MONMOUTH — Teams can’t help but enter the season full of questions.
Monmouth Academy girls’ basketball was one of those clubs, wondering just what kind of season it could have with such a young team.
Now after going 3-0 in the first week, the Mustangs have answered some of those questions but have raised a few more. The unbeaten Monmouth team has started the season strong and can’t help but wonder what potential lies ahead.
“It’s a really good start for us,” junior guard Sidney Wilson said. “We have a really young team, so coming in we weren’t sure how everyone would click, but it’s gone really well.”
The Mustangs, with only two seniors and a batch of unproven freshmen, remained unbeaten Saturday with a 44-23 win over Mountain Valley.
With wins over the Falcons, Lisbon and the defending Western C champs from Carrabec, the Mustangs have sent a clear message to themselves and the rest of the Mountain Valley Conference.
“I think 3-0 is 3-0, but 3-0 against the teams we played against is pretty key,” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said. “It gave the freshmen so much more confidence. The upperclassmen are just working their rear ends off, because they know that they have that opportunity to have some sort of special season this year.”
The Mustangs opened a lead at the start and used a surge late in the first to break it open. Mountain Valley (1-1) couldn’t keep pace. Down 19-10 after one, the Falcons scored only one field goal in each of the next two quarters.
“They kept their composure and they just executed,” Mountain Valley coach Ryan Casey said of Monmouth. “They’re a very well-coached team. You can tell they know what they wanted to do and they executed their game plan very well. We had to change our game plan early when we got behind.”
Freshman Tia Day led the Mustangs with 13 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter. Jenna Davies added six points and six rebounds, while Caroline Bonenfant and Maddie Amero each had five points. Haley West had three points and 10 rebounds.
Mountain Valley got 16 points from Liza White, but only four other Falcons scored.
“Nobody hit shots,” Casey said. “Liza White made shots and the rest of our team didn’t. We know we’re young and inexperienced. Last year we had the opportunity to play in close games. We just hope throughout the year, we can grow and have someone that can take the ball.”
The Falcons were able to hang with the Mustangs early. After a basket by Davies and a free throw from West, Mountain Valley was able to stay within three or five points of the Mustangs. White had eight of her team’s 10 points in the quarter.
Her basket with 1:05 left in the first cut the deficit to 13-10, but Day, who scored seven in the first, hit a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left. Bri Gonzalez had another 3 at the buzzer to swell that lead to 19-10.
“We’ve been doing that all year,” Wing said. “We’ve had those little streaks to get a lead going. That’s helped us a lot, and we’re playing pretty darn good defense right now.”
In the second quarter, Monmouth scored six straight to pad the lead. Amero scored inside and then hit a 3 less than a minute later. Day followed with a drive, and the advantage was 26-10.
“We just try to play our game and not let the other teams make us go too fast,” Wilson said. “We try to stick to what we know.”
Mountain Valley didn’t get its first score of the second quarter until White hit a jumper with 2:21 left.
That was over six minutes without a basket for the Falcons. Mountain Valley wouldn’t score again until White put back a rebound with 2:24 left in the third.
The Falcons shot 1-for-16 in the second and 1-for-10 in the third. Though Monmouth shot 2-for-18 in the third, the Mustangs’ defense was able to preserve the lead.
“Defense is how we try to get everything going for us,” Wilson said. “It’s definitely one of our strong points.”
After being outscored 10-2 in the third, the Falcons were outscored only 11-9 in the fourth.
“They hit a couple of big shots early, and we kind of bent and then we broke,” Casey said. “The second half of the game we fought to get back in it. We played pretty hard with the younger kids.”
Though Monmouth’s strong start has the Mustangs’ confidence soaring, the journey doesn’t get any easier. Monmouth faces two tough tests on the road this week.
“We have Madison Tuesday and Dirigo Friday. It’s been an easy start for us,” Wing joked. “But I think the kids feel we can play with anybody at this point. We just told them that the coaches will do our part with scouting reports and stuff. The girls just need to learn to execute and perfect all the little things, and we’ll come out alright in the end.”