It’s opening night of the 2010-11 high school basketball season, and time to pick this year’s Eastern Maine schoolboy champions.
Class A: Edward Little returns All-Maine forward Bo Leary and steady point guard Tim Mains in an effort to win its third straight regional title. Hampden has a premier all-around guard in Graham Safford, a quality backcourt mate in Christian McCue and a strong inside presence in 6-foot-7 Fred Knight. Mt. Blue of Farmington is a perennial contender, with forward Cam Sennick and point guard Eric Berry two pivotal players this winter. Brewer suffered major graduation losses after last year’s run to the EM final, but does return All-Maine guard Ray Bessette.
But Bangor is the coaches’ preseason pick to advance to the state final, thanks to a cast including guards Tristan Thomas and Luke Hettermann and frontcourt players Zach Blodgett, Patrick Stewart and Josiah Hartley that should give the Rams the strongest starting five in the division.
The pick? Bangor.
Class B: Camden Hills nearly won its second straight state title, falling to Falmouth in overtime of the state final after two-time All-Maine center Tyler McFarland fouled out at the end of the fourth quarter. McFarland, fellow 6-6 senior Keegan Pieri and guard Joel Gabriele are back to lead a Windjammers’ squad in search of its sixth regional title and fourth state crown in the last 11 years.
Medomak Valley of Waldoboro should be among the Windjammers’ challengers in the KVAC ranks, while another story to watch in that conference resides in Newport where junior guard Chris Braley, already being courted by numerous Division I college programs, will try to lead Nokomis to a tournament berth in its second season in Class B.
The Big East Conference, in search of its first regional title since 2000, should be well represented in postseason play by the likes of Presque Isle, Mount Desert Island, Caribou, Ellsworth and Hermon. Presque Isle returns its leading scorer in Travis Dyer, while Ellsworth’s Andrew Austin, MDI’s Jayson Burke and Ben Walls and Hermon’s Taylor Gross also figure to be impact players.
The pick? Camden Hills.
Class C: The last five regional champs — and four of the last five state champions — have come from Down East in Calais and defending state titlist Washington Academy of East Machias, but this winter may mark a change from that geographic trend.
Penobscot Valley of Howland made its first tourney trip to Bangor in 23 years last February, and may advance further this season with a lineup led by 6-7 senior center Joe McCloskey and senior swingman Jacob Jones. Stearns of Millinocket, Penquis of Milo and Lee Academy also loom as contenders, as do a new-look Washington Academy team and a Calais squad that must overcome the transfer of All-Maine forward Cam Shorey to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.
The pick? PVHS.
Class D: Defending state champion Schenck of East Millinocket returns twin guards Brandon and Eric Theriault and forward Zach McLaughlin, while Central Aroostook of Mars Hill has its lineup back intact after an unceremonial quarterfinal ouster last February and Washburn has four starters back. Fort Fairfield features the senior leadership of Travis Noyes, while a youthful Deer Isle-Stonington team also should contend.
Then there’s Jonesport-Beals, which has arguably the division’s top player in 6-4 sophomore Garet Beal to go with 6-6 junior center Justin Alley and junior point guard Matthew Alley, both third-year starters.
The pick? Jonesport-Beals.