READFIELD — There isn’t any exceptional height, and there aren’t many individual standouts on the Gardiner girls basketball team. Of the five starters, maybe one or two would count basketball as their best sport.

What the Tigers do have is a boatload of players who can contribute, and a coach who will use them. Mike Gray found playing time for 11 different players Friday night, and nine of them saw significant minutes. That depth turned out to be the difference as Gardiner upset Maranacook 50-42 in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B season opener for both teams.

“I think it helps, because I know I have kids coming off the bench that are going to do just as good as I can,” said Gardiner’s Camden Cone, who finished with eight points and six rebounds. “We were well-rested and that really helped us a lot.”

Maranacook is still building its depth, and was hurt by foul trouble and an overall off night from the field. The Bears were 16 of 62 from the field — 26 percent — and were held to two points in the fourth quarter.

“I really think the biggest piece of it was just the fact that we weren’t exhausted by the fourth quarter,” Gray said. “That let us keep hammering away with that same level of intensity.”

A big key to Gardiner’s defensive performance was the Tigers’ effort against Maranacook star Christine Miller. With Cone, Rachel Quirion and Savannah Vinton-Mullens all playing Miller man-to-man, and the Tigers helping out on defense when Miller tried to post up, Miller finished with eight points.

“She’s a great player,” Gray said. “We know we just need to throw everything we have at her. We know it’s a tough matchup — we don’t have a whole lot of size. But it’s just a matter of, ‘Go as hard as you can for two minutes at a time, and we’ll keep going.’ ”

Miller still filled up her portion of the stat sheet with nine rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots, and Maranacook hung tough for 3 1/2 quarters. Trailing 25-18 late in the second quarter, the Bears fought back to within 28-26 at the half, and went ahead 34-31 early in the third quarter.

Maranacook sophomore point guard Catherine Sanborn led that charge, hitting jumpers and layups and popping underneath for rebounds. Sanborn finished with 21 points and six rebounds. But in the fourth quarter, with the Black Bears all but begging for some offense, Sanborn played eight minutes and took only one shot.

“She had a great game and that’s what we need out of her as a point guard, and that’s what we’ve been looking for (from) her is shooting more, creating some things,” Maranacook coach Jeannine Paradis said. “So I think we need to recognize that there are nights where she may have that hot hand, and we need to give the ball back to her.”

Gardiner led 41-40 late in the third quarter when freshman Lauren Chadwick drained a pull-up 3-pointer with one second left to extend the lead to four. Chadwick finished with 10 points, while Morgan Carver came off the bench for 11. Quirion scored eight and Ally Day pulled down nine rebounds. The Tigers also did a fantastic job of taking care of the ball and taking big chunks of time off the clock while protecting their fourth-quarter lead.

“This gives us such a big boost of confidence,” Cone said. “I know a lot of people didn’t think we were going to beat them. They thought we lost a lot, but we’re showing them that we can compete this year.”

Maranacook is competing in Western C this season, but will still play a KVAC B schedule. The Black Bears are considered one of the top teams, both in the league and in Western C.

“It is game one,” Paradis said. “I know that for myself and the team, we have some really good expectations — rightfully so. I think that they’ve earned some respect in our league, and they’ve played hard. We just need to continue to put a full game together and prove that we’re where we need to be.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243[email protected]Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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