WINTHROP — This is the class of seniors that has seen it all.

Their high school basketball careers began in uncertainty, behind closed doors with no fans to cheer them on, no Gold Ball to be lifted. Even as normalcy returned, the changes didn’t stop as the Mountain Valley Conference revamped its scheduling and saw new teams come and go.

Through it all, though, this group of seniors has been resilient. Thursday night was a chance to celebrate that resilience with one final game as 40 of the best players, ranging  from central and western Maine to the Lewiston-Auburn area and the coast, gathered at Winthrop High for the MVC Senior All-Star Game.

No spectators in the stands; no traditional schedule; no awe of the state tournament stage. That was the world these senior players came into as freshmen in 2020-21 — well, really just 2021 as teams couldn’t even play their first games until that January. Even next year, masks returned, and capacities were limited.

“Thinking back to that, yeah, it was a lot,” said Monmouth Academy’s Sammy Calder. “Playing in the masks, that was tough to run with, and you also had guys who were out because of quarantines and stuff. It was tough, but we did we had to do, and the last two years have been a lot more fun.”

Those early games were stark contrast to what they experienced here Thursday and in the years since they began their high school days. Twelve participants in Thursday’s games played on state championship teams, and many performed in front of big crowds at the Augusta Civic Center, Portland Expo or Cross Insurance Center, some as recently as a week ago.


The Mountain Valley Conference has changed plenty since these seniors first arrived at high school.

Prior to the 2022-23 season, the conference changed its policy of allowing only in-conference games during the regular season. That paved the way for new road trips, new gymnasiums and new experiences across the area.

Next, there were shakeups to the MVC’s membership last summer. Prior to the current school year, Carrabec, Wiscasset and Buckfield left for the East/West Conference. In their place, a new member, Maranacook, arrived from the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.

It’s been a different winter for Maranacook, which was used to trips to Augusta, Winslow and Waterboro rather than Farmingdale, Madison and Rumford. The Black Bears, though, grew to appreciate the new conference, and their representatives Thursday were appreciative of one more game.

“I loved (the MVC); it was a new experience, but the teams were all still really good,” Maranacook’s Keagan McClure said. “Seeing all of the new places and new gyms that was a lot of fun. … This game was a good way to end a fun senior year.”

Winthrop girls head coach John Baehr attested to some of the hardships these seniors dealt with just to reach this year. Beginning the varsity experience in front of zero fans, he said, was especially difficult, not to mention the precautions those players had to deal with just to be able to play in the first place.


“My two seniors (Alwil Ring and Haley Williams) are the type of kids who love meeting new people, and freshman year, they didn’t get to venture out too much,” Baehr said. “I was an assistant coach for the boys at the time, and our policy was we had to air out the gym between games every time. It was strict, and they’ve been through a lot.”

In the girls game, Team Red claimed a 53-51 win over Team Blue. Red, led by Hall-Dale’s K.J. Greenhalgh and Hayden Madore, let a 15-point lead evaporate but rallied back in the final minute for a tight win over a Blue squad led by Madison’s Ali Griffeth and Spruce Mountain’s Jaydn Pingree.

The boys game saw Team Red, led by Maranacook’s Robbie Vivenzio and Monmouth’s Lucas Harmon, claim an 88-86 victory over Team Blue. Blue, led by Calder and Mt. Abram’s Cam Frost-Grey, exploded for 51 points in the first half and led for much of the game before Red prevailed after a second half of long-range 3-point attempts.

There was a level of closeness between the players, even those separated by classifications and even significant distances. They’d shared many moments with one another on the floor and, in some cases, played in travel leagues or on other teams with one another during the high school offseason.

“I played on a travel team (two years ago) with Jaydn and Jasmine (Pingree), K.J. and a bunch of us in the central Maine area and around here,” Griffeth said. “A lot of us are just really close. It’s a small conference, and you grow close when you’re always competing against each other.”

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