Nokomis High School of Newport has been a dominating force in Eastern Maine Class B girls basketball the last two seasons.
With the Wildcats having graduated seven players, the senior members of this year’s Nokomis team hope to help the Warriors take the next step.
The Warriors begin their second season under head coach Michelle Paradis as one of the favorites in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and the region. They are likely to be tested by the likes of Mount Desert Island, a veteran ballclub that went 18-3 en route to the regional semifinals last winter.
“I’d be surprised if there was anybody else in the Eastern Maine championship,” offered Camden Hills coach Marty Messer. “They’re both big, athletic and have good guards.”
“You’re crazy if you don’t think they’re the best two teams in Eastern Maine,” added Presque Isle coach Jeff Hudson.
Yet nobody is counting out his Wildcats, who have won their last 44 games and have posted 45 consecutive home victories.
“They’re still going to be a very competitive team,” said MDI coach Brent Barker. “Jeff will have something up his sleeve to put them back in the hunt.”
Nokomis returns a seasoned group, paced by 6-foot-1 senior center Anna Mackenzie, who averaged 14 points and a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference-best 13 rebounds during the 2012-13 regular season.
Senior Taylor Shaw posted almost 11 points and five rebounds per contest, while twin senior guards Kelsie Richards and Kylie Richards and junior Makayla Charters provide plenty of offensive balance.
Kelsie Richards and senior Lindsay Whitney are 3-point threats.
“They were in the Eastern Maine finals last year,” Barker said. “They have the Richards twins, who are very athletic, a nice litttle post player in Anna Mackenzie, and Taylor Shaw.”
MDI is blessed with a veteran nucleus that includes only two seniors, including Hannah Shaw. The 5-9 forward is a two-time Big East Conference Co-Player of the Year who was a BDN All-Maine honorable mention last season.
“She’s relentless, athletic and she’s very quick,” Barker said. “She gets into seams real well and she can finish at the rim.”
MDI returns eight players, all of whom played significant minutes last season.
“They’ve all been tested at the varsity level,” Barker said. “They know what to expect and they know what I expect of them.”
Junior Sarah Phelps will run the point for the Trojans, who have a third returning starter in senior guard Sierra Myrick. Sophomore forward Kelsey Shaw, Hannah’s sister, is expected to bolster MDI’s presence inside.
Sophomore guard Sierra Tapley will step in to provide an offensive spark outside and off the dribble, while sophomore forward Keely McConomy will be the first forward off the bench. Junior guards Molly Carroll and Sara Norberg are 3-point threats while juniors Haley Littlefield and Aly Bierman and sophomores Jennifer Clemens and Julia Mace lend depth.
“MDI’s been around and they’ve got some really good players in Hannah Shaw and the Phelps girl and they’ve got a lot of good role players,” Hudson said.
Presque Isle is the defending EM champ but must overcome the loss of seven seniors, including Big East Co-Player of the Year and All-Maine guard Chandler Guerrette. Initially, the Wildcats may lean heavily on veterans Hannah Graham, a 5-10 junior guard, and 5-9 junior forward Krystal Kingsbury.
“They expect to win and they know how to win,” Hudson said. “We’ve got some good players back but we’ve also got a lot of inexperience and they’ll have to grow up fast.”
PI’s up-and-comers include sophomore guard Taylor Williams and 5-11 sophomore forward Regan Nelson, along with senior Kaleigh Kenney, junior Emma Kenney, sophomore shooting guard Olivia Hudson, the coach’s daughter, and juniors Morgan Wilcox and Erin Ackerson.
“They’re one of those teams I’ll never overlook, just because there’s such a proud tradition up in The County with them,” Barker said.
“Our expectations are all the same,” Hudson said. “We all buy into that tradition and we don’t want to be part of a team that fails.”
Camden Hills lost three seniors, including All-Maine second-teamer Jordan Knowlton, off its 14-7 semifinal entry. Still, coach Messer’s squad has ample experience.
The Windjammers will look to 6-2 junior post player Rachel Pease to complement her rebounding and defensive prowess with more scoring production.
“She worked more on her offense this summer,” Messer said.
Camden Hills also features a returning starter in 5-9 senior forward Bekah Hilt, who is joined by senior foward Jaclyn Gilson, and group of guards led by sophomore Madelyn Bowman, junior Katie McMorrow and freshman Charlotte Messer, the coach’s daughter.
Some coaches think Foxcroft Academy might be a dark horse in Class B. The Ponies were 3-15 last season but have an All-Big East second-team pick in senior Mackenzie Coiley and acquired a post standout in transfer Bri Skolfield, who previously played at Central High of Corinth.
Several other teams could be in the tournament mix. That group includes Gardiner, Ellsworth, Medomak Valley of Waldoboro and Hermon.