Edward Little High School’s Jade Perry, left, drives past Lewiston High School’s Gabrielle Wilson during their game in Lewiston last season.
Oxford Hills has just enough question marks to make Class AA North interesting.
The Vikings are still the favorites, after plowing through the region last year with a 17-1 regular season record and then winning the AA North title before falling to highly favored Gorham in the state title game.
“I think Oxford Hills definitely sets themselves apart, for sure,” Edward Little coach Chris Cifelli said. “Just with their returning players and (coach) Nate (Pelletier) does such a good job.”
Oxford Hills returns probably its two best players, sophomore point guard Julia Colby (11.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game) and junior post Jadah Adams (10.8 ppg, 7 rpg).
Those two make up an exciting core along with last year’s fourth-leading scorer Maighread Laliberte (9.4 ppg), and sophomore Cecelia Dieterich.
Those four teamed up with a strong group of seniors last year. This season, depth and inexperience will have to be overcome.
Edward Little finished second in AA North last year. The Red Eddies could again challenge for that spot, and maybe even first place, or they could fall to fifth or sixth.
They have a new coach, Cifelli, though he’s quite familiar with the team having served as an assistant.
They lost last year’s AA North MVP Jordyn Reynolds, whose talent combined with her size will be tough to replace.
They might be better at scoring last year’s squad was, especially with guards Piper Norcross, Grace Fontaine, Chantelle Ouellette and transfer Hannah Chaput.
It’s hard to image Edward Little won’t at least be in contention for a high seed.
“I think Edward Little maybe is going to surprise some people,” Lewiston coach Lynn Girouard said. “During the preseason they seem to be playing very well.”
Lewiston might not be quite ready for the top three, but should make the postseason for the third straight season after years away.
“We’re on the right path,” Girouard said.
AA North first-teamer Victoria Harris is back for the Blue Devils, who placed sixth last year, as is fellow post player Gabrielle Wilson. They’ll play alongside a young crew that could make this a team of the future.
Cheverus has Abby Cavallaro back. What makes the Stags arguably the most interesting team in the region is new coach Gary Fifield, who led the University of Southern Maine’s women’s team to five NCAA Division III Final Four appearances. Now he’s taking on the college game.
Portland finished last, but the region’s coaches say the Bulldogs have added two or three talented transfers that could alter their fortunes.
Deering eliminated Edward Little in the region semifinals last season, but lost Tasia Titherington to graduation. Delany Haines, a AA North second-teamer as a sophomore, is back, though.
Bangor, meanwhile, will have to move on after losing the talented Katie Butler to graduation.
Windham fell short of the playoffs last year, but is a team to keep an eye on.
“Windham’s probably the team that lost the least amount of kids, and if you look back at their record last year, they lost a lot of close games,” Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier said.
Gorham, South Portland and Scarborough are the favorites in AA South.
The Rams enter the season on a 42-game win streak and as two-time defending state champions. But they’ll be without Emily Esposito, who is now playing at Villanova, and Kristen Curley, who is starring at the University of Maine. But they still have Mackenzie Holmes.
But the Red Storm, with Sophie Glidden, and the Red Riots are raring to unseat the Rams.