Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey was like a proud father after the Phoenix’s big victory over the Winthrop Ramblers on Wednesday at The Nest in Jay.

“Winthrop was undefeated,” Bessey said. “Winthrop is a really good team. We always feel like we have the ability to guard anybody as a team.

Spruce Mountain’s Owen Bryant, right, celebrates his team’s victory over Winthrop at The Nest in Jay on Wednesday night. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“We put a tremendous amount into scouting. We put a tremendous amount into game planning, knowing personnel and executing a game plan. That was about as well as an executed defensive game plan as we’ve had, and you need to do that to win games like that.”

The Ramblers (12-1) are big and powerful, with a strong bench that any coach would like to have as a backup for respites and injuries.

“We are not afraid of anybody,” Bessey said. “We know who we are. We put a lot of work into (the team). Winthrop is a very good team, but there was never any doubt in our mind that we could compete and beat them.”

Bessey was ecstatic after the Phoenix built a double-digit lead and held Winthrop to just three points in the first quarter.

“We never got full of ourselves,” Bessey said. “I know we celebrate when timeouts are called and the crowd is going crazy.”

The Phoenix have been dealing with injuries and illness since the preseason, yet they are 10-2 and sit in second place in Class B South.

On Wednesday, Bessey was particularly impressed with freshman forward Eli Timler, who replaced starting sophomore forward Jayden Perreault after he rolled rolled his ankle. Perreault scored seven points in the first half.

“I brought in Eli Timler, who, other than the flu game against Monmouth where he had to play, he is coming into a huge game — the biggest games of the seniors’ lives, plus being the little freshman — didn’t blink, didn’t hesitate, played his butt off,” Bessey said. “(I am) just a very, very proud coach.”

PATRIOTS STEP UP

Gray-New Gloucester will have to play Jordan Grant for the foreseeable future due to an ankle injury suffered at the end of last Monday’s practice. Grant’s absence leaves a big hole on offense and defense for the Patriots, but on a team packed with seniors, a sophomore has stepped up huge.

Emma West scored 10 points against Yarmouth on Tuesday, then nine against Cape Elizabeth on Friday, both times leading Gray-NG (8-4) in points and helping the team earn two huge wins.

“We were worried because this team beat us by 15 earlier this season with Jordan,” Gray-NG coach Mike Andreasen said after Tuesday win over Yarmouth. “A big thing for us is I think our kids just played confidently. When we are very hesitant and we don’t shoot then we turn the ball over. I thought Emma West gave us some good stuff early. The defense was super in the first half and I thought that was the ball game.”

West said confidence has been key for her.

“I knew going out there I needed to have confidence,” West said. “With Jordan out we lose our post game, so coach was saying we needed to have more outside shooters to take some leadership, and I knew if I got out of my head then my shots would fall.”

Andreasen said the Patriots hope to have Grant back on the court injury soon.

MVC GETTING WILD

The Mountain Valley Conference has been a conference of parity for girls basketball.

MVC teams are testing each other, and with only a few weeks before the regional tournaments start up, coaches feel that anything can happen in any game.

Monmouth Academy’s Emma Johnson drives to the basket past Oak Hill’s Desirae Dumais during Saturday afternoon’s game in Monmouth. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“The league is really tight,” Oak Hill coach Mike Labonte said. “There’s no great team but a lot of teams that are bunched in.”

Monmouth (9-3) has great size and one of the most experienced and athletic teams in the conference. The Mustangs also have a win over Boothbay (10-2), but Saturday they fell to Oak Hill (9-3) and its star player Desirae Dumais.

The Raiders made halftime adjustments and were able to find a way to work around Monmouth’s athleticism.

“My girls are very athletic and I think they rely on that too much,” Monmouth coach Katie McAllister said. “Instead of using the basketball knowledge, they think, ‘Oh, I’m the better athlete, I can do this.’ We are working on that.”

The Mustangs’ first-year coach also said her team is reverting back to beginning-of-the-season practices, but she has confidence the players will snap out of it before the postseason begins.

Oak Hill, on the other hand, has three losses but is 10 points away from being undefeated. The Raiders lost a nail-bitter to Winthrop last week before bouncing back and taking care of Monmouth late.

Other teams, such as Mountain Valley (7-5) and Lisbon (7-4), have good wins on their resumes but have tough schedules in the finishing stretch.

TOUGHNESS KEY FOR VIKINGS

The Oxford Hills boys team earned an upset victory over Cheverus on Friday night to move to 2-11 on the season.

The Vikings leaned on junior Colby Huckins, who has started at times this season but on Friday came off the bench and scored a team-high 16 points.

Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam said Huckins has struggled attacking the hoop this season, which has led to missed layups and squandered scoring opportunities.

Oxford Hills’ Colby Huckins drives for a basket while being guarded by Cheverus’ Macklin Kelly during Friday’s game in Paris. Brewster Burns photo

Huckins admitted to being shy to contact earlier in the season.

“I just go after everything really hard,” Huckins said. “At the beginning of the season, I shied away from contact, it wasn’t my thing. But as the season progressed I realized I have to take contact and go after everything really hard.”

Huckins finished over and over again at the rim against the Stags. Oxford Hills has some winnable games to end the season which could help build momentum heading into the Class AA tournament.

THREE’S COMPANY

The Oxford Hills girls team continues to steadily take down opponents, and leading the charge has been the consistent play of Julia Colby, Cecelia Dieterich and Cassidy Dumont.

“We have had Cassidy, Cecelia and Julia be very consistent for us, and it hasn’t been a roller coaster for them,” Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier said. “Then, all of a sudden, you have one more kid step up and you’re going to get to 60 points pretty quickly, and if you can get to 60 points you’ve got a really good chance at winning.”

The Vikings (12-1) have a road game against a hot Portland team and later against talented Windham and Bangor squads before the playoffs start.


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