Preseason polls and even final regular-season standings don’t necessarily guarantee postseason success for Maine high school basketball teams.
Take last winter, when Cony of Augusta and Hampden Academy were the top two teams in the final Class A North Heal Points after ranking among the top three in the preseason coaches’ poll.
By the end of the A North tournament, No. 4 Lawrence of Fairfield had defeated No. 7 Skowhegan 47-40 to capture that school’s first regional crown since 1999.
But as the new preseason began Monday — at least where slippery conditions didn’t force the first day of tryouts to be cancelled — Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North coaches predicted great similarity for this winter to its 2018 preseason poll.
Cony was selected as the preseason favorite with 11 of the 12 coaches’ first-place votes. Hampden Academy was second with the remaining first-place vote while Medomak Valley of Waldoboro — another top-three preseason pick last year — was third.
That trio was followed by Brewer, Messalonskee of Oakland, Lawrence, Skowhegan and Camden Hills of Rockport as the top eight programs in the division.
Coach T.J. Maines’ Cony club, 15-5 last season after falling to Lawrence in the semifinals, returns a strong nucleus led by one of the state’s most exciting players, senior point guard Simon McCormick (14.5 points per game last season).
Also back is fellow All-KVAC Class A North first-team senior guard Dakota Dearborn (13.3 ppg) and two members of last winter’s all-rookie team in junior guard Kyle Douin and sophomore guard Luke Briggs.
Hampden Academy, 14-5 after being ousted by Skowhegan in the quarterfinals, features first-team All-KVAC Class A North and third-team Bangor Daily News All-Maine guard Bryce Lausier, the leading returning scorer in the division at 19.1 points per game to go with 7.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists per contest.
Senior forward Mikey Raye, a second-team All-KVAC choice, also is back for coach Russ Bartlett’s Broncos.
Medomak Valley (12-7 last year after losing to Cony in the quarters), returns a veteran big man in senior center Gabe Allaire (11.2 ppg) and a sophomore nucleus featuring sophomores Trevor Brown (a second-team all-conference choice last season with 11.4 ppg) and all-rookie picks Jake Bickmore and Patrick McKenney.
Brewer, which went 10-10 last winter, including upsetting No. 3 Mt. Blue of Farmington in the quarterfinals before being ousted by Skowhegan in the semifinals, is a team showing upward mobility.
Junior forward Dylan Huff, a second-team all-conference choice, is back for coach Ben Goodwin’s Witches, as is senior guard Trevor Pearson (10.7 ppg) and the sophomore backcourt tandem of Aaron Newcomb and Colby Smith, both KVAC all-rookie choices.
Another team on the rise is Messalonskee, which is guided by a new head coach Jay Dangler. He most recently served as the Eagles’ junior varsity coach and assistant varsity coach under Pete McLaughlin, who stepped down during the offseason when he was promoted to assistant principal at Messalonskee.
The Eagles’ top returnees include junior Matt Parent (14.4 ppg) and senior Trevor Charles (13.0 ppg). Each was a second-team All-KVAC Class A North choice last season. Senior Parker Cole is another returning player.
Lawrence graduated seven seniors from its championship team, but begins its defense of that title with a roster led by senior forward Dylan Martin-Hachey and senior guard Jacob Patterson.
Skowhegan graduated just two seniors from a year ago, but one was third-team BDN All-Maine forward Marcus Christopher. Coach Tom Nadeau’s club is led by senior forward Matush Prokop, a second-year captain.
Camden Hills seeks to rebuild under new head coach Jon Moro. He replaces Jeff Hart, who left the post earlier this year to become the Rockport school’s athletic administrator after leading the Windjammers to 503 victories and six state championships in the last 37 years.
Camden Hills finished 3-15 last winter but will attempt to reboot under Moro, who played on Hart’s 1999 state championship team and most recently has been the school’s boys freshman coach. Junior Jeremy Fraser is a top returning player for the Windjammers.
Other players to watch, according to the KVAC Class A North coaches’ preseason outlook, are senior Jakob Mills of Erskine Academy in South China, senior Logan Carleton of Gardiner, junior Jake Farnham of Mt. Blue and senior Cody Marquis and junior Keith Lilly of Nokomis of Newport.
Opening night for regular-season play in all classes is Friday, Dec. 6.