Top-ranked Hampden Academy and No. 2 Gardiner were the best teams in the Class A North girls basketball field throughout the regular season.
It looks like they’re on a collision course to meet again for the regional championship come Friday evening.
First each must survive a semifinal test Wednesday afternoon, Gardiner (16-3) against No. 6 Skowhegan (10-9) at 2 p.m. and Hampden (18-1) against No. 4 Lawrence of Fairfield (12-7) at 3:30.
Coach Nick Winchester’s Hampden club is determined to establish its own chapter of school history this winter. The Broncos, who won the regional title in both 2018 and 2019, put on an offensive clinic at times during its 66-29 quarterfinal victory over No. 8 Nokomis of Newport.
The Broncos are unlikely to shoot as well as they did in their tournament opener against Lawrence, but Hampden defeated the Bulldogs 51-41 in their only regular-season meeting, and its depth and defense should produce a similar result in the rematch.
Gardiner was solid in its 58-30 quarterfinal victory over No. 7 Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, with a rim-protecting defense anchored by 6-foot-3 freshman Izzy Gruber and an offense capable of getting contributions from many sources.
Skowhegan posted the only quarterfinal upset in the division with its 57-40 elimination of No. 3 Messalonskee of Oakland behind 29 points from sophomore Jaycie Christopher.
Christopher’s performance was reminiscent of the play of older brother Marcus Christopher last winter, when he led the Skowhegan boys from the No. 7 seed to the regional championship game. It may take a similar level of leadership and production from the Christopher on the roster if the Skowhegan girls are to advance from the No. 6 seed to the title game.
Gardiner scored a 54-40 homecourt victory over Skowhegan in their lone regular-season meeting on Jan. 2, and while the tournament setting can produce remarkable storyline changes from game to game, expect a predictable finish to this year’s A North tourney — Hampden vs. Gardiner.