It would be wise not to sleep on central Maine in Class B this season.

In both the South and North regions, local teams are looking to crack the power structure that has featured the likes of defending champion Hermon, Yarmouth, Wells and Mount Desert Island. Whether it’s a depth-laden group like Maranacook’s, an athletic bunch like Winslow’s or a tough team like MCI, local squads are looking to crash the party this season.

At Maranacook, hopes are high after the Black Bears jumped from a pedestrian 7-12 record to a 13-6 mark. Maranacook returns seniors Garrett Whitten (forward), Mitch Root, Jarred Schmidt, Duncan Rogers, Gavin Towns and Aric Belanger (guards), all of whom played significant minutes last season, and has a potential standout in guard Cash McClure, who impressed as a freshman.

“In the long run, they have their eyes set on February,” coach Rob Schmidt said. “I think every night is preparing us for the playoffs.”

With that playoff focus, coach Schmidt will tune down the Grinnell system — a fast-paced offense — the Black Bears used last year. Maranacook has the talent to play conventionally, and the Grinnell system often doesn’t translate to postseason success.

“This is also the deepest team I’ve ever had,” coach Schmidt said. “There’s no rebuilding this year. This is a totally veteran team.”

Winslow advanced to the Class B North semifinals last season, losing to eventual state champion Hermon. The Black Raiders lost a talented senior class to graduation, but return an athletic group that should contend for a playoff spot again.

Senior Justin Laflamme and juniors Colby Pomeroy and Isaiah Goldsmith bring the most experience to the Winslow lineup. Each has started for the Black Raiders at some point.

“The three kids with some experience, I think they’ll be comfortable being able to score,” Winslow coach Ken Lindlof said. “A number of kids can shoot threes, and a few are good at getting to the basket.”

Without much size, the Black Raiders’ offense will run like a spread attack, with four and sometimes five players on the perimeter, slashing to the basket.

Maine Central Institute was bounced from the tournament in the preliminary round in each of the last two seasons. With talent back across the court, the Huskies look to advance back to the quarterfinals at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center.

“We had a couple tough prelim losses the last few years. Expectations are high,” MCI coach Josh Tardy said.

It helps that the Huskies return all-KVAC guard Owen Williams and forward Jose Valverde, a 6-foot-7 big man.

“Owen works on his game year-round. He’s a great offensive player, and very often he’ll be guarding the other team’s best player,” Tardy said. “(Valverde) is one of the best passing big men I’ve coached. He’s matured physically. This is a big year for him.”

Senior guards Joe Cloutier and Hayden Caldwell will contribute, along with senior forward Matt Glidden. Newcomers Gavin McArthur, a transfer from Gardiner, and Jaroslav Ruta will provide the Huskies depth.

New coach Heath Cowan hopes to help Waterville improve after back-to-back one-win seasons. Cowan brings plenty of experience, having coached th Carrabec and Mt. Abram boys, as well as the Gardiner and Skowhegan girls.

“They’re a really hard-working group. They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do,” Cowan said of the Purple Panthers. “We want to push the pace a little. Play fast but not out of control.”

Senior guards David Barre and Ben Danner are the top returning players for Waterville. Jack Lloyd and Jack Thompson give the Panthers a pair of athletic big men.

Oak Hill is looking to rebound from a 6-12 season last year, but that endeavor will have to begin without sophomore guard Gavin Rawstron, who broke his wrist in a late-season football game. The Raiders will look for 6-3 junior center Liam Rodrigue to pick up the slack and lead the way.

“The success of the team will be how quickly the younger players adjust to the physicality and speed of the game at this level,” coach Tom Smith said. “We will be competitive some of the games, and other games will be a learning experience for us as we grow as a team.”

Mount View also has a new head coach in Jeremy Von Oesen. Also the men’s and women’s soccer coach at Unity College, Von Oesen graduated from Mount View in 1994. He inherits a team looking to rebuild after a 1-17 season.

“We’re returning several players, and we have two freshmen who will get some quality minutes,” Von Oesen said. “We’re trying to get to .500. That’s a goal we’ve set already.”

The Mustangs are led by Kyle Noble, a 6-3 senior forward. The team will look to control tempo and win with strong defense, Von Oesen said.

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