WATERVILLE — Maranacook boys basketball is known for its high tempo, but in the early stages of the 2022-23 season, the Black Bears have been seeking a second piece to their identity.

No, Maranacook wasn’t necessarily playing poorly earlier in the season, but the team still felt as if it hadn’t found the rhythm that could take it to the next level. This week has seen a new identity develop for the Black Bears, one that showed Thursday evening in a 76-49 road win over Waterville.

“We’re going to be a team that outworks people,” Maranacook head coach Travis Magnusson said. “We didn’t know what (that identity) was earlier in the season, but we found it (Tuesday night against Old Orchard Beach) and kept it going tonight. We have really high energy, and we’re going to outcompete everybody we play.”

The start was a bit slow for Maranacook, but the team certainly put in an all-around effort in its latest Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference clash at Waterville Senior High School. The Black Bears maintained their speed all game long to beat the Purple Panthers to loose balls and force an avalanche of turnovers to turn back an improved Waterville team.

After Waterville took a 5-1 lead to begin the game, Maranacook (6-3) answered with an 11-0 run spurred by two baskets each from Robbie Vivenzio and Brandon Chilton. The Purple Panthers then hit back by scoring five of the next seven baskets to move within 16-15 early in the second quarter.

Maranacook, though, would stretch the lead to 26-18 fueled by two 3-pointers and a layup by Brayden St. Pierre. After a Spencer Minihan basket for Waterville (4-6), the Black Bears once again outscored the Panthers by 11 over the course of a run with a 13-2 spurt that put them up 34-20 heading into halftime.


“If we’re slow on offense, we just have to pick it up on defense — hands up, a lot of energy, and let our defense carry into our offense,” said Maranacook’s Jacob McLaughlin. “We were playing well on defense, and we were able to get some steals that led into our offense by getting points in transition.”

Maranacook stretched its lead to as many as 23 points in the third quarter as Keagan McClure, who scored just two points in the first half after pouring in 29 against Old Orchard Beach, found his groove. The Black Bears then had their third 20-plus-point quarter in the fourth to push the lead even further and cement a decisive win.

McLaughlin had 19 points and five rebounds to lead Maranacook, and St. Pierre (14 points), Chilton (13 points) and Vivenzio (14 points and four rebounds) joined him in double figures. Minihan had 10 points and three rebounds for Waterville, which also got nine points from Ethan Hobart.

Maranacook’s win over Waterville followed Tuesday’s aforementioned win over OOB, an 87-70 victory in which the Black Bears handed the Seagulls their first loss of the season. That game, Magnusson and McLaughlin agreed, saw Maranacook channel a different level of focus and effort to make a statement in a key crossover game.

Waterville’s Jace Bryan (13) passes the ball off as he is defended by Maranacook’s Elijah Freeman, center, and Wyatt Folsom, right, in the first half during a boys basketball game Thursday in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“That was a big one for us,” McLaughlin said. “Obviously, they’re Class C, but they’re really good, and beating a team like that is hard. We worked hard in that game, and we wanted to take the energy from that and carry it into this game. I think we did a really good job of that.”

For Waterville, the loss was the fourth in a row after a 4-2 start to the season. The Panthers were flustered by Maranacook’s quick tempo and ability to force turnovers, the latter of which has become an issue for head coach Sam Smith’s group as Waterville has faced a more challenging portion of its schedule.


“When we don’t turn the ball over, we’re in a lot of games, but we’re turning it over 20-plus times a game and giving teams free points,” Smith said. “Coach Magnusson, in my opinion, is the best boys basketball coach in the state, and their kids play really hard for him. When you don’t take care of the ball, they make you pay.”

Just as Waterville traversed one of the tougher portions of its schedule, Maranacook will now do the same. The Black Bears will complete a four-game road stand Saturday when they face Lincoln Academy before hosting Medomak Valley and Cony, which have handed Maranacook two of its three losses.

That 88-59 loss to Cony last Tuesday sparked a doddering Maranacook team to come back invigorated this week. Magnusson said he might not have believed the Black Bears would win their next two games to reach 6-3 following that loss, but that’s exactly what his group has done to close out the first half of the regular season.

“We had the best week of practice this week, and we’re finding that identity as a team that outcompetes people now,” Magnusson said. “After that Cony game, we’re happy with how we responded, and we’re hoping that can keep going for us into next week.”

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