ve been inconsistent this year throughout the season, and we’re just kind of looking to find some consistency and confidence,” he said.

Nadeau’s team took a step in that direction Tuesday, defeating an 8-1 Messalonskee team 53-49. The win, Nadeau said, can help Skowhegan dial itself in for the second half of the season.

“We just want to compete, and we know we can compete with all the teams in our league,” he said. “We’ve just got to be consistent with our effort. … (Tuesday is) evidence and proof that if you stick to what we’re teaching and what we’re trying to do, if you buy in, good things can happen.”

Skowhegan, which is led this year by Levi Obert and Adam Savage and which just got a boost with the return of Matush Prokop from an ankle injury, has had a knack for knocking off top teams, beating No. 1 Medomak Valley in the playoffs in 2017 and reaching the Northern Maine final as an eighth seed last year.

“We talked before the game (Tuesday) about how this was a statement game for us,” Nadeau said. “We knew that if we played to our capabilities, that we’re a team that can compete with anybody. More than anything, we were excited for ourselves that we were able to go on the road and beat a very good team.”

 

• • •

 

It’s been a similar theme at Rangeley, where the Lakers are 7-1 but coach Jeff LaRochelle sees a team that could be playing even better.

“We’ve done well to be 7-1, it’s one of the best starts I’ve had on any team I’ve coached,” he said. “But to play these better teams, (it) comes down to reducing your turnovers so you get more shots. … As a coach, you always want more, because I know these kids can do it, they work hard. It’s all mental, which means you can fix it.”

LaRochelle pointed to a variety of areas where the Lakers haven’t been crisp, from boxing out opponents to recognizing defensive schemes to letting teams back into games they’re winning comfortably.

“A good team is consistently good, not up and down,” he said. “You want to play in the Southern Maine final or the Southern Maine semifinal? That’s what good teams do, they don’t make these mistakes. Sometimes my guys don’t make them, and sometimes I’m telling you, I swear to God, you’re looking at five Labrador retrievers running around trying to catch a tennis ball.”

LaRochelle said the point he’s trying to get across is that the team can’t wait until the last minute to find its playoff form.

“There’s still a lot of basketball to play,” he said, “but if you think we’re going to show up in Augusta and now the game really counts, and you’re going to hit a switch and start blocking out then, it’s not going to happen. We’ve got to make these habits now.”

 

• • •

 

Messalonskee continues to be one of the surprises in A North, going into Wednesday with an 8-2 mark after missing the playoffs two years in a row.

Coach Jay Dangler said he hasn’t been surprised to see his team have this kind of success.

“I had all the confidence in the world in these guys,” he said. “We competed in every single game we played (last year), we just didn’t come out on the right side. … These guys are hungry. They wanted to get back to the tournament.”

The Eagles will be back, having already clinched a spot, and a big reason is their depth. Matt Parent, Josh Perry and Tucker Charles are the leaders, but Messalonskee’s depth stands out.

“We’re so deep of a team that a lot of the guys that don’t necessarily play as much are really pushing some of those top seven, eight, nine guys to really strive,” Dangler said. “We go to practice and it’s competitive every day.”

Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.