Its roster is once again deep and talented, and might just be good enough to emulate last year’s deep run into the Class C playoffs.

Oh yeah, about last year. Don’t mention it around the Winthrop boys basketball team.

“It was a nice season last year, but the way we look at it is that that was last year,” coach Todd MacArthur said. “Everybody’s 0-0 this year.”

True, and there are several teams with the desire and ability to match the Ramblers’ run to the C South final last season. Madison and Boothbay will be strong. Hall-Dale and Monmouth have key players back. Wiscasset and Dirigo were teams to beat last year.

But even those teams know what they’re up against.

“All roads go through Winthrop,” Monmouth coach Wade Morrill said, and while MacArthur may not be willing to endorse such a declaration, it doesn’t take him long to talk about his team before the excitement starts to show.

“The thing that I like about this team, and I think they showcase it in football and in other sports, they want to win,” he said. “They’ll do whatever it takes to win.”

They’ve got the pieces to match the drive. Forward Jacob Hickey, one of the class’s top scoring threats, is back to lead the attack, but Winthrop has a bevy of seniors who can either contribute to the scoring in forward Spencer Steele and point guard Bennett Brooks, or man a tough, physical interior in Garrett Tsouprake, who will protect the paint with 6-foot-7 junior Cam Wood.

“(Hickey) garners so much attention, it’s going to give an opportunity for so many of these other kids to step up,” MacArthur said. “And I feel like they’re at that point now where they can take advantage of it.”

Madison won 15 games last season and earned the No. 3 seed in the region before losing a close regional quarterfinal game to Boothbay. The Bulldogs graduated a strong senior class, but return enough players to be a factor in the Mountain Valley Conference again.

Mitch Jarvais, a 6-3 senior forward, averaged 16 points and nine rebounds per game last season for Madison, and led the team in minutes.

“Mitch will play a big part on this year’s team,” coach Jason Furbush said.

Nick Morales returns to the backcourt after a year away from the team, and gives Madison another good perimeter shooter. Junior guards Evan Bess and Sean Whalen gained valuable varsity playing time last season and are expected to continue developing. Furbush calls Bess the team’s best defender, and he’ll draw the opponent’s top scorer almost every night.

Hall-Dale, which made the prelims last year, returns plenty of experience back as it eyes a climb into the top of both Class C and the MVC. Juniors Tyler Nadeau and Jett Boyer, both second-team All-MVC picks at guard and forward, respectively, are back for the guard-heavy Bulldogs, as is forward Alec Byron, who started as a freshman last year and made the conference’s honorable mention list as a result.

“We should return a lot of guys to the spots that they were in last year, and consequently we should be improved,” coach Chris Ranslow said. “I’m expecting improvement across the board, both physical maturity, growth and development, but also on the mental side of the game and our decision-making.”

Seniors will lead the way as Monmouth looks to improve on last year’s trip to the prelims under new coach Morrill, the former boss at Valley and Waterville. The Mustangs get a spark from the return of senior guard Hunter Richardson, who was an All-MVC first-team selection last year.

“Richardson is probably one of the best all-around athletes in the MVC,” Morrill said. “He’s a competitor, and in a basketball sense, he led our team in assists and rebounds from the guard position last year. Hopefully we can up his scoring a bit.”

Monmouth also brings back size in 6-foot-2 forwards Avery Amero and Travis Hartford, and scrappy guard Mat Foulke returns with his aggressive defense and reliable jumper.

“We have a good blend of speed and athleticism and size and strength with our four seniors,” Morrill said.

A new coach takes over at Richmond as well, where Phil Houdlette is back on the sideline after replacing his successor, Jon Spear. Richmond made it to the regional quarterfinals last season, and the Bobcats could be right back in the mix with four returning starters. Seniors Matt Holt (center), Cody Tribbet and Brendan Emmons (swingmen) provide veteran stability, and the team has an offensive force in junior guard Zach Small, who emerged as one of the class’s high scorers last year.

“We should be decent as long as we play defense, rebound the basketball and limit turnovers,” Houdlette said. “As long as we do that and we work hard, we’re good to each other and we share the basketball … I think we’ll be fine. I really do.”

Carrabec coach Heath Cowan is now in his second season with the Cobras. Cowan has a catch-22. With a good core group of athletes, he wants to see the Cobras get out and run. The problem is, Carrabec doesn’t have enough depth to run the entire game.

“We want to push the pace as much as we can, but at some point we’ll have to slow it down,” Cowan said.

The Cobras are led by senior guard Dustin Crawford, a second team all-MVC selection last season. While undersized at 5-10, Alex Stafford is tough player in the low post. Dylan Willette and Evan Holzworth also will play important minutes for the Cobras.

Mt. Abram has a new head coach, Richard Hawkes. The Roadrunners will look to work hard to improve last season’s 3-15 record. A trio of seniors, Dan Luce, Trevor Chaput and Glendon Howard, will lead the team.

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