AUGUSTA — The Monmouth Academy girls basketball team is the defending Class C state champion. It returned this season virtually intact. It rolled through a 17-1 regular season, won the Mountain Valley Conference championship and has hardly been tested through two regional tournament games.

Yet, the Mustangs are somehow overlooked as they prepare to face No. 1 Boothbay in the Class C South championship game at 7 Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center.

“As far as being overlooked, sometimes it’s a good thing,” Monmouth coach Scott Wing said. “I don’t know, but it is kind of an odd thing.”

It’s hard to envision that the defending state champion would be charged with playing the role of underdog, yet that’s the case this season. Though second-seeded Monmouth employs the same starting five it did a year ago, so, too, does Boothbay.

For the third straight season, the road to the regional title for both the Mustangs and Seahawks goes through one another. In 2016, Boothbay prevailed over Monmouth in the regional semifinals; in 2017, the result was reversed.

Boothbay (20-0) handled Monmouth in the only regular-season matchup between the two teams. The Mustangs got a measure of revenge in the conference title tilt.

Brian Blethen, the Boothbay coach, doesn’t believe his team has been anointed as the pre-tournament favorite.

“I think we’re just competing,” Blethen said. “I don’t think we’re the favorites, I don’t think we’re chasing, I think we’re just competing. Both teams are on equal footing. We got them one time, they got us in the MVC championship game.”

For his part, Wing can see why Boothbay has drawn all the attention.

“Everybody always talks about Boothbay, but I think a lot of that’s because of their physical presence,” Wing said. “When you look out there on that court and have three 6-foot girls out there, you think, ‘How can anybody beat them?’ But we did last year and we did in the MVC championship game.

“These (Monmouth) kids just find a way to win. They dig in, they pay attention to us in practice when we go over scouting reports. We’ve played Boothbay so many times now, we’ve figured out a bunch of little things about their individual players and it seems to work out for us.”

The familiarity has certainly brought out the best in both teams, and it’s created intriguing matchups.

At the guard positions, Miss Maine Basketball semifinalists Tia Day of Monmouth and Page Brown of Boothbay will likely be locked together all night Saturday. Inside, Boothbay junior Faith Blethen — who is off to play at George Washington University after high school — will need attention from Monmouth’s Abbey Allen and others.

Each team can play defense exceptionally well, and each can seemingly turn up its offensive abilities when needed.

Day echoed her coach when noting the oddity of the defending state champion being a little overlooked during the season and again all week at the Civic Center.

“You read all the predictions in the papers, and it’s Boothbay again,” Day said. “But I think we’re in the minds of people now that we did win last year. I guess you could say we are still overlooked like we have been in the past.

“If anything, it gives us more motivation to prove people wrong and prove that we are a good team.”

What’s not really in doubt is that Monmouth and Boothbay have represented both themselves and their conference well. And with the regional title now on the line, prognostication and predictions won’t mean anything after nearly 90 minutes of basketball Saturday night.

“We just show up and play basketball,” Wing said. “I think that probably has a lot to do with it. Nothing ever shows up as flashy or glitz and glitter with us, it’s just showing up and playing basketball and getting the job done.”

“This is the way it should be,” Brian Blethen said. “The past two years, I don’t think the seedings have been what they should have been. This is what it should be, these two teams coming together and playing for a regional championship.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC