Preseason predictions can be irrelevant sometimes, especially when a team gets to the Bangor Auditorium.
Just ask the Calais girls, who entered tournament play as the No. 6 seed last winter, but peaked at the right time and beat three higher-seeded teams en route to the program’s first state championship since 2001.
But the Blue Devils will have some reloading to do this winter, with two key pieces to that puzzle, Nicole Osborne and Alex McVicar, having graduated, so coach Dana Redding will have an influx of youth.
“I think as the season goes along we’ll be better,” said Redding, in his third year as Calais’ head coach.
Calais will look to build around upperclassmen Shannon Brown and Rebecca Redding (coach’s niece), both seniors, and junior Brook Young, who played significant roles in the team’s tourney run last winter.
The 5-foot-11 Brown can be a threat inside and can also step back and shoot from the outside, and Redding is using last year’s success as an example that anything can happen once the tourney tips off.
“It’s two different seasons, we all know about that, if you can peak at the right time that’s what its all about,” he said. “It’s not how you start, its how you finish.”
Finishing is something that Central didn’t accomplish last year, as the Red Devils from Corinth were knocked out by Calais in the semifinals.
But coach Diane Rollins’ club doesn’t even speak of that moment anymore, having turned the page to what they hope will be a special season.
“We’ve got the outside shooting, we’ve got the inside shooting, we can match up with anybody,” said senior guard Hannah Pray. “As long as we just work as a team we can go a long way.”
Pray and 6-foot-4 classmate Bekah Campbell headline a deep Red Devils squad that has a talented mix of height and backcourt play.
Samantha Brownell (5-11) and Roberta Trafton (5-9) will complement Campbell down low, while Brianna Speed, Max McHugh, Taryn Pineo and Kaylee Harvey round out the backcourt.
McHugh had a solid freshman campaign, and Campbell added some extra strength to her frame by participating in spring track in the offseason, specializing in the throwing events.
“It’s helped my upper body strength which will hopefully help with my rebounding and my arms,” Campbell said.
Class C certainly won’t be short on other contenders such as Washington Academy of East Machias, which is in its last go-around in Class C as the Raiders are likely moving up to Class B next winter.
Coach Gary Wood’s club has played in the last two regional championship games, and his key returnees include seniors Taylor Seeley and Christy Smith and juniors Kristi Wright and Brandelyn Hodgdon.
Orono could be poised for another strong season under head coach Jessica Libby, whose Riots return 10 players and are looking to build on consecutive tournament appearances.
“Obviously the first goal for us is to get back into the tournament, and once you get back into the tournament then its anybody’s game,” said Libby. “We’re just hoping to have fun along the way and enjoy the ride.”
The Riots were sophomore-heavy last winter when they posted a 15-3 mark, and Orono will be solid underneath with sophomore Jillian Woodward and senior Morgan Dickey, who both stand 5-11, while Kate Berry, Leah Bryant, Laura Triandafillou and Jade Keezer headline a deep backcourt.
One that may help Orono this winter is a challenging schedule, as the Riots not only play Central twice, but face Class B contenders John Bapst and neighbor Old Town twice.
“Anybody can beat anybody, you’ve got to be ready to play every night,” Libby said.
Libby believes Dexter could be a sleeper pick, while Stearns of Millinocket and Fort Kent are challengers in the PVC as well.
The Tigers haven’t made the postseason since their Eastern Maine title in 2007, but coach Jody Grant feels as if his club can make a tournament push.
“We’ve been fairly disappointed, the goal the last couple years has been to go to Bangor, that’s a very special time and place for the basketball season,” Grant said. “We are hoping to get back there.”
Shelbee Lancaster and Callie Theodore, both seniors, will be counted upon for leadership, while junior Maicee Gustin and sophomore Jordyn Bell, who will handle the point, are also among the key players.
Libby Kain, Gabby Adams, Lauren Crane and Allison Pease could see key minutes as well, and Dexter will be tough defensively.
“That’s kind of something we’ve hung our hat on, we still want to be good defensively (but) I think we’re going to be just a little more dynamic on offense, I hope,” Grant said.
Woodland could also contend as veteran coach Arnold Clark’s Dragons traditionally play tough defense, and always have strong backcourt play.
The Dragons’ key returning players include Taylor Cochran and Molly White.