There are several good opening-game matchups as the high school basketball season gets under way this weekend.
In some of the better boys games tonight, Cony hosts Brunswick, Medomak Valley plays at Maranacook and Hall-Dale is home to Spruce Mountain.
Brunswick and Cony were picked fifth and sixth, respectively, in the preseason coaches poll. The Rams will start Ben Lucas, Alex Neill, Zack Lachance, Chandler Shostak and Dayshawn Roberts, but coach Tim Bonsant expects to use his bench liberally.
“It should be a heck of a game,” he said. “Hopefully our depth will help. I plan on playing nine or 10 guys.”
Brunswick features a couple of good shooters in Ryan Black and Blake Gordon and a solid big man in 6-foot-6 Brad Smith.
“If we don’t get out on their shooters and rebound it could be a long night,” Bonsant said.
Chris Ranslow, who coached the 2005 Class C state championship team at Hall-Dale, returns on an interim basis to coach the Bulldogs. The team is dealing with a few injuries. Sophomore Nat Crocker and senior Derek Vigue, both guards, will not play while point guard Mike Woods (hamstring) is questionable.
“He’ll be a game-time decision, but I think he’s good to go,” Ranslow said.
Ranslow said he’s seen a change in the high school game since he left it seven years ago due to increased AAU and travel team games.
“There’s seems to be a gravitation away from fundamentals (to) just playing games,” he said.
The Medomak Valley-Maranacook matchup in Readfield features two of the better big men in the Class B division of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference in Maranacook’s Kyle Boucher and Medomak Valley’s John Murray, both 6-7. Boucher has 3-point shooting range while Murray is more of a low post player on offense.
“It’s a battle of the big guys,” Maranacook coach Rob Schmidt said. “I honestly think whichever one of those guys can control the board will help their team the most.”
Schmidt’s Black Bears are relatively small after Boucher but are an athletic group he hopes will run and apply defensive pressure.
In other boys matchups, Gardiner, coming off one of its best seasons ever, hosts Morse. The Tigers are small and will rely on the experience of seniors Tyler Jamison and Dennis Meehan. In a Class A game, Messalonskee travels to Erskine. Oak Hill drops from the KVAC Class B division to the Mountain Valley Conference this year and faces defending Class C state champion Dirigo in Dixfield. In another MVC game, Winthrop plays at Mountain Valley. In Class D, Richmond, under first-year coach Jon Spear, hosts Greenville.
In girls action, Cony, Richmond and Hall-Dale are all coming off state championship appearances. Richmond, which hosts Greenville, returns most of its lineup and should make another run at Class D title appearance. Cony faces a similarly small, quick team when it travels to Brunswick, while Erskine travels to Messalonskee in another Class A game. In KVAC B action, Gardiner travels to Morse while Winthrop plays at Mountain Valley in an MVC contest.
Hall-Dale plays Spruce Mountain on Saturday night in Farmingdale. Last season, the Bulldogs handed the Phoenix their only loss.
“It will definitely be a tough test,” Hall-Dale coach Brandon Terrill said. “They’re a typical Gavin Kane coached team. They’ll pressure the ball defensively. I’ll be real anxious to see how we handle that.”
Both teams graduated some key players. Hall-Dale returns two starters in center Allison Crockett and guard Natasha Brown.
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638