The second half of the schoolboy basketball season begins Friday night with two clash of the titans to set the tone for the stretch run in Class A and Class B.
Hampden Academy, top-ranked in Eastern Maine Class A with a 7-2 record after Tuesday night’s 66-45 victory at Messalonskee of Oakland, will visit a third-ranked Bangor team that is unbeaten in eight games since an opening-day 65-52 loss at Hampden.
Potentially at stake is the No. 1 seed in Eastern A come tournament time, given their current rankings and the likelihood that neither team will lose many more games before the end of the regular season.
Bangor, coming off a pointworthy 49-35 win at Mt. Blue of Farmington on Tuesday night, has dominated its opposition during its winning streak, allowing an average of just 31.6 points with an average victory margin of 24.5 points.
Hampden has allowed more than 52 points just twice this winter, in a 57-55 loss at Mt. Blue last Saturday decided in the final seconds of overtime and in a 73-65 win over two-time defending regional champion Edward Little of Auburn.
In fact, the Broncos are just a couple of seconds from being undefeated, its other loss coming at the buzzer to Lawrence of Fairfield.
Bangor will benefit from the homecourt advantage in the rematch, and that may be a significant edge. The top four teams in Eastern A at the start of play this week — Hampden, Edward Little, Bangor and Mt. Blue — are a combined 29-6, with four of the losses on the road.
Meanwhile, a pair of Hancock County rivals that represent two of the three remaining undefeated teams in Class B meet at Parady Gymnasium in Bar Harbor, where second-ranked Mount Desert Island will host No. 5 Ellsworth.
Both teams are considered among the deepest in the division, with MDI more reliant on its collective size while Ellsworth counters with speed and quickness.
MDI is 9-0 after a 49-42 win at Class C Washington Academy of East Machias on Monday night, while Ellsworth is 8-0 pending a home game against WA on Wednesday.
Ellsworth — which reached the EM final last February — boasts the gaudier statistics so far this season, outscoring its opponents by an average of 25.6 points by scoring 64.0 points per game while allowing just 38.4 per contest. Coach Peter Austin’s club has had just one game decided by single digits, a 55-50 win over Presque Isle on Dec. 28 at Katsiaficas Gymnasium in Ellsworth.
MDI, meanwhile, has had some closer calls, including a 58-52 overtime win over Caribou at home on Dec. 28, and a come-from-behind 47-45 victory at Class C George Stevens Academy — a team Ellsworth defeated by 39 points — last Friday.
Coach Justin Norwood’s Trojans were averaging 57.5 points per game beginning the week while allowing 46.0 points per contest.