Seven of the eight teams in the Class A North boys basketball tournament, you shuffle them, reseed, and it would barely raise an eyebrow.

“Two through eight, you can throw in a hat. Everybody’s pretty even,” Skowhegan coach Tom Nadeau said.

That one, though. That one is Hampden Academy, and nobody in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A division has been able to solve the riddle of the Broncos all season. Hampden is 17-1, the lone loss coming to Class AA Bangor in late December. Hampden was 9-0 against the rest of the tournament field in the regular season, and the average margin of victory in those games was 23 points.

Still, that dominance doesn’t make the Broncos unbeatable. Last season, three of the top four seeds in this region were eliminated in the quarterfinals, including undefeated top-seed Medomak Valley, and yes, Hampden.

“They are very good. They have five excellent starters and a very strong bench,” Erskine coach Tim Bonsant said of Hampden, ‘but it’s high school basketball. We’ve seen upsets every year. Last year, an 18-0 team lost in the first round. When you’re dealing with 14- to 18-year-old boys, anything can happen.”

The Class A North quarterfinals begin Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center when No. 6 Medomak Valley (11-7) takes on No. 3 Skowhegan (11-7) at 4. Other quarterfinals feature No. 7 Erskine (8-10) vs. No. 2 Nokomis (12-6), No. 5 Camden Hills (11-7) vs. No. 4 Cony (13-5), and No. 8 Brewer (7-11) vs. No. 1 Hampden (17-1). Class A North will see its third champion in as many years, since the Maine Principals’ Association went to the five-class alignment. Last year’s Class A North champ, Messalonskee, did not qualify for the tournament, and 2016 winner Oceanside is now in Class B.

The last time Skowhegan faced Medomak Valley, the Indians were knocking off the undefeated Panthers in the regional quarterfinals last February. Nadeau said that game has no bearing on this rematch.

“They have a few kids back, and so do we. It’s a new team for them. It’s a new team for us,” Nadeau said.

Forward Marcus Christopher gives Skowhegan one of the top low post players in the conference. The Indians will be challenged by Medomak Valley’s defense, one of the best in the conference. Chris Bowman and Brent Stewart are among the KVAC steals leaders for the Panthers.

Erskine and Nokomis met once in the regular season, with Nokomis taking a 49-40 win. Playing against Erskine’s matchup zone defense requires patience and discipline.

“They’re a tough team,” Nokomis coach Ryan Martin said of Erskine. “They play a defense you don’t see a lot of. We had to execute down the stretch to beat them last time.”

The Warriors have a strong backcourt, led by senior Zach Hartsgrove, the league’s leading scorer at around 20 points per game. Josh Smestad, Josh Perry and Brock Graves are also key players for the Warriors. For Erskine, Jack Jowett is the top scorer, while Gavin Blanchard has to control the boards.

“They’ve got the leading scorer in the league in Hartsgrove. Smestad runs the (point). They’re No. 2 for a reason,” Bonsant said. “I think we’re playing very good defense. I think we rebound the ball very well. Gavin Blanchard leading rebounder in the league at 6-foot-1 He’s got an awful lot of heart.”

Aside from Hampden, Cony enters the tournament as the hottest team in the field. The Rams have won eight games in a row. Cony and Camden Hills met in the preseason.

“Defensively, we’ve gotten much better,” Cony coach TJ Maines said. “This is a very focused group. The last few weeks, we’ve had some of the best practices I’ve had at Cony.”

Jordan Roddy leads the Rams in scoring, while Amahde Carter is a strong rebounder and inside defender. The Windjammers are coached by Jeff Hart, who earned his 500th career victory this season. Offensively, John Curtin made 59 3-pointers to lead the league for Camden Hills. Noah Heidorn and Daniel Peabody also can score for the Windjammers.

Brewer closed the regular season with wins over Camden Hills and Mt. Blue to clinch the eighth seed. The Witches lost to Hampden twice in the regular season, 63-53 and 70-36. Playing against Hampden’s Ian McIntyre, a sure-thing Mr. Basketball semifinalist, hitting the board will be crucial for Brewer. Nate Laskey and Isaac Cummings lead the Witches.

Along with McIntyre, the Broncos have a deep group of perimeter shooters. Bryce Lausier, Tom Raye and Kory Winch each made more than 20 threes in the regular season.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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