More than half of the girls’ basketball season is over, and the race for the top spot in Western Class B is still wide open and full of contenders.

Just like the coaches expected in the preseason.

The preseason favorite of most observers, Lake Region (9-1), is first in the Heal point standings. But the Lakers, slowed by injuries to their backcourt, have shown some vulnerability and lost to fourth-ranked Greely (9-1).

Fifth-ranked York is also 9-1. The three teams are 1-1 against each other. The second game of the home-and-away in the three matchups is still on tap, starting with Saturday’s York at Greely game.

The three squads are very similar.

“Both York and Greely have two good-sized kids that are very talented players, as do we,” Lake Region Coach Paul True said.

“And (all three teams) have a good mixture of youth and veteran guard play.”

When it comes to the inside duos, choosing between Lake Region’s 6-foot-2 junior Tiana-Jo Carter and 5-10 senior Kelly Winslow, Greely’s 6-foot sister tandem of senior Jaclyn and sophomore guard Ashley Storey, and York seniors Emily Campbell (6-1) and Marquis MacGlashing (5-11) is like picking between three types of pie. It’s all good.

So is it too simple to say guard play will be the deciding factor, especially when both Lake Region (CeCe Hancock) and York (Shannon Todd) are relying heavily on a freshman while Greely has steady senior Caton Beaulieu at the point?

“That is very simple to say, but there are several factors that it will come down to,” True said, noting performance at the big playoff venues, foul trouble and injuries.

The most important factor may be what team can improve over the final weeks of the season.

After his team’s 37-30 loss to Lake Region, York Coach Rick Clark moved senior Ruby Cribby back to the off-guard position, where she played last year, and made Todd the point guard.

The pair thrived in the next game, combining for 34 points. Todd scored a career-high 19 with three 3-pointers, and Cribby, freed to use her athleticism all over the court, scored 15 points.

For Lake Region, it’s about getting all three of the Hancocks into the guard rotation at once.

CeCe Hancock’s sophomore sister, Sarah, returned from an early season health scare and was “playing probably the best basketball I’ve seen her play,” True said, when she injured her ankle in a holiday tournament game. She could be back next week. Sydney Hancock, a senior (and Sarah and CeCe’s cousin), is also rounding into shape after an early season leg injury.

Oh, and don’t forget that Western Class B also includes No. 2 Spruce Mountain (10-0) of the Mountain Valley Conference and No. 3 Leavitt (9-1) of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference. Leavitt features ace scorer Kristen Anderson, who is headed to the University of New Hampshire.

“If you play one of those teams you’re playing a little bit of a team that’s unknown by your league, but that builds a little bit of extra excitement come tourney time,” True said.

OCEANSIDE COACH Teel Foster said last year that her newly consolidated team still had a naturally divided locker room.

It was only months into the merger that brought the former Rockland and Georges Valley high schools together.

“Last year we were still a Buccaneer or a Tiger,” Foster said. “We were just coming together, and a lot of the stress came from the parents and communities not wanting to let those two schools die.

“This year there is way more unity. This year it’s Oceanside.”

Oceanside is 9-1, and last week beat previously undefeated Nokomis 57-45 behind a 23-point, 18-rebound game from senior Kennadi Grover that included her 1,000th career point.

Grover played at Georges Valley, which was a Class C school, but she has adapted quite nicely to Class B, adding outside range to her physical inside game.

“Of course she was proud of herself, but the one thing she kept saying after the game was the win meant so much more to her,” Foster said of Grover reaching the 1,000-point mark.

For the former Rockland holdovers like seniors Hannah Plourde and 6-1 Phoebe Ferraiolo the transformation has been more dramatic.

Rockland was 0-18 and 1-17 the last two seasons before the consolidation. This year, Plourde has become Oceanside’s “defensive mastermind,” Foster said, and Ferraiolo is chipping in six to eight points and 11 rebounds per game.

Guards Emily Gould, a sophomore, and Brooke Dugan, a junior, have filled out a starting unit that has both well-defined roles and versatility.

“Against Nokomis the other night you could really see that they trusted and believed in each other,” Foster said.

SOUTH PORTLAND’S Mike Giordano earned his 200th career win on Dec. 28 when the Red Riots beat Massabesic.

A postal worker, Giordano, is in his 17th season with South Portland. The Red Riots are 8-2 and ranked fifth in Western Class A.

“What I’m most proud of with the 200 wins is that I’ve done it at one school,” Giordano said.

Staff Writer Steve Craig can be contacted at 791-6413 or at:

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