1. South Portland: After losing in the regional finals the last two years, the Red Riots are clear favorites in Class AA. They return four starters – guards Eva Mazur and Meghan Graff, and forwards Katie Whitmore and Maggie Whitmore – and have a deep bench. Coach Lynne Hasson can go 10 deep and she will, keeping the Riots fresh so they can push the tempo and apply pressure. They’re balanced offensively, aggressive defensively, experienced and well-coached.

2. Scarborough: The Red Storm have one of the best all-around players in the region in senior forward Sophie Glidden, who can contribute in so many ways. But they have more than that: a nice balance offensively, a disruptive defense and a deep bench. Josie Couture is an underrated inside player and Madison Blanche is a good point guard. They all gained experience in last year’s playoff run and loom as a contending team yet again.

3. Gorham: Don’t worry about the two-time defending Class AA champions, who bring a 42-game winning streak into the season. They’re going to be fine despite graduation losses. In 6-foot-2 junior center Mackenzie Holmes, they have one of the top three players in the state, capable of controlling a game at both ends of the court. Last year’s role players will need to become playmakers, but by the end of the season this could be a very dangerous team.

4: Cheverus: In Emme Poulin and Abby Cavallaro, the Stags might have the most dangerous backcourt in Class AA. Throw in first-year coach Gary Fifield, who won 660 games at the college level, and you can see why Cheverus is considered a contender. The Stags need to find some other scoring options, though, and they’re going to have to run and play pressure defense because they’re not big. But when this team gets going, it will be tough to stop.

5. Portland: The Bulldogs look to make the leap from a three-win team to a title contender. Coach Gerry Corcoran had some nice players returning and, he said, “I’m blessed with three new players.” That would be Gemima Pimbu, Amanda Kabantu and Davina Kabantu, all from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Corcoran said “they bring a level of intensity and athleticism” to the Bulldogs, and coaches who have seen them play concur.

6. Greely: The Rangers only return two starters from a team that lost in the Class A South final, but you couldn’t ask for a better two. Junior guard Anna DeWolfe may be the most dynamic player in the state, a scoring threat from anywhere on the court, and sophomore guard Brooke Obar isn’t that far behind. Their ability to find open teammates will make the Rangers a very difficult team to defend. Once the younger players adjust to new roles, watch this team go.

7. Marshwood: The Hawks made great strides last year and should continue to get better. They return four starters from last year’s Class A South semifinal team and look to have a nice inside-outside balance on offense. Natalie Herbold is starting her third year at guard and should be the leader, but this team has experience at almost every spot and is deep. Marshwood will be a dangerous team come tournament time.

8. Freeport: The Falcons were already going to be a very talented team, then senior guard Alex Goodman transferred in from Pine Tree Academy. She already has more than 1,400 points in her career and gives Freeport a go-to player. The Falcons have four starters returning, including last year’s leading scorer, Taylor Rinaldi. They can go deep, and seniors such as Taylor Dostie, Megan Cormier and Joanna Bouge-Marlowe will play key roles.

9. Brunswick: The defending Class A South champ lost a lot from last year, but the Dragons are an intriguing team. They’ll play at a faster pace this year, looking to take advantage of their quickness and athletic ability. They may not be as tall inside as last year, but have tall guards, and that will be a factor in their defensive pressure on the perimeter.

10. Boothbay: The Seahawks have two of the best players in Class C in senior forward Page Brown (21.5 points, 9.6 rebounds last year) and junior forward Faith Blethen (14.1 points, 7.1 rebounds). Those two alone could carry Boothbay to a tournament berth, but this is an experienced crew overall.

filed under: