May 25, 2018
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Crunch time for boys basketball tourney hopefuls

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Tristan Thomas (right) of Bangor gets tangled up with Gabe Burditt of Hampden Academy while scrapping for a loose ball during a recent game. The Rams and Broncos are among the top teams in Eastern Maine Class A.


With Mother Nature wiping out Wednesday's schoolboy basketball schedule — and much of Tuesday's — now is a good time to take stock of the tournament picture in Eastern Maine with little more than a week left in the regular season.

And there's plenty left to be decided.

Class A: Bangor, riding a 14-game winning streak, is in strong position to maintain the No. 1 seed, while 14-1 Hampden Academy and two-time defending regional champion Edward Little of Auburn are likely to hold the second and third seeds in some order — a scenario that would give 14-1 Bangor a solid edge in the regional tournament if those seedings held through the quarterfinals because the Rams would need to beat either Hampden or EL to advance to the state final while Hampden and EL would have to square off in the semifinals with the winner then have to defeat Bangor to reach the gold-ball contest.

Mt. Blue, fourth seeded at 13-2, is the only team that could change that picture, as the Cougars have back-to-back road games at Hampden on Friday and at Bangor next Tuesday.

Lawrence, 8-7 but with early season wins over Mt. Blue and Hampden, and Mount Ararat of Topsham (9-5) are battling for fifth and sixth places. Brunswick (8-7) is leading the pack for the final two tourney berths followed by Brewer (6-9) and Messalonskee of Oakland (5-10), which are tied for eighth place. Cony of Augusta (6-8) also remains in postseason contention.

Games to watch: Lawrence at Hampden on Thursday, Mt. Blue at Hampden on Friday, Brewer at Lawrence on Friday, Mt. Blue at Bangor on Tuesday, Brewer vs. Bangor on Feb. 10 at the Bangor Auditorium.

Class B: Defending regional champion and top-ranked Camden Hills of Rockport (15-0) shows no signs of slowing down, though a showdown Friday night at home against surging Medomak Valley of Waldoboro and another home game against Gardiner next week could test coach Jeff Hart's Windjammers.

Ellsworth, the other regional finalist a year ago, also continues along its unbeaten way at 13-0, and is in position to secure the second seed. Medomak Valley, 11-3 and winner of 10 in a row, might challenge that status with an upset of Camden Hills.

Presque Isle ranks fourth with a 13-1 record, five Heal points ahead of Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor (13-2) and seven ahead of Winslow (11-3), which holds the final preliminary-round bye in the division. Gardiner, at 10-4, is the the only other team with a chance to avoid a prelim, while Nokomis of Newport (9-6), Hermon (8-7) and Caribou (10-4) are all but certain to fill out the playoff field.

Games to watch: Medomak Valley at Camden Hills on Friday, Nokomis at Winslow on Friday, Gardiner at Camden Hills on Tuesday, Presque Isle at Caribou on Feb. 11, and MDI at Ellsworth on Feb. 11.

Class C: Penobscot Valley of Howland (12-3) tops the rankings, and the Howlers will be favored to win their final three games. But a similar finish by 14-1 Lee Academy against stronger opposition likely would lift the Pandas into the No. 1 seed. Penquis Valley of Milo (11-4) has settled into the third spot, while Calais (11-1) and Stearns of Millinocket (10-6) also are positioned to finish in the top five.

As for the final preliminary-round bye, Sumner (11-3) and Washington Academy of East Machias (6-7) are within two Heal points of each other, and a head-to-head matchup next week could prove pivotal. Madawaska (10-5), Piscataquis of Guilford (7-8) and Foxcroft Academy (8-7) also would qualify for prelim games as of today, with Fort Kent just three points behind Foxcroft.

Games to watch: Lee at Schenck of East Millinocket on Thursday, Penquis at Foxcroft on Thursday, Calais at Jonesport-Beals TBA (postponed from Tuesday), Lee at Penquis on Wednesday, Stearns at Schenck on Wednesday, Sumner at Washington Academy on Wednesday.

Class D: Top-seeded and undefeated Central Aroostook of Mars Hill owns a 31-Heal point lead over second-place Schenck after last Saturday's win over previously unbeaten Washburn, and nothing figures to knock the Panthers off that perch.

Schenck (11-4) and its predominantly Class C schedule has been good for a narrow edge over Jonesport-Beals (11-1) for second place, but Jonesport-Beals has two extra games remaining and both still have pointworthy opponents ahead — Schenck against Lee and Stearns, Jonesport-Beals against Calais, Machias and Deer Isle-Stonington.

Washburn (13-1) remains in line for a top-four finish, while 11-2 Machias has thrived under the radar and still has games remaining against Jonesport-Beals and Calais. Katahdin of Stacyville (10-4) owns the final preliminary-round bye, with Fort Fairfield (10-6), Deer Isle-Stonington (9-5) and Easton (10-4) all in comfortable position to earn playoff berths while Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook — a dangerous team that has given Central Aroostook and Washburn close contests — holds down the 10th and final postseason slot.

Games to watch: Washburn at Fort Fairfield on Thursday, Southern Aroostook at Washburn on Saturday, Machias at Calais on Saturday, Central Aroostook at Washburn on Monday, Machias at Jonesport-Beals on Tuesday, Fort Fairfield at Madawaska on Wednesday, Easton at Southern Aroostook on Wednesday, Jonesport-Beals at Deer Isle-Stonington on Feb. 10, Katahdin at Central Aroostook on Feb. 10, Washburn at Easton on Feb. 11.

The final countable games in each division are set for Feb. 11, followed by boys prelim games on Feb. 16, and the start of Tourney Week on Feb. 18.

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