The high school basketball campaign begins Friday night, and there will be little easing into the season for many boys varsity squads expected to contend for regional and state honors.
Here are a few games of note over the first few nights of the schedule:
Hampden Academy vs. Brewer, 6 p.m. Friday, Cross Insurance Center, Bangor: The first countable high school game in the brand new replacement for the Bangor Auditorium matches reigning Class A state champion Hampden against a youthful Brewer team led by Clayton Blood, who is beginning his second stint as the Witches’ head coach. Hampden also sports a different look with the addition of transfer Isaiah Bess, a first-team Bangor Daily News All-Maine choice last winter after leading Penquis Valley of Milo to the Class C state title. The senior wing joins an already potent lineup led by another 2013 first-team BDN All-Maine choice in senior forward Zach Gilpin.
Bangor at Lewiston, 7 p.m. Friday: Two teams that hope to challenge Hampden’s Eastern A supremacy match up in what could be a battle of contrasts. Lewiston, which lost to Hampden in last winter’s EM semifinals, returns one of the deeper frontcourts in the division while Bangor often will employ a four-guard lineup that includes senior guard Xavier Lewis, now back with the Rams after spending his junior year at Lawrence of Fairfield, where he helped the Bulldogs reach the Eastern A final.
Waterville vs. Camden Hills, 7 p.m. Friday at Rockport: Two Class B teams with high expectations kick off what should be a typically rigorous run through the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference regular-season schedule. Camden Hills, which has won five state titles and seven Eastern Maine crowns since the start of the 2001 season, was knocked out in the quarterfinals a year ago but returns eight seniors. Waterville also has a deep nucleus back as it hopes to build on last year’s 14-6 effort.
Oceanside vs. Medomak Valley, 7 p.m. Friday at Waldoboro: Medomak Valley won its first Class B regional title since 1980 last February, and likely will feature a more perimeter-oriented attack this winter after graduating 6-8 BDN All-Maine honoree John Murray and 6-5 Ryan Ripley. A talented Oceanside team is motivated by a disappointing end to last season, when the Mariners finished fourth in the final regular-season standings but were upset by No. 13 Foxcroft Academy in the preliminary round.
Houlton at Calais, 7 p.m. Saturday: This is a rematch of a Class C semifinal last winter in which Houlton earned a 41-32 victory en route to the regional final. The Shires are one of four new opponents on the schedule for Calais, along with Ellsworth, Lee Academy and Fort Kent. Both Houlton and Calais return experienced clubs, with Houlton led by 6-5 junior Kyle Bouchard, a BDN All-Maine choice a year ago who already is receiving considerable college recruiting interest.
Hampden Academy at Bangor, 7 p.m. Tuesday: These rivals had met in a mutual season opener each of the last five years, with Hampden winning all five of those contests. Hampden and Bangor were picked as the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in this year’s KVAC Class A preseason coaches poll.
Camden Hills at Oceanside, 7 p.m. Tuesday: Another rivalry game, this time in the KVAC Class B ranks.
Key basketball season dates
Here are some dates to remember for the 2013-14 basketball season.
— The last countable regular-season games may be played Feb. 7, 2014, with the only exception a Feb. 8 make-up date for postponed Feb. 7 games.
— Preliminary-round contests follow on Feb. 11 and 12, followed by regional tourney week from Friday, Feb. 14, through Saturday, Feb. 22.
— The state championship game schedule begins with the Class B finals on Friday, Feb. 28, at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The Classes A, C and D games follow on Saturday, March 1, with the Class A games at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland and the C and D matchups at the Augusta Civic Center.
Knight, Parlin end coaching runs
The end of the most recent high school football season also marked the end of two of the longer current coaching tenures in central Maine.
Frank Knight announced his retirement as Waterville’s varsity football coach at his team’s postseason banquet, ending a 24-year run leading the Purple Panthers.
Earlier in the fall, Gary Parlin announced his intention to step down as head coach at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington after 21 seasons.
Parlin guided the Cougars to more than 130 victories during his time on the job, second most in school history behind his predecessor, Ray Caldwell. Parlin’s run included a 5-4 record this year on the heels of a 2012 campaign when Mt. Blue won the Class B state championship and finished as the state’s only undefeated team with a 12-0 record.
Knight guided Waterville to Eastern Maine Class A championships in 1993 and 1994 — with the 1994 team falling to Biddeford in overtime of the state final.
Knight’s Purple Panthers also have been strong of late, reaching Eastern Maine championship games in each of the last two seasons. This year’s team finished with an 8-2 record.