While the East/West Conference should be competitive this season, a former member of the conference is the favorite to win Class D South boys title. Defending regional champ Greenville returns its entire starting lineup, making it the team to beat once again.

Forest Hills is coming off a 12-win season and should be a contender at the regional tournament at the Augusta Civic Center again. The Tigers lack depth, with just eight players on the varsity roster, but each of those players has varsity experience.

“We’ve grown up a little,” coach Anthony Amero said. “This core’s been together a while.”

The Tigers played summer ball in leagues against Class A competition, and Amero said that experience will help this season. Freshman guard Parker Desjardins is a strong shooter and led the Tigers in scoring as an eighth-grader last season. Kenny Vito Cruz and Carson Veilleux also can shoot, Amero said. Forest Hills lacks size, with 5-foot-11 forwards Jack Hoyt and Brandon Gilboe the tallest players on the roster. Hunter Cuddy also will see time in the paint for the Tigers.

Valley graduated one of the East/West Conference’s top players, Austin Cates. Coach Curtis Miller says junior guards Joey Thomas and Keegan Farnham can pick up the offense.

“This group plays very well together,” Miller said. “We’re playing team basketball. We shoot well and pass well.”

Seniors Josh Brown and Dillon Beane also will contribute for Valley, and Mason Wyman could provide a good scoring touch in the low post. Miller says freshman Thomas Bishop could develop into a key player as well.

Temple Academy graduated 1,000-point scorer Brad Smith and Joe Xu, a strong post player. A returning group led by senior guard Micah Riportella should make the Bereans contenders for a second straight playoff appearance.

A pair of Serbian international students — senior Nikola Kekic and junior Illija Ivkovic — could become impact players for the Bereans, who will play a full East/West Conference schedule.

“It will give the kids a chance to get some recognition,” coach Tom Simmons said of playing in the conference.

Participation is up at Rangeley. Coach Jeff Larochelle has 14 players, giving the Lakers enough to have full workouts.

“Now they’re competing,” Larochelle said.

Senior Kyle Larochelle and junior Leo Perez are the most experienced returning players. Coach Larochelle wants the team to play fast to take advantage of its speed. Improved defense will be the key for a playoff run for the Lakers.

West Gardiner’s Grace Christian Academy is playing its first varsity season in the Maine Christian Schools Sports League. With no team last year to go off of and a roster full of inexperienced players, there are plenty of question marks, but coach Michael Swett likes the potential of his team.

“We are young teams and are looking forward to a good season,” he said. “(The) varsity has high expectations.”

GIRLS

Rangeley is a perennial contender in Class D, having won a state championship just two years ago. The Lakers will be strong again, although they’ll be looking up, literally and figuratively, at defending state champion Vinalhaven, which returns all its players.

Guards Natasha Haley and Brooke Egan, along with forwards Vanessa Bisson and Winnie LaRochelle, return as key players.

“We’re going to be quick and fast, run a lot and press a lot,” coach Heidi Deery said. “We’ll use a lot of kids. We’re pretty deep.”

Temple is coming off consecutive playoff appearances, and first-year coach Joe Rossignol hopes to build on that success.

“We won a tourney game the last two years and we’re hoping to go a little deeper,” Rossignol said. “We have a lot of depth.”

Selam Heinrich, Deleyni Carr and Sara Desrosiers are among the team’s top returning payers, but Rossignol plans to use just about everybody.

“We have two complete squads,” he said. “We’re going to play aggressive defense.”

A lack of numbers may catch up to Valley and Forest Hills — both teams have just nine players.

“We lost the core of our group,” first-year Forest Hills coach Sean Danforth said. “We’re just trying to get out of the zone mentality and get into more man to man.”

Valley likewise graduated several players, including its starting five. The Cavaliers don’t have much size so rebounding will be a key.

“When we do get the rebound we’re going to run,” coach Paul Belanger said.