Mathematically, a coach might look at the roster of boys’ basketball teams in Class AA North and realize that he has a one-in-eight chance of earning a trip to the state final each year.

Or you could be like Edward Little coach Mike Adams and see the new league through realistic eyes.

“Between Portland, Bangor, Deering, Cheverus, you’re looking at your state champion or runner-up probably 90 percent of the time in Class A for the past 20 years,” Adams said.

If Adams includes his own team in that equation, he’s right. In fact, the division includes teams that have won 15 of the past 21 state championships awarded in the top class.

Now add Lewiston, which is coming off an appearance in the regional final; Oxford Hills, led by Andrew Fleming, the consensus top player in the state; and Windham, where the athletic program has blossomed across the board as enrollment exploded.

Good luck getting through this region, and best wishes to the team from the South that draws the assignment of playing that survivor with the Gold Ball at stake.


“With the creation of a fifth class, we have a historic shift in Maine basketball,” Lewiston coach Tim Farrar said. “AA North has seven of eight teams that have played in at least one regional final in the past five years. The playoff in Augusta will feature the best tournament field in the state.”

Oxford Hills had up-and-down seasons with vastly different results its final two years in Class A. The Vikings were the No. 6 seed each winter. Their 2013-14 tournament run ended with a loss to Hampden in the North final. Messalonskee ousted Oxford Hills from the 2014-15 quarterfinals.

The Vikings are touted as a team to watch, thanks in large part to the 6-foot-6, University of Maine-bound Fleming. But point guard Blake Slicer and versatile Jake Beauchesne also return to the starting lineup.

“We have good senior leadership, good 3-point shooters, and we should be able to score with Fleming as a focus,” Vikings coach Scott Graffam said.

Edward Little, Cheverus, Portland and Bonny Eagle (AA South) all travel to Oxford Hills before Jan. 2.

“It’s a great challenge for us,” Graffam said. “I love our schedule. It will be interesting to see how the crossover games treat the 4 KVAC ‘AA’ teams.”


Neither EL nor Lewiston has the luxury of its best player back in the mix. On the contrary, neither one returns a starter.

Adams found himself in much the same situation two years ago, and that team won 12 games, including a playoff contest. EL reached the Class A North semifinals each of the past eight seasons.

“We have been lucky over the past couple of seasons where younger players who may have been good enough to play in some other programs in the state have worked under and played against our older and stronger upperclassmen. This has seasoned them to step in the following year and accept larger roles on our team,” Adams said. “I think our returning players were all in that situation last season. Each played against all-conference or all-state players every day in practice for over a year.”

Senior forward Austin Cox has the most varsity experience. Juniors Jarod Norcross-Plourde and C.J. Jipson already have excelled in other varsity sports and shouldn’t be intimidated by the environment.

Samatar Iman, a junior, and Tyler Morin, a sophomore, also have seen previous varsity minutes for one of EL’s physically smallest teams in the Adams era.

“We are certainly a different team than a year ago,” Adams said. “We will play different, have different strengths and weaknesses. I’m looking forward to watching this team grow through the season.”


Lewiston graduated almost all its scoring and rebounding, including four players who had started at least part-time since their sophomore year.

Still, the Devils are athletic and senior-dominated. Abdinasir Issack had a breakout game in the tournament. Mohamedsediq Hussein and Tahj Fuhlgam provide some length under the basket. Salat Hassan and Jordan Palmer join Issack in the backcourt.

“We have a competitive spirited group that is willing to take on the challenge of the new AA schedule,” Farrar said. “We need to keep getting better on the defensive end and rebound as group. Our guards need to be able to get us easy chances in transition and take care of the ball. We will play the toughest schedule in the state and need to be ready for that challenge.”

Six of the eight teams in the division will qualify for the playoffs, with the top two receiving quarterfinal byes.

“I think if we continue to get better we will have a chance to be one of those (six),” Farrar said. “Portland, Deering and Oxford Hills should be the top three teams and have legitimate aspirations to win the first AA Gold Ball.”

Portland won the 2014 Class A title before losing a 2015 rematch to Hampden. Senior guard Amir Moss and senior swingman Joe Esposito lead the Bulldogs.

Adams describes Deering as “freakishly athletic.” The local schools will have to deal with familiar Class A foes Mt. Blue, Cony, Gardiner, Leavitt, Brunswick and Mt. Ararat, as well.

“It’s a new challenge for our ‘new’ team,” Adams said. “Don’t confuse ‘playing down’ (an ‘AA’ school playing an ‘A’ school) as playing down in ability, though, as I think you will find there are a number of ‘A’ schools who have shown they can compete with schools in the ‘AA’ league as they have for years.”

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