The Oxford Hills girls basketball team captured its first state championship a year ago and now is a heavy favorite to make it two Class AA North titles in a row and three in four years.
Nate Pelletier’s top-seeded Vikings (17-1), who also won the Class AA North championship in 2017, returned virtually all of their key performers from last year’s team. Their average winning margin this season is 26.7 points.
Oxford Hills’ only loss came Jan. 7 against two-time defending Class A state titlist Greely of Cumberland Center, 62-61.
The Vikings’ primary challengers are No. 2 Portland (15-3) and No. 3 Bangor (12-6) with No. 4 Cheverus of Portland and No. 5 Windham, both 11-7, being longshots.
Oxford Hills features the state’s premier player in New York Institute of Technology-bound Julia Colby.
The 5-foot-5 senior guard leads AA North in scoring (17.4 points per game) and 3-pointers per game (2.1), is second in steals (3.6), fourth in assists (3.1) and also contributes 4.8 rebounds per outing.
She proved to be a big-game performer last season when she set the AA championship-game scoring record with 34 points. Her 10 field goals and 12 free throws also were AA title-game bests.
In Oxford Hills’ season-ending 54-51 win over Bangor, Colby left the game late with an apparent ankle injury.
But even if she can’t play in this week’s quarterfinal against Deering of Portland, the Vikings have more than enough weapons to beat the winless No. 8 seed so Colby would have another week to heal.
Bangor coach Jay Kemble said the other advantage Oxford Hills has is its experience in big games.
Portland, according to Kemble, is the most athletic team in Class AA North and the Bulldogs boast the top three rebounders in AA North in Amanda Kabantu (11.9 rpg), Kiera Eubanks (11 rpg) and Davina Kabantu (9.8 rpg).
Oxford Hills beat Portland 60-32 and 48-38 this season.
Kemble’s youthful Rams will be energized by their performance in the three-point loss to Oxford Hills. It was the only Oxford Hills win that wasn’t by double digits.
Bangor, which has only one senior in guard Rowan Andrews, has held teams to 40.2 points per game.
Junior forward Libby Fleming (10.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg), freshman forward Abbie Quinn (10 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Andrews (8.6 ppg) and freshman point guard Emmie Streams (4.1 apg, 2 spg) have been Bangor’s catalysts.
Cheverus has been led by Jillian Lizotte, who leads AA North in blocked shots (1.8) and has also averaged 9 points and 5.3 rebounds. Windham features sisters Hanna Talon (15.9 ppg) and Sarah Talon (10.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.7 spg, 1.3 bpg).