Charlie Castonguay was first able to witness the progress of the Oak Hill girls’ basketball program from the opposing bench.

It wasn’t too long ago that Castonguay was an assistant at Leavitt while the Hornets faced Oak Hill regularly in KVAC matchups. He watched as the Raiders improved under coach Tom Morong.

Now Castonguay has a closer view as the Raiders continue their emergence as a team to beat in the Mountain Valley Conference. Castonguay has been hired to replace Morong, who retired after the winter season.

“I was kind of surprised,” Castonguay said of Morong’s decision. “When we played Oak Hill in the KVAC a few years ago, Tom did a good job bringing that program back to life.”

Morong stepped away from coaching again after five years with the Raiders. Last winter, Oak Hill went 14-4 and finished eighth in Western B. The Raiders lost to York in the Western B preliminary round.

When the job opened up, Castonguay felt it might be a good fit. He had been a JV coach and a varsity assistant at Leavitt, and was part of the coaching staff that won a Class B state title. When Tammy Anderson stepped down there, Castonguay began looking for other opportunities.

“Six years in Turner, we had some really good years,” said Castonguay, who teaches Physical Education at Leavitt. “I was looking around the area for a varsity position. I really like the community and the parents are pretty supportive. To me, it was a good match.”

Castonguay has had lengthy stints as a head coach at Rangeley, Leavitt and Livermore Falls, so returning to a top varsity job isn’t new.

“I just thought it was a real good situation to explore,” Castonguay said. “I’ve been doing this for about 23 years or more. I’ve been at it a long time.”

Castonguay met with the team recently for the first time. It only made him more excited about taking the job.

“We had an opportunity, me and athletic director Jim Palmer, to meet with the team and introduce myself and talk about what we were going to do this summer,” Castonguay said. “I got to meet them and they got to meet me.”

In the past, Castonguay had often stepped into rebuilding situations. He inherited losing programs and tried to breathe life into them.  That’s not the case with the Raiders. Oak Hill only had two seniors last winter. He has eight juniors on the roster and 10 sophomores. Oak Hill was full of promising young talent, and there are 30-to-35 kids in the lower levels coming up.

“I think I’m walking into a very nice situation,” Castonguay said. “I just think it’s a very positive community. The girls I met, I really think are going to be a great group to work with.”

Castonguay said he has heard wonderful things about the work ethic of the team from coaches and administrators. After a successful season last year, the Raiders have great potential for next season. Though the Mountain Valley Conference could have some strong teams returning next year, he’s hoping the Raiders will be among the top clubs and be in the hunt for a spot in a challenging Western B tourney field.

“I believe they should be a good strong team next year,” Castonguay said. “There are some great teams coming back, but our goal is to be one of those quality teams.

“There’s a really good nucleus to build something really special next year and in the years to come.”

It’s not too unlike the young Leavitt team that had such promise years ago when the Hornets dropped down to Class B.

“What we did at Leavitt, we had a real nice run there for five years,” Castonguay said. “Hopefully, we can bring a little of that to Oak Hill.”

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