The Waterville girls basketball team celebrates its win over Hermon in the Class B North semifinals at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor last season. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

There are two 17-1 teams. Another at 15-3. Two more at 13-5, and a total of eight with winning records.

The Class B North girls basketball tournament is often a competition of parity. And this year, with impressive records up and down the bracket, all indications are that that’s the case again.

“On any given night,” Winslow coach Brenda Beckwith said, starting a familiar axiom. “And that’s the beauty of it. When you look back at all the tournaments, Class B has been, notoriously, the toughest class to win a state championship in. To get through northern Maines, you’re a good team, you’re proven, there are so many things that you have to do because there are so many good teams out there.”

The Nos. 1 and 2 seeds are Hermon and Waterville, respectively, both at 17-1. But the drop-off that exists in other classes simply isn’t there. No. 3 Presque Isle is 15-3, No. 4 Old Town is 13-5, and winning records follow with No. 5 Houlton (12-7), No. 6 Winslow (14-5), No. 9 John Bapst (11-8) and No. 10 Ellsworth (11-8).

The tone of unpredictability was established from the first day, when John Bapst and Ellsworth made it to Bangor with upsets of No. 9 Oceanside and No. 7 Mount Desert Island, respectively. For the underdogs, that’s a reason for hope. And for the favorites, that’s a cause for concern.

“We’ve got our full attention geared towards Ellsworth,” Waterville coach Rob Rodrigue said. “We’re doing our due diligence. I think any one of these teams can win it.”

Still, someone’s got to be the favorite, and Rodrigue’s bunch is as good a choice as any. The Purple Panthers, who open today at 5 p.m. against Ellsworth, sport a high-pressure defense, an offense that’s dangerous both in transition and the halfcourt, and a rotation of seven starting-caliber players.

Waterville was 18-0 going into the tournament last year, but Rodrigue said his team’s perspective going in has improved from a season ago.

“I think last year we were a little more overlooked. This year, we’ve got a little more of a target on our backs,” he said. “Teams in the Big East were a little more seasoned than us last year, a little more prepared. This year, I feel like we’re more in the Hermon/MDI role from last year, where people were expecting us to be where we’re at.”

Rodrigue also likes his team’s approach on both ends of the court. On offense, while still having good shooters in Sadie Garling and Abby Saucier, the Purple Panthers have better incorporated their inside game with Maddy Martin and Kali Thompson.

“I like the way things have come together for us,” he said. “You have to defend us inside and out. I think last year we were much more outside oriented. We’ve had a real focus this year on scoring the ball in the paint.”

Presque Isle has a good chance to come out of the bracket as well, but the Wildcats will have their hands full with Winslow, which toppled Caribou 56-35 to reach Bangor. The Black Raiders aren’t an experienced team, but they play a blue-collar, defensive-oriented game that can keep them in a game with any opponent.

“I really think that people don’t really want to play us,” Beckwith said. “The way we play defense, we aren’t going to quit. I wouldn’t want to see us.”

The Black Raiders aren’t built to score 70 points, but they can score enough; Bodhi Littlefield hit five 3-pointers and scored 22 points against Caribou, and Silver Clukey added 15. Winslow will need everyone to run with Presque Isle, which dealt both Hermon and Waterville their only losses of the season. Senior Maggie Castonguay and sophomore Faith Sjoberg, both guards, lead the Wildcats.

Top-seeded Hermon will get a John Bapst team it crushed 40-16 in late December, but beat 40-33 in a much more competitive game last week. Sophomore center Megan Tracy is a double-double candidate for the Hawks, while Paige Plissey is a good scorer and strong defensive player. The Crusaders spread out the scoring in their win over Oceanside, with Jamey Satterfield and Sydney Ellis scoring nine apiece.

Old Town will play Houlton in a rubber match, as both teams won at home with Houlton beating Old Town 59-48 in late December and the Coyotes beating the Shiretowners 52-36 in late January. Junior guard Hannah Richards and sophomore forward Lexi Thibodeau are strong scorers for Old Town, while Rebecca Howe (16 points), Teagan Ewings (14) and Olivia Henderson and Mia Henderson (12 points each) scored in double figures in Houlton’s preliminary win over Foxcroft.


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