Maine High School Basketball Tournament State Championship Preview
Maine’s best high school basketball teams will take the court this Friday and Saturday to decide who will take a gold ball back to their school.
Some names are familiar with the Hampden Academy Broncos boys and McAuley Lions girls seeking to repeat as state champions in Class A. In Class B, the Old Town Coyotes make their first trip to the state finals in 23 years, and the MDI Trojans girls will look to keep momentum after ending the run of the state champion and previously undefeated Presque Isle Wildcats.
Those are just some of the stories going into state championship weekend. Below, we’ll take a look at how the teams got here and what they’ll need to do to take home the gold ball.
Hampden Broncos vs. Portland Bulldogs
How they got here: The defending state champion Hampden Broncos made short work of Oxford Hills in the Eastern Maine finals, 82-54, bringing their unbeaten streak to 43 games. The Portland Bulldogs, 20-0 on the season, beat No.3 Bonny Eagle 70-60 to claim the Western Maine crown.
Keys to the game: The Broncos have been led by senior guard Zach Gilpin this season and during the Eastern Maine tournament where he scored 78 points in three games. The Broncos are one of the deepest teams in the state and have relied on key contributions from Cam Scott, Nick Gilpin and Isaiah Bess, who along with Zach Gilpin is a semifinalist for the Mr. Basketball Award.
Oxford Hills Vikings vs. McAuley Lions
How they got here: The Oxford Hills Vikings (17-4) beat the top-seeded Edward Little Red Eddies 54-34 to claim the Eastern Maine crown. Perennial powerhouse McAuley won their fourth straight Western Maine title, beating Windham 50-28. Saturday’s game against Oxford Hills gives McAuley (20-1) the chance to join only two other teams to win four straight Class A girls state titles.
Keys to the game: The Vikings will try to do something that hasn’t been done in three years, score enough points to beat McAuley. The Lions have won the last three state championships by a total of 44 points. Oxford Hills biggest challenge is keeping the 6’3 Olivia Smith and 6’1 Victoria Lux off the boards.
Old Town Coyotes vs. Poland Knights
How they got here: The Old Town Coyotes entered Tourney 2014 as the No. 6 seed, but quickly showed they could compete with the higher seeds, knocking off No. 3 MDI in the quarterfinals and ending their title run with an overtime win over No. 4 Caribou. The Poland Knights, the No. 6 seed in the West, pulled a major upset on the top-seed Greely in the regional finals.
Keys to the game: The Coyotes are playing in the state game for the first time in 23 years and will need to have a balanced attack to claim the gold ball. Senior Eric Hoogterp has led the team in scoring but will need help to take down Poland. Old Town is without 6’3 center Zach Bartlett who missed the semifinals and regional championship after having surgery to repair a cut tendon in his finger. The Coyotes need to control the boards which leads to their up-tempo offense.
MDI Trojans vs. Lake Region Lakers
How they got here: In claiming the East crown, the MDI Trojans were finally able to knock off No. 1 Presque Isle in convincing fashion, 63-51. That ended the Wildcats 64-game winning streak, which included two state titles. Lake Region (20-1) won their third straight Western Maine title, avenging their only loss of the season by beating Wells in the finals.
Keys to the game: The match-up to watch is between the Trojans Hannah Shaw and the Lakers Tianna-Jo Carter, both semifinalists for the Miss Basketball Award. If Shaw is held in check it will be up to her younger sister Kelsey who is effective at taking the ball to basket while Sarah Phelps and Molly Carroll are accurate outside shooters.
Houlton Shiretowners vs. Waynflete Flyers
How they got here: After coming up short the previous two years, the undefeated Houlton Shiretowners broke through this year, claiming the East crown over Lee Academy, 49-33, with strong performances throughout the tournament by junior Kyle Bouchard. Waynflete claimed its first Western Maine crown with a win over Maranacook, 62-38.
Keys to the game: Houlton can find ways to score the basketball with a versatile attack led by junior Kyle Bouchard that includes the ability to get points inside and out. The Shires showed in the Eastern Maine final that their stout defense can frustrate a team that deflates their opponent while leading to offensive chances.
Calais Blue Devils vs. Carrabec Cobras
How they got here: The Calais Blue Devils backed up their No. 1 seed, jumping on the No. 2 Orono Red Riots early and not letting up until they sealed the 49-30 win and another Eastern Maine Class C title. In the West, he No. 3 Carrabec Cobras earned their first regional title with a win over Madison.
Keys to the game: Junior guard Madison McVicker is the key for the Blue Devils. Not only is she a great defender, she is also able to create her own shots on the offensive end, and is a master of distributing the ball to team mates when the defense steps out to play her.
Hodgdon Hawks vs. Valley Cavaliers
How they got here: The No. 3 Hodgdon Hawks claimed their first Eastern Maine Class D crown in 38 years, besting the No. 5 Southern Aroostook Warriors 49-37. Along the way, the Hawks were led by junior forward Chris Hudson, who scored 25 in the finals. The No. 4 Valley Cavaliers staged a stunning last-second comeback in the regional finals to beat No. 2 Hyde 50-49 to advance to their first state finals since 2006.
Keys to the game: Hodgdon must be able to overcome the size of Valley, the Cavaliers have five players six feet and over. Chris Hudson does give the Hawks some versatility, at 6’5 he can play any position on the floor. Tyler Sherman must be able to compliment Hudson in the scoring column while Keegan Gardner and Deyrell Vargas need to continue their steady ball handling without committing turnovers.
Washburn Beavers vs. Forest Hills Tigers
How they got here: Washburn came into the tournament as the No. 4 seed, but quickly proved they were the best team in the Class D ranks. The Beavers rolled through the tournament, capping off their fourth-straight East title with a 74-51 win over Van Buren. Western Maine champs Forest Hills beat Rangley in the finals on a buzzer beater 3-point shot from Kori Coro to remain perfect on the season at 20-0.
Keys to the game: Washburn has won three straight state championships and it all starts with their defense. The Beavers will apply in-your-face defense from the opening tip until the final buzzer without fail. MacKenzie Worcester, Carmen Bragg, Carsyn Koch and Joan Overman get nearly all their offense from defensive transition. Van Buren coach Matt Rossignol said before the Eastern Maine title game that “opponents think they know about the Beavers pressure defense, but they actually have no idea what they’re in for until they experience it.” The Beavers forced 74 turnovers in their three tournament games, broke the class D tourney record with 232 points in three games and have won 83 of their last 88 games.