The Brewer High School girls basketball team certainly didn’t get off the start it wanted, losing its first four games.
But the senior-heavy Witches bounced back with three wins over their next four games and are about to embark on an important stretch in which they will play three games in five days against the three teams around them in the Heal Points standings.
Brewer is currently ninth and less than two points behind Mt. Blue of Farmington, which occupies the eighth and final playoff slot in Class A North.
Brewer beat Mt. Blue in Farmington 59-52 on Jan. 1.
Fourth-year head coach Chris Horr said he feels his Witches are trending in the right direction after opening the season with losses to Nokomis of Newport (40-35), defending state champ Messalonskee of Oakland (66-38), Class AA rival Bangor (47-41) and current points leader Hampden Academy (44-29).
Horr said they struggled with their shooting because they had some practices cancelled by the weather and they had a stretch where they played just two games in two weeks.
“We just couldn’t put a complete game together,” said Horr. “We shot 23 percent from the floor in those four games and 65 of those shots were in the paint. We were missing layups. We took more shots than our opponents.”
But they now have wins over Cony of Augusta and Camden Hills along with Mt. Blue and the Witches’ confidence has grown.
“We’re been putting three good quarters (each game) and that is helping,” said Horr.
His Witches are looking for their first appearance in the quarterfinals in nearly 20 years, according to Horr.
The Witches missed the tournament once in his first three years and were eliminated in the preliminary round in the other two seasons.
Brewer went 5-14 a year ago including a 63-50 loss to Gardiner in the preliminary round.
There is plenty of experience on the roster and Dorr said he has good athletes who have had success in other sports.
The team is led by seniors Emily Lord, Cassidy Smith, Haley Robertson and Ellie Horr, Chris’ daughter.
“They have played a ton of basketball,” said Horr whose Witches play an aggressive, uptempo style of basketball.
“We like to push the pace and play up in your face,” said Horr. “If we aren’t getting much out of our press, we’ll sit back in our half-court man-to-man.”
They will also go into a zone if the situation warrants it.
He said they are focusing on “valuing the basketball” both offensively and defensively.
“We want to make sure we have the best possession possible, offensively and defensively, each time we go up or down the court,” said Horr.
That includes making good decisions with the basketball and playing well-structured and aggressive defense.
Smith is the team’s leading scorer with 10.3 points per game. Sophomore guard MacKenzie Dore is averaging nine per game, 5-foot-9 junior forward Rebecca Gideon, the team’s tallest player, is at seven points per game and Lord and Horr chip in six each.
Gideon and Smith are the top rebounders at five apiece and Horr, Lord and Dore are each averaging 2.5 steals per game.
Senior Sierra Strang provides some inside help off the bench and junior Ashley Tanguay is another forward who contributes.
He feels his team can make a strong stretch run and make the tournament. The top eight teams qualify.
The Witches host 4-4 Lawrence of Fairfield on Thursday, travel to 6-2 Gardiner on Saturday and visit Nokomis on Monday afternoon.
“We’re just going to take them one game at a time,” said Horr. “This is an important stretch but it won’t make-or-break us.”