Gardiner sophomore center Lizzy Gruber, left, tries to shoot against Cony junior forward Raegan Bechard during a game Tuesday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Basketball coaches will tell you they never look ahead. They and their team are focused on the next opponent and only the next opponent. Especially in a tournament situation, where it’s win or you’re out. Any energy spent on anything but the next opponent is energy wasted. What is often said when a good team gets upset by a lower-seeded club in a tournament? Maybe they were looking ahead.

Coaches and players never look ahead. At least, they never admit to it.

On the other hand, sports writers have no such phobia. We love to look ahead. It’s what we do, especially when we see a tournament bracket. We start projecting possible matchups as soon as the field is announced.

The central Maine high school basketball tournament starts Tuesday with preliminary round games. Each of the four divisions of this tournament Class A/B girls and boys, and Class C/D girls and boys, offer intriguing possibilities in matchups both potential and verified.  Here’s a look at some of the games we know we’ll see, and a look at some games we might see.

Class A/B Girls

This is a deep group of good teams. Six of the teams in this tournament won at least eight games during the shortened 12-game regular season. We get an old-fashioned rivalry game at the jump, with No. 11 Winslow at No. 6 Waterville in the preliminary round. The winner goes to No. 3 Erskine for the semifinals, and the winner of that could go to No. 2 Lawrence for the semifinals. A Waterville or Winslow at Lawrence game with a spot in the tournament championship at stake would be a taste of old time central Maine basketball.

On the other side of the bracket, there’s the potential for two of the state’s best players to meet in the semifinals. If No. 4 Skowhegan gets by No. 5 Maranacook in Tuesday’s quarterfinal game, the RiverHawks could travel to No. 1 Gardiner, assuming the Tigers beat either No. 9 Mt. Blue or No. 8 Messalonskee. A Skowhegan-Gardiner game would give us Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher, a 1,000-point scorer as a junior, against Gardiner sophomore Lizzy Gruber, who controls the paint as well as anybody.

Monmouth’s Brooke Rooney, right, pursues the ball with Winthrop’s Madison Forgue during a game last month in Monmouth. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Class C/D Girls

This tournament is essentially a central Maine Mountain Valley Conference tournament. With Rangeley choosing to not participate, No. 6 Valley is the lone Class D team in the eight-team field. No. 8 Kents Hill is an independent Class C school, but the Huskies haven’t played a game all season and make their debut against No. 1 Hall-Dale. Kents Hill could be ready, or it could be rusty. Enrollment-wise, Spruce Mountain is a Class B school, but was allowed to play in the C/D division of this tournament along with its traditional rivals in the MVC.

Somerset County rivals Madison and Carrabec meet in the quarterfinals. Rivals Hall-Dale and Winthrop are on opposite sides of the bracket, and could only meet in the championship.

Class A/B Boys

Like the girls A/B field, this group is deep. Five of the 10 teams in the tournament won at least eight games. Undefeated top-seed Maranacook against any of those contenders would be fun.

A quarterfinal matchup between old rivals No. 6 Winslow and No. 3 Lawrence will be a treat, and the winner of that game against No. 2 Skowhegan in the semifinals would be fun, as the RiverHawks split a pair of games with both Lawrence and Winslow.

The quarterfinal between No. 5 Cony and No. 4 Messalonskee is interesting in that it’s likely the only time these teams will meet in the postseason without the game being a rematch of at least one regular season game. The Rams and Eagles have played some great games in recent years, but in this abbreviated season, their only meeting is this playoff game.

Forest Hills senior Parker Desjardins gets past Madison defenders during a game last month in Madison. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Class C/D Boys

In the long history of Maine high school basketball, how many tournaments have featured two defending state champions in the same field? It’s probably happened a few times, as teams moved up or down a classification. This tournament, though, has Winthrop the two-time defending Class C state champion, and Forest Hills, the two-time defending Class D state champion.

The pandemic has taken so much, but in this case, it’s given us the potential for a high school hoops rarity. Two two-time defending state champs squaring off in a title game. It’s not a state title game, sure, but let’s not stand on ceremony. This game would be a blast. Forest Hills senior Parker Desjardins, who scored his 2,000th career point last week and often scored 40 points in just three quarters of play, versus Winthrop’s caffeinated in your face defense. That’s the good stuff.

Of course, the Ramblers and Tigers have tough opponents to get through before that can happen. Should Forest Hills get by either Mt. Abram or Waterville in the quarters, it could face No. 2 Madison in the semis. Forest Hills and Madison split a pair of close regular-season games. Winthrop could see old rival Hall-Dale, or a good Spruce Mountain team.

We don’t know what games we’re going to get, but we know we’re going to get some good ones. We’re talking about tournament basketball, and considering the year we’ve had, let’s embrace that.

Related Headlines


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.