The Skowhegan Area High School and Mt. Blue High School girls basketball teams played one of the best games of the 2012 state tournament, so it’s only fitting the old rivals open the 2012-13 season in a rematch.

The Mt. Blue girls play at Skowhegan tonight in a game that headlines the opening night of the high school basketball season in the region.

“It’s a great rivalry, a healthy rivalry,” Mt. Blue coach Tom Philbrick said. “They’ve got a long track record of success, and we’re up and coming. It’s going to be a great challenge.”

In the Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinals last season, Skowhegan rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to take a 56-55 overtime win. Skowhegan coach Heath Cowan said his team isn’t thinking of that playoff game.

“This is the first game of the season. It’s not the playoffs. It’s not going to end anybody’s season,” Cowan said. “We’ll get an idea of where both teams stand in the first week of December. It’s an opportunity to win some Heal points.”

Cowan said he expects tonight’s game to be just one of many tough games in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A division.

“I think we’ve got some good pieces. We’ve got to fit them together,” Cowan said.

Mt. Blue played a tough preseason schedule, including a game against Catherine McAuley of Portland, the defending Class A state champion.

“We played well in spots. We haven’t been as consistent as I’d like,” Philbrick said. “It’s coming, and I have full confidence in my girls. We’ll pull this thing together.”

In boys action, a Waterville team with high expectations plays at Camden Hills, and Winslow travels to Rockland to take on Oceanside, the preseason favorite in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B division.

Like the Mt. Blue girls, the Winslow boys open against the team which knocked them out of the playoffs last season. The Black Raiders lost a preliminary round game to Oceanside, 69-57.

Winslow coach Jared Browne said he was glad to see Oceanside as his team’s opening opponent when the schedule was released at the end of the school year.

“This is the best possible opponent for us to start the season,” Browne said. “What better way to start the season than to go down there and get a big win?”

Rather than put last season’s playoff loss to the Mariners in the past, Browne said his team has used it as motivation for this year.

“We’ve been using it as motivation since summer basketball,” Browne said.

The Black Raiders played well in the preseason, losing just once, to Class A Messalonskee. Brown thought the Messalonskee game was a good warmup for the Mariners, because of their similar styles of play.

“Oceanside’s going to play us physical, just like Messalonskee did,” Browne said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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