Players to watch: Valley — Cody Laweryson, Sr. F; Luke Malloy, Sr. G; Collin Miller, Sr. F; Pine Tree — J.P. Tashamala Sr. F/G; Jalen Tamalea, Sr. F/C; Alex Milano, Sr. G/F; Seacoast Christian — Tim Yeaton, Sr. F. Caleb LaCroix, Jr. G; Sky Archer, Jr. G/F; Greenville — Nick Foley, Soph. G; Tim White, Sr. G; A.R. Gould – Tyrese Collins, Jr. G; Eric Myers, Sr. G; Vinalhaven — Lewis Cray, Sr. G; Cody Hamilton, Jr. C/F; Max Stanley, Jr. G/F; Islesboro — Forrest Boucher, Sr. G; Jake Pellagrino, Jr. G; Avery Grindle, Jr. F; Rangeley — Kyle LaRochelle, Soph. G/F; Carl Trafton, Jr. G; Ricky Thompson, Jr. C.

Favorite: Valley.

Even in their championship heyday that began nearly two decades ago, the Cavaliers may never have been this much of a favorite entering the tournament. In those days, Hyde and Richmond often stood in Valley’s way. With reclassification, the undefeated Cavaliers have gone from being the little program that could to being the largest school in the region. They’re loaded with tournament experience, having won the regional title only two years ago. Valley’s Heal Point tournament index was more than 80 points ahead of second-seeded Pine Tree, and Greenville’s five losses are the next smallest total in the field. It would be considered one of the greatest upsets in tournament history if Valley doesn’t win.

Dark horses: Pine Tree, Greenville, Vinalhaven.

The Freeport-based breakers didn’t face Valley during the season. They did split four tough games with Class C Buckfield and NYA and challenged themselves with a game against Class C tournament team Old Orchard Beach. The Seagulls won by 19. Pine Tree’s top players are seniors, but they made only one prior tournament appearance in the 2014 preliminary. PTA hasn’t been to the quarterfinals since 2006, the year after they advanced to their lone regional final.

Greenville plays with a defensive edge that is required to make a playoff run. The Lakers held 11 of their 18 opponents to 40 points or fewer. They also won four consecutive games prior to a 42-41 loss to Class C North tournament club Penobscot Valley in the final game of the regular season. Valley swept Greenville by 19 and 20 points during the regular season but was held a few notches below its scoring average.


Vinalhaven? They won 11 games and arguably have the richest tournament history aside from Valley in this field. We’ll say that counts for something.

Fun facts: Valley won six consecutive state championships from 1998 to 2003, and its 101-game winning streak in that era is an all-class state record … The Cavaliers’ closest win was eight points over Class C Richmond in the regular season finale. Their closest margin of victory against a team in the Class D field was 16 points (Seacoast Christian) … Pine Tree’s quarterfinal game has been moved from Saturday to Monday. The Breakers are affiliated with the Seventh Day Adventist Church and observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Class C and D regional final start times on the second Saturday likely would be flipped to accommodate the school if second-seeded PTA makes it to the championship game … Rangeley’s most recent tournament appearance also was as the No. 8 seed in 2011. The Lakers threw a scare into Forest Hills before bowing 54-51 … Four teams from last year’s quarterfinals (Richmond, Hyde, Searsport, NYA) are no longer in D South. Hyde withdrew from Maine Principals’ Association competition, while the others were reassigned to Class C. Defending state Forest Hills was ousted in the preliminary round … Greenville (2011), Vinalhaven (2011 and 2012), A.R. Gould (2013) and Seacoast Christian (2015) all made previous runs to the semifinal in this decade.

Overview: Valley rolled over Rangeley by 29 and 45 points during the regular season. The other game on that side of the bracket is an intriguing clash between stingy Greenville and wide-open A.R. Gould. Whichever team can impose its will and control the tempo will gain the upper hand. Watch for possible upsets on other side of the draw. No. 7 Islesboro edged Pine Tree, 53-51, in their lone meeting. Vinalhaven and Seacoast Christian split their series, with each winning on the other’s cozy home court. Adapting to the much larger ACC environment will be the key.

The hunch is that the Vikings will make their visit from the island a productive one and emerge as the lowest seed to reach an Augusta final this winter. That’s a case of being careful for what you wish: Valley vanquished Vinalhaven by an average of 27.5 points in back-to-back December games.

Prediction: Valley.


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