It’s been 14 years since a Western Maine Conference team has cracked the stranglehold the Mountain Valley Conference has held on the Western Maine Class C basketball tournament.
With two strong WMC entries, Waynflete and Old Orchard Beach, in the tournament, this could be the year.
“Usually it’s the MVC,” said Dirigo coach Travis Magnusson, whose Cougars have won four straight regional titles. “The people that haven’t seen Waynflete and Old Orchard play, I think they’re going to be surprised how good they are.”
Sixth-seeded Old Orchard faces Magnusson’s No. 2 Cougars in the quarterfinal round today at the Augusta Civic Center while No. 2 Waynflete meets No. 10 Monmouth. The other two games feature familiar opponents. Top-seeded Boothbay faces No. 8 Wiscasset, a team it beat twice in the regular season while No. 4 Madison plays No. 5 Hall-Dale, a team it defeated in their only meeting.
Waynflete returns four starters, led by senior forward Serge Nyirikamba, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.
“He’s all-conference first team,” Waynflete coach Rich Henry said. “There’s no nonsense about the way he plays.”
Dirigo graduated four starters form last season’s Class C state championship team but has bounced back nicely, losing just once this season to Boothbay
“We’ve still got good guard play,” Magnusson said, referring to T.J. Frost and Hunter Ross. “We’ve improved as much as I’ve had a team improve.”
They Cougars face a veteran team in Old Orchard.
“We played them last year,” Magnusson said. “They have four starters back from that team.”
Madison blew out Hall-Dale, 64-31 last month in Madison.
“We couldn’t handle their guard pressure,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “They play a 2-3 and use the guards up top to trap out of it.”
Austin Kane and Dylan Price are Madison’s top two scorers and both have bounced back nicely from early-season injuries. Hall-Dale has struggled with injuries in the latter part of the season. Neither center Sam Shepherd nor forward Zac Plummer played against Madison. Plummer is out for the season with a torn ACL while Shepherd has come back slowly from a badly sprained ankle.
“It’s still pretty swollen,” Ranslow said. “He looks pretty tentative on it. We’ve mixed him in the last two games.”
Ranslow won’t start his 6-foot-6 center and shot blocker and is also dealing with a shin injury to sophomore Wesley Lapointe, who is expected to start.
“It looks like we’re going with four sophomore and (senior guard Michael) Woods,” he said.
Monmouth, which upset Winthrop in a prelim game this week, faces a formidable task against an experienced Waynflete team that lost just once this season to Class B Cape Elizabeth.