Coaches predicted it in the preseason. And halfway through the season, they’re right.

Each night brings surprises and back-and-forth battles on the Maine boys’ basketball landscape.

“Every game is dangerous,” said veteran Portland High Coach Joe Russo, whose team in one week went from No. 3 to unranked in the latest Varsity Maine statewide poll.

“Every night we step on the floor it’s really a dogfight,” said Brad Libby, the first-year coach at No. 1 Bangor. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s good, competitive basketball.”

“It’s a crazy year. It’s a good year,” agreed Deering Coach Todd Wing, speaking after his team beat Oxford Hills, which is the only team to beat Bangor.

In Class AA North, every team is a legitimate threat. Windham has rolled off four straight wins – including victories over No. 9 Thornton Academy and South Portland – after a 1-5 start had them a distant last in the eight-team division.

Class AA South looks equally jumbled. Thornton is in first place after Thursday’s win at upstart Bonny Eagle left both teams at 7-2.

South Portland is 6-4. Gorham is 5-4 with a win against Portland (6-4). Scarborough (4-6) has quality wins at Gorham and against Deering but on Thursday night lost at home to Gorham by 22 points.

“And the best (two-win) I’ve seen in decades is Sanford,” said Russo, a day before Portland needed a last-second layup to beat the Spartans.

Why is the competition so tight this year?

“Every team had a lot of returners. It always helps when you have experience coming back,” said Thornton Coach Bob Davies.

Bangor is a case in point. Last year the Rams were a threat because of high-scoring Matt Fleming, but they had no depth and lost in the regional quarterfinal at Windham. In Bangor’s come-from-behind win last week at Thornton, veteran guards Damien Vance and Henry Westrich combined to score 16 of Bangor’s 17 fourth-quarter points.

“We’re definitely way better than we were last year and we know we have a big target on our back,” Vance said, “I don’t know why it’s so competitive. There’s just so many good teams.”

The standings are close and so are many of the games. It seems no lead is safe. All the top teams are capable of extended scoring flurries. Portland, for instance, trailed defending state champ Edward Little 16-3 after a quarter but rallied to lead before losing in double overtime.

“It was really a bummer losing to (Edward Little) but people loved the game. It was an exciting game,” Russo said.

The trend extends to the lower enrollment classes.

York Coach Paul Marquis said two-time defending state champion Greely is still the “barometer” in Class A South. But Marquis’ Wildcats handed Greely (7-2) its first loss to a Class A team since 2016. York (8-1) also knocked Kennebunk (8-1) from the unbeaten ranks. Kennebunk was coming off a big win at Falmouth (9-2) which, naturally, had beaten York.

“There’s a lot of good teams in our league,” said York senior Will MacDonald. “We were looking at the Portland Press (Herald) and they didn’t even put us in their top 10 (weekly rankings). We looked at that and we said, ‘They’re sleeping on us.’ ”

York is now ranked third in the Varsity Maine poll.

Leavitt (8-0), a KVAC school, may not play as tough a schedule as its WMC peers, but it has beaten Mt. Blue (then undefeated) and Class B South leader Maranacook. The Maranacook win briefly moved Leavitt to first in the Heal point standings. Now Leavitt is fifth.

In Class A North, five teams have six wins: Mt. Blue, Hampden Academy, Cony, Erskine Academy and Medomak Valley. Mt. Blue has one-point wins against Hampden and Cony. On the flip side, Medomak lost to Morse, a two-win team from Class A South and is now clinging to the eighth and final playoff slot.

In B South, Maranacook, Freeport and Mountain Valley finished sixth, seventh and eighth last season. Now they’re ranked first, third and fourth.

The top five teams in Class C South each have at least six wins. No. 1 Waynflete is 7-1 with four wins against Class B teams. No. 2 Hall-Dale is 6-1. Winthrop is 8-1. Traip is 7-3 and No. 5 Boothbay Region is 8-0 and averaging 77.8 points.

The competitive, exciting parity means time-worn coaching cliches – one game at a time, learn from losses, compete every night – really will have merit come tournament time.

“You look at this year, honestly, it will be teams that get hot in February. We really truly believe that,” said Cheverus Coach Ryan Soucie. “Anything can happen.”

“You’re going to see a lot of four-, five-loss teams, but in the playoffs it’s going to be about the matchups,” said Deering’s Wing.

“I think it’s wide open. Truthfully it is. It’s wide open,” Marquis said. “Every game is a new one.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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Twitter: SteveCCraig