Hall-Dale sophomore T.J. Wilson shoots during a game against Mt. Ararat on Saturday in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

FARMINGDALE — Changing schools isn’t easy. But T.J. Wilson, the newest member of the Hall-Dale boys basketball team, said his change couldn’t be going more smoothly.

“It’s been good. My teammates, the school, the teachers, everybody has been nice to me. It’s a great environment,” said Wilson, a sophomore guard. “Hall-Dale’s a great school. … It’s nothing but love over here.”

Wilson, who’s in his first season at Hall-Dale after coming over from Gardiner, has fit in seamlessly with the Bulldogs, emerging right away as one of the team’s top scorers. He had 22 points in a game against Carrabec, and then notched a team-high 18 points, the last three coming on a buzzer-beating game-winner, in the Bulldogs’ 60-58 victory over Mt. Ararat on Saturday.

Wilson started at Hall-Dale in October, and said fitting in with a new system hasn’t been a challenge.

“I’m glad I could meet these guys, be in these situations and come out here and win games with them,” he said.

Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said Wilson has given the Bulldogs a boost on both ends of the court.

“TJ’s got a high basketball I.Q., and he’s a good person. Those are two of my favorite qualities,” he said. “He makes good decisions on the offensive end, he’s selfish when he needs to be, he’s unselfish when he should be. He plays sticky defense, he’s diving head-first and sticking his arm in places where you could get hurt. I think he’s given us a real steady presence on the ball.”

Hall-Dale sophomore TJ Wilson, left, defends Mt. Ararat sophomore Parker Bate during a game Saturday in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Wilson showed that on Saturday, playing strong perimeter defense while grabbing seven rebounds, and then winning the game with a banked-in 3-pointer that fell through the net with two seconds remaining.

Ranslow said Wilson was lucky that he made the shot, his fourth 3-pointer of the game, but praised his eagerness to take the ball in the closing seconds.

“T.J.’s confident in his own ability, and rightfully so,” he said. “He’s scoring the ball at a high rate.”

 

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The Lawrence girls team is 6-1, but according to coach Greg Chesley, it’s been a tale of two seasons in terms of how the Bulldogs have built that mark.

“We started off shooting the ball pretty well. As a team, we were shooting 40 percent,” he said. “Then suddenly, we didn’t shoot the ball so well anymore. We kind of switched gears and became a more defensive, grind-it-out type of team, which has been great, to see that the girls can have off nights and still … come out with a win.”

Lawrence’s Hope Bouchard (32) drives to the hoop as Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher (3) during a Feb. 5 game in Fairfield. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

After scoring 53 points in a win over Mt. Blue and 61 in a win over Waterville, Lawrence earned a 37-31 victory over Skowhegan, and then a 28-25 victory over Messalonskee.

“We would like to maybe have both,” said Chesley, whose team has seen Sarah Poli average a double-double at 10 points and 13 rebounds per game. “Be able to play great defense and score some points, maybe make it a little easier. … (But) they seem content. ‘At Messalonskee, we only scored 28 but we won, that’s great.'”

Chesley said his team’s ability to win different ways could pay off in tournament time.

“Definitely. And we’ve had close games too,” he said. “To be able to keep our composure and play defense in those tight situations and pull them out … is quite something.”

 

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The Gardiner boys basketball team started out 0-5, but after back-to-back wins over Hall-Dale, coach Aaron Toman thinks his team is finding a rhythm.

“I really think we’re starting to come together as a team, and getting contributions from multiple members of our team, which is huge,” he said. “We were kind of struggling to find ourselves and find our identity as a team. The last two or three games, we’re starting to work on what’s important to us. We’re not settling for OK shots, we’re hunting for great shots.”

The Tigers were hindered when they were shut down for two weeks right after their first game of the season, and they’ve been trying to make up for lost time since. Last week, when Gardiner didn’t have a game, was the first time since the shutdown the Tigers had multiple practices in a row.

“I certainly think our lack of practice has had an effect,” Toman said. “I think now, we’re starting to come together and find out who we are as a team.”

That identity is inside-out offense and pressure defense, and Toman said his players didn’t let lose their focus even during the winless start.

“We had some frustrations,” he said. “But throughout, the boys have been resilient, they’ve been tough. After our fifth loss, we came back and the boys had a great practice the next day. That’s a credit to their attitudes and optimism.”

Carrabec junior Julia Baker, left, and Hall-Dale junior KK Wills dive after a ball during a Feb. 11 game in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

 

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What’s it like playing in the final minutes of a tight game with no fans?

According to KK Wills of the Hall-Dale girls basketball team, it’s not much different. The fans might not be going wild in the stands, but with most schools live-streaming the games, you’re still well aware that there’s an audience.

“You’ve got people watching at home,” she said after a 62-54 victory over Carrabec that was tied with three minutes left. “I can still see the people in the crowd. I’m like ‘Oh, they’re there. They’re there. They’re watching.'”

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