Westbrook’s Kelson Custodio drives past Gorham defenders Ashton Leclerc, left, and Caden Smith during a scrimmage on Tuesday. Westbrook figures to be a deep team with good size that is confident it can improve on last season’s 7-12 record. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Standout players are gone and middle-of-the-pack teams have improved. What does that add up to for the 2022-23 boys’ basketball season in Maine?

More competitive balance and, possibly, less predictability come tournament time.

Take Class A, for example. Last season, the arrival of freshmen Cooper and Ace Flagg made Nokomis the clear preseason favorite in the north. In the south, high-scoring senior guards Brady Coyne and Jack Stowell and a strong supporting cast made Falmouth everybody’s No. 1. As it turned out, Falmouth didn’t lose to a Class A opponent until the state final against Nokomis.

South Portland was the pick in Class AA South because of 6-foot-10 JP Estrella, who had become a major NCAA Division I recruit. The Red Riots rolled to their first state championship in 30 years.

In Class B South, Yarmouth was pegged as the team to beat because of its cohesiveness and the playmaking of Peter Psyhogeos. Yarmouth won the state title, sticking together when trailing Ellsworth by 10 points with 3:19 to play in the championship game. Psyhogeos scored 27 points.

This season, it’s a different story.


Yes, top programs like Falmouth and South Portland will still be competitive. But there are no clear favorites. Falmouth’s top guards graduated. So did Psyhogeos at Yarmouth, which has a first-year coach. Estrella, who grew an inch, committed to the University of Tennessee and is playing his senior season at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. The Flaggs are in Florida, playing for national prep power Montverde Academy.

“There aren’t any JPs and Coopers, so it balances the scales if you will,” said South Portland Coach Kevin Millington.

Richie Ashley guided Cheverus to its first regional semifinal in 10 years in his first season as the varsity boys’ coach. It was a solid achievement for coach and players. But Ashley also knew that was about as far as the youthful Stags could go.

“Last year, it was already written almost,” Ashley said. “You were going to have Oxford Hills and (Edward Little) playing in the North finals and you were going to have South Portland in the South. You knew they were the true favorites and the other teams were nipping at the heels.”

It’s not just who’s gone that has leveled the competitive balance. Several teams appear primed for significant improvement.

In Class AA South, Gorham brings back a strong shooting core, including junior Ashton Leclerc, who averaged 17.9 points in a breakout season.


“I think that we have learned to work together in practice better. We’re more connected. If we work together on defense and get each other open shots, we should be good,” Leclerc said.

“Gorham’s tremendous. Every bit as good as we are,” Millington said.

Bonny Eagle and Thornton – good teams last year – bring back two of the top players in the league in Elliot Bouchard and William Davies, respectively, and are definite high-end contenders. After a tough four-win season, Scarborough will be stronger.

Westbrook’s Aiden Taylor tries to shoot as Gorham’s Quinn Dillon, left, and Caden Smith play defense during a scrimmage on Tuesday. Kevin Millington, coach of defending Class AA champion South Portland, says: “Gorham’s tremendous. Every bit as good as we are.” Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“I think our league this year is going to be extremely competitive,” said Scarborough Coach Phil Conley. “To have a challenge each and every night, I just think it makes for an interesting league.”

In the North, Oxford Hills is a clear favorite but not unbeatable, said Portland Coach Joe Russo.

“And the rest of us, teams two through nine, you could just toss it in the air and not know who will beat who,” Russo said.


In Class A South, Gray-New Gloucester has five key players back from a 10-win team. Westbrook has impressed over the summer and fall sessions, and the Blue Blazes are approaching this season intent on going from a 7-12 team to a true contender.

“I think with definitely a bunch of teams in our class losing a lot of seniors who were crucial to their teams and we’re having returning juniors, I think we’re going to do at least bare minimum (make the) playoffs,” said Westbrook junior forward Aiden Taylor. “I think we’re going to go deep playoffs this year.”

As Taylor hinted, with the return to the standard format of having two-thirds of a division’s team qualify for the playoffs, as opposed to last year’s open tournaments, the competition will extend down the standings.

The 15-team Class B South has teams from the Western Maine, Kennebec Valley and Mountain Valley conferences.

“I tell you what, it will definitely be competitive and each game will be worth watching,” said first-year Yarmouth Coach Ilunga Mutombo, a Clippers assistant the past two seasons. “Having won last year, everyone will give us their best shot. Us losing seven seniors doesn’t matter to anybody.”

This year, Mountain Valley Conference schools have been allowed to schedule nonconference opponents. That should help the league’s Class B schools be better prepared for the tournament. Spruce Mountain of the MVC went 17-0 last season, earned the No. 1 seed, and lost to No. 8 Maranacook of the KVAC in the quarterfinals.

Look for Oceanside to be a contender from the KVAC, while WMC teams Wells, Yarmouth, York and Cape Elizabeth will play a bunch of games against Class A teams.

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