This year’s Western Maine Class D boys tournament is notable for two reasons.

First, four-time defending regional champion Richmond is not in the field. After dominating the tournament and reaching the state final five of the last six seasons, the Bobcats finally had a down year and failed to qualify.

Second, Hyde School of Bath is back. The Phoenix (15-1) were winless last season, but have since abandoned their prep schedule and put all their players against high school opponents. They’ve made a couple of notable additions, too, and are the elephant in the gym, if you will.

“I watched them play Waynflete,” Vinalhaven coach Matt Slivinsky said. “They’re big and they’re fast. They’re a dangerous team, very dangerous.”

Hyde split its season series against Waynflete, the second seeded team in Western Class C. The Phoenix have a pair of 6-foot-5 forwards in sophomore Warsama Mohamed and senior Chris Moulton and an outstanding point guard in senior Tyquan Ekejiuba.

“Tyquan is very good,” Valley coach Wade Morrill said. “He makes very few mistakes with the basketball. He has a very high basketball IQ.”

Valley lost to Hyde at home by 10 points but doesn’t have to worry about facing the Phoenix until the finals. The third-seeded Cavaliers (14-4) open against No. 6 North Haven, a team they didn’t face in regular season.

“They have three pretty good guards,” Morrill said. “I think the key is going to be to slow down the (Riley) Venger kid in the paint and play solid perimeter defense against Avery Waterman.”

The Cavs have a couple of experienced scorers in juniors Carrington Miller (17 points per game) and Josh West (14 ppg). Three of their four losses came with Miller out of the lineup with an injury. Against Vinalhaven, the 6-1 guard scored 30 points, including seven 3-pointers) and hit the game-winning shot.

Fifth-seeded Vinalhaven and No. 2 Forest Hills met in the semifinals last year, a game Vinalhaven won. They each return some key players for their first-round matchups, Vinlahaven against No. 4 Greenville and Forest Hills vs. No. 7 A.R. Gould.

Forest Hills returns junior Evan Worster (24.8 ppg) who scored his 1,000th career point this sason. Otherwise the Tigers are young, starting three freshmen.

“The freshmen have progresssed at a steady rate,” said Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero, citing Brandon Ouellette, Ryan Petrin and Matt Turner. “We have five guys who can score. It’s not just the Worster show.”

Amero doesn’t know much about A.R Gould, which has played a number of Class C opponents.

“They’re very difficult to scout,” he said. “They’ve had 16 different players come and go.”

Vinalhaven lost twice in the regular season to first-round opponent Greenville, both in Greenville. The Vikings return several players from the team that reached the regional final last year, including guards Brian Stanley and Steven Osgood and center Scott James. They also have good front-line depth with Robert Warren and Justin Newton.

“They’ve got three very good guards,” Slivinsky said of Greenville. “The key for us is to play our game and D up on those guys.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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