WATERVILLE, Maine — Watching the Waterville girls basketball team is fairly similar to watching the great Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s.
The Purple Panthers are dynamite in transition, play tough, in-your-face defense, are aggressive on the backboards and unselfish on offense.
All those traits came into play in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference game against Rockland Friday night, as the two-time defending Class B state champions forced 36 turnovers and steamrolled out to a 22-point halftime lead en route to a comfortable 72-31 victory at Donovan Gymnasium.
Coach Ted Rioux’s club, which won its 56th consecutive game, improves to 12-0 while the Tigers slip to 5-7.
This contest was never in doubt, as senior center Morgan Frame scored 10 first-quarter points and Taylor Hart six as the Panthers built a 27-12 lead while holding Rockland to four field goals over that span.
“We haven’t had a run like that in a while, it was definitely good for the team,” said junior guard Jen Nale, one of three Panthers to crack double-figures.
“We always say the first few minutes of every quarter are the most important to get a good jump on every team.”
Waterville’s swarming full-court trap harassed the Tigers into multiple mistakes, and the Panthers totaled 28 steals as a team.
“We spend at least 20 minutes every single practice getting in lanes and forcing baseline and working on doubles,” said Nale.
Frame led Waterville’s balanced offensive attack with 16 points while grabbing 10 rebounds and recording eight steals while senior guard Paige Gardner recorded 10 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
“Everyone on our team is very unselfish, we always look for the open person,” said Gardiner, who also had five assists.
“We do distribute the ball well, throughout the year we’ve had a lot of different people scoring,” added Frame.
Frame wasn’t bothered by Rockland’s zone defense, and whenever the Tigers collapsed on her she’d always find open teammates.
“We’ve seen a ton of zone this year, what’s happened with that is Mo’s become a tremendous passer,” said Rioux. “She’s so unselfish the offense is getting better.”
The whole team was unselfish on this night as a matter of fact, with Waterville collecting 11 assists as a unit with eight players cracking the scoring column.
“We had such a fluid offense today, the ball movement was amazing, our transition from defense to offense was really good,” said Nale.
“We know that we put any five of our girls on the court and they can play with any other team.”
The Panthers’ defense created a ton of fast-break opportunities, as Waterville scored 14 points off turnovers in the first half.
“I think this was one of our better games, we had some rough spots during the game but we always try and come back to our defense,” Frame said. “You shouldn’t have a bad night of defense.”
Waterville limited Rockland to just 8-of-29 shooting on the night but the Tigers were a solid 16-of-23 from the free-throw line, with Baillie Boggs shooting a 10-of-12 clip en route to a team-high 14 points.
Hart finished with seven points and three steals off the bench for Waterville.