February 20, 2018
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Defending ‘A’ boys champion Hampden boasts Augusta win streak

By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

Amid all of the streaks being compiled by the Hampden Academy boys basketball team — 40 straight victories overall, 39 straight at home and 46 consecutive regular-season wins — one less prolific run may have even greater significance.

Coach Russ Bartlett’s club has won its last seven games at the Augusta Civic Center, leading to back-to-back Eastern Maine Class A titles and the 2013 state championship.

The top-ranked Broncos (18-0) return to their postseason home away from home Saturday night to face No. 8 Lewiston in the quarterfinal leg of their quest to become the first Class A boys team to win three consecutive regional crowns since Morse of Bath won state titles in 1987, 1988 and 1989.

“We know we have the target on our back,” said Bartlett. “All we can do is play the first game and if we happen to be lucky enough to win, then we can play the next one after that.”

Only two of Hampden’s victories have come down to the final moments, a 64-55 double-overtime survival of No. 2 Brunswick two months ago and a 66-58 win over No. 6 Oxford Hills of South Paris on Feb. 1.

“Obviously Hampden’s in the driver’s seat,” said Bangor coach Ed Kohtala. “They’re an experienced team and they’re playing well. But after that, in trying to guess who Hampden would likely play in an Eastern Maine final I think you can almost throw a dart at the board because with the matchups and the coaching in the league, there’s no easy way to that game.”

Bangor won eight of its last nine games to finish third with a 13-5 record, but the ultimate fate of the Rams, who face Oxford Hills in the quarters, may rest on the right knee of senior center Connor Adams.

Adams was hurt during the final week of the regular season, and while the injury was feared to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament, it turned out to be a sprain that left open the possibility he would be able to return for the tournament.

Class B: The KVAC has won this regional title every year since 2000 and boasts the top two seeds this season in Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston and Camden Hills of Rockport, who split two regular-season meetings.

No. 1 Oceanside (16-2) entered postseason play ranked fourth a year ago only to be upset in the prelims by No. 13 Foxcroft Academy. This year’s club features an athletic, high-octane approach that averages an old-school 75 points per game.

Camden Hills (15-3) has thrived without the presence of a traditional point guard. Instead, coach Jeff Hart’s club has relied on 6-foot-3-inch senior Colin Morse to handle much of those duties, and the senior recently was named KVAC Class B Player of the Year.

No. 3 Mount Desert Island (14-4) gained the other bye, and coach Justin Norwood’s defensive-minded Trojans will attempt to reach the Eastern B final for the third straight year.

Class C: Top-ranked and unbeaten Houlton (18-0) has advanced to the last two Eastern Maine finals, but the Shiretowners left last year’s battle against Penquis Valley of Milo unfulfilled after Penquis rallied from a double-digit second-half deficit for a 46-41 win en route to the state title.

Houlton is led by BDN All-Maine junior forward Kyle Bouchard and senior point guard Nick Guiod, both starters since the outset of their high school careers.

Calais is the second seed at 15-3 and despite two regular-season losses to the Shiretowners figures to be one of their top challengers. Other contenders include third-ranked Lee Academy (15-3) and No. 4 Washington Academy of East Machias (12-6), though WA’s hopes may depend on the health of junior forward Austin Seavey, who suffered an ankle injury during the final week of the season.

Defending champion Penquis is fifth at 12-6 despite losing seven of its top eight players from last year. Senior guard Trevor Lyford, a 1,000-point scorer, led coach Jason Mills’ club to its preliminary-round bye.

Class D: The Eastern Maine semifinals were an all-Aroostook County affair last year with champion Central Aroostook of Mars Hill joined by Washburn, Easton and Hodgdon.

Neither Washburn nor Central Aroostook survived Wednesday’s preliminary round when three of the top eight seeds were ousted — including No. 16 Jonesport-Beals’ stunning 66-63 upset of top-ranked Washburn.

That’s left No. 2 Easton — which just completed the first undefeated season in the school’s boys basketball history — and No. 3 Hodgdon as the pre-tournament leaders.

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