WINSLOW — With the tournament approaching, high school basketball teams want to play close games this time of year. They want to win them, obviously, but a good team can take lessons from a close loss in late January and apply them when the games move to the big courts in bigger arenas in February.

That’s why both the Winslow and Mount View boys basketball teams can look at Friday night’s game at Winslow’s Mansfield Gym as a positive. Winslow took a 58-56 win, claiming the two-point lead on a pair of Reid Gagnon free throws with 12.8 seconds left. Out of timeouts, the Mustangs got the ball down the court and had a decent shot at the win, but Neal Kinney’s 3-point try was just off the mark.

“Out of timeouts, that made things a little tougher at the end, but we still managed to get an OK shot off. It was a little contested, but they battled hard,” Mount View coach Jeremy Von Oesen said.

The Black Raiders’ bench erupted in jubilation as the clock went to zero. They knew they had just won a big game.

“You want to be involved in these kinds of games late in the season and face tough, pressure situations. I thought our kids did great. I thought the Mount View kids did great, too. They responded.,” Winslow coach Ken Lindlof said.

Winslow had double digit leads in the first half and third quarter, only to see Mount View rally to tie the game on Sean Raven’s three as the third quarter expired. The Black Raiders pulled ahead again in the fourth, and led 56-48 with 1:45 to play. Again, the Mustangs fought back, capitalizing on a pair of Winslow turnovers in the final minute and a half to tie the game at 56-56 with a Raven shot with 46 seconds to play.

These teams entered Friday’s game bunched tight in the Class B North Heal point standings, with Mount View (9-7) in seventh place and Winslow (9-7) in eighth. Friday’s result saw the teams flip-flop in the standings, and both are in line to host a preliminary round game in the tournament. Mount View won one game last season, and has to be considered the most improved team in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class B division.

“The regular season is all about learning lessons, as long as you get in the playoffs. I think we’ll get in. Moments like that will make us better,” Von Oesen said about his team’s close loss to the Black Raiders.

Friday’s game wasn’t a regression for the Mustangs, but it was a reminder of what they’ve done to become a playoff contender, and what they must continue to do.

“Honestly, we’ve been a little more patient. I think we didn’t see that at times. We were taking a lot of first and second pass shots. When we do that, we’re not as good,” Von Oesen said. “When we move the ball four, five or six passes, first of all we put defenses out of position, and we get better looks. We make more shots, and we don’t give up shots because we’re playing more offense. In the second half, we did a better job of that.”

The Mustangs had scoring balance against Winslow. Elijah Allen and Draedyn Furrow each scored 15 points. Garrett Smith added 10, and Raven nine. Mount View’s offense was flat in the first half, Von Oesen said, scoring just 20 points and trailing Winslow 28-20. The team’s confidence has ebbs and flows, Von Oesen said, but with a program learning how to compete and contend, that’s expected.

“It’s up and it’s down, and that’s the roller coaster of not being there much before. The program hasn’t had a lot of success in recent years, but we’re working towards it,” Von Oesen said.

Winslow also is a better team than it was when it beat Mount View 66-52 in the season opener. Lindlof pointed at hustle plays made by Gagnon, fighting for rebounds and diving for loose balls, and the things that have to happen to win close games. Senior Colby Pomeroy scored a game-high 24 points, often making a shot to short circuit a Mount View rally. Freshman Jason Reynolds scored 18 points for Winslow, including a perfect 8 for 8 at the line in the second half.

“I think you can see, our kids communicate a lot better. They have a sense of what we’re doing both offensively and defensively. The kids are on the same page. They pick each other up,” Lindlof said.

Winslow 20 Caden Fitzpatrick, left, and Mount View 22 Elijah Allen fight for rebound during a game on Friday January 31, 2020 at the Mansfield Gymnasium in Winslow High School. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Winslow closes the regular season at Oceanside (7-10) Tuesday and home against Lincoln (0-16) Thursday. Mount View hosts rival Maine Central Institute (11-5) and plays at rival Belfast (9-7) Thursday.

“On (Belfast’s) senior night with a chance to get in the playoffs if they beat us. It could be a couple crazy games coming up,”

Considering where the Mustangs were a season ago at this time, a couple crazy games are a welcome thing.

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