Monmouth’s Abbey Allen eyes the basket between Boothbay’s Nicole Clarke and Page Brown during Saturday afternoon’s game at Monmouth Academy.
Dirigo coach Rebecca Fletcher might have put it best when asked about Class C South and the Mountain Valley Conference.
“The league is, I think, a year stronger,” she said.
And that’s difficult prospect for a team like Dirigo, which is trying to improve its 4-14 record from last year.
See, last year, Monmouth won the Class C state championship without a senior in its regular rotation.
Boothbay made it to the C South semifinals, where it lost to Monmouth, with a junior- and sophomore-laden squad similar to that of the Mustangs. Had the Seahawks beat Monmouth in the semifinals, they might have been the favorites to go on and win a state title.
Richmond actually earned C South’s top seed in 2016-17 (but bowed out in the region semifinals), but played a schedule heavy with Class D teams. This year, the Bobcats will join Dirigo, Monmouth and Boothbay in the Mountain Valley Conference. And Richmond’s top player, Sydney Underhill-Tilton, is back for her senior season.
The presence of those three squads provides a harsh reality for rebuilding and potential up-and-coming teams.
The C South coaches all seem to agree on the teams to beat in the region: Monmouth and Boothbay.
“Obviously, Monmouth and Boothbay got to be your favorites,” Mt. Abram coach Larry Donald said. “After that, I think it’s a pretty wide open league any given night.”
Richmond probably won’t have an 18-0 regular season record as it did last year, but even something along the lines of 13-5 against a Mountain Valley Conference schedule might be better preparation for the postseason.
Also, not many C South teams have someone who can match the rugged and crafty post play of Underhill-Tilton.
Beyond Monmouth, Boothbay and Richmond are several team hoping to improve their standings in the region.
Winthrop, which finished ninth in the region last season, might even be ready to move into the top five with a talented group of underclassmen who played a bunch last year. But the Ramblers are young, and might still some lessons to learn before they take such a big step up.
St. Dom’s, last year’s 12th seed, hopes that its improved offense will vault them into a better seed.
Hebron, which placed seventh in 2016-17, and Mt. Abram, which was 10th, should maintain their standings.
Old Orchard Beach, which made a surprise run to the C South title game last winter, should once again be in the mix. Likewise Waynflete, which played Monmouth tough in the quarterfinals. A few coaches also said not to count out Madison.
Dirigo and Buckfield will try to sneak into the playoffs after missing out last year, but Hall-Dale might be the best bet to snag one of the final spots.
Telstar is back at the varsity level after playing JV last year.
Overall, there’s a lot of talent, but also much unknown about Class C South.
“It could be a major crapshoot,” Wing said. “You could see a lot of close games with a lot of those teams, and it’s probably going to depend on who gets on a roll early, and gets a little bit of confidence.”
On the other side of the state, Class C North seems to have different finalists each year, and that could continue as Dexter lost a handful of players to graduation. Last year’s runner-up, George Stevens, wasn’t as rocked by graduation.