The Calais High School girls basketball team won the State Class C title in 2010 but lost to Waynflete of Portland 59-55 in last year’s state final.
They are seen as the favorite to return to the state game this season, although there are a lot of teams that appear poised to challenge them.
“There are a bunch of teams that could contend for the Eastern Maine title but everybody expects Calais to be up in the No. 1 spot and they’re deserving. [Maddie] McVicar is a very good point guard and she has a good supporting cast with her,” said Orono coach Jessica Witham, whose Red Riots lost to Calais in the EM final 63-54.
“They’re very well coached. McVicar is real tough,” agreed Dexter coach Jody Grant.
Grant also considers Orono and Houlton to be top contenders.
Narraguagus of Harrington, Dexter and Sumner of East Sullivan were mentioned as being in the title hunt and Washington Academy of East Machias could make some noise after spending the past two seasons in Class B.
“We look good on paper,” acknowledged Calais coach Dana Redding, whose team went 21-1 a year ago. “We have four starters back. Maddie McVicar is the total package. She’ll be one of the better players in Eastern Maine, if not the state.”
The 5-foot-7 McVicar, a Bangor Daily News All-Maine honorable mention last year as a sophomore and the EM Class C tourney’s Most Valuable Player, is a consistent double-figure scorer who also dishes out 6-7 assists and grabs 4-5 rebounds per game, according to Redding.
Paige Gillespie, a 5-11 senior center, averaged 10-12 points and 9-10 rebounds and can also run the floor.
Senior forward Taylorae Carter is a productive rebounder; junior Olivia Smith is a guard who can both shoot and rebound; 5-9 senior forward Kaitlyn Cundiff is strong on the boards and junior guard Kaylee Johnson supplies quickness. Senior guard Mallory Black is a point-producer.
Orono graduated 6-foot center Jillian Woodward and her 14.7 ppg and 11.7 rpg.
But Witham’s team, 17-4 last year, returns four starters and a supporting cast that earned valuable minutes.
“Jillian was our top scorer but all of my returning starters can score and that will make us more difficult to defend,” said Witham.
Six-foot junior forward Katie Sypher (10.2 ppg, 5 rpg) and 5-6 senior guard Ellie Kass (8.9 ppg) headline the list of returnees.
Katie Smith, a 5-10 senior forward, and Sypher will provide a productive one-two punch in the paint and Kass and 5-3 sophomore point guard Hannah Clement give them fast-break capabilities. Guards Jordan Hernandez, Ally Gonyar and Ana Eliza Souza Cunha are athletic and could earn some solid minutes. Witham also has four promising freshmen.
Dexter, 19-1 last year, lost standouts Jordyn Bell and Lauren Crane but Grant gets three starters back in junior point guard Tasha Pratt, junior guard Michaela White and senior forward Abbie Melvin.
Grant said Pratt is a good ball-handler and decision-maker; White is a great defender and Melvin is a productive rebounder.
Six-one freshman Megan Peach will help Melvin on the boards and Peyton Watson, Bobbie-Lynn Chambers and Abbey Jordan will strengthen the backcourt.
“We may not have anybody scoring 20 like last year but we may have a little more [scoring] balance,” said Grant, who is hoping his players can become a strong defensive unit, which has been a Dexter trademark.
Houlton, 11-8 in 2012-13, has three starters back in sophomore guard Natalie Hill, sophomore forward Katie Condon and senior center-forward Samantha Keegan.
“I like our team. I think we’ll be fairly quick. We’ll play an up-tempo style of game and we have depth,” said coach Shawn Graham.
Condon and Hill should be double-digit scorers; senior guard Brianna Longstaff is a 3-point threat; senior guard Jessica Dickison is the Shires’ best defender; junior Emily Mooers and sophomore Chelsea Gentle supply backcourt quickness and sophomore Megan Collett and senior Tanika Toby will help Keegan grab rebounds.
Sumner was 12-8 a year ago and loses just one player while regaining senior guard and four-year starter Genesis DiCarlo, who was sidelined by knee surgery.
“We’ve had some injuries and illness in the preseason so we’ve had to have some people step up and that should make us stronger,” said coach Amanda Violette.
An outstanding junior class includes starters Savana Turner, a guard, 5-9 center Taylor Davis and 5-10 center Jordan Merchant.
A strong supporting cast includes starting point guard Jessica West, Taya Moore, who filled in for DiCarlo, guard Kiandra Barnes and forward Ali Coelho.
Senior guard Jennie Daley, who missed last year due to injury, is back.
Narraguagus was 10-10 but nearly shocked top seed Calais in the quarterfinals. Calais erased a nine-point deficit in the final two minutes to win 55-54.
“We’ll be competitive with Calais,” said Narraguagus coach Chris Burke. “We’ll be better than last year. We’re quicker. We’ll apply full-court pressure.”
Burke returns three starters in 5-10 forward Anna Ramsay and 5-11 guard Kelli Kennedy along with 5-6 guard Karmen Kennedy. Kelli Kennedy, who had 24 points against Calais, and Ramsay are capable of scoring 15-20 points per night.
Guards Caryl Ann Young and Brooke Hachey and forwards Cassidy Osgood and Carolyn DeShiffart also return. Hachey was hurt last year. Promising freshman Kayla Toppin could get significant minutes.
Washington Academy, 8-10 in Class B, returns four starters and a couple other players who saw significant minutes in point guard Logan Huckins, guards Lauren Raye and Whitney Porter and forwards Taylor Cushing, Kaitlyn Carl and 5-10 Tamara Kabuye from Rwanda.
“We’ve got to get our fast break going and score some points off it,” said coach Gary Wood. “We have six or seven girls capable of chipping in 8-12 points on a given night.”
Lee Academy returns 10 players off its 10-9 team, fifth seed Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln was hit hard by graduation and No. 6 Penquis of Milo also lost some key personnel.