Joe Ringuette of Poland Regional High School drives to the basket while being guarded by Nicholas Kariotis of Gray-New Gloucester during a game in Poland in Dec. 2019. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

Editor’s note: The Sun Journal previewed Franklin- and Kennebec-county teams as their seasons were starting last month. Now, we are previewing the Androscoggin, Oxford and Cumberland teams from the Sun Journal’s coverage area.

A year ago, Poland finished near the bottom of the standings in Class B South, and the Knights’ four wins were only about half of what they would have needed to make the playoffs.

There’s no postseason again this year, but the Knights have the look of a much more competitive team.

“Offensively, this is the most skilled group we have had in five years,” said Poland coach Tyler Tracy, who is now in his 10th season.

The Knights will be led by a trio of seniors who all averaged 9-plus points per game last year. Joe Ringuette (9.6 points per game), Isaiah Hill (9.2) and Evan Kelly (9.0) are all three-year starters, and Ringuette was a third-team all-WMC player a year ago. Junior Hunter Gibson (7.8 ppg last year) is another go-to scorer, and one who Tracy says has the potential to be a top player in the Western Maine Conference.

“We have the ability to score, but it will depend on how quickly we can get everyone on the same page with their movement, timing and rhythm,” Tracy said.

It’s not the scoring that will set the Knights apart from last year, and from other teams it will match up against. What will is Poland’s strength.

“This group has physically matured and we expect to be one of the stronger teams. Our strength will show on the defensive end and on the boards,” Tracy said.

The Knights didn’t lose much to graduation last year. In addition to the senior trio, juniors Joe Levesque and Chance Brown are returners who will play major minutes, as will sophomore Hayden Christner.

“This group has been through a lot together,” Tracy said. “They have a lot of toughness and they are ready to take a big step.”

BUCKFIELD BUCKS

Buckfield has only one senior on its roster, guard Rick Kraske, and for that reason alone fifth-year coach Kyle Rines said this pandemic season will serve as a building year for the future.

There’s a lot to be excited about for that future, however. Sophomore center Gavin Charest scored more than 200 points in his freshman season last year, and he has nine classmates who are returners this year.

“(Gavin) is the centerpiece of what we do, and the entire team is looking forward to competing again,” Rines said. “The sophomore group is a hungry group and they work hard to get better every day.”

In addition to Kraske, juniors Zach Shields, Hudson Cregg and Colby Jordan will be looked to for leadership.

DIRIGO COUGARS

Losing four key seniors could have been a reason for the Dirigo boys basketball team to have low expectations this year, but third-year coach Cody St. Germain doesn’t see it that way.

“Although we lost a good group of hardworking seniors last year, our younger players gained a lot of early varsity experience,” St. Germain said. “I expect we will be very competitive this year and will take a step forward.”

St. Germain said it will be pivotal for the Cougars’ trio of senior returners to lead and help the younger players successfully take that next step. PJ Merrill, Cole Brown and Garrett Oliver are the only returning upperclassmen, but senior Loegan Hodgkins and junior Wyatt Smith have been added to the team and should help provide some maturity.

St. Germain said this year’s group, which also includes sophomore returners Charlie Houghton, Dakota Tompkins and Trenton Hutchinson, has a high basketball IQ and works well together on the court.

EDWARD LITTLE RED EDDIES

An experienced senior class helped lift Edward Little to a state championship a year ago, and now the Red Eddies are paying the price, so to speak. Those players left gaping holes in the roster that now need to be filled. Junior center John Shea (EL’s leading scorer in state final) and senior guard RJ Nichols (game-winning assist) will be the main parts in putting this year’s team together.

“Several players returning who learned from a strong graduating class and will learn fast as our season progresses,” coach Mike Adams, entering his 20th season leading the Red Eddies, said. “Good mix of size, athletes and shooters, and as we learn to work together can have another strong team and season.”

Tyson Green is another returning senior, and juniors Pat Anthoine and Tong Maiwen will get more chances to show their stuff. Adams’ son, freshman guard Marshal Adams, is one of two freshmen on the roster, including Eli St. Laurent, who will get some minutes this season.

GRAY-NEW GLOUCESTER PATRIOTS

The Patriots have only one senior on the roster, but they don’t lack experience. There are also 10 returning varsity players, five of whom started games a year ago.

The lone senior is 6-foot-3 guard/forward Wyatt Kenney, who will share leadership duties with seven returning juniors — Josh Michaud, Jay Hawkes, Terell Claxton, Aubray Lincoln, Gage Rowe, Anthony Prescott and Cameron Cormier.

“This year’s team features several versatile players who can shoot, pass and defend,” ninth-year coach Ryan Deschenes said. “We will look to push the tempo on both ends of the court.”

One thing the Patriots don’t lack is height. Seven returners are listed at 6-feet or taller, with Claxton equaling Kenney as the tallest at 6-3. Two other returners are 5-11, and sophomore newcomer Miles Post is listed at 6-1.

“Rebounding will be imperative for the team to be successful,” Deschenes said.

LEAVITT HORNETS

The Hornets this season will be led by duo of four-year starting guards in Wyatt Hathaway and Joziah Learned, who Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway called two of the top players in the state.

Beyond those two, junior forwards Hunter Hayes and Trevor Bosse and junior guard Ben Sirois all earned starts last year.

