Winslow’s Reid Gagnon (5) battles for the ball with Maranacook’s Casey Cormier last month in Winslow. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Few teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B division played a schedule nearly as tough as Winslow’s. The Black Raiders played two games against conference-rival Maranacook, which sits in first place in B South, two non-conference games against defending state champ Caribou, which sits in first place in B North, and a pair of games against Hermon and Maine Central Institute.

Those four teams entered Thursday with a combined winning percentage of .789 (56-15). Despite going 1-7 in the eight games against those opponents, the Black Raiders have won five of six games, with the regular-season finale against winless Lincoln Academy set for Saturday afternoon. The Black Raiders will likely be the No. 7 seed in the B North tournament, and host a preliminary round game Wednesday.

For a team with just one returning player with significant varsity experience, this season has been full of positive growth, Winslow coach Ken Lindlof said.

“I didn’t have a lot of high expectations. We had one varsity player with experience (senior all-conference player Colby Pomeroy). I didn’t know what the pieces would be around him.”

Freshman Jason Reynolds jumped right into the starting lineup and became the Black Raiders’ second-leading scorer behind Pomeroy, averaging around 12 points per game. Another freshman, Andrew Poulin, has been a spark off the bench.

“Jason has been a starter all the way and plays like a veteran,” Lindlof said.

Players quickly learned and accepted roles. Reid Gagnon has provided strong defense and rebounding, while point guard Holden Dart is a good defender. Jacob Berard has been a steady inside defender who can score in the low post.

The Black Raiders lost seven of the eight games to the top four teams they faced, taking one game from Hermon, but Lindlof thinks the team can take good things from those games as it enters the playoffs.

“I felt in most of those games, we were competitive for stretches,” Lindlof said. “Our kids stayed resilient. One thing our team has been very good at is competing.”

 

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Rangeley finished the regular season with a 15-3 record, its best since also going 15-3 in 2003. The Lakers will be the No. 2 seed in the D South tournament, and if they continue to play well in transition, will be a tough out at the Augusta Civic Center.

Tuesday’s 65-57 win at Temple Academy was a good example of how the Lakers’ transition game has improved over the course of the season. Throughout the game, Rangeley was able to push the tempo after a defensive rebound, beating the Bereans down the court for an easy layup.

“It’s been a long time in progress. Usually we throw the outlet and dribble it all the way. We’re going, but we’re dribbling, so you let everybody catch up,” Rangeley coach Jeff Larochelle said after the win. “What we’re trying to do now is, catch the outlet, get a cutter, throw the ball, two wings get down the court, then our trailer. Then get into our offense. I have slashers who can handle the ball. If people go down and move, that creates lanes of opportunity for my ball-handlers.”

 

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When the season began, Richmond coach Phil Houdlette had a checklist of things his team had to do to rebound from last season’s 5-13 campaign and become a contender for a playoff spot in C South. At the top of the list, a better defensive effort.

Richmond defenders Kenny Bing (20) and Connor Vachon (11) try to shut down the advance of Sacopee Valley’s McGwire Sawyer (3) last month in Richmond. Bob Conn / The Times Record)

That has happened, especially over the last few weeks. Monday’s win over Buckfield gave the Bobcats a 7-2 record over the second half of the season. At 11-7, Richmond will likely be the No. 5 seed in the regional tournament and host a preliminary round game.

“I don’t think this was something I thought we could attain,” Houdlette said. “We’ve done a nice job growing as a team.”

A Jan. 22 58-49 win over North Yarmouth Academy, a game in which Richmond trailed by 14 points in the first half, was the confidence builder, Houdlette said.

Senior forward Kenny Bing and junior center Calob Densmore have been the team leaders, combining to average 37 points and 18 rebounds per game. Senior guard Dakotah Gilpatric averages nine points per game and gives the Bobcats a third consistent scoring threat. Playing with three pins in a broken finger, senior guard Ben Gardner gives the team defense and rebounding.

Barring any major changes to the C South Heal point standings, Richmond’s prelim opponent will be St. Dominic Academy (8-10). The teams split a pair of regular-season games.

There’s a chance the Bobcats could line up an exhibition game as a tune-up for the playoffs, Houdlette said.

 

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The Mountain Valley Conference championship games Saturday at Lewiston High School will be a Winthrop vs Boothbay doubleheader. The day begins with the girls championship game between Winthrop and Boothbay at 1 p.m., followed by the boys game at 2:30.

The Winthrop boys swept a pair of regular-season games from Boothbay, most recently taking an overtime win on Jan. 21. The Boothbay girls swept a pair of close regular-season games from the Ramblers, winning 51-49 at Winthrop on Jan. 8, and 55-51 in Boothbay on Jan. 24.

 

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Around the state: As teams across the state wrap up the regular season this weekend, there are five undefeated teams remaining in the state. South Portland (AA South), York (A South), Dexter (C North), Jonesport-Beals (D North), and Forest Hills (D South)… With its 54-53 win over Mount View, Belfast moved into the 12th and final playoff spot in B North. The Lions now must wait to see if No. 13 Presque Isle can upset Caribou and leapfrog back into the 12 spot.


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