READFIELD — There won’t be a Maine Principals’ Association basketball tournament this year, which is a disappointment for every team in the state.

For few of them, however, was it a tougher break than it was for the Maranacook boys.

“I’ve been really lucky, I’ve coached a lot of really good teams,” coach Travis Magnusson said. “This team, I think, stacks up with any of the best that I’ve seen. It’s a big blow to everybody, but it’s definitely a big blow to our guys.”

Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development cleared basketball in November as a moderate risk sport, and the department prohibits such sports from holding competitions between teams from different geographic areas — i.e., state tournaments.

That means no chance for the Black Bears — who brought back four starters and five of the six players who played extensive minutes in last year’s Class B championship game — to try to clear that last hurdle in what has had the makings since February of being a destined year.

“During the summer, every day, we were thinking about it. Every day we were wondering what’s going to happen,” Magnusson said. “It’s been talked about so much. We’re hopeful something happens to prove (ourselves) at the end.”

As Magnusson acknowledged, however, the Black Bears aren’t alone in their disappointment. On Tuesday, they met a team in Erskine which has come to expect postseason play as well, having made three of the last four Class A tournaments.

The Class B runners-up looked like they were close to midseason form, beating Erskine 86-40. Casey Cormier had 33 points and Cash McClure scored 15 with six steals for Maranacook, while Dan Page and Josh Bonsant had 12 apiece for the Eagles and Nick Barber had nine rebounds.

“I wouldn’t say they’re happy about (the lack of playoffs). But they understand,” Erskine coach Tim Bonsant said. “At this point, we just try to compete in every game. The goal would be to make the playoffs and things like that, but that isn’t the case this year.”

Instead, teams have to find new objectives, and new goals to shoot for. For Erskine, as Bonsant said, that new goal becomes improving as the season goes along, and continuing what’s been a consistently competitive program.

Miska Jarvinen-Bergdahl, a volunteer parent, rearranges dog cutouts prior to a boys basketball game Tuesday between Maranacook and Erskine in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“Every night in practice, I’m talking about competing every night, improving our game, improving as a team, getting closer as a team,” he said. “Those are pretty much the goals for the year. … There are life lessons here, too. It’s not just winning and losing.”

For Maranacook, that goal is to make people come away with the same conclusion they would have gotten from a state championship.

“One of our big goals is to just prove that … we’re one of the best teams in the state regardless of class,” Magnusson said. “We want to prove that every game. Every game we get, we want to treat it like a state championship, and treat it like everybody’s watching us to see how we do.”

Just as Caribou spent all of last season as the clear favorite in Class B, Magnusson knew Maranacook was looking at the same scenario this season. The stream of the Black Bears’ scrimmage win over Mt. Abram on Monday, he said, drew nearly 1,000 views.

“We’re playing like … everybody’s watching us,” he said. “There’s a lot of hype around our team. … A lot of people are interested. We want to try to prove we’re the best team we can be.”

Anyone tuning in Tuesday would have seen a team that pushed the pace and moved the ball as efficiently as it would in a tournament game. Leading the way was Cormier, who had 31 points halfway through the third quarter, hit five 3-pointers during the game and was just as dangerous in transition as he was from distance.

“Everyone wants the same goal, to win a state championship. Obviously, it may not be possible this year, but we act like it’s still our (goal),” he said. “Our goal is to be 13-0. … If that means getting here and working towards something that’s just in our heads, that’s fine by us.”

The Black Bears, who got nine rebounds from Eljas Bergdahl, appeared energized, even in such a different season.

“Every win is just feeding us more,” Cormier said. “It just motivates us even more to get better, and better ourselves as (much as) we can.”

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