When Poland boys’ basketball coach Tyler Tracy looks at the Knights’ schedule, he sees both the beauty and the extreme challenge of the new reality in Class B South.

“We only have three doubles and play 15 schools,” Tracy said. “Our schedule makes things interesting. Every night will be a grind, but it will ultimately challenge us to get better and prepare us to be mentally tough for February.”

Three local leagues are represented in B South, which will play its regional tournament in Portland. The Mountain Valley Conference voted to close ranks and play a full, 18-game schedule within the membership. Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and Western Maine Conference members will play crossover contests both against each other and Class A foes within their own league.

It will create a dichotomy within the Heal Point standings, which will be both fascinating to follow and almost impossible to interpret during the season.

“Class B on paper really goes to Lake Region and Yarmouth,” Gray-New Gloucester coach Ryan Deschenes said. “I could see after the top two teams a lot of similar records, depending on strength of schedule.”

Four of the six area teams in Class B South made their respective tournaments last winter, and each hopes to overcome substantial graduation losses to contend once again.

John Fossett, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, is both the tallest and most experienced performer for Poland, which lost to WMC rival Greely (now in Class A) in the preliminary round after winning the regional title two years ago.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about this team,” Tracy said. “Despite our losing four starters, all four returning seniors were in the rotation and played major minutes. The underclassmen took a big step this summer.”

Guards Patrick Kuklinski, Jared Martel and Trevor Saunders each have contributed for the Knights since their sophomore season.

Poland will need players to step up and fill the void of Alan Young’s scoring in the frontcourt and Derek Michaud’s leadership at point guard.

“This group is one of the more athletic teams I’ve had. They have the ability to put pressure on the offense,” Tracy said. “Like most high school teams, if we can take care of the ball and gain extra possessions, we can compete with anyone.”

Next door at Gray-New Gloucester, Deschenes will lean heavily upon senior forwards Zack Haskell and Kyle Keenan as the Patriots try to build upon a trip to the regional quarterfinals.

Guard play and the continued growth of four freshmen and two sophomores will be critical to the Patriots’ continued success.

“We have a quality mix of veteran and young talent on our team this year. In my 10 years as a head coach we never had more freshman on varsity then we do this season. Roles will be determined and could change throughout the year with our depth,” Desschenes said. “We have a lot of scoring to replace and have to find ways to be creative to receive consistent offense. Haskell and Keenan provide great experience, athleticism, and length on the defensive end for us.”

Only three Gray-NG guards have significant varsity experience.

“This is a great group of young men who battle every day, and our goal is to be very good at a few aspects of the game and use it to our strengths,” Deschenes said. “Another playoff appearance is certainly within reach.”

In its first season as a member of the KVAC, Spruce Mountain won 11 games and pushed Lake Region to the final minute of regulation in a quarterfinal.

The big three of Deonte Ring, Peter Theriault and Anthony York, all starters since their sophomore year, have moved on. Coach Scott Bessey hopes the new-look Phoenix will be more balanced and both ends of the court while using across-the-board quickness to their advantage.

“Our perimeter shooting will be much better. Teams should not be able to sit back in zone against us, like most did successfully last year,” Bessey said. “We will be much deeper. Our pace and tempo will take advantage of the depth, and we hope to get into our opponents’ legs as the games go into the fourth quarter.”

The brother tandem of Andrew and Austin Darling, Caulin Parker, Noah Preble and James Ouellette will be players to watch for the Phoenix. Ouellette has rallied to play a senior after two different catastrophic injuries to his right knee.

Spruce Mountain will need all the healthy legs it can muster.

“We will run and gun with an organized chaos. Noah and our other young wings will shoot and make a ton of 3s. We have a great mix of everything: Speed, quickness, shooting, and a pressure defense-first mentality,” Bessey said. “We have a solid program. We expect to be in the playoffs every single year, and this year is no different. If we play with pace and play with confidence, we will be tough to beat.”

Mountain Valley returns to Class B after a two-year stint in C, where it missed the playoffs in 2013-14 and lost to Madison in a 2014-15 preliminary.

The Falcons will make the transition from a bruising, inside game to a more guard-centered attack with Ryley Flynn and Alex Ridley at the controls. Senior forward Curtis Steele also provides a veteran presence.

“We are going to look much different from last year, in terms of personnel and in style of play. We are going to have to rely on athleticism due to lack of height on the inside,” Mountain Valley coach Tom Danylik said. “To have a successful year we are going to need to be smart with the basketball, limit turnovers, rebound the ball efficiently, be well conditioned and create easy scoring opportunities.”

Despite the more traditional schedule, the Falcons will face no shortage of challenges thanks to the strength of Dirigo, Madison, Winthrop, Boothbay, Monmouth and Hall-Dale.

“There are no easy nights in the MVC,” Danylik said. “We are prepared to be in a dogfight each night we play.”

Lisbon looks to build on the excitement of a new gymnasium with an experienced group.

Guards Noah Carter, Austin Bedford and Jonah Sautter and forwards Troy Galarneau, Tyrese Joseph and Josh Huston all played significant roles for the Greyhounds, who should take several steps forward from a 5-13 campaign.

“The strengths of the team are in our returning players’ experience and leadership. We have an excellent group of returning upperclassmen that give great effort and play as a team,” Lisbon coach Jake Gentle said. “We are always looking to improve on every aspect of the game. We are not tall, so a main focus throughout the season in team rebounding.”

Oak Hill has similar experience, led by the senior nucleus of Dalton Therrien, Jonah Martin, Connor Nilsson and Connor Elwell that recently led the Raiders to their third consecutive Class D football championship.

The downside? The Raiders are playing catch-up, again, after missing the first week of preseason due to extended football practice.

“I am looking for this team to bounce back from consecutive 4-14 seasons,” Oak Hill coach Tom Smith said. “As I begin my fifth year, this is probably the most athletic and one of the deepest teams I have the opportunity to coach. It is filled with experience and underclassmen that showed a lot of ability during summer basketball.”

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