BANGOR, Maine — A couple of classes in the Eastern Maine girls basketball tournament appear to be tossups and a couple look like the contenders may be more limited in number, but all 32 teams will be giving it their best shots when the action opens Friday afternoon.
Eastern Maine Classes B, C and D will play at the Bangor Auditorium, while Class A plays at the Augusta Civic Center.
Class A is one of the tossup divisions where Edward Little of Auburn, led by Ashlee Arnold, is the top seed at 15-3. Bangor (14-4) made its move in the second half of the season to gain the No. 2 spot. Mount Ararat of Topsham (15-3) is third and Lawrence of Fairfield (13-5) is fourth.
All of the EM A teams are in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, but the conference is so large that the schedule is unbalanced. Some teams play each other twice, home and away; some play once and others don’t meet at all.
Bangor, for instance, was swept by EL, but the Rams played playoff-bound Cony of Augusta and Oxford Hills of South Paris only once each. The top-ranked Red Eddies won the rematch 57-49, but the then-No. 5 Rams had big games from Cordelia Stewart, Mary Butler and Denae Johnson.
Bangor downed Lawrence and Brewer in its final two games to jump to second in the Heal points, a display of just how tight the division is. The Rams were 8-1 in the second half of the season.
Mount Ararat was unbeaten in its first 10 games, including an opening-night win over EL, and was No. 1 until the Eagles suffered three straight losses. They won their final five, though. Lawrence lost to Bangor in the next-to-last game, but freshman center Nia Irving is a power in the paint.
Mt. Blue of Farmington, Oxford Hills, Skowhegan and defending EM champ Cony all have at least one win against the top four teams.
Mount Ararat will face Oxford Hills in the 3 p.m. opener Friday, followed by Bangor-Skowhegan at 4:30. Bangor swept Skowhegan in the regular season. Lawrence then faces Mt. Blue at 7, and Edward Little and Cony square off at 8:30.
In Class B, defending state champion Presque Isle is undefeated (18-0) for the second straight year and appears to be the team to beat again. The Wildcats are led by speedy guard Chandler Guerrette, but they also have height in Meredith Stewart and a wealth of ability and depth, as they can use 10 players without missing a beat.
Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston and Nokomis of Newport are Nos. 2 and 3 at 16-2 each, but the parity in the rest of the field is shown as much by the fact No. 13 Winslow, now 7-12, knocked off No. 4 Gardiner in a prelim game.
Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor is also 16-2 and in fifth. The Trojans’ only losses were to fellow Big East competitor Presque Isle, but they now get to face the upstart Black Raiders in the quarterfinals.
Belfast, the No. 6 team (14-5), picked up wins over Nokomis and Oceanside to leapfrog up the points list.
Friday night, Nokomis and Belfast kick off the tourney at 5 p.m. with Oceanside and Camden Hills of Rockport next at 6:30.
In Class C, 18-0 squads Calais and Dexter jockeyed for the lead spot until Calais pulled a bit ahead late in the season, but pointwise, they’re close. Orono is third at 15-3 and Houlton is fourth at 11-7.
The top-seeded Blue Devils are led by Maddy McVicar and Olivia Smith, while Dexter is led by Jordyn Bell and Lauren Crane.
Senior center Jillian Woodward will be the key for the Red Riots.
In Class D, the two-time defending state champion Washburn Beavers have been squelching their opponents again, posting an 18-0 season under first-year head coach Diane Trams and behind guard Mackenzie Worcester.
Schenck of East Millinocket, powered by Kristin Thompson, is second at 14-4. The Wolverines lost their last two games, but they were to Class C programs Mattanawcook of Lincoln and rival Stearns of Millinocket.
Each of the next four teams — Hodgdon, Fort Fairfield, Machias and Van Buren — also has four losses, making the race for the challenger to Washburn an even contest.
In fact, the key to the tourney may be the performance of No. 6 Van Buren’s Parise Rossignol. She has been averaging more than 30 points a game, including 49 one night, and she’s getting scoring and rebounding support from Felicia Bouchard.
CORRECTIONS: An earlier version of the story had an incorrect first name for Presque Isle’s Meredith Stewart. It was stated that Bangor played Edward Little once when the teams actually played twice. Washburn was not undefeated last year.
Correction: An earlier version of the story had an incorrect first name listed for Presque Isle’s Meredith Stewart. It was also incorrectly stated that Bangor played Edward Little once when the teams actually played twice.