“Our team has some experience and should have pretty good depth, and the return of senior Tommy Casey helps replace the loss of (Cole) Morin’s rebounding and physical presence,” Mike Hathaway said.

The Hornets also lost Keegan Melanson to graduation, but bring back experienced junior Ian Redstone and sophomores Sawyer Hathaway and Brett Coburn, and there are newcomers from every grade.

LEWISTON BLUE DEVILS

The Blue Devils displayed in their season opener, a comeback victory over rival Edward Little, exactly what they’re made of this year.

“Our team strength is our compete level. We show up to compete every single night,” second-year coach and former Lewiston star Ronnie Turner said.

Just as they did in the second half against Edward Little, the Blue Devils will look to run as much as they can, Turner said. He added that the team is in shape to do so.

“An area we can grow as a team would be understanding situations. We preach go, go, go, and sometimes we have to dial it back,” Turner said. “With more experience we will be able to make these in-game adjustments.”

Junior point guard Donovan Jackson is the pace-setter, with classmate David Omasombo the go-to scorer. Junior Malik Foster and sophomore Elijah Scales showed their scoring touch against Edward Little. Seniors Chiwer Mayen and Garrett Mack and sophomores Elijah Bigelow and Caed Langley will man the paint.

LISBON GREYHOUNDS

Greyhounds run, right?

The Lisbon Greyhounds boys basketball team will certainly look to make their moniker prove true.

“The strengths of the team is our speed, size and athleticism,” ninth-year coach Jake Gentle said.

The Greyhounds lost three key players to graduation, but seniors Neil LaRochelle and Owen Fish and juniors Charlie Doyle, Mason Booker, Hunter McCausland and Nick Ferrence are all experienced, and 6-foot-3 sophomore forward Owen Smith also saw some quality minutes last year.

“We have an excellent group of returning upperclassmen that give great effort and play as a team,” Gentle said. “We are always looking to improve on every aspect of the game. The main focal points throughout the season is team rebounding, team defense and creating transition points. Our goals are to compete every night, improve throughout the season.”

MOUNTAIN VALLEY FALCONS

The Falcons want to be a team that opponents don’t want to face, or won’t be comfortable playing against when they do.

“We want to play up-tempo, put pressure on the ball in the full court as well as the half-court,” third-year coach Scot New said. “We are an unselfish, gritty team.”

The Falcons feature a quintet of returning seniors in Kalen Chase, EJ Weston, Ethan Casey, Keagan Pitcher and Caleb Frisbie. Sophomores Zach New and Airick Richard also bring experience.

“Most of the team is average in height, and we can use that to our advantage,” said Scot New, adding that the team’s height allows the Falcons to create space and pose matchup problems.

Graduated point guard Dylan Desroches will be missed, but sophomores Leon Salmon, Tucker Laramee and Brayden Duguay will be called upon this season.

“We can grow defensively and become a more efficient team offensively,” Scot New said. “Sometimes we rely too much on the 3s.”

OAK HILL RAIDERS

Oak Hill lost five key players, but 10th-year coach Tom Smith still sees a solid nucleus of returning players. Last year’s leading scorer, Gavin Rawstron, is back, as are fellow seniors Alex Fournier and Sam Lindsay. There are also four juniors returning, guards Jackson Arbour, D’Andre Daniels, Tiger Hopkins and Caden Thompson.

“The junior class is the strength of the team as they continue to develop and provide valuable minutes at the varsity level,” Smith said.

Another junior, forward Silas Dumont, adds size and an inside presence, according to Smith, and sophomore Maverick Swan improves the Raiders’ depth and scoring at guard.

“Their development at the varsity level will be key for a successful season,” Smith said.

The Raiders should be solid defensively, and Smith said that they will push the pace at all times to take advantage of their size and athleticism.

OXFORD HILLS VIKINGS

Coming off a disappointing 2019-20 season, the Vikings return a large number of players, including four seniors, and bring in just as many.

Senior forwards Hayden Paine and Cyrus Hooker and guards Ty Leblond and Keegan Watson were all key players last year and will want to finish their careers on a better note. Junior guard Isaiah Oufiero and sophomore guard Elias Soehren also are returning varsity players.

Towering junior center Colby Dillingham is one of six promising newcomers to the roster. Guards Dakota Grassi and Matt Doucette, also juniors, will be called upon this season. Other newcomers include sophomores Cole Pulkkinen and Lincoln Merrill and freshman Teigan Pelletier.

ST. DOM’S SAINTS

Only three players return to this year’s St. Dom’s roster, and only junior guard Gabe Carey, who second-year coach Josh LaPrell called the general of this year’s team, saw significant action. Fellow juniors Noah Cyr and Michael Stowe are also back for a team that doesn’t have any seniors this year.

Junior forwards Alex Willings and Kevin Gallic have been added to the fray, as have six freshmen, including starting guard Ashton Hammond.

“We got a couple freshmen that are getting minutes, and the first game (a loss to Richmond), they kind of admitted they were a little nervous and scared, which is understandable. It’s a big jump from middle school to high school,” LaPrell said after a recent win over Pine Tree Academy. “So I think it was good to come in after having the first game under their belt and they definitely weren’t as nervous (against Pine Tree), they played with a lot more confidence. They’ve been great in practice.”

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