WESTERN CLASS A
FAVORITES: As in most tournaments, the teams at the top have the edge, but if you’re looking for a clear favorite, you’re out of luck. The top four — South Portland, Deering, Bonny Eagle and Portland — have had their moments. They have the potential to get hot and win the regional title. South Portland was playing the best until being upset by Cheverus, which didn’t make the tournament. The Riots, Rams and the Bulldogs all went 1-1 against one another in the regular season. The Scots beat Deering but lost to South Portland and Portland in close games. “Anyone in the tournament has a shot,” said Deering Coach Dan LeGage. “There’s enough parity that if any of the top teams play poorly, they won’t survive.”
WATCH OUT FOR: No. 6 Scarborough has played the leaders tough except for South Portland — a 76-55 loss Jan. 2. Thornton Academy has won 10 of 12, including a 50-37 win over No. 10 Windham in a prelim Tuesday. The Trojans also beat Portland 64-52 on Jan. 18. Westbrook has beaten Bonny Eagle and Portland.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Dustin Cole, junior, guard, Bonny Eagle (28.3 ppg, 5.8 apg); Tanner Hyland, senior, guard, South Portland (19.7 ppg, 5.8 apg); Labson Abwoch, senior, center, Deering (15.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg); Matt Talbot, junior, center, Portland (10.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg); Ryan Camire, senior, forward, Sanford (23.1 ppg., 5.3 rpg)
DID YOU KNOW: Four tourney coaches have won at least one state title. Tony DiBiase of Scarborough has won at Gorham (Class B), Portland and South Portland. Joe Russo of Portland and Dan LeGage of Deering have two titles apiece, and Bob Davies of Thornton has one.
EASTERN CLASS A
FAVORITES: Top-ranked Hampden Academy, with two starters from the club that lost in the state final, is the team to beat. Hampden and No. 2 Edward Little haven’t met. Lawrence, not far behind the top two, plays strong defense and can shoot.
WATCH OUT FOR: Brunswick, a strong sixth seed, playx Lawrence in a Saturday afternoon quarterfinal. Lewiston could be a spoiler but lost its top player to a knee injury. No. 7 Messalonskee is peaking at the right time.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Zach Gilpin, junior, forward, Hampden (16.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Spencer Carey, senior, forward, Lawrence (16.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg); Blake Gordon, junior, guard, Brunswick (14.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg); Quin Leary, senior, forward, Edward Little (14 ppg., 9.0 rpg); Sean Ford, senior, forward, Edward Little (17.0 ppg. 9.0 rpg)
DID YOU KNOW: Lawrence Coach Mike McGee has 348 wins in 28 seasons with the Bulldogs.
WESTERN CLASS B
FAVORITES: Falmouth and York, ranked Nos. 1 and 2, are favored to reach the final. Who knows what will happen if that scenario plays out? They split during the regular season, each winning big at home. York Coach Randy Small and Falmouth Coach Dave Halligan will tell their players not to overlook any team, but the fact of the matter is that if either Falmouth or York don’t win the tournament, it would be a major surprise.
WATCH OUT FOR: No. 3 Cape Elizabeth has a history of playing well in the tournament. No. 7 Greely is playing the best it has all season and the Rangers were considered one of the top teams in preseason. No. 6 Wells has two scorers in Jake Moody and Dylan Stevens who can put up the points.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Charlie Fay, senior, forward, Falmouth (12.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg); Michael McDevitt, junior, center, Greely (14.6 ppg, 9.9 rpg); Aaron Todd, senior, center, York (18.0 ppg, 10.0 rbg); Jake Moody, junior, guard, Wells (22.4 ppg, 3.6 apg ); Dylan Stevens, senior, center, Wells (19.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
DID YOU KNOW: This is the third straight year that Cape Elizabeth and Wells have met each other in the tournament. Two years ago, Cape beat Wells in the quarterfinals. Last year, Wells beat Cape in the preliminary round. And on Saturday, they meet in the quarterfinals.
EASTERN CLASS B
FAVORITES: Medomak Valley and Presque Isle, the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked teams, have been the best during the regular season, but one only has to look at No. 13 Foxcroft Academy’s upset of No. 4 Oceanside in the preliminary round to realize this could be a wide open tournament. “I don’t think the seedings mean a lot. It looks like a pretty wide open tournament,” said Medomak Valley Coach Nick DePatsy.
