If early projections from Class D boys basketball coaches hold true this season, the top six spots in the standings at the end of the season will be tightly contested and provide fans with an exciting year of basketball to watch down to the wire.
While last season’s Eastern Maine finalists — DI-Stonington and state champion Jonesport-Beals — appear to be top early favorites to earn the right to represent the East in the 2012-2013 state finals, coaches of each team say it’s not that clear cut.
“It is always tough to say who will do what because you never know how injuries will play out. It’s a key part of the game,” Jonesport-Beals coach Gordan Faulkingham said. “I think that Hodgdon is a young and tough team that could really surprise a lot of people.”
Hodgdon returns four seniors from last season’s team that made a run to the Eastern Maine quarterfinals, and possess a great deal of size that includes a pair of 6-foot-4 senior forwards in Matthew Harmon and Devin Logie and 6-5 sophomore Chris Hudson.
The Hawks also return junior guard Tyler Sherman and senior guard Nicholas Lunn to their backcourt, providing the team an experienced core of players and a well-rounded attack that will offer a strong team effort.
“I think Hodgdon will be a good team, they like to play a big and physical style of game and they have all the pieces to do so effectively,” DI-Stonington coach Glenn Billings said. “I think that Katahdin can be a team that may surprise people as well, they will be pretty tough.”
Katahdin returns a core group of six juniors and seniors from last season’s team that lost to eventual state champion Jonesport-Beals in the Eastern Maine semifinals.
Seniors Colton Bivighouse and William Livezey each return for their final season along with junior Wyatt Morse as the Cougars will hope to build upon last season’s 15-7 record and fourth-place finish to the regular season.
Livezey, who scored in bunches, especially in the tournament a season ago, will be a key component to the Cougars’ offensive efforts this season.
“Katahdin has the potential to be a very good team,” said Faulkingham. “Central Aroostook is a tough team that people can’t overlook, their coach Tim Brewer always finds someone to play really well and they could be a sleeper team to watch for.”
Following a run to the Eastern Maine semifinals a season ago, Central Aroostook will return a group of core players from last year’s team that includes seven juniors and seniors.
“Central Aroostook is usually tough,” said Billings.
The Panthers are looking to use the experience from last season’s second-place finish in the Heal points with a 18-3 record to come out of the gate fast and finish strong.
“I know that I’m going to forget a team without even trying to,” said Billings. “There are quite a few good teams in the East this season.”
The Washburn Beavers, last season’s three seed, return seniors Nicholas Bragg and Mitchell Worcester from a 16-3 squad that pushed its way to the Eastern Maine quarterfinals before falling to a hot DI-Stonington team.
Bragg and Worcester are the lone upperclassmen on the team and will lead a young squad into the gym, but are expected to still be a tough team to face.
The potential parity in Class D boys basketball this season will mean that teams will face tough matchups every time they step onto the hardwood, and that half of the battle will be to simply make it to Bangor for the tournament.
As Billings — whose Mariners streaked to the Eastern Maine finals a season ago as the sixth seed — points out, as long as a team makes the postseason it’s all about what that team does once they make the playoffs.
“You just want the kids to come and play hard every night and do their best,” he said. “Hopefully by the time the tournament rolls around, we’re playing our best basketball and able to make a run.”