Players to watch

Bangor — Zach Blodgett, Tristan Thomas, Patrick Stewart, Josiah Hartley; Hampden: Graham Safford, Christian McCue, Logan Poirier; Edward Little — Bo Leary, Timmy Mains, Quin Leary, Brandon Giguere; Mt. Blue — Cam Sennick, Eric Berry, Blake Hart, Adam Wiles-Rosell; Lawrence — Xaviere Scott, Spencer Carey, Shaun Carroll; Mt. Ararat — Josh Walker, Luke Liedman, Josh Wright, Colin Swan; Lewiston — Shawn Ricker, Corbin Hyde, Steven Patrie, Abdi Osman; Brunswick — Mitch Black, Alex Ouellette, Garrett Erb.

Favorites

There’s not much disputing that the top three teams have separated themselves from the pack. Recent history thickens that line of demarcation, too: No other team has won the regional title since 2004, with each school winning twice.

Hampden and Bangor split during the regular season, each winning by double digits. The Broncos boast arguably the best backcourt in the region in senior Safford and junior McCue. Tournament veterans Blodgett and Thomas lead the Rams, who received a huge boost when football star Hartley returned to the team this winter.

Not many players are in the class of Edward Little’s Bo Leary as a finisher. He is almost automatic in the low post. When opponents double-team Leary — and they will — how Mains, Giguere and Cody Nicholas fare from 3-point land could determine whether or not the Red Eddies hoist the Eastern Maine trophy for the third straight year.

Darkhorse

The Mt. Blue-Lawrence winner. The regular-season series was tight as its gets. Each won on the rival’s home floor, with the Bulldogs claiming an early 55-51 decision in Farmington and the Cougars repaying the favor with a 43-36 verdict in Fairfield.

Lawrence upset Mt. Blue in the semifinals two years ago. The No. 5 Bulldogs play the same rugged, patient half-court style that has yielded so many postseason surprises under coach Mike McGee. Scott, a senior, and Carey, a sophomore, have supplied the one-two punch all winter. Junior-laden No. 4 Mt. Blue could be a year away from threatening to win it all. Sennick, who saw big minutes on the civic center floor as a freshman and sophomore, has emerged as one of the premier big men in the KVAC.

No. 1 Bangor won’t fall asleep on the winner, asssuming that the Rams advance to the semis. Both Lawrence and Mt. Blue beat No. 2 Hampden during the regular season.

Fun facts

Bangor won 17 straight games after an opening-night loss to Hampden. The Rams were 9-1 against other tournament teams and allowed fewer than 50 points in all nine victories … EL held four of its last seven opponents under 40 points … Bangor, Hampden and Mt. Blue are the only schools to qualify for the quarterfinals every year since the tournament moved from Bangor to Augusta in 2006.


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