The championship glow has barely dimmed for Maine’s high school girls’ basketball champions.

But it’s never too early to take a look at the likely contenders for Gold Balls in 2019. Here are four teams from southern Maine that should vie for regional or state championships next winter:

GREELY

Greely High of Cumberland was the only girls’ basketball team in southern Maine to win a state title this year. The Rangers defeated Hampden Academy 53-38 to claim the Class A crown.

The Rangers certainly seem to be in good position to make it two in a row in 2018-19, with their top six players returning, including dynamic junior point guard Anna DeWolfe.

“I was kind of hoping we’d be in the underdog role,” Greely Coach Todd Flaherty said of next year. “Maybe not.”

Definitely not.

The Rangers have three of the most dynamic scorers in the state: DeWolfe (24.0 points per game), sophomore guard Brooke Obar (12.7) and freshman guard Camille Clement (16.9). Any one of those three can take over a game – and each of them did at times this season. But what made the offense work, said Flaherty, was their unselfishness.

“They shared the ball so well,” he said. “And that’s not easy to do. These kids were willing to do that. I did very little coaching there, the kids were just willing to share. And that’s a testament to them.”

Toss in the underrated Julia Martel and hard-working Emma Spoerri, and this is a pretty good returning starting lineup, with Madison Scott coming in off the bench.

The one thing people overlooked about Greely is its defense. The Rangers forced 25 turnovers in the regional final against Brunswick (66-49) and 22 in the state final against Hampden.

“Our defense definitely improved from the beginning of the year to the end,” said Flaherty. “It made us less one-dimensional.”

GORHAM

Gorham is the three-time Class AA South champion. Its two-year reign as state champ ended in the final second last Friday, a 50-49 loss to Edward Little.

The Rams return four starters, led by 6-foot-2 junior center Mackenzie Holmes, who almost single-handedly willed the Rams to another state title with her 16-point fourth-quarter performance against EL. Only senior forward Michelle Rowe graduates, and the experience gained by freshmen guards Adele Nadeau and Olivia Michaud and junior guard Brittany Desjardin will be invaluable.

Holmes set a Class AA state final record with her 24 points, with the bulk of those points in the last seven minutes after she was briefly forced out of the game because of a leg injury.

The Rams exceeded expectations this year and certainly loom as the team to beat next year in Class AA South.

PORTLAND

In Class AA North, Portland loses only senior Shayla Eubanks from its starting five for a team that made it to the regional semifinals. It’s a big loss, to be sure, but Portland seems to be on the right track.

“We started to put the bricks in place,” said Coach Gerry Corcoran.

Leading the returnees is freshman Gemima Motema, one of three newcomers this year from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with both Amanda Kabantu and Davina Kabantu also returning. Motema, who averaged 12.3 points and 4.0 steals, was named to the all-SMAA first team, all-defensive team and rookie team. Her injury in the regular-season finale hindered the Bulldogs in the playoffs.

If Portland is going to take the next step, it needs to shoot better. The Bulldogs were near unstoppable in transition but struggled when forced into a half-court game.

“That’s something we fundamentally lacked this year, the ability to knock down shots,” said Corcoran.

GRAY-NEW GLOUCESTER

Gray-New Gloucester saw its two-year reign as Class B South champion end in a semifinal loss to Lake Region. The Patriots were seeded first going into the tournament and return everyone, making them the early favorite in what is usually a tight region.

They’re led by 5-11 junior guard Brianna Jordan, who is a threat inside and outside, and 5-10 sophomore center Jordan Grant, who is explosive around the basket.

This was a team that had a lot of players step into new roles this year and certainly should be better off next year because of that experience.

Throw in a coach, Mike Andreasen, who knows the game, handles his players extremely well and knows how to get them motivated, and you have a really good team coming back.

And one that will be motivated by its early dismissal this year.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH