PITTSFIELD — In this season of stops and starts, the Waterville Senior High School girls basketball team has had more stops than starts.

The Purple Panthers played at Maine Central Institute on Tuesday night. They had one full team practice under their belt to get ready for the game. Even with a 57-40 win, Waterville knows it can do better.

“It’s just maturity. We’ve got seniors and juniors. It is what it is. Everyone’s dealing with it. We’re going to take care of us. We were a little rusty tonight, but that’s OK. We were in quarantine for 18 days,” Waterville head coach Rob Rodrigue said.

The COVID-19 pandemic put the Panthers’ season on hold. First the team was quarantined, then their school went full remote learning. Monday, Waterville finally practiced.

“Yesterday was our first practice back all together for a couple weeks,” Waterville senior Kalli Thompson said. “In the beginning, I felt like all our nerves were there. In the second half, we started to run our plays and get into our defense.”

Waterville played in each of the last two Class B North regional championship games. Despite the loss of some talented players to graduation — including Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B Player of the Year Sadie Garling — the Panthers had the talent to contend for the Class B state title again.

There will be no Class B state title, or a state state title in any class for that matter. When the world’s circumstances change the motivation, you’d better find new motivation someplace else, and quickly. For Waterville, that motivation comes in treating each game with care, and thanks.

“Honestly, we play every game like it’s our last, because in these times, we never know. We’re going to play like we are going to the playoffs,” Thompson said.

After a close and sloppy first quarter, Waterville did what it does best to pull away a little in the second. The Panthers played tight fullcourt defense and pushed the pace. The Panthers got out in transition, scoring layups before MCI’s defense could get back. Defensively, Kalli Thomson set the tone for Waterville, with 12 of her 15 rebounds coming in the first half. Late in the first half, Thompson ran down MCI’s Trinity Leavitt, knocking the ball away and grabbing the steal before Leavitt could get a shot up.

“We’re going to press. We’re going to push. We’re going to do all those things,” Rodrigue said.

Rodrigue thought his team was a little soft on the defensive end Tuesday night, but knows that will improve with practice and experience. Throughout the game, Waterville would build a lead, only to see the Huskies chip away at it. Waterville never trailed, but MCI never faded, either.

A 10-0 run to open the fourth quarter pushed the Panthers lead to 51-33, and showed what Waterville can do when it’s humming. This is a team that had tournament glory in its sights. With the tournament light off, now the test comes by playing its best every night. The Panthers have already had the season paused. When you’ve seen it taken away, playing like each game is your last is no longer a cliche.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

 

 

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.