Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A boys varsity basketball coaches believe the coming winter will produce the same finish as last season within their ranks — with Hampden Academy atop the standings.
Hampden, which won the 2012 Eastern Maine Class A championship, is projected as the regional title winner again in 2013, according to a preseason poll of the division’s 14 head coaches.
The Broncos topped second-place Lawrence of Fairfield in the poll, with Edward Little of Auburn third and Lewiston and Brunswick completing the top five.
A projection of the top eight teams in the KVAC Class A — which also makes up all of Eastern Maine Class A — was released recently, with Cony of Augusta ranked sixth, Bangor seventh and Messalonskee of Oakland eighth.
Hampden won its first regional title since 2006 last winter, finishing with a 20-2 record after falling to Deering of Portland 59-50 in the state final. Coach Russ Bartlett’s club graduated the state’s 2012 Mr. Basketball in guard Christian McCue, now playing at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, as well as frontcourt standouts Fred Knight and Logan Poirier.
The Broncos return two starters in junior forward Zach Gilpin and senior forward Matt Palmer, the team’s leader in assists a year ago, while other key players back include seniors Brian Fickett and Tyler Norris and junior guard Cam Scott.
Lawrence, which finished 12-7 last year after falling to Bangor in the regional quarterfinals, features senior forwards Spencer Carey and Nick Noiles as well as junior guard Xavier Lewis, a transfer from Bangor who would have been that team’s top returning scorer had he remained with the Rams.
Edward Little will be led by senior forward Quin Leary, who earned Bangor Daily News All-Maine honorable mention status last winter, while Lewiston returns guards Donne Agossou and Josh Thomas and center Stephen Patrie and Brunswick will rely heavily on senior guard Konnor Scarponi and senior center Bradford Smith.
Mt. Blue, an EM finalist a year ago, and Bangor, which reached the semifinals, each will enter a new era under new head coaches this winter. Ed Kohtala, a veteran high school and college coach who most recently spent three years as an assistant with the University of Maine men’s basketball team, has replaced Roger Reed at Bangor, while Josh Bishop, a former coach at Carrabec of North Anson, takes over at Mt. Blue for the retired Jim Bessey.
Among other players listed on a watch list by conference coaches are Brendan Newcomb of Brewer, Zac Lachance of Cony, Devin Duncan and Caleb McGuire of Erskine Academy of South China, Elijah Steele and Travis Stacey of Messalonskee, Mason Griffin of Mount Ararat of Topsham, Jordan Croteau of Oxford Hills of South Paris, and Taylor Bacon of Skowhegan.