Four schoolboy basketball programs that have enjoyed considerable success in their Western Maine tournaments during recent years will attempt to bring state championships back home this weekend.
But only one of the four, Western A champion Cheverus of Portland, has recent experience with gold ball presentations, having won two in the last three seasons.
Western B champion Cape Elizabeth, meanwhile, will play for its first state title since 1998 when it meets Camden Hills of Rockport at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland at 8:45 p.m. Friday night. This will mark the Capers’ third trip to the state game in the last four years.
Dirigo of Dixfield, which won its third straight Western C crown last weekend, will seek its first state title since winning back-to-back championships in 1982 and 1983 when it squares off against Lee Academy at the Bangor Auditorium on Saturday night.
And Richmond, winner of the Western D title for the fourth straight year and for the fifth time in six years, will attempt to claim its first gold ball since 1986 when it faces Central Aroostook of Mars Hill in Bangor on Saturday afternoon.
Cheverus has been the state’s dominant Class A team over the last four years, compiling an 80-5 overall record while winning state titles in 2008 and 2010.
Guided by veteran coach Bob Brown, the 21-0 Stags feature a matchup zone defense that has limited opponents to 37.2 points per game this winter.
Cheverus features a tall lineup led by 6-foot-4 junior guard Louis DiStasio, who averaged a team-best 14.3 points per game during the regular season and went on to be named the Western A tournament’s most valuable player. Matt Cimino, a 6-9 sophomore, and 6-5 senior Griffin Brady handle much of the inside work, while Peter Gwilym, a senior who in January won the Fitzpatrick Trophy symbolic of the state’s top senior high school football player-sportsman, is another impact player.
Despite its unbeaten record, Cheverus didn’t have an easy run through its regional tournament, defeating No. 8 Marshwood of South Berwick 52-40 in the quarterfinals, No. 5 Portland 45-41 in the semifinals and No. 2 Bonny Eagle of Standish 30-27 in Monday night’s final.
Second-ranked Cape Elizabeth (17-4) emerged through a balanced Western B field to win the regional title with a 61-47 victory over No. 4 Yarmouth last Saturday.
Coach Jim Ray’s club avenged two regular-season losses to York with a 55-42 semifinal victory over the third-ranked Wildcats after a 49-44 overtime win in the quarterfinals over No. 7 Wells.
The Capers are led by senior forward Theo Bowe, who topped the Western Maine Conference Class B ranks in scoring with 25.2 points per game during the regular season, then averaged a team-leading 20.3 points during postseason play while being named the Western B tourney MVP.
Other key players for Cape include senior guards Cam Brown (10.6 ppg during the regular season, 10.3 ppg during the WM tourney) and Joey Doane (10.3, 10.7).
Cape will try to avenge a 62-49 loss to Camden Hills in the 2009 state final, also played in Portland.
Dirigo (19-2) is back in the state title game despite graduating all five starters from the 2010 team that fell to Washington Academy of East Machias in the final.
Top ranked in Western C during the regular season, the Cougars are the first team to win three straight Western C crowns since Falmouth — now in Class B — won four in a row from 1996 through 1999.
And they’ve done it with three different head coaches — Gavin Kane, Doug Gerrish and this year Rebecca Fletcher, one of the few women to coach a boys’ varsity basketball team in state history.
Dirigo is led by 6-4 junior center Cody St. Germain, a Mountain Valley Conference northern division first-team honoree and the MVP of the Western C tourney after scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds during the Cougars’ 53-48 win over Boothbay in the regional final.
Other key players on the youthful — just two seniors strong — roster are junior guards Ben Holmes, Josh Turbide and Caleb Turner and senior guard Spencer Ross.
Richmond has played the bridesmaid role in Class D too many times for its liking in recent times, losing state finals to Schenck of East Millinocket (2010), Woodland (2009) and Central Aroostook (2006 and 2008).
The third-seeded Bobcats (16-3) feature a veteran starting lineup that includes four seniors led by 6-5 center Kyle O’Brien, named Western D tournament MVP after scoring 17 points and grabbing 14 rebounds during Richmond’s 55-52 victory over Vinalhaven in the regional final.
Tom Carter, a 6-3 senior forward, provides additional height to the Bobcats’ front line along with 6-1 classmate Wade Tuttle, while senior Mike Christie and junior Ben Carver work in the backcourt for coach Phiil Houdlette’s club.
Richmond has allowed an average of 44.3 points per game in three postseason victories.