Winthrop’s Noah Grube goes up for a layup during a game earlier this season in Winthrop. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

On a scale of 1 to 10, how tired is Winthrop boys basketball coach Todd MacArthur of being asked about last year’s team?

“Ten,” he said. “There was a certain approach, a certain demeanor that that team went through that allowed them to be successful, and it’s nice to be able to refer to that approach. But other than that, it’s (about) this team.”

This year’s team is positioned for the same kind of success as last year’s, the Class C state champions, enjoyed. Winthrop is 17-1 and the top seed for the third time in four years. The two previous times the Ramblers entered No. 1, they cut the nets at tournament’s end.

They’ll begin their endeavor for another title Monday against No. 8 Monmouth (11-8), while No. 2 Waynflete (17-1) plays No. 10 Traip (9-10), No. 3 Boothbay (14-4) faces No. 6 Mt. Abram (13-6) and No. 4 North Yarmouth Academy (14-4) takes on No. 5 Richmond (12-7).

MacArthur, however, knows there’s no easy road back to those heights for his team. Winthrop is really a co-favorite, along with Waynflete, the most competition-hardened team in the field, and Boothbay, which beat Winthrop for the Mountain Valley Conference title, and the field is littered with teams that can easily take down a higher seed.

“I’ve never been a seed guy. Last year was a little different just because there was the Hall-Dale and the Waynflete aspect that we were trying to avoid,” MacArthur said. “But this year, there’s no team head-and-shoulders above anybody. I’m not trying to avoid anybody. I’m worried about our first-round matchup.”

Winthrop has its traditional tournament-tested combination of defensive intensity and offensive balance. A shooter like Cam Hachey could score 20, or forwards Ryan Baird and Jevin Smith could make the Ramblers a team that beats teams with toughness inside.

Their first opponent has some of the same strengths. Monmouth has a pure scorer in Gabe Martin, a double-double candidate in Brock Bates, and a cast of role players led by Hayden Fletcher and Ryan Burnham that has been improving as the season’s gone on.

Mt. Abram’s Kenyon Pillsbury, bottom, tries to protect the ball from Monmouth’s Manny Calder earlier this season in Strong. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

Winthrop beat Monmouth 57-46 on Jan. 3. The Ramblers owned the first half, while the Mustangs fought back in the second.

“It’s a tough draw for us, absolutely. … They’ve played a lot more games there than our guys have,” Monmouth coach Wade Morrill said. “We’re excited for the challenge. … Last year, we got there and we didn’t play well (in an 83-57 loss to Hall-Dale), and our guys know that. They know that there are no re-dos.”

Waynflete again enters as the tournament’s wild card after playing the season against teams from the Western Maine Conference. The Flyers’ resume is impressive, with wins over Cape Elizabeth, Wells, Lake Region and Freeport on the ledger and a 6-1 mark against Class B teams. They’re led by 6-8 center Dominick Campbell, but Solomon Levy, Diraige Dahia and Jared Johnson provide skill and experience as well.

The Flyers will open against a familiar foe in fellow WMC member Traip, which scored a victory for the southern Maine teams over the central Maine squads by edging No. 7 Hall-Dale in the preliminary round. Frankie Driscoll scored 20 points and Treshaun Brown had 19 in the victory.

Boothbay had a strong season and proved itself as a contender in this field with the MVC title, and Hunter Crocker and Ben Pearce lead a solid lineup for coach I.J. Pinkham’s crew.

The Seahawks didn’t get an easy first-round matchup, however. Mt. Abram has made a living this season by taking the MVC’s top teams down to the wire, and Boothbay was no exception; the Seahawks held off the Roadrunners 65-62 on Dec. 20 in Boothbay.

Mt. Abram, which punched its ticket to Augusta by beating Buckfield 70-59, is the only team in the field with no Civic Center tournament experience on its roster, but coach Dustin Zamboni can see that being a positive for the Roadrunners.

“Sometimes it’s not a bad thing going in as a lower seed into these situations. It takes a little pressure off your back,” he said. “There will be a little shellshock when we first get in there, but we’ve got to settle in as quickly as we possibly can.”

The 4-5 matchup between North Yarmouth Academy and Richmond is a rematch of a thrilling regular-season game, one in which Richmond erased an early 21-7 deficit before coming away with a 58-49 victory.

The Bobcats have two clear leaders in Calob Densmore and Kenny Bing, both of whom can score 25 points and hit double figures in rebounds. NYA has one of the tournament’s best players down low in Te’Andre King, as well as a good scorer in Chris Hamblett.

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