Parity’s no rarity in the Class C South boys basketball tournament, but for the coaches involved this year, the 2018 version seems particularly up for grabs.

“It’s usually a good league anyways,” Madison coach Jason Furbush said, “but I think this year even more so. … If you don’t show up, you could be going home early. One through eight, there’s not a lot of separating.”

The quarterfinal matchups reveal as much. No. 1 Hall-Dale (17-1), which faces No. 8 Traip (9-9), has been the top team in the Mountain Valley Conference from wire to wire. But No. 2 Winthrop (14-4), which takes on No. 7 Madison (9-9), is the defending regional champion. No. 3 Waynflete (15-3), with No. 6 Boothbay (13-5) up first, was the champion before that and widely considered the tournament’s dark horse. And No. 4 Dirigo (12-6), which will square off against No. 5 Richmond (13-5), was the champion going back before that.

Add it together, and it’s a field full of teams that feel they could be the ones cutting down the Augusta Civic Center nets.

“I think it’s unbelievably wide-open,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “I think it’s like you put all the teams in a cup, shake it up and roll it out, and whatever team comes out of it wouldn’t shock me at all. Everybody’s got a chance.”

They’ll all be gunning after the Bulldogs, who bring a team to the Civic Center hungry for success after a tough quarterfinal loss to North Yarmouth Academy last season. The Bulldogs have talent everywhere: Ashtyn Abbott is one of the tournament’s best scorers and a fearless slasher and rebounder in the paint, Alec Byron and Tyler Nadeau are dangerous scorers in the backcourt, Jett Boyer is a sharpshooter off the bench and Owen Dupont is a hard-nosed rebounder and defender who thrives in a blue-collar role.


Traip is in the tournament for the first time since 2015, and the Rangers hope it’ll go differently than that last trip went — Traip lost to Hall-Dale 59-44 in the preliminary round.

“You can’t knock Hall-Dale. They’ve proven all season long that they’re the best in the MVC,” MacArthur said. “Night-in and night-out, Hall-Dale proved that they were the best team.”

They beat MacArthur’s Ramblers to get that distinction. Winthrop fell in the MVC championship game to Hall-Dale by a point, but the Ramblers are positioned for more success after going all the way to the state championship game last year. Winthrop took the second seed in what, on paper, appeared to be a rebuilding year, but kickstarting another long run won’t be easy against upset-minded Madison.

“We need to show up and play Rambler defense,” MacArthur said. “(Evan) Bess and (Sean) Whalen are obviously phenomenal guards. We have to contain their penetration, make sure they don’t go off and make sure they earn everything that they get.”

Winthrop’s attack begins with Cam Wood, a premier post player at 6-foot-8, but MacArthur said getting wing players like Nate LeBlanc, Jared McLaughlin and Beau Brooks going will be a key.

“I’m pretty confident in the fact that our bigs are going to show up and they’re going to create a lot of attention down low, and I think that’s going to open up a lot of opportunities for our guards on the perimeter,” he said. “I think it’s time for them to showcase their talents.”


Furbush doesn’t disagree — handling Winthrop’s guards will be crucial.

“If we can rebound on the defensive end and contest every shot, I think we definitely have a pretty good chance,” he said. “If we don’t contest the shots and we turn the ball over, we’re going to be in for a long night.”

The Bulldogs have reason for confidence. They split against the Ramblers during the season, and lost a tight game to them in the C South final a year ago.

“If I was a second seed, I wouldn’t want to play us,” Furbush said. “But with that said, I don’t think anyone wants to play Winthrop either.”

Nobody wants to get Waynflete, either, which always brings an unknown element into the tournament due to a schedule made up of southern teams. The Portland school faces many Class B teams, however, and the tough regular-season road usually hardens a team led this year by Askar Houssein, Diraige Dahia and Christian Brooks.

Boothbay, led by Kyle Ames, gets the first crack at knocking out the Flyers.


“They deserve a lot of respect,” MacArthur said of Waynflete. “They probably have a tougher schedule (than MVC teams) because of the Class Bs that they play, the Class As that they play. They’re battle-tested.”

Richmond and Dirigo’s only matchup this season suggests an upset likelihood. Richmond defeated Dirigo, led by Cooper Chiasson and Luke Leuders, 68-62 in January.

“He’s a good player, no question about it,” Bobcats coach Phil Houdlette said of Chiasson. “If you try to guard him with somebody small, he’ll go to the block. If you guard him with somebody big who can’t stay with him on the perimeter, he’ll back up and shoot the three or drive.”

Richmond has its own grade-A weapons, however, in Zach Small and Matt Rines, and if the Bobcats get points from supporting players like Nate Kendrick and freshman Calob Densmore, Houdlette likes their chances.

“I think we match up (well) with Dirigo,” he said. “I think, all around, we match up as well with them as we do with anybody.”

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