Every preseason, the boys basketball coaches in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North division get together to release a poll ranking the projected top eight teams for the upcoming season. Often, there is varying opinion on which team in number one heading into the season.

That wasn’t the case this season.

Cony earned 11 of the 12 first place votes, and with good reason. The Rams won 15 games last season, and return a pair of all-conference guards in seniors Simon McCormick and Dakota Dearborn. Add junior guard Kyle Douin, who made 70 3-pointers last season, and 6-foot-4 sophomore Luke Briggs, and Cony has the makings of a title contender.

Mt. Blue’s Jacob Farnham shoots over Gardiner’s Logan Carleton (24) and Kalvin Catchings (30) during Tuesday’s game in Farmington. Sun Journal photo by Tony Blasi Buy this Photo

“We know we can shoot it,” coach TJ Maines said.

McCormick, Dearborn, Douin, and Briggs combined to average just over 51 points between the four of them last season, and a deep group of supporting players should help keep Cony’s uptempo attack on point. Defensive improvement is a key, Maines said, but he’s confident it will come.

“By the time we need to be good at it, we will be,” Maine said.

Lawrence beat Cony in the regional semifinals on the way to the A North crown last season. The Bulldogs had some key losses to graduation, but the returning players learned a lot about the effort it takes to win a title during last season’s run, coach Jason Pellerin said.

Seniors Dylan Martin-Hachey and Jake Patterson are Lawrence’s captains, and enter the season with experience and coming off a strong summer. Juniors Dylan Coombs and Zach Nickerson are athletic guards ready to take on an expanded role. The goal is to be playing its best basketball in February again, Pellerin said.

“You scratch and claw to get your way to the tournament. You try to gain a little confidence from those games, then you just do the best you can,” Pellerin said.

Skowhegan also got hot in the playoffs last season and made a run to the regional final as the seven seed. Skowhegan graduated the KVAC Player of the Year, Marcus Christopher, but return a strong group of veterans, led by senior forward Matush Prokop and guard Chase Carey.

“These guys have taken the younger guys under their win,” coach Tom Nadeau said. “There are big shoes to be filled. The question is, who is going to do it?”

Messalonskee has a new head coach, Jay Dangler, an assistant coach under former head coach Peter McLaughlin. Dangler inherited a team that returns every key player after going through last season without a senior on the roster.

“Give credit to Pete. He got us here,” Dangler said, in reference to his predecessor.

Senior Tucker Charles will be the Eagles point guard, who will look to distribute the ball to a bevy of shooters, which in turn will open opportunities for Charles to attack the basket. Junior Matt Parent is a proven 3-point threat , and Parker Cole is an experienced post player who can rebound and defend. Junior Noah Wood also will see a bigger role this season.

Mt. Blue was the most improved team in the conference last season, going from one win in 2017-18 to 11 wins and the regional quarterfinals. The improvement snapped a long run of down seasons for the Cougars, but once again Mt. Blue has a new coach. Troy Norton, who replaced Travis Magnusson, who went to Maranacook after one season at Mt. Blue.

The Cougars will be led by junior point guard Jacob Farnham, whom Norton expects to do a little of everything.

“(Farnham) can shoot, pass, rebound and defend. He should be one of the better players in the conference,” Norton said.

No team in the conference was hit by graduation as hard as Erskine. The Eagles graduated nine seniors, and almost all of the scoring from a team that won 12 games last season.

“There’s not much experience coming back, but I like what I’ve seen in preseason,” coach Tim Bonsant said. “You can’t teach experience. You’ve just got to play.”

Junior guard Mike Nicholas, along with senior guard Nick Hayden and senior forwards Jacob Mills and Andrew Robinson, should see that on the job training for Erskine this season.

Gardiner enters the second season with coach Aaron Toman as a young but competitive team. Senior guards Logan Carleton, Jackson Tweedy, and Hunter Ladd are the most experienced Tigers.

“I think we’re going to compete each and every day, get out and pressure, and get turnovers,” Toman said.

While Erskine and Gardiner are young, the title of Youngest Team in the KVAC goes to Nokomis. The Warriors have just one senior, forward Cody Marquis. A pair of senior expected to contribute this season, Andy Hopkins and Jay Brooks, are unable to play due to football injuries.

Junior forward Keith Lilly joins Marquis as a key returning player. Coach Ryan Martin said the Warriors need to overcome a lack of size.

“We need to figure out how to get teams to take contested shots, and we’ve got to rebound,” Martin said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

Comments are not available on this story.