Winthrop High School’s Ian Steele goes over the top of Lisbon High School’s Charlie Doyle during a basketball game Monday in Winthrop. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

It was a big part of the Winthrop boys basketball team’s championship run last season, and it’s setting up for the Ramblers again.

Last year, Winthrop took the No. 1 seed in the Class C South tournament, which meant that No. 2 and 3 seeds Waynflete and Hall-Dale, respectively, had to knock each other out in the semifinals. Those were the other two giants in the region, and the Ramblers avoided playing one of them when Hall-Dale won. Winthrop then beat the Bulldogs on its way to the Class C title, and in the days after the victory, coach Todd MacArthur acknowledged the significance of the top seed in his team’s championship march.

This year, it’s hard not to draw the parallels. Winthrop (15-1) is in first place once again, and No. 2 and 3 belong to Waynflete (15-1) and Boothbay (12-3), which along with the Ramblers have been the most consistently strong teams in the region from start to finish.

MacArthur, however, denies that the dynamic of this season is a carbon copy of last year’s.

“I just think this year that the parity within the tournament this year … it’s much more,” he said. “Seeding is not necessarily the most important thing.”

The results back up MacArthur’s point. Winthrop, Waynflete and Boothbay may be the top three teams, but the drop-off isn’t as steep as it was last season. Mt. Abram, the sixth seed at 11-6, took Winthrop to overtime. Hall-Dale, the fourth seed at 10-6, beat Boothbay. Monmouth, the ninth seed at 8-7, beat Hall-Dale.

Instead, MacArthur is focusing more on how his team is playing going in, regardless of what seed it ends up with.

“This year, we’re just more focused on the opportunity to get better,” he said. “Our mindset is every time we step into the gym, we’d better be improving, not regressing. Obviously, you want to go as high as possible in the tournament, but we also want to be playing our best basketball.”

Winthrop can’t coast. The Ramblers on Friday will play Spruce Mountain, which gave them their only loss.

“I couldn’t have planned for our schedule to be as good as it was to finish the year,” he said. “You always want your schedule to end versus teams of high caliber, and the way that we end our season with all the Class B schools and high-quality teams, that’s just what we wanted. Win, lose or draw, it’s going to make us a better team.”

BLACK BEARS FINE TRAILING PHOENIX

The situation is similar in B South, where Maranacook is in contention for the top spot. The Black Bears are second at 13-2, roughly 10.5 Heal points shy of Spruce Mountain (14-3) for first. But the Phoenix have to play both Boothbay (12-4) and Winthrop (15-1), while Maranacook can pick up chunks of points with wins over Belfast (9-6) and Maine Central Institute (10-5).

Like MacArthur, however, Maranacook coach Travis Magnusson is content with the seeding his team gets, particularly since the higher seed doesn’t always guarantee the easier opponent.

“We don’t talk about that too much. We talk about playing the best we can, and I think we’re really peaking at the right time. I think we’re playing our best basketball right now,” he said. “Looking at it, it’s more about the matchup than the seeds. A lot of it’s depending on what other teams are doing too. You could have the better team go eight, and if the better team goes eight, we’d rather go two.”

Magnusson had reason to be complimentary of his team’s recent play. The Black Bears are 9-0 since they last lost to Cony, and have sidestepped the clunker game to which so many good teams fall victim. Magnusson said that’s been a point of emphasis.

“We try to play every game like it’s a state championship,” he said. “When you say we haven’t had a down night, we really take pride in not (having one). We treat every game like it’s the biggest game of the year.”

The Black Bears’ offense has been sharp all season. Defense, however, has been a different story.

“Our defense is night and day to what it was,” Magnusson said. “I think their effort’s better than it was in the first couple of games of the year, I think they’re taking more pride than they were in the first couple of games, and I think the big thing is not taking so many chances. When you play the best teams in the tournament, very seldom are you going to steal the ball. So don’t get out of position.”


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