ROCKLAND — Oceanside girls basketball coach Matt Breen and his staff preach many things to his defending state Class B championship team.

Consistent improvement, solid work ethic and, above all, execution.

However, the 19-year coaching veteran said while those three qualities can equate to a championship pedigree, in its simplest terms, “It takes talent, timing and luck. You need a little bit of all three if you’re going to get it done.”

The defending state Class B champion Mariners have gotten it done and then some thus far to start the 2022-23 high school court season. They are 6-0, have outscored opponents 424-142 and ride a 39-game win streak that spans to the abbreviated 2020-21 COVID-19 season.

Oceanside head coach Matt Breen, standing, and his assistants keep the talented Mariners focused on the next practice and next game. Photo by Ken Waltz

That win streak does not include the team’s recent 46-40 exhibition victory over Portsmouth — a Division I team from New Hampshire — at the Holiday Hoops Showcase at the Portland Expo.

It has been smooth sailing for the Mariners by way of the boxscore. But Breen said this year’s team is far from a finished product.

“I thought we challenged ourselves a lot in the preseason [against Oxford Hills of South Paris, Cheverus of Portland, Bangor, Freeport and Windham]” said Breen. “That exposed a lot of our weaknesses. And I think through these first six games we’ve been trying to grow and develop and fill those voids left by Anna [Kingsbury] and Ahlivia [Morris]. It’s been a growing process. Everyone thinks it’s just going to be easy.”

Kingsbury was the team’s starting point guard last and Morris their first player and spark plug off the bench, both of whom graduated last spring.

Oceanside’s Aubri Hoose. Photo by Ken Waltz

“Last year all 5-6 players were on the same page all the time,” he said. “Everything moved in unison. And getting it back to that has been a little bit of a challenge. It hasn’t been simple. Yes, we have good players. But we’re still working every day and the girls are focused on improving.”

Returning starters include sophomore forward Bailey Breen — already garnering attention from multiple Division I colleges — senior guard Audrey Mackie, who recently netted her 1,000th career point; senior forward Abby Waterman, who “does all the little things” and is in many ways the heart and soul of the team; and sharpshooter Emily Sykes.

Those players and a rapidly-developing supporting cast has the Mariners again as favorites for Class B’s richest prize.

Sophomore guard Aubrianna Hoose has slid nicely into Kingsbury’s role, while junior Sophie Daggett and a host of other up-and-coming players push for more minutes in the team’s rotation.

Oceanside’s Searra Hansen. Photo by Ken Waltz

The Mariners, one of the best team-wide passing squads the Midcoast has seen, average 71 points and allow 24 on the heels of the team’s lopsided 89-6 home win over Winslow on Tuesday, Dec. 27.

The score, at first glance, looks like a team running it up. But coach Breen pulled his starters midway through the first quarter and did not play them the rest of the game as a unit.

“It’s difficult,” he said. “You feel for the other team. That group of girls that were out there were working hard and were doing what they could. Nobody is trying to run it up or embarrass them. We’re just trying to play basketball.”

The veteran coach recalled at one point during his 15-year stint coaching the Oceanside (formerly Rockland District High School) boys, then Camden Hills Regional High School coach Jeff Hart’s Windjammers “must have beaten us by I think 80 [points] and I don’t think he [Jeff] could have been any nicer about it.”

Oceanside’s Abby Waterman. Photo/illustration by Ken Waltz

Matt Breen does not look for sympathy. But “I’m trying to play good basketball with whoever is on the floor.”

“It doesn’t matter who’s out there,” he said. “I want them to compete and do it at a high level with their execution. We look for little things defensively. It becomes easy to be lazy on defense. And a lot of these girls are trying to compete for minutes. Down the stretch they’re going to want those minutes. And it gives them a chance to show what they can do and for me to see them grow and develop. Sometimes they’re getting these minutes where it’s not a pressure situation and we can afford a learning mistake or two, which can become a good teaching point for us down the road.”

And, “you can’t just flick a switch.”

“You can’t wait until your back is against the wall and say, ‘I’m going to try and turn it on.’ We try and keep it on all the time. I’ve been doing this long enough. I’ve won some games with some teams that shouldn’t have won the game and I’ve lost some games with teams that should have won. Nothing is in the books. You’ve got to go out and do it every night.”

Next on Oceanside’s schedule is a rivalry game against Camden Hills of Rockport on Tuesday, Jan. 3. A win would put the Mariners’ impressive win streak at 40 games. A number that Breen said he and his players are not concerned about.

“I couldn’t tell you what number we’re on and I bet most of the girls would not be able to tell you what number it is,” said Matt Breen, assisted by coaches Darren Randall and Jason Skarka. “They’re good at staying focused on the task at hand and they don’t let the outside stuff bother them. It’s just an awesome group of kids. That’s what makes my job the easiest. There isn’t an attitude or an ego in the bunch. They’ve just got that look and that focus and that’s what makes them special.”

The 11 remaining teams on Oceanside’s schedule, as of Thursday, Dec. 29, have a combined record of 24-37, as Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield (5-2), Leavitt of Turner (5-2) and Maranacook of Readfield (4-2) hold the best records of that group.

The Mariners have yet to play the Huskies or Hornets, but do hold a 70-22 home win over the Black Bears.

Despite that, coach Breen said, “I think we have some pretty strong teams in our schedule” and “we need to focus on each game, each night and take it one game at a time.”

“Everyone’s hungry,” he said. “They all want the same thing we want and we need to keep that hunger.”