Ryan Baird take the ball to the rim During Friday night’s game in Winthrop. Spruce Mountain’s Jayden Perrault defends. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Winthrop’s defensive identity is well-established. But coach Todd MacArthur’s inside-out offensive philosophy has become just as recognizable, and formidable, in recent years.

The Ramblers made 6-foot-8 center Cam Wood the focal point of the offense and won a Class C state title, not only because of Wood’s ability to score from the low block but also because of how other players such as Jared McLaughlin, Cam Hachey, Ryan Baird and Sam Figueroa worked with and off of him.

Only Baird and Hachey remain this year, but they and their teammates are recognizing how to attack what the defense is giving them.

“It’s ingrained in who we are,” MacArthur said. “The one thing we’ve always talked about, the thing we’re known for, is defense. We have a system defensively, and now we have a system offensively that we’re going to run, we’re going to be disciplined and we’re going to execute,” MacArthur said. “We know what’s going to be open based on how the defense is going to play us. We’re getting smart in terms of understanding how our offense works.”

One of the concerns MacArthur had about his offense coming into this season was Hachey’s ability to get shots off from the perimeter without defenses collapsing down on Wood. But Hachey has shown he can not only find ways to get open but get his shot off with accuracy with a defender’s hand in his face.

“That’s been an adjustment process for him,” MacArthur said. “This year’s been a little different because he doesn’t have (Wood) down in the paint. Last year he was open quite a bit. Now he’s got a man right in his grill, and he understands how to run people off of screens, how to act like you’re going one way and go another way, and to release the ball a little quicker. He’s starting to get comfortable doing the things we need him to do in terms of getting his shot off.”

The Ramblers showed they are comfortable with others besides Hachey and Baird taking shots in their impressive 55-30 win over Spruce Mountain last Friday. Seven different players scored in a first quarter that saw them race out to a 15-5 lead.

“That was an important thing for us tonight trying to get some energy,” MacArthur said. “We’re playing at home. We’re a much better team at home. This is our comfort zone. But we base our philosophy and our program on depth. We want everybody to contribute, whether it’s scoring points, rebounding, playing ‘D,’ whatever it may be, we want to be deep and we want everyone to contribute because it makes our team more dangerous when it matters most.”

TRYING TO SPRUCE THINGS UP

Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey was ready to put the Phoenix’ 55-30 season-finale loss at Winthrop in the rear-view mirror.

“It’s forget this one and prepare for the tournament,” he said after the game.

The Phoenix have plenty of time to dwell on that last game, or their entire regular season, for that matter. They will likely be the top seed when the Class B South quarterfinals begin at the Portland Expo on Feb. 14.

“Now we have 14 days to prepare for our quarterfinal and we won’t know who our opponent is for probably another week,” Bessey said.

The break has its plusses and minuses. Rust is always a concern with a long layoff, but it will also give the Phoenix, who were under-manned for much of the season due to injuries and illnesses, a chance to practice together with their full roster.

The break also gives the coaching staff some time to scout themselves and work on areas that need improvement. Since they scored a season low in points in their last game, one of the areas they will try to address is the offense.

“The scary thing is we can’t be that easy to stop. We looked really, really easy to defend (against Winthrop),” Bessey said.

HISTORY IN THE MAKING

Who doesn’t want to be a 1,000-point scorer and become part of your school’s athletic history?

Lisbon’s DJ Douglass certainly does, but like he said last Monday, winning games come first. Douglass scored 24 points against Telstar, putting him just 39 points away from reaching 1,000 career points.

“It is not only an accomplishment for me, but it is also a team accomplishment, because players try to find me the ball, and all-around offensively, it is just an accomplishment for the team,” Douglass said.

While Douglass was the focus of the Rebels’ attention, it is worth mentioning that Telstar’s Davin Mason piled up the game-high 32 points.

“I liked how Davin Mason played and he played very physical, very strong, went to the glass and very tough inside,” Telstar coach Mike Pelletier said.

PHOENIX TAKE FLIGHT

Spruce Mountain junior guard Auriana Armandi (10) drives to basket and runs into Dirigo’s Alexa Perreault (2) in basketball game at the Phoenix Dome in Jay on Saturday night. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Spruce Mountain is on a roll, winning back-to-back games against two good teams — Lisbon and Dirigo.

The Phoenix used stall tactics that left fans scratching their heads in a game against the Greyhounds, but the scheme worked for Spruce Mountain.

Senior guard Jaycee Cole dribbled the ball for two minutes as Lisbon laid back and remained in its zone defense.

“It was pretty uncomfortable because I have never been put in a position to do that,” Cole said. “But we haven’t played a lot against 2-3 zone. It kind of paid off because it was a low-scoring game and we are mainly good at defense, and so it was good to relax on offense.”

“We kind of planned for that (stalling) a little bit, not that that’s a big thing,” Spruce Mountain coach Zach Keene said, “but if it was a tight game, we could limit possessions.  We know how good we are defensively.

“Things haven’t been going the way the girls want, but they show up and keep working hard and I am proud of them.”

Senior Night was an inspiration to all the Phoenix on Saturday evening at the noisy Nest.

Freshman Mariyah Fournier scored 15 points for the seniors during Saturday’s game against feisty Dirigo.

“I had to prove it to the seniors and have them have a good night to remember,” Fournier said. “They are like all my best friends. I did it for them.”

Senior Night also gave Alison Dubord an opportunity to play with her teammates after being sidelined with a frustrating injury.

“I tore my ACL last year at the beginning of the season, so I was out for a while,” Dubord said. “I am just glad I had my teammates alongside with me through the whole journey. They have been very supportive.”

DEEP BACKGROUND

Mt. Blue’s Lexi Mittelstadt is usually good for a double-digit scoring performance, but she worked her magic behind the scenes against Leavitt.

She grabbed 21 rebounds, earned nine assists, four blocked shots and three steals, but also hit key foul shots down the stretch in the tight game.

“For us, Lexi got 21 rebounds, which was phenomenal, and she had nine assists,” Mt. Blue coach Fred Conlogue said. “Although she only scored the four points, she clearly contributed in a lot of ways, and they were trying to stop her from scoring.”

OFFICIAL CAUSE

Basketball referees across the state brought out their pink whistles last week as part of the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials’ (IAABO) annual “Officials vs. Cancer” campaign. They and IAABO officials around the country donated a part of their game check to the American Cancer Society. Since its inception in 2008, the program has raised over $2 million to fight cancer.

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