The goal for the Maranacook boys basketball team hasn’t changed, from the start of the season until now.

“There’s a lot we’re playing for,” coach Travis Magnusson said. “We’re trying to prove we’re the best team in the state, every night.”

That’s a lofty goal. And it might just be true.

It would certainly be hard to find a team in all of Maine, regardless of class or any other qualifier, that’s playing better right now. The Black Bears improved to 7-0 on Tuesday night, defeating Winthrop 81-42, and added to a glowing resume so far this season. Maranacook is averaging over 87 points a game. The Black Bears have topped 80 points every time but once. The average margin of victory has been 44 points.

Maranacook has been running by teams, shredding them, pressuring them into submission. And each team left in the Black Bears’ wake has left the court saying the same thing.

“They’re just really good,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “They’re well-coached, they’re a talented bunch. They play together, they’re unselfish, they shoot the ball, they can get to the rim, they defend. There are not many kinks in that armor. … They’re competing right now like every game is a state championship game.”


Winthrop’s Noah Grube, left, defends Maranacook’s Cash McClure during a game Tuesday in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

That’s been the mission since the first day, ever since it was revealed that there wouldn’t be a Maine Principals’ Association state tournament at the end of the season.

No Gold Ball to make it official? Fine. We’ll just remove all doubt, night after night.

“There’s just not a whole lot you can do at times with us,” Magnusson said. “We have five guys on the court right from the beginning that can hurt you, and we don’t necessarily depend on one or two guys. And the thing I like best is guys are coming off the bench.

“This is just a really special group. I’m really fortunate and lucky to be the coach and to be around them.”

Most good teams try to downplay their success. They want to keep the hype down, and keep the pressure off.

The Black Bears, though, know they’re good, and they want others to know it too.


“We worked really hard over the summer, and all of us got a lot better,” said senior guard Cash McClure, who shared the game high with 24 points. “We felt like last year, we were one of the top teams in the state. So coming into this year, with pretty much the same core group of guys, we knew how good we could be. We just wanted to prove it every game.”

Tuesday’s game became another Maranacook special, even as it looked like it was going off script. Winthrop, which was led by 19 points from Gavin Perkins, slowed down the pace, worked for the right look and had Maranacook off the mark early on. It took more than two minutes for the Black Bears to get on the board, and a team that led Cony