WATCH OUT FOR: No. 8 Camden Hills dropped a pair of close games to Medomak Valley in the regular season. One of them wasn’t settled until the fourth overtime.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: John Murray, senior, center, Medomak Valley (18.1 pg, 11.0 rbg); Ryan Ripley, senior, forward, Medomak Valley (14.1 ppg, 8 5 rpg); Ryan Rebar, senior, guard, Foxcroft Academy; Connor Hart, senior, guard, Camden Hills (14.0 ppg); Chris Hale, junior, guard, Waterville; Dayne Savage, senior, guard, Caribou
DID YOU KNOW: Medomak Valleyis making its sixth straight tournament appearance.
WESTERN CLASS C
FAVORITES: The top three ranked teams — Boothbay Region, Waynflete and Dirigo — have the inside track to win it all. But all three could face tough games. Boothbay will look to get out in transition and rebound. Dirigo, the defending state champion, is quick and plays strong defense. Waynflete is lanky and can shoot. Take your pick as the one who will emerge as the regional champion. “Whoever comes out ahead of the rest will definitely deserve it,” said Boothbay Coach I.J. Pinkham.
WATCH OUT FOR: No. 6 Old Orchard Beach made it to the regional championship game last year and will play the team it lost to, Dirigo, in what could be a great quarterfinal game. No. 4 Madison has its two top players healthy after they missed the first part of the year. The Bulldogs could be dangerous.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Anthony DiMauro, senior, guard, Boothbay Region; Serge Nyirikamba, junior, forward, Waynflete (18.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg); John Quincy Grace, senior, center, Old Orchard Beach (15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg); Travis Frost, senior, guard, Dirigo (11.0 ppg, 6.0 apg); Austin Kane, senior, forward, Madison,
DID YOU KNOW: I.J. Pinkham has 555 victories in his 42 years of coaching. The last 36 years have been at Boothbay Region.
EASTERN CLASS C
FAVORITES: Houlton and Penquis Valley have been the two best teams and have the best chance to meet in the regional final. The Shiretowners lost their last regular-season game. The Patriots lost to No. 6 Dexter when one of their best players was out. No. 4 Sumner and No. 5 Calais are capable of beating anyone.
WATCH OUT FOR: Anything can happen in this tournament, as evidenced by last season. A year ago, No. 6 Calais and No. 7 Houlton upset their quarterfinal-round opponents with the Shiretowners reaching the regional final. Summer comes into the tournament on a winning streak.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Julian Diggs, senior, guard, Lee Academy (16.0 ppg, 5 assists); Isaiah Bess, junior, forward, Penquis Valley (27 ppg 3.0 spg); Trevor Lyford, junior, guard, Penquis Valley (17.0 ppg, 4.0 spg); Kyle Bouchard, sophomore, forward, Houlton (20.0 ppg); Devin Hall, Calais, senior, guard (20.0 ppg)
DID YOU KNOW: Penquis Valley Coach Tony Hamlin is four wins away from 400. Hamlin has coached for 31 years.
WESTERN CLASS D
FAVORITES: Defending regional champion Forest Hills has all five of its starters back. One coach in the tournament said that Forest Hills “is physically imposing.” The Tigers were two points away from a perfect regular season. If they have one weakness, it’s from the foul line, where the Tigers shot only 58 percent. Forest Hills compensated by taking more than twice as many free throws as its opponents.
WATCH OUT FOR: North Haven and Seacoast Christian can shoot the 3-pointer. If they’re on, it could be a long day for any opponent. North Haven beat Forest Hills by a point during the season. Valley is a quality team and Greenville played arguably the toughest Class D schedule in the state.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Evan Worster, senior, guard, Forest Hills (19.1 ppg, 12.0 rpg); Carrington Miller, senior, guard, Valley (21.0 ppg, 6.0 apg); Henry Hersey, senior, guard, Greenville (18.0 ppg ); Ryan Cassidy, senior, guard, Hyde
DID YOU KNOW: Forest Hills allowed an average of 37.7 points per game while averaging 37.9 points in the first half alone. The most points the Tigers allowed in a game was 58 to North Haven.
EASTERN CLASS D
FAVORITES: Jonesport-Beals is the defending Class D state champion. Washburn is right behind at No. 2. No. 4 Deer Isle-Stonington against No. 5 Hodgdon looks like a great quarterfinal matchup.
WATCH OUT FOR: The winner of the Deer Isle-Stonington vs. Hodgdon game could give Jonesport-Beals a battle in the semifinals.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Garet Beal, senior, forward, Jonesport-Beals (27.5 ppg. 10.0 rpg); Mitch Worcester, senior, guard, Washburn (35.0 ppg, 11.5 rpg); Sam Grindle, senior, guard, Deer Isle-Stonington (17.0 ppg, 10.0 apg)
DID YOU KNOW: Two of the best players in the state, Garet Beal and Mitch Worcester, are best friends even though they don’t live close to each other. They’ve attended each other’s games on occasion.