READFIELD — The shots haven’t always fallen for the Waterville girls basketball team. The points haven’t always come in bunches.

And on Friday, the Purple Panthers showed why it has hardly ever mattered.

Waterville’s defense took over its game against Maranacook and never let up, and the Panthers rolled to a 57-24 win over the Black Bears in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B matchup.

Maddy Martin had 13 points and Jayda Murray added 12 for Waterville, while Gabby Green led Maranacook (8-8) with eight.

Waterville improved to 16-1, and showed exactly why it has been able to put up such a sparkling record. When the Panthers play the kind of defense they did Friday night, they’re tough to beat.

“We’ve got some kids that are long, lean and lengthy, but they’re tough to score on,” Waterville coach Rob Rodrigue said. “When we’re playing really well, we can do it on both ends. We can do it in the full court and the half court, and it really gets our offense going.”

Waterville’s press has become notorious around Class B North. The Panthers swarm the ball-handler, wherever she is, and if the ball isn’t out in a matter of seconds, it’s likely stripped away and headed back toward the other end.

“That’s one of our biggest things, that we’re kind of known for,” said junior point guard Paige St. Pierre, who had four steals while Kali Thompson and Murray, who along with St. Pierre led Waterville’s disruptive perimeter defense, had seven and four, respectively. “We full-court press the whole game. It’s not really that common, I’d say, it’s just something that coach really makes us do in practice and wants us to succeed in.”

“Teams don’t run their stuff against us. We force them to play fast, and they’ve got to make quick decisions,” Rodrigue said. “We work on our press all the time, every day. We work on our press, we work on our half court defense, and we’re really meticulous about our angles.”

And for good reason. Shooting can disappear on any given night, which the Panthers found out in a B North final loss to Mt. Desert Island last year, and which they’ve seen at times this winter. Defense travels, however, and if that’s there, the missed shots don’t hurt nearly as much.

“That’s what it is. I always go back to the regional final that we lost, we just didn’t shoot it well. We played great defense, we just didn’t shoot it well,” Rodrigue said. “My point is, we were in that game the entire game. … You can win games where you don’t shoot well if you can defend.”

The Waterville defense has had its off nights this season as well. On Friday, though, Rodrigue saw what he’s come to expect. Waterville allowed only four points in the first quarter and 10 in the first half while building a 29-10 advantage.

“Recently, we struggled with our defense. Against MCI (Tuesday, in a 66-40 win), we gave up more points than we’re typically used to,” he said. “It was our close-outs. Tonight, I thought our close-outs were better. We didn’t give up a lot of uncontested shots at the rim.”

Waterville’s pressure isn’t a one-trick operation. The Panthers don’t gamble on passing lanes and leave themselves exposed in the paint. The players are always moving and always helping, allowing them to pressure the ball-handler at halfcourt, then flow to the corner to put a hand in the face of the shooter, then collapse inside if a post player tries her luck.

“We have plenty of length, and we have great athletes out there,” Rodrigue said. “You’ve got St. Pierre and Thompson and Jayda Murray jumping passing lanes everywhere, and you have (Lindsay) Given under the rim, she doesn’t give up any layups. Even if we do get beat jumping passing lanes once in a while, she’s there to force a contested shot.”

Maranacook coach Karen Magnusson, for instance, liked how her team broke Waterville’s press. But even so, the Black Bears couldn’t find many open looks in the half court, and found themselves in a hole shortly after the game started.

“They’re well-rounded,” she said. “Their run this year is them wanting a state championship, so that’s a high-caliber team. … They’re very quick, they’re athletic, and they’re quick to the ball.”

Maranacook made it a point to take its time on offense and work the ball around through much of the first half. With the Black Bears forced to play more up-tempo in the second half, Waterville’s pressure prevailed. The Panthers recorded 18 steals for the game and scored 14 points directly off them, even while missing five times in transition.

“Tonight, I think we were really aggressive,” Thompson said. “We’re always there and working really hard. We have to keep working hard, even though it gets tiring. We can’t give up, we’ve got to keep playing hard, and it pays off.”

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