Maranacook’s Keagan McClure, left, defends Monmouth’s Sammy Calder in a boys basketball game Friday in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

READFIELD — If the first game of the 2023-24 season is a harbinger of what’s to come for Maranacook boys basketball in the Mountain Valley Conference, count Travis Magnusson as excited.

From the caliber of the teams to the action on the floor, this was everything the Maranacook head coach could have wanted in his team’s MVC debut. The hard-fought contest Friday against Monmouth Academy saw his team emerge from a battle of conference contenders with a 71-59 victory.

“The MVC has some really good teams, and we know there’s going to be a lot of battles,” Magnusson said. “It was a back-and-forth game. We got off to the hot start and would keep getting out to a bit of a lead, but Monmouth came back every time. It was definitely a fun game and a good start to the season.”

Keagan McClure led the way for Maranacook with 18 points and five rebounds, and Brandon Chilton (16 points, four rebounds) also had a big game for the Black Bears. Sammy Calder had a game-high 23 points and a team-high seven boards for Monmouth, which also got 15 points from freshman Levi Laverdiere.

The first quarter couldn’t have gone much better for Maranacook (1-0), which ran out to a 9-1 lead in the opening minutes behind hot shooting. That strong effort from the field would continue through the rest of the period for the Black Bears, who shot 8 of 10 in the opening frame to lead 20-12.

Maranacook’s Elijah Freeman top, shoots as Monmouth’s Sammy Calder tries to block him in a boys basketball game Friday in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Not out of it by any means, Monmouth (0-1) cut the lead down to two twice in the second quarter as Calder got hot from the field. Although Maranacook answered back with five straight points to end the half taking a 41-30 lead early in the third quarter, the Mustangs stayed in and cut it to 47-44 late in the period.


“We have tough kids, and they work hard, and they’re smart, and they weren’t about to quit tonight,” said Monmouth head coach Wade Morrill. “I think us and Maranacook are relatively evenly matched. They finished a little better than we did tonight, but I’m proud of the way we stepped up and played hard.”

Although Maranacook took its biggest lead of the night at 61-49 early in the fourth quarter, an eight-point burst from Calder cut the deficit back to five midway through the game. Monmouth, though, couldn’t get it closer than that as the Black Bears made enough free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.

“Our senior class, we’ve been (rolling with the punches) our whole career, so we’re used to doing that when we need to,” McClure said. “We’ve always learned to stick together, compete as a team and trust in our coach, and when we needed to do that tonight, we stepped up and did it.”

Senior veterans McClure, Chilton and Robbie Vivenzio (nine points, eight rebounds) indeed stepped up for Maranacook, but its youngsters were also influential. Freshman Jack Fontaine scored 12 points, including five straight in the fourth quarter, and sophomore Elijah Freeman added seven.

The young guns also made an impact for Monmouth, which has one of the conference’s best players back in Calder but is dealing with inexperience elsewhere after graduating a big senior class. Bingham Abbott had seven points and five boards for the Mustangs, who also got 11-second half points from the 5-foot-6 Laverdiere.

“Levi is the first freshman I’ve started in 12 years or something like that; it’s been a long time,” Morrill said. “He’s got a great shot, and the biggest thing for him is to just stay in there and keep battling because he’s a small guy. Bingham, he’s been working hard on his game all summer, and I thought he played a big role.”

The crowd was a raucous one with Black Bears fans packing the majority of the gym and Monmouth also bringing a sizable contingent that stayed loud from the opening tip to the final buzzer. It’s something Magnusson expects in the MVC, where five of Maranacook’s conference foes are within 20 miles.

“It was packed, and it was great to see that energy,” Magnusson said. “The girls played tonight down there, and if we had (a doubleheader) tonight, it’s crazy to think it could have been even more filled. We know the MVC is going to do that most nights, so we’re excited for some big crowds against local teams.”

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