Class C South boys’ basketball got smaller … and more crowded.

Gone are the three largest schools — Maranacook, Lisbon and Mountain Valley — back to Class B.

Moving in are four schools closely identified with Class D — Richmond, Buckfield, NYA and Searsport — along with Hebron.

At the top? Still pretty much the same cast of characters. Dirigo will pursue its sixth regional title in eight years with Boothbay, Madison, Winthrop and Monmouth giving chase in the MVC. Waynflete and Old Orchard Beach lead the charge from the WMC.

“We have a lot of work to do, but I like our attitude,” Dirigo coach Travis Magnusson said. “I also think we play very hard and have great character. This is a special program, and I am happy to have such a great group of young men to work with.”

Dirigo hasn’t lost a home game since the current seniors were in seventh grade.

Those seniors are all-conference and all-state candidates. Riley Robinson, who will lap the field as the Cougars’ all-time leading scorer this winter, returns to the backcourt along with Gavin Arsenault. Clay Swett’s strength in the paint makes it impossible to key on the guards, and Robinson’s ability to play every position on the floor makes him a matchup nightmare.

“They all have been great leaders and could have monster seasons,” Magnusson said. “The key will be who else will step up.”

Depth took a hit from the loss of eight players who ether graduated or left the program. That makes the continued development of junior Gavin Hebert and sophomores Cooper Chiasson and Luke Lueders even more crucial.

Winthrop bid farewell to a tremendous senior class of its own after consecutive tournament appearances and an MVC championship, but this year’s juniors have similar potential over the long haul.

Jacob Hickey leads that group, and senior center Anthony Owens should be one of the top players in the MVC.

“This year we are only focused on one team, that being us,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “We believe that we have a lot of upside, but to reach that we must work hard every opportunity we have to achieve that. We have a bunch of great kids with potential, but we must be exposed to live game experience.”

The Ramblers will need breakout seasons from Garrett Tsouprake, Bennett Brooks, Spencer Steele, Nate Scott and Andrew Pazdziorko.

“Our program philosophies have laid a foundation for us to continue having success,” MacArthur said. “The coaching staff and players all believe in what we do, and we know that when we get acclimated to game experience, we will be just fine.”

Monmouth welcomes back the most experience of the local C South teams, with six of the top seven Mustangs returning from a preliminary-round loss to OOB.

Junior Hunter Richardson leads the way, with senior guards Nick Menice and Luke Thombs and forward Nick Sanborn, Avery Amero and Travis Hartford all expected to step up their contributions.

“With another year of playing in the system, these kids should be stronger on the defense and offense end,” Monmouth coach Lucas Turner said. “I believe our strength will be in playing a disciplined, defensive style of basketball. Our goal is to be one of the teams that are invited to play into the third week of February.”

Turner forecast Madison, Dirigo and Boothbay as the top three in the MVC.

“There is going to be much parity, and whoever brings it on a certain night will win,” Turner said. 

Telstar took Mountain Valley to the final minute of regulation in what was essentially a playoff game a year ago. The Rebels lost and settled for a 6-12 campaign.

The Rebels have some size and confidence back from that run. What they lack are numbers, with only seven varsity players and 15 total players in the program.

“We are a very young and thin team. It is vital that we stay healthy and stay together through this grueling MVC season,” Telstar coach Mike Pelletier said. “If these players continue to give the effort that they’ve shown over the offseason and preseason, we expect to improve our position in a very talented conference.”

The frontcourt of 6-foot-4 Tanner Wheeler and 6-5 Jeremiah Richardson leads the Rebels along with junior guard Avry Griffin.

New coaches take over at St. Dom’s (Jake Webb) and Mt. Abram (Jim Barker).

Barker played for the Roadrunners only five years ago. They haven’t tasted much success in the interim, but seniors Luke Romanoski and Hunter York and juniors Dan Luce, Glendon Howard and Trevor Chaput are quality building blocks.

“Taking over the team, I’ve noticed right away that we have a highly motivated group of individuals,” Barker said. “Combining that with a good blend of returning varsity players plus a mix of new talent, I think it will give us a chance to surprise some people this year.”

Barker said that Mt. Abram will try to create havoc with pressure and hustle.

“As a new coach, one of the harder points will be changing systems and getting everybody on the same page,” he said.

Webb’s challenge for the Saints will be finding scorers. Mike Bryant and Becket Wagner did most of that work for a team that advanced to the preliminary round last winter.

“Having graduated six of the top seven and only returning one player with significant varsity experience is tough,” Webb said. “We are a good defensive team. We need to work on offense. We lack a true scorer and are hoping Sam Rines and Camden Jalbert can grow into that role.”

Jake Bussiere, a senior guard, joins those two as a tri-captain.

“As a group we are building a great foundation for the future of this program,” Webb said.

Buckfield went 5-13 and lost to Richmond in a Class D South prelim, but what coach Mark Thurlow saw in that game encouraged him going into this season. The Bucks fell behind 23-0 in the first quarter before cutting the deficit to five points in the final minute.

“The kids improved a lot at the end of last year. They started to get it,” Thurlow said. “I think this club has potential. I think there are nine or 10 teams you can say are probably going to be in, and then the rest of us fighting for those three or four spots.”

Jake Kraske and Hunter Wiley are the Bucks’ most accomplished veterans. Aaron Rowe and Zack Grover also saw time in the 2014-15 starting lineup.

“We have to get more offense from our defense. We need to get some easy hoops,” Thurlow said. “We’ll fight to the end. We’ll have to earn everything we get.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.