NORTH ANSON — Madison beat Monmouth earlier this season. Monmouth beat defending Class C state champion Boothbay. Boothbay recently toppled current regional No. 1 Winthrop. Carrabec launched its season back in December with a win over rival Madison.

That would make Carrabec the best girls basketball team in Class C South this season, would it not?

If you’ve followed sports for more than 10 minutes, you know it’s never quite that simple.

“For this year, things are pretty wide open,” said veteran Madison head coach Al Veneziano prior to the Bulldogs’ tip-off at Carrabec on Wednesday night. “From bottom to top, I think they’re all good teams and anything can happen. I really don’t think there’s a clear favorite.”

These days, it seems Mountain Valley Conference coaches are busy paying as much attention to other games as their own. Veneziano was quick to point out not only his own game Wednesday — pitting No. 6 vs. No. 7 in the most recent Heal point standings — but also other contests with the potential to shake up the standings.

Boothbay was at Hall-Dale where the Bulldogs are trying to make up just a few Heal points to crack their way into the regional tournament field, while Winthrop hit the road for Mountain Valley, one of the top five teams in B South.

It’s no wonder Madison is thankful to have notched a couple of big early-season wins over Oak Hill and Monmouth, the latter of which came as part of a five-game winning streak for the Bulldogs which began right after Christmas.

Managing the schedule in the MVC is almost as important as managing the games.

“I think you’ve got to plan on a slugfest in the tournament,” Veneziano said. “You want to win early (in the regular season) so that the pressure isn’t on you at the end to have to win. You want to start concentrating on playing well. When you can pull out a couple early in the season, it puts you in a position at the end where you can maybe relax a little bit.”

Five MVC teams dot the top seven in the C South standings, and each of them has at least one quality win over one of the five teams in the group. The prediction game has been extremely difficult, and sticking your neck out to take a guess at how game nights are going to turn out is a fool’s errand.

Winthrop. Boothbay. Monmouth. Madison. Carrabec. Even Hall-Dale, with its brutally difficult schedule and sluggish start, is capable of hanging with any of those teams. When the regional tournament tips off at the Augusta Civic Center in mid-February, every one will certainly rightly believe they’ve got a shot.

Madison opened the season with four games in eight days, emerging with a 3-1 record. But what that first game-heavy week really afforded the Bulldogs was the opportunity to assess where they were at nearly a quarter of the way into the season and begin making adjustments that paid off down the road.

With a veteran, athletic group, Veneziano began recognizing how all of the pieces were going to fit together. Madison seemed to be in full stride by the time it knocked off Monmouth at home — by 21 points — on Jan. 10.

Now, with the Bulldogs solidly entrenched in the top half of what will be a 14-team C South tournament field, it’s all about the big picture and less about the individual game results.

“We’re always focused on how we’re playing,” Veneziano said. “We want to play well and compete. Our losses with Lisbon and Carrabec and Winthrop, we did compete. We were there in all three of those, and I think you’ve got to be happy with that. It just shows you how close it is.

“And we were in every one of them.”

Now it’s just a matter for the rest of us of trying to figure out who boasts the best girls basketball team in the MVC.

The third week of February will be here soon enough, and it appears to be wide open.


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