Central Maine’s Class B basketball landscape spreads itself over two conferences and three regions, making it difficult or even foolish to pick a favorite. That said, in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B division, the early favorite is Maranacook.

The Black Bears won 17 games last season and advanced to the Class B South semifinals before falling to eventual state runner-up Cape Elizabeth. This season, Maranacook has a new head coach for the first time in almost two decades, thanks to Rob Schmidt’s decision to step down after 18 seasons and a pair of state championships. Now running things from Maranaook’s bench is Travis Magnusson, who had successful stints as head coach at Livermore Falls, Dirigo, Class A Mt. Blue last season.

Maranacook graduated eight seniors, but the Black Bears return Cash McClure, who averaged close to 20 points per game last season. Senior Skyler Boucher will take on an expanded role after being one of the league’s top sixth men last season.

Casey Cormier, a transfer from Mountain Valley in Rumford, could be a key addition to an already deep team.

“We’re focused a lot on getting better defensively. We need to make sure we don’t give teams second chances,” Magnusson said.

Maine Central Institute made a run to the Class B North semifinals last season, and did it with two key players injured for most of the season. Those players, senior guard Owen Williams and senior forward Harrison Sites, are back. An all-conference player, Williams gives MCI another offensive weapon and a strong perimeter defender.

Junior Gavin McArthur is another offensive threat for the Huskies, and point guard Ryan Friend is a team leader. Dominic Wilson, a senior forward, is also poised for a good season, coach Josh Tardy said.

“We expect to have success,” Tardy said.

Winslow has a little rebuilding to do, but with 6-foot-4 senior Colby Pomeroy back after averaging 19 points per game last season, the foundation for another trip to the playoffs is there.

“Colby is a little bigger and a real good leader for us. He’s a good kid to build around,” coach Ken Lindlof said.

Junior Holden Dart will play point for the Black Raiders, and junior forward Jake Berard is expected to take on more responsibilities. That’s kind of the theme of the early part of the season for Winslow, and Lindlof hopes players embrace new opportunities.

“The guys have to play defense, and we have to have a balanced attack if we can,” Lindlof said.

Mount View is coming off back-to-back one win seasons. Coach Jeremy Von Oesen hopes success many players found in winning a regional soccer title this fall carries over in the gym.

“I think the kids expectations of themselves is higher than it was last year,” Von Oesen said.

The Mustangs return the starting lineup, and that will be a key in the rebuilding process. Draedyn Furrow gained experience at point guard as a freshman last season and is back. Senior guards Garrett Smith and Brennan Grant return, and Elijah Allen gives the Mustangs an athletic forward who is back after taking two years away from basketball to focus on soccer.

At Waterville, coach Heath Cowan is in his second season. It’s less about teaching new concepts and more about fine-tuning concepts that are no longer brand new to the Purple Panthers, Cowan said.

“The energy’s coming up,” Cowan said.

Seniors Taylor Bielecki and Trafton Gilbert, along with sophomore Liam Von Oesen, are Waterville’s top returning players.

In the Mountain Valley Conference, Oak Hill will look to improve using size and quickness. The Raiders lack a lot of varsity experience, but that athleticism is a good starting point for coach Tom Smith. Gavin Rawstron and Liam Rodrigue were named honorable mention all-conference last season, and will look to lead the Raiders.



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