Eastern Maine schoolboy basketball teams have cornered the market on gold ball collection during the last six years.
Since the start of the 2004 season, Eastern Maine has won 17 of the last 24 state championship games in the boys ranks, winning three of four titles in five of the last six years.
During that six-year span, Eastern Maine has won just two of the six Class A state titles, but five Class B crowns, four Class C championships and all six Class D state finals.
Four new Western Maine champs, Cheverus of Portland, Falmouth, Dirigo of Dixfield and Richmond, hope to reverse that trend this weekend.
Cheverus, which will face Edward Little of Auburn for the Class A crown at Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center on Saturday night, is the most controversial of this year’s Western entries.
The Stags are led by senior guard Indiana Faithfull, who was ruled ineligible late in the regular season under the Maine Principals’ Association eight-semester rule but reinstated in time for the tournament after being granted a temporary restraining order by a Cumberland County court.
The 6-foot-4 Faithfull averaged 16 points in three tournament games to lead coach Bob Brown’s club to its second Western A title in the last three years, and received the Vinall Trophy as that event’s outstanding-player sportsman.
The Stags have allowed just 36.7 points per game during postseason play.
Falmouth, which squares off against defending state champion Camden Hills of Rockport in Friday night’s Class B state final at the Bangor Auditorium, won its first 17 games this winter before dropping its regular-season finale to Cape Elizabeth.
The Yachtsmen (20-1) avenged that loss with a 53-40 victory over the Capers in the regional final.
Falmouth, which is seeking its first Class B state crown but won three straight Class C state titles during the late 1990s, is led by senior guard Stefano Mancini.
Mancini, winner of the Pierre Harnois Trophy as the outstanding player-sportsman of the Western B tournament, averaged 25.3 points in three postseason games, with four 3-pointers in each contest.
Falmouth also has good size, particularly with 6-7 senior center John Roberts, while senior forward Jahrel Registe and senior guards Sam Horning and Ryan Rogers also contribute.
Falmouth allowed an average of just 42.0 points per game in its tournament wins over Cape Elizabeth, Mountain Valley of Rumford and York.
Dirigo (18-3) returns to the Class C state final for the second straight year, and will face Washington Academy of East Machias at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday night.
The Cougars will have a different look from last year’s team that fell 40-39 to Calais in the championship game.
Gone is 6-9 center Thomas Knight, now at Notre Dame. Gone, too, is coach Gavin Kane, now an assistant coach for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
Now coached by former Mountain Valley head man Dave Gerrish, the Cougars are seeking to add a basketball state championship to the Class C football state title won by the school last November.
Dirigo features Western C tournament MVP Tyler Chiasson, a 6-2 senior guard who is the team’s tallest starter, along with senior forwards Nic Crutchfield and Kyle Hutchinson, senior guards Eric Bolduc and Tyler Gates and junior guard Spencer Ross, who scored 16 points in the Cougars’ 67-56 win over Livermore Falls in the Western C final.
Dirigo has won its three WM tourney games by an average of 17 points.
Richmond returns to the Class D state final for the third straight season and fourth time in five years when it squares off against Schenck of East Millinocket in Augusta on Saturday afternoon.
Yet the Bobcats (20-1) will be seeking their first state championship since 1986.
Under second-year head coach Phil Houdlette, Richmond features a veteran squad led by 6-4 senior center Bruce Carver and guards Mike Christie, Nick Woods and Eric Murrin. Additional size comes from 6-4 junior Kyle O’Brien and 6-2 forward Tom Carter.
The Bobcats have won 10 straight games since a midseason loss to Valley of Bingham, and won their three tournament games by an average of 20.6 points per game.