READFIELD — The holidays may be a time for giving, but the Maranacook girls basketball team is more than happy to be the grinch who stole the ball. And stole it again and again.

The Black Bears’ defense was on full display Thursday night in a 52-37 win over previously undefeated Maine Central Institute in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B matchup at Maranacook Community High School. Maranacook burst out to a 17-3 lead in the first quarter and never looked back.

The Black Bears’ ball hawks, including Kaleigh Kubicki, Natalie Mohlar, Jordan Carr and Eliza Pattershall, frustrated MCI’s backcourt all night as they intercepted passes and turned them into easy points. Seven of Maranacook’s first-quarter points came off turnovers.

In the second, when MCI cut the deficit to 22-16, the Maranacook defense made sure the Huskies got no closer with a half-closing 5-0 run thanks to two steals sandwiched around a free throw. Pattershall converted her own steal into a basket with 1:10 remaining; with 20 seconds left, Mohlar picked off a long MCI pass attempt in the Maranacook zone and fired the ball to Kubicki for the layup and a 27-16 halftime lead.

Third-quarter pickoffs by Kubicki, Carr and Pattershall helped hold MCI (4-1) to six points in the third.

“Defensively, we got into the passing lanes, we were really, really aggressive and that transitions into our offense for us,” said Maranacook coach Karen Magnusson, whose team improved to 3-1. “What we’re going to pride ourselves in is defense first, and making sure the five people on the court are playing well together, knowing where our pressure’s coming from, where we’re stepping in passing lanes, and knowing that we have defense on the backside.”


Added Pattershall: “When we went into the game today, we emphasized a lot on defense, because we know that’s something as a team we can control. Everyone’s talking on defense, and I think that’s what really helped.”

It’s not surprising the Black Bears talk so much on the court, probably because they know each other so well. Maranacook’s five seniors — Carr, Kubicki, Allie LaBelle, Eliza Pattershall and Stella Pattershall — have played together since they were in the sixth grade, Kubicki said.

And the years of long bus rides, hard practices and games in unfamiliar gyms are paying off on the court, especially when a steal quickly turns into fast-break points.

Maranacook’s Kaliegh Kubicki lunges for the ball with MCI’s Ella Bernier during a girls basketball game Thursday in Readfield. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“We had traveled all throughout those years, so we were so close, and we know how each other plays, we know where someone’s going to be, we know when to pass it in,” Kubicki, a 5-foot-9 forward, said.

And while the Black Bears play the role of the grinch against other schools, they are in a far more giving mood to each other. Eliza Pattershall admitted she gets more excited when she delivers an assist to a teammate such as Kubicki or Mohlar — both finished with 19 points Thursday — than when she finds the basket herself. (Pattershall, for the record, had six points.)

“I think the important part of our game is that we’re excited for each other when we play and we make the big plays,” Pattershall said. “We’re not focused on our own scores.”


On the boards, you won’t see one player dominate the stat sheet. Eliza Pattershall led the Black Bears with six rebounds, but she was one of eight players to pull down at least two.

“We don’t have a player who can’t play defense,” Pattershall, a 5-9 forward, said. “We kind of all contribute, and that’s what makes us so special.”

And if Maranacook can maintain this pace, a special season could be on the way. The Black Bears led top-seeded Wells late in last season’s Class B South quarterfinal before ultimately falling 37-30; their only setback so far this season was a 70-22 loss to Class B champion Oceanside.

“I think we’re playing great,” Magnusson said. “I think this team has jelled very quickly this year. I think there’s a lot of great leadership, and I think that core is ready to compete.”

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