NORTH ANSON — Skip Rugh got through Friday night’s loss to Class C South leader Winthrop and could breathe a small sigh of relief.

With only Saturday’s afternoon trip to Lisbon left in an eight-games-in-16-days stretch, the Carrabec girls basketball coach could finally assess where his team was at. After compressing nearly half the Cobras’ schedule into the first two and a half weeks of January — many of those against Mountain Valley Conference teams bound for the playoffs — a much-needed physical and mental respite was right around the corner.

“It’s definitely been a grind,” Rugh said, his team standing at 4-3 through the first seven games of the stretch after Winthrop’s 48-34 win inside the Cobra Dome. “The only game that really upset me was the last one (a loss to Dirigo on Tuesday). We weren’t focused, there was probably some fatigue going on with us, and Dirigo played a good game. We just didn’t finish it like we should have.

“We’re kind of looking forward to getting through this, and then we’ve got three days off.”

For Winthrop, there is no such sigh of relief coming.

The Ramblers improved to 11-1 — their lone loss to reigning Class C state champion Boothbay last week — but plenty of league iron looms on the horizon.

Of Winthrop’s final six regular-season games, beginning Wednesday at Mountain Valley, half of them are on the road and five of the six are against teams expected to seriously contend in the regional tournament next month.

With the MVC breaking its conference into tiers, everybody plays everybody else at least once — with the second half of the season pairing off teams based on preseason expectations.

The Ramblers will face all of the league’s best teams a second time before the scheduled Feb. 5 season finale.

“Our doubles, we know there’s no hiding on those doubles,” Winthrop head coach Joe Burnham said. “They’re the top five teams in the MVC, and there are a ton of points for us to have. Even more importantly, a ton of good games to help us prepare for moving forward.”

Burnham embraces playing on the road in places like the Cobra Dome, where he says significant home court advantages lie.

But he also thinks the timing of his team’s toughest stretch of games comes at the right time for the Ramblers.

“We’re not foolish enough to think we’re going to win every one of them, but we’re going to try,” Burnham said. “This is a really talented group of girls, and you get so much more out of it when you play those top-tier teams. We’re excited for it.”

Aaliyah WilsonFalcone scored a team-high 14 points for Winthrop on Friday, and she echoed her coach’s sentiments.

She says the Ramblers are putting it all together at exactly the right time.

“We have to mentally prepare and make sure our bodies are in shape,” WilsonFalcone said. “We just have to play hard, trust each other and play as a team.

“I feel like (Friday night) was a good first step toward this stretch ahead.”

While the Ramblers will gear up toward total playoff intensity over the next three weeks, Carrabec will try and maintain the intensity it’s been forced to utilize to remain competitive against the likes of Winthrop, Oak Hill and Hall-Dale.

The Cobras (7-5 overall) want to make sure they don’t let games get away from them as they try and stay in the top half of the 14-team Class C South playoff field.

“There’s winnable games there,” Rugh said. “We just continue to play at the level of intensity we played with (against Winthrop). If we don’t, any team can beat us.”

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