January 9, 2013

HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL NOTES: Defense key for Skowhegan

By Matt DiFilippo mdifilippo@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Since giving up 29 points in the fourth quarter of a loss to Messalonskee on Dec. 29, the Skowhegan girls basketball team has relocated its defensive presence. The Indians are allowing 34.3 points per night over the last three games, capped by a big 44-42 victory over Oxford Hills on Tuesday.

Kennebec Journal/ Morning Sentinel Top 10

1. McAuley
2. Deering
3. Cheverus
4. Scarborough
5. Mt. Ararat
6. Presque isle
7. Edward Little
8. South Portland
9. Nokomis
10. Lake Region

WEEKLY HONOR ROLL

• Lawrence’s Nia Irving had 23 points and 15 rebounds in a victory over Cony.
• Messalonskee’s Kassi Michaud scored 23 points to lift the Eagles over Lewiston.
• Dominique Lewis hit a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left to give Lawrence a 51-50 win over Cony.
• Anna MacKenzie of Nokomis scored a combined 33 points in wins over Camden Hills and Gardiner.
• Waterville’s Colleen O’Donnell had 18 points and 14 rebounds in a 24-22 victory over Mt. View.
• Mt. Blue’s Miranda Nicely hit for 19 points to help the Cougars past Messalonskee.
• Devin Fitzgibbons made a free throw with five seconds left to give Winslow a one-point win over Gardiner.

Skowhegan coach Heath Cowan said the team's defensive effort for four quarters was a key difference between that win and some of Skowhegan's tough losses earlier in the season. Cowan pointed to the second quarter, when the Indians scored four points, but stayed close by holding Oxford Hills to eight in the quarter.

"As long as you're in it defensively," Cowan said, "you're never going to be out of the game, because you're going to be able to string stops together. I still think we can play a little bit better, but definitely, we showed some toughness."

Different players are starring depending on the game, and Cowan thinks that's how basketball should be played.

"It's team," he said. "It's not one kid trying to do it all. We're sharing the ball, and offensively and defensively, we're more connected."

Skowhegan is now 5-4, with Friday night's game at Cony next on the schedule. While Cony is in 10th place and currently out of the playoff picture, Eastern A is so tight that Skowhegan might be in 10th if the Indians had lost to Oxford Hills and Dominique Lewis' 3-pointer didn't enable Lawrence to beat Cony by one point on Tuesday.

Cowan believes any one of the eight teams that ends up at the Augusta Civic Center can run the table and represent Eastern A in the state final.

"Sometimes coaches just say that because it sounds cool," Cowan said. "But honest to God, it's 'Come show up and play, and we'll see how it turns out.' "

* * *

Mt. View coach Erica Gabbianelli says she doesn't talk to her players about Heal points very often, because the standings change so often. But she does remind them that they still have a shot at the postseason.

That's a different mindset for the Mustangs, who finished 2-16 last winter. There have still been some setbacks for Mt. View this season, like a 60-point loss to Nokomis on opening night, but there have also been wins over Maine Central Institute and Morse, and a few games where the score was closer than expected. Mt. View is 2-7 after Tuesday's two-point loss to Waterville, and is 14th and just out of the playoffs in Eastern B.

"I think the important thing is my kids are having more confidence right now," Gabbianelli said. "We're ahead of where we were last year at this point. They want to be here, and they're working hard to try to get better."

The focus now for the Mustangs is to avoid beating themselves -- they made three turnovers in the final minute against Waterville, for instance. What's making that a possibility is that Mt. View has a lot of players contributing. Senior guard Janelle Thornley has been consistent, and Kaitlin Leavitt, Alexis Morse, Brooke Tripp, and Courtney Morse have all had their moments.

"We have our freshmen now to the point where they're coming in and giving us some good relief minutes, and playing defense the way we want to play -- and throwing in some points, too," Gabbianelli said.

* * *

There will be more victories for Erskine Academy next season for a couple of reasons. First, the Eagles have eight new players this season who will return next year. And second, the school is likely dropping from Class A to Class B.

(Continued on page 2)

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