Waterville Sadie Garling, left, tries to steal the ball from Maranacook’s Ella Schmidt on Thursday in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

WATERVILLE — A good coach always wants to be coaching, even when things are going well, but what do you say to your basketball team when it has a 30-point lead at halftime and just held the opponent to five points?

“You just talk about coming out and taking care of business and putting the game away so you can get ready for the next one. You want to make sure you don’t lose your focus,” Waterville girls basketball coach Rob Rodrigue said after Thursday’s 60-17 win over Maranacook.

Waterville had a 35-5 lead at the break, and held an opponent under 20 points for the third time this season. It’s been a decade since the Waterville Senior High School girls basketball team began a season with expectations as high as those entering the 2019-20 campaign. Those Panthers of 2007 through 2009 won three straight Class B state championships. Thursday’s victory over Maranacook improved Waterville’s record to 9-1. The Purple Panthers are now in the second half of the season, and the lofty goals haven’t changed.

Last season, the Purple Panthers went 20-1, the lone loss coming to Mt. Desert Island in the Class B North regional championship game. That loss to the Trojans exposed a flaw in Waterville’s game, a consistent scoring threat in the low post. That was the focus of the Panthers’ improvement in the off season.

“In the tournament our shortcoming was we didn’t knock down shots. We can shoot it with the best of them, but when you’re not knocking down shots, and you’re going to have nights like that, you’ve got to find another way to win,” Rodrigue said.

Against Maranacook, Waterville pounded the ball inside, particularly throughout a 25-0 run in the first half that essentially put the game out of reach. While Sadie Garling hit three 3-pointers in the first half, including back-to-back threes in a span of 12 seconds late in the first quarter, the Panthers made it a point to get the ball inside.

“Since (opponents) are really up on me and Abby (Saucier) a lot. I’ll stay wide and shot fake it. They’ll charge at me and I’ll put it in the post. I’ll fade out on the wing so they’ll have a little more space to post up,” Garling said.

Transition and defense has been another key for Waterville. With fullcourt pressure and tight defense the length of the court, the Panthers forced 26 Black Bear turnovers Thursday, turning steals into layups.

“We’re pretty athletic. I wouldn’t want to play against us in transition. You watch those kids, they never quit. I usually have to call them off,” Rodrigue said.

Waterville’s Sadie Garling, right, and Maranacook’s Maddy Ballard battle for a rebound Thursday in Waterville. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

Thursday’s win pushed Waterville into second place in the Class B North Heal Point standings. The one loss was at Presque Isle early in the season. Waterville avenged that with a strong 38-17 win over the Wildcats last Saturday. This Saturday, the Panthers host Old Town in a non-conference game. At Old Town on Dec. 20, Waterville eked out its closest win of the season, 44-42.

Waterville already established itself as a contender for the regional title. Those close game are the one you want to play, and those close games are the ones you have to win.

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

Comments are not available on this story.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

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