Time to go out on a limb – again – with predictions for the 2008-09 Eastern Maine schoolboy basketball season that begins tonight.
Class A: Bangor is the two-time defending EM champion and should be strong again this winter, though coach Roger Reed’s club sports a new look after graduating 11 seniors.
Mt. Blue of Farmington, by contrast, graduated just two seniors off its 2008 team that reached the regional semifinals, and returns the division’s top backcourt in seniors Ben Russell and Jamie Sawyer. Edward Little of Auburn, a finalist last season, graduated its top four guards but has a strong frontcourt featuring 6-foot-4 senior Corey Therriault.
Hampden Academy has two versatile big men in juniors Jacob Moore and Noah Burditt along with point guard Nolan Turner. Brewer, under new coach Clayton Blood, is poised to contend after a solid late-season run last winter.
The champion: Edward Little
Class B: Camden Hills of Rockport is led by one of the region’s better all-around players in 6-5 senior Gordon Fischer, while last year’s heralded freshman class of 6-5 Tyler McFarland and guards Graham Safford and Keegan Pieri are now sophomores ready to join Fischer and classmate Kiefer Lammi on center stage.
Other contenders include two other Midcoast teams, as Rockland returns nearly intact from a year ago and Medomak Valley of Waldoboro also is poised for a return to Bangor.
Presque Isle has a solid nucleus in 6-3 Russ Mortland and guards Evan Richards and Nate Ackerman, and could loom as the best of the Big East. Hermon boasts considerable backcourt strength and new leadership in former Brewer coach Mark Reed.
The champion: Camden Hills
Class C: Three-time defending regional champ Calais has not lost to an Eastern Maine foe since the 2005 tourney.
The Blue Devils graduated stars Sam Bell and Rod Tirrell and lost forward Cam Shorey to an ACL injury this fall. But center Cal Shorey and point guard Jordan Leeman return with plenty of championship experience, and the rest of the squad will challenge all opponents defensively.
Guard-rich Washington Academy of East Machias may be Calais’ main rival, as the Raiders seek to build on the momentum of their 2008 state soccer championship.
Others in the mix include a Stearns of Millinocket team with all five starters back; Schenck of East Millinocket, led by guard Aaron Hutchins; and George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill, which boasts a top 1-2 inside punch in Rashad Frazier and Nick Saunders.
The champion: Calais
Class D: Memories linger of 5-7 Manny Martinez floating a shot over 6-10 Richmond center Marc Zaharchuk with 0.8 seconds left to lift Central Aroostook of Mars Hill to a 54-53 victory in the 2008 state final.
Martinez is now the elder statesman on a CAHS team that this winter will be in search of its fourth state title in five years, and coach Tim Brewer’s club again should be a primary contender for regional honors.
Woodland graduated just one senior from a team that reached the EM final before falling to Central Aroostook in overtime. Seniors Chad James and Ben Sears are back to lead the way for the Dragons.
A darkhorse to watch is Katahdin of Stacyville, which is coming off a state championship in soccer and an EM title in baseball and graduated just one player from last year’s basketball playoff team.
The champion: Woodland