One week into the high school girls basketball schedule, little has happened from which to draw any substantive conclusions about the season just under way.
Such trends are still a few weeks away as new players mesh their skills with returning veterans and individual roles within the team concept continue to be defined.
What’s shaping up, however, is little different than any other year — and that’s competitive races throughout Eastern Maine’s four classes.
This could be a free-for-all, much as it was a year ago when Hampden Academy knocked off eighth-seeded Messalonskee of Oakland to win its first regional title since 1976.
Hampden suffered heavy graduation losses, but Messalonskee figures to be back among the leading contenders led by senior center Megan Pelletier and senior guard Mary Badeen.
Skowhegan returns four starters from an 11-7 team that didn’t qualify for postseason play a year ago, while Cony of Augusta has a top-notch guard in Mia Diplock and Edward Little of Auburn returns its leading scorer in junior guard Ashlee Arnold.
Oxford Hills could be another contender while Bangor, which made the tournament for the first time in three years last winter, could be a darkhorse with center Kate Brochu and point guard Denae Johnson joined by some talented youngsters.
The pick: Messalonskee.
Nokomis of Newport is the two-time defending Eastern Maine champion, and the Warriors are one of the primary contenders again with a lineup featuring senior forward Marissa Shaw and sophomore guards Kylie and Kelsie Richards.
The Warriors’ primary challenger in the region likely will be a familiar opponent — the Presque Isle Wildcats.
Presque Isle has lost in the EM semifinals each of the last three years — the last two years to Nokomis.
The Wildcats return a strong nucleus of their own led by seniors Kayla Richards and Chelsea Nickerson and junior Chandler Guerrette, and this may be the year Presque Isle breaks back through as it attempts to win its first regional crown since its most recent state title run in 2006.
The pick: Presque Isle.
Defending Eastern Maine champion Washington Academy is now in Class B, leaving behind a long list of contenders seeking to ascend to that throne.
Orono, which advanced to the regional final last year, should be formidable with Kate Berry, Laura Triandafillou and Jillian Woodward among the top returning players.
Central of Corinth graduated two 1,000-point scorers in 6-4 Bekah Campbell and guard Hannah Pray, but the Red Devils return point guard Max McHugh and are riding a wave of confidence after winning the Class C soccer state championship this fall.
Dexter has three starters back from last year’s tournament team, while Calais and Houlton have formidable clubs and Mattanacook Academy of Lincoln should be strong after dropping down from Class B.
The pick: Orono.
A youthful Washburn team that won its first state title since 1989 last year should benefit from an additional infusion of youth this winter, with six freshmen led by guard Mackenzie Worcester joining a cast of returning players featuring sophomores Carmen Bragg, Nicole Olson and Carsyn Koch (currently out with a wrist injury) and juniors Rayah Saucier, Maegan Fitzpatrick and Olivia Doody.
Challengers should include Fort Fairfield, which features senior forward Amanda Hotham, and Central Aroostook, led by seniors Victoria McIntyre and Rachael Grew.
And high-scoring sophomore guard Parise Rossignol should give Van Buren a chance to compete against anyone in the division.
The pick: Washburn.