The Class A North tournament has a new look with Medomak Valley and Oceanside in the mix after moving up from Class B with the expansion to five classes this season. The favorite remains the same, however. Defending state champion Hampden Academy is undefeated (18-0) and the top seed, and the Broncos are playing for their sixth consecutive regional title.

“That senior group has been in that situation a lot, and they know how to handle it,” Messalonskee coach Peter McLaughlin said of Hampden.

That doesn’t mean the other seven teams should just pack it up and fold. The majority of the Class A North field is balanced.

“Every matchup is going to be tough,” McLaughlin said. “If you don’t play your best 32 minutes, I think you’re going home.”

Hampden is led by senior Nick Gilpin, one of the best guards in the state. Gilpin averages 16.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game. Ian McIntyre and Nick Chasse are also leaders of the Broncos. Hampden’s quarterfinal opponent is No. 8 Skowhegan (10-9), which is making its first appearance in the regional tournament since 2010 and just its second since 2002.

“They’re 18-0, the defending state champs. We’re going to try and enjoy the experience. We’ll do our best to make them earn everything they get,” Skowhegan coach Tom Nadeau said.

McLaughlin’s Eagles (13-5) are the four seed and take on No. 5 Oceanside (13-5). These teams met once in the regular season, with Messalonskee taking a 60-43 win. Messalonskee is led by big man James Lathrop (19.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and guard Nate Violette (14.8 ppg).

Like Messalonskee, the Mariners are strong in the paint and on the perimeter. Guard Keenan Hendricks (14.8 ppg, 8.9 apg) is one of the top 3-point shooters in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference. Forward Nick Mazurek can play in the low post or go outside.

“They’re a veteran group that has a lot of experience. Hendricks and Mazurek are two of the best players in our conference. They do a lot of different things with (Mazurek). He’s a tough matchup,” McLaughlin said. “We’re playing our best basketball toward the end of the year. Our offense is the most balanced it’s been. Defensively, we’ve improved. Defense is what advances you.”

One of the hottest teams entering the tournament is No. 6 Lawrence (10-8). The Bulldogs have won five of their last six games, including wins over Class AA Edward Little and No. 2 Brewer. Lawrence will take on No. 3 Medomak Valley (15-3) in the only Class A North quarterfinal game that’s not a rematch of a regular season contest. Containing Medomak Valley guard Nicholas DePatsy (20.1 ppg) is key for the Bulldogs.

“DePatsy is a throwback player. He just knows how to play the game. He makes all the right cuts. He knows how to come off screens, when to curl, when to fade,” Lawrence coach Jason Pellerin said.

Mason Cooper (21.2 ppg) and Seth Powers (13.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg) lead Lawrence, along with Kyle Robinson.

“Our team chemistry’s been good all season long. We did just kind of catch a groove, so to speak. The kids came out and kept playing tough, day after day. Once we turned the corner, things seemed to take hold for us,” Pellerin said.

Another team back in Class A after years in Class B, No. 7 Gardiner (8-11) is making its first tournament appearance at the Augusta Civic Center in a decade.

“I loved the Bangor Auditorium. I think I had a decent record there,” Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said, referring to the Tigers run to the Class B East title in 2012. “The new place (Cross Insurance Center), I’m 0-1, so we’re ready to try Augusta. We’ll draw some fans. I heard the band will be there. I think it will be good for the town.”

Gardiner’s quarterfinal opponent is Brewer (14-4), a team that beat the Tigers twice in the regular season in a pair of close games. Matt Pushard paces the Witches with 19.8 points and 13.4 rebounds per game.

“We’ve matched up tough with them twice. I wanted some alone time after school, so I watched Brewer/Cony play. They’re a quality ball team. We lost to them by four up there and five here. I don’t think Gardiner will roll over but we’ll have to be ready to play basketball,” Cassidy said. “The third look at a team makes a big difference. This time of year, you’ve got so much film on guys.”

Jordan Lamb averages 14.1 points and 11.1 rebounds for Gardiner. Brian Dunn paces the Tigers defense with 2.5 steals per game.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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