Washburn High School has owned Class D girls basketball the past four years.
The Beavers’ 78-40 win over Forest Hills of Jackman on Saturday supplied them with their fourth straight state championship. The team’s average winning margin in those four title games has been 24 points.
Washburn will have to replace three important starters in center Carsyn Koch, forward Nicole Olson and guard Carmen Bragg, but 2,000-point scorer Mackenzie Worcester, a guard, and forward Joan Overman are back with a promising supporting cast.
“We have a bumper crop of sophomores who got a fair amount of playing time. One, [Emmy Churchill], started for us the first part of the season,” said coach Diana Trams.
“We’ll be right up there. It will be a matter of how hard are the girls willing to work. But anything is possible for this group,” Trams added.
“I wouldn’t count us out,” said Worcester, who had a game-high 28 points against Forest Hills. She was the runner-up to Van Buren’s Parise Rossignol for the Eastern Maine Class D tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award this season after she won it in 2012.
“We’re going to work real hard in the offseason and during the season. We want these gold balls to keep coming. We’re hard-working, determined girls, and I think we can make a run for it,” Worcester added.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Overman who, like Worcester, will be a senior. “We’re going to miss [Koch, Olson and Bragg] so much. But I wouldn’t put us out of it. It’s going to require a lot of hard work. We have some talented players coming back. It’ll be a lot harder next year than the previous three years. But we still have a chance.”
Washburn’s chief rivals will also have some revamping to do.
Rossignol, a 2,000-point scorer who led her second-seeded Crusaders into the Eastern Maine title game, will take her skills to the University of Maine; top seed Schenck of East Millinocket is losing four starters, including 1,000-point scorer and all-Eastern Maine tourney choice Morgan Thompson, and third seed Fort Fairfield will lose four prominent seniors.
In Class C, two-time Eastern Maine tourney MVP Maddy McVicar will return for Calais, which annexed its second state title and third Eastern Maine crown in five years this season.
The dynamic guard averaged 15.5 points in the Blue Devils’ four tournament wins, including the state game, and she is also the floor general who can rebound and trigger the fast break with her steals.
McVicar will be joined by backcourt mates Kaylee Johnson, who had 14 points in the state championship game win over Carrabec of North Anson, and Olivia Smith, who had six points and eight rebounds in the state game.
“But we lose all our big girls,” said coach Dana Redding, referring to 5-foot-11 all-tourney center Paige Gillespie, 5-9 Kaitlyn Cundiff and 5-7 Taylorae Carter.
“It’ll be tough, but we’ve got Maddy, so we’ll be competitive,” he added.
Redding said the list of contenders include Houlton and Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln.
“Houlton has [Natalie] Hill and [Katie] Condon back, and they’ve got some incoming freshmen who could have played for them this year,” said Redding. “And Mattanawcook Academy was young.”
Condon, a sophomore, averaged 12.5 points in her two tourney games and was an all-tourney pick.
Mattanawcook loses just one starter, and 6-0 freshman center Sydney Robertson served notice in the tourney that she will be a strong frontcourt player.
Orono, which lost to Calais in the Eastern Maine final, will lose two starters in all-tourney guard Elea Kass and 5-9 forward Katie Smith. However, sophomore guard Hannah Clement, who averaged 13 points and over three steals en route to all-tourney honors, headlines a quality list of returnees along with 5-11 center Katie Sypher.
It could be a crowded field of contenders since only one of the other tourney teams will lose more than three seniors. Washington Academy of East Machias loses four.
In Class B, regional titlist Mount Desert Island will have to replace Eastern Maine tourney MVP Hannah Shaw, who averaged 19.7 points and 15 rebounds in the tourney. Guard Sierra Myrick will also graduate.
“It’s tough to lose seniors, especially Hannah, a 1,000-point scorer who led us in points and rebounds the last three years,” said eight-year head coach Brent Barker. “That’s a lot of production to lose.”
But Shaw’s younger sister, Kelsey Shaw, a 5-10 sophomore forward, was an all-tourney pick after averaging 13 points and 6.5 rebounds in the semis and Eastern Maine final, and junior guards Sarah Phelps and Molly Carroll headline a list of other key contributors along with sophomores Sierra Tapley and Keely McConomy.
Barker said another plus was his players reached the regional final and played in a state final for the first time.
“That experience will make us better. The kids will know what they have to do to get there and what it’s like when they do get there,” said Barker.
Presque Isle, which had won the previous two state titles, could well be the team to beat next season as the Wildcats lose just one senior and have two-time all-tourney pick Hannah Graham (17 ppg in the tourney) back along with inside presence Krystal Kingsbury and point-producing guards Taylor Williams and Emily Lagerstrom.
Fourth seed Winslow didn’t have a senior; 6-1 all-tourney center Brianna Skolfield (15 ppg, 12 rpg) will return for Foxcroft; John Bapst of Bangor, Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston and Medomak Valley of Waldoboro lose just two and Camden Hills graduates three as does Old Town and Waterville.
Eastern Maine Class A champ Oxford Hills of South Paris appears to be the frontrunner next year with Eastern Maine A tourney MVP Mikayla Morin (14.7 ppg) and fellow all-tourney pick Anna Winslow (14.3 ppg) returning at forward and sophomore center Tiana Sugars also back.
But Eastern Maine runner-up Edward Little of Auburn will challenge the Vikings thanks to the return of junior guard Tianna Harriman and sophomore forward Emily Jacques.