Houlton High School junior forward Kyle Bouchard has point guard skills in a 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame, and he’s used that to give his Eastern Maine Class C foes fits the past two seasons.
Containing him and his fellow Shiretowners will be the main task of opposing basketball coaches this season in what is shaping out to be a much deeper regional field of teams in 2013.
“You have to game plan for Kyle Bouchard,” Dexter head coach Peter Murray said. “He’s a fun guy to play with. He demands a lot of attention and he makes everyone who’s out on the floor with him better.
“They have some other guys that can hurt you as well, so you can’t focus all your attention on him,” he added. “They’ll be hungry after their finish last season.”
Accompanying Bouchard — who averaged of 19.2 p points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists to earn BDN All-Maine second-team honors last season — are shooters who are sure to benefit from playing alongside the junior.
“Bouchard is great, inside and outside,” Houlton head coach Rob Moran said. “He’s very unselfish. [Senior guard] Nick Guiod is a terrific shooter and has developed into a very good distributor. [Senior guard] Kole Buzzeo is one of the better shooters around, and our other starters, [senior] Elyjah Crocket and [junior] Jake Drew, are very solid defensively.”
Not to be overlooked is defending state champion Penquis Valley of Milo, which bested Houlton in the Eastern final last season before topping Boothbay in the state game. The Patriots graduated six seniors from last year’s squad and lost All-Maine first-teamer Isaiah Bess (26.5 ppg, 8 rpg and 3 steals per game), who transferred to Hampden Academy.
First-year coach Jason Mills takes over for the retired Tony Hamlin for the Patriots, who return their floor general in senior guard Trevor Lyford, an All-Maine honorable mention.
Adding to the depth in Class C this year is Washington Academy of East Machias, which lost to Camden Hills in the Class B quarterfinals last season and features a roster full of experience with 10 juniors and seniors.
Calais, Lee Academy, Stearns of Millinocket, Bucksport and Dexter are other teams who could make some noise in Eastern C this season.
“I think Class C, there’s a little more depth than there was in years past,” Moran said. “WA dropping down makes it much tougher, Calais is going to be tougher and Lee is always good.
“Other teams like Bucksport, who some people may not look at right away as a threat, could be pretty good as well.”
Calais graduated BDN All-Maine honorable mention Devin Hall and will look to junior Kyle Johnson to step in as their main offensive contributor. The Blue Devils only dress nine players, all of them juniors and seniors, so experience should help them in 2013-14.
Washington Academy head coach Steve Pineo’s squad will be led by 6-4 wing Gage Feeney, a Big East honorable mention last season.
Lee Academy returns size along the front line, including 6-6 senior forward Charif Fall among three players 6-5 or taller. The Pandas graduated nine seniors, highlighted by defensive catalyst Julian Diggs, but added newcomers who should have an impact for head coach Randy Harris.
The Dexter Tigers will look to improve upon their semifinal finish last season despite losing four seniors, three of whom were main contributors last season in Dylan Graffam, Matthew Crane and Casey Jordan. They return captain and four-year starter Trevor Fogarty in the backcourt, whose experience and ability to get his teammates open looks could put a balanced roster of upper and underclassmen over the top.
Murray said after Houlton, Lee and Washington Academy, the rest of Eastern C features a lot of parity that could give many an opportunity for a playoff spot in February.
“We’re looking at the league in general and not seeing a whole lot of difference between the teams,” he said. “We’re anticipating a lot of close games. Once you get beyond that top three or four, the next eight or nine teams are pretty similar. We just need to get ourself in position at the end to get to the playoffs.”
Stearns head coach Greg Marter must replace most of the Minutemen’s scoring output from last year’s quarterfinal squad in graduates Kyle McVey and Riley Whitney.
Bucksport returns leading scorer Josh Gray to a team who fell to Bouchard and the Shiretowners in the quarterfinals last February.