Eastern Class A Boys’ Preview: Hampden favored for rare three-peat

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Players to watch

Hampden — Isaiah Bess (Sr. F), Nick Gilpin (So. G), Zach Gilpin (Sr. F), Cam Scott (Sr. G); Brunswick — Derek Devereux (Sr. G), Blake Gordon (Sr. G); Bangor — Alex Campbell (Sr. G), Xavier Lewis (Sr. G); Messalonskee — Jordon Holmes (Sr. G), Nick Mayo (Jr. F); Edward Little — Lew Jensen (Jr. F), Andrew Middleton (Sr. F); Oxford Hills — Luke Davidson (Sr. F), Andrew Fleming (So. C); Mt Ararat — Mason Griffin (Jr. F), Shyheim Ulrickson (So. G); Lewiston — Carlos Gonzalez (Sr. C), Isaiah Harris (Jr. F).

Favorite

Hampden has looked unstoppable all season in its quest for a third consecutive regional crown and back-to-back state titles. The Broncos have won 40 in a row and rolled through the KVAC this year by an average of 27.3 points per game. Four of the starting five earned all-KVAC first- or second-team honors, led by player of the year Zach Gilpin. All of them are tournament-tested, including the newest addition Bess, who transferred after leading Penquis to a Class C title last year. The Broncos don’t just have the talent to repeat, they have the intangibles.

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Dark horses

After Hampden, the rest of the tournament is a virtual coin toss. Brunswick, Bangor and Oxford Hills will all battle it out on the other side of the bracket for the right to meet the Broncos for the regional title. The Dragons were the second-best team in the regular season standings and were one of two teams to stay within single digits of the Broncos in the final score, battling them through two overtimes before Hampden emerged with a 64-55 win on Dec. 13. Last Monday, Hampden won the KVAC championship exhibition by 46 points.

Oxford Hills was the other team to push Hampden for all four quarters, falling to the Broncos, 66-58, on Feb. 1. The Vikings have the length to give most teams matchup problems and in Fleming, perhaps the best all-around player in the tournament.

Banged-up Bangor had its eight-game winning streak snapped by rival Brewer in the season finale. The Rams swept the other three teams in their side of the bracket, Brunswick, Oxford Hills and Mt. Ararat. The question is how they can hold up in the paint and on the boards, especially with center Connor Adams nursing a sprained knee.

Facts and figures

Morse is the last Class A team to win three regional titles in a row, 1987-89. Since then, 11 teams have gone back-t0-back, including Edward Little in 2009 and 2010, but none have hit the trifecta… This is Oxford Hills’ first tournament trip to the ACC. The last time the Vikings made it out of the preliminary round was 2005, when they lost to Hampden in the regional final at the since-demolished Bangor Auditorium… Lewis was a member of last year’s Lawrence team that nearly upset Hampden in the regional final. In fact, his jumper gave the Bulldogs a two-point lead with four seconds left. But Nick Gilpin banked in a 35-foot shot at the buzzer to give the Broncos the 40-39 win… Fleming was the only player to finish in the top five in the KVAC in scoring (fourth), rebounds (second), assists (third) and steals (first)… Messalonskee and Mt. Ararat are looking for their first regional title.

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