Staff Writer

Hampden has a Mr. Basketball semifinalist. So does Mt. Blue. Hampden has the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference North Division Player of the Year. So does Mt. Blue.

While Hampden guard Christian McCue and Mt. Blue center Cam Sennick — the KVAC North co-Players of the Year and each a semifinalist for Mr. Basketball — are keys to their team’s success, both the Broncos and the Cougars have plenty of talent and depth. They’ll tip off against each other for the Class A East title at 8:45 tonight at the Augusta Civic Center.

Top-seeded Hampden (19-1) hopes to reach the state final for the first time since 2006. For No. 3 Mt. Blue (16-4), it’s been a little longer. A win puts the Cougars in the Class A championship game for the first time since 1997.

“They’ve had a good season, and we’ve had a good season,” Mt. Blue coach Jim Bessey said. “At this point, they’re No. 1 for a reason.”

Hampden beat Mt. Blue twice in the regular season, 66-57 on Dec. 16 in Hampden and 65-63 in overtime on Jan. 27 in Farmington.

“The first game, we jumped out to an early lead,” Hampden coach Russ Bartlett said. “The second game was more of a grinder.”

Mt. Blue has been at its best when it has pressed and scored in transition. In the second game against Hampden, the Cougars built a slim fourth-quarter lead by picking up the pace, and Bessey said he expects to press more tonight.

“When we were able to control the tempo at times, when we got them playing faster than they wanted to, we had success,” Bessey said.

Hampden is more of a halfcourt team, led by McCue (17.2 points per game). Logan Poirier, Zach Gilpin and 6-foot-7 Fred Knight give the Broncos plenty of scoring options.

“McCue’s been playing well of late. He’s grasping the point guard role, when to take the shot and when to dish,” Bartlett said. “Fred’s playing the best basketball of his life right now.”

Added Bessey: “McCue kind of runs the team. He can make or create his own shot.”

The inside duo of Sennick (16.1 ppg) and Nick Hilton (16.5 ppg) lead the Mt. Blue offense. Guards Eric Berry (4.4 assists, 3.4 steals) and Steve Yardley, along with forward Blake Hart, can also score for the Cougars.

“They’re very athletic, and they have good chemistry,” Bartlett said of Mt. Blue. “They’ve played together a long time. … You don’t take anything away from them, you just try to slow them down.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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