The Class A North boys basketball standings this winter have looked similar to how the division played out during the 2016 tournament at the Augusta Civic Center.
Last year’s regional champion, Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston, and runner-up Medomak Valley of Waldoboro have been solidly among the leaders throughout the regular season, as has perennial power and 2016 semifinalist Hampden Academy — all three despite enduring significant graduation turnover.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the three programs have combined for seven regional titles in the last five years — Hampden with four A North/East championships and two state crowns, Medomak Valley with Eastern B titles in 2013 and 2015 and Oceanside with its first A North championship in school history in 2016.
Medomak Valley has been the most consistent of those leaders so far this year, with coach Nick DePatsy’s Panthers anchored by a formidable front line featuring 6-foot-7 senior Cameron Allaire and 6-4 Kyle Donlin and a defense that yielded just 43 points per game through its 14-0 start.
Through that stretch Medomak Valley did not allow more than 58 points in any game and gave up more than 50 points just three times.
Rival Oceanside, which fell to the Panthers twice during the regular season after defeating them in last year’s A North championship game, combines a mix of height and perimeter play for coach Matt Breen led by returning veterans Nate Raye, Sam Atwood and Michael Norton Jr.
Hampden is the youngest of the three favorites, with junior Ian McIntyre a third-year a starter at center but the rest of coach Russ Bartlett’s rotation of underclassmen set to see their first significant postseason action come tournament time.
Juniors Johnny Wolfington and Tommy Raye, sophomores Kory Winch and Ross Webb and freshman Bryce Lausier and Mikey Raye all have made successful transitions to major varsity minutes. But the Broncos’ postseason longevity may hinge on the ability of Lausier, the team’s top outside shooting threat, to come back from a broken wrist suffered in late January.
Hampden played neither Medomak Valley nor Oceanside during the regular season.
While the Class A North champion likely will come from one of those three teams based at least on their regular-season consistency, there are threats elsewhere in the region.
Messalonskee of Oakland, the coaches’ preseason pick to win the division, has rebounded from early losses to Medomak Valley and Hampden. The Eagles boast a combination of backcourt experience and frontcourt height that could be formidable amid the heightened intensity of the tournament.
Gardiner has shown great potential at times, particularly during recent back-to-back victories over Class AA North contender Oxford Hills of South Paris and Hampden, while Skowhegan has rebounded from a 2-4 start to put itself in position for a return to postseason play.
The Brewer Witches, a 2016 semifinalist, have had an up-and-down campaign after experiencing heavy graduation losses, but point guard Cam Wood and swingman Kobe Rogerson make coach Ben Goodwin’s club a threat in any postseason outing.
And Cony of Augusta may be the team that none of the favorites wants to face in the quarterfinals. Coach T.J. Maines’ club, with its fast-paced, full-court defense and 3-point-oriented offense based on the model of high-scoring Grinnell (Iowa) College, upset Hampden during the regular season and is one hot stretch from beyond the arc away from scaring any tourney foe.