Ted Rioux’s coaching philosophies mirror those of New England Patriots mastermind Bill Belichick, and his Waterville Purple Panthers are handling their business the “Patriot” way.
Waterville, the two-time defending state Class B girls basketball champions, won its 50th consecutive game Saturday, handling Maranacook of Readfield 73-24.
Although 50 is a sweet number, it was just another step in the Panthers’ drive for a third consecutive gold ball.
“It’s funny with this team, we like it fine and dandy but it doesn’t accomplish any goal that we want,” Rioux said. “They’re really focused on getting to that state game, the streak means nothing without a state title.”
The all-time longest winning streak in Maine schoolgirl history is 76, accomplished by Westbrook from 1977-82.
The Valley of Bingham boys won 101 consecutive games over a six-year span (1998-2004).
The Panthers have looked every bit like a team favored to make it back to the state championship game this winter, particularly on the defensive end, as they’ve surrendered just 23.8 points per game while only Mount View of Thorndike has eclipsed the 30-point barrier against Waterville.
“It’s been kind of our backbone, we’ve been playing very good defense and it’s really been a team effort in that sense,” said Rioux.
Waterville has also been very consistent offensively, averaging 65 points a contest.
“We’re learning what’s a good shot in the offense and what’s not a good shot,” Rioux said. “I think in the last couple games we’ve really gotten a lot better.”
Morgan Frame has been dominant in the post for the Panthers, while Stephanie Whitten has been dynamite at the point-guard spot.
“Her vision is unbelievable, she never misses the open player,” said Rioux.
Rioux also got a big boost against Maranacook as guard Stacie Whitten, Stephanie’s sister, returned from a knee injury suffered during soccer season.
Stacie Whitten is another one of Rioux’s top defenders and has a deadly perimeter shot.
“Once she gets that quickness back, the scary thing to think of not only do we get an amazing 3-point shooter but we get back one of [our] top defenders,” Rioux said.
Jen Nale, Paige Gardiner, Taylor Frame and Taylor Hart have also been key players for Waterville.
The Panthers will take a couple days off for Christmas this week before participating in the Holiday Hoop Classic in Augusta this weekend, where they’ll face the likes of defending Class A state champ Deering of Portland, along with Class A competitors Messalonskee of Oakland and Lawrence of Fairfield.
“It definitely does help us to go into this tournament,” said Rioux.
Big wins for Beavers, Dragons
When the first Heal point standings of the winter are released this morning, it’s a pretty safe bet that the Woodland and Washburn girls basketball teams are going to be near the top of the Class D heap, thanks to pointworthy victories.
Coach Arnie Clark’s undefeated Dragons, the reigning state champs, earned their biggest victory of the season to date last Friday, defeating Class C archrival Calais 50-44 at home.
Up in Aroostook County, Washburn hit some clutch free throws down the stretch to earn a 44-41 victory over previously undefeated Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook on Thursday.
Rebecca Campbell hit all five of her fourth-quarter free throw attempts in the period for coach Ron Ericson’s Beavers, while Rachel Palmer scored five of her game-high 19 points in the quarter and finished with a double-double (19 points, 18 rebounds).
Hutchins smashes record
Danielle Hutchins certainly made a big first impression on the Eastern Maine Indoor Track League.
Barely an hour into her indoor debut, the Mount Desert Island senior sprinter annexed a conference record in a multi-team meet at the University of Maine Friday night.
Hutchins snapped an 11-year old record in the 55-meter dash, clocking a 7.43, breaking the old mark of 7.53 seconds set by Theresa Roy of Old Town in 1997.
Hutchins later won the 200 meters in 27.19 seconds. The EMITL record in that event, 26.73, has been held by former Brewer standout Jen Puiia since 1999.