There are many reasons why the Medomak Valley girls basketball squad has started the 2010-11 campaign unbeaten and ranked first in Eastern Class B, but one important element is the fact the Panthers have figured out how to pull out victories even when they do not play their best.

That happened Wednesday night as host Belfast pushed the Panthers hard for most of the game before visiting Medomak Valley did enough at different junctures to earn a 46-38 win.

The Panthers (6-0, 13.5185 points) are first in the most recent Maine Principals’ Association Heal Point Standings for Eastern Class B, while Belfast (2-4, 2.7160 points) 15th in the 19-team region.

Not only did Wednesday’s game showcase the top team in Eastern Class B in Medomak Valley and another squad fighting to stay in early-season playoff contention in Belfast, but also two of the most talented interior players in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B division in 6-foot-2-inch Panther senior Ericka Christensen and 6-foot Lion sophomore Lexi Nelligan.

At times, the two put on offensive and defensive shows, with nifty inside moves, a bundle of rebounds, strong interior defense and crowd-pleasing blocked shots.

In the end, however, the Panthers, who have a solid mixture of interior and perimeter strength, had too much talent, too many weapons, too much height and too much depth for the Lions.

Keying the Panthers were Christensen with 17 points; Lindsay Ranquist and Alanna Vose, both 10; Vanessa Davis, four; Kasey Benner and Nicole Weaver, both two; and Roxanne Jelenfy, one. Medomak Valley netted 6-of-9 free throws (67 percent) and Vose made both of the team’s 3-pointers. Christensen finished with nine rebounds and four blocks, Raniquist seven rebounds and Vose six assists.

For Belfast, Nelligan tossed in 17 points; Courtney Drinkwater and Katrina Lapham, both six; Emily Blood, three; and Devon Drake, Makayla Cummings and Elizabeth Rauch, all two. The Lions netted 5-of-15 free throws (33 percent) and Blood connected on the squad’s lone trey. Nelligan finished with nine rebounds and six steals, Drinkwater three rebounds and two assists, Lapham three rebounds, two assists and five steals, Littefield three rebounds and Drake and Morgan Mansfield both two rebounds.

The game proved competitive in the first half before the Panthers slowly took control over the final 16 minutes. The contest was knotted 10-10 after one quarter, while the Panthers led 26-23 at halftime and 37-28 after three stanzas. An 11-5 burst by Medomak Valley in the third quarter spelled doom for Belfast.

Despite the victory, veteran Panther coach Randy Hooper said his squad, although turning in a solid overall defensive effort, missed too many scoring chances and did not play its best.

“[We are] still trying to put four quarters together,” Hooper said. “We play very well in stretches, not so well at other times. [But] any win on the road is a good win. We made some good decisions down the stretch to secure the victory.”

Lion coach Amy Kelley-Dyer said her squad was competitive, but could not get over the hump in the second half. “I think my girls played hard and did some really good things. We need to work on coming out [after] halftime more intense and putting in foul shots.”

In the first quarter, Ranquist tallied six points and Weaver and Christensen both two for Medomak Valley, while Nelligan and Lapham scored four points apiece to lead the Lions in the opening stanza.

Medomak Valley broke out offensively in the second quarter with 16 points, Vose netted five points, including making a trey, and Christensen four. For Belfast, which scored 13 points in the frame, Nelligan had seven points.

The third quarter proved the tale of the tape as Medomak Valley used a 9-2 run to take control, with Vose’s second 3-pointer of the night with 6:12 left being the jumping off point for the visitors’ burst.

Nelligan’s fine all-around play kept the Lions within striking distance in the second half and Blood’s late fourth-quarter 3-pointer bought Belfast within eight points at the final buzzer.

Jayvee game

Medomak Valley won the jayvee game 44-33, as the Panthers led 13-11 after one quarter but trailed 25-23 at halftime. The Panthers regained a 33-29 edge after three stanzas.

Pacing the visitors were Heidi Obuchon with eight points; Amanda Hendrickson-Belloguet, seven; Melissa Philbrook, six; Olivia Overlock, five; Taylor Simmons, Emily Leach and Desiree Benner, all four; and Bridgette Miller and Elise Wallace, both two. Medomak Valley made 4-of-8 free throws (50 percent).

For the Lions, Kasey Doolan tallied eight points; Killyan Richards, six; Kayla Carpentier, five; Madison Cummings, four; Becca Leonard and Crystal Lilley, both three; and Allison Dellamatterra, two. Belfast converted 9-of-12 foul shots (75 percent).

Village NetMedia Regional Editor/Sports Director Ken Waltz can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at kwaltz@villagesoup.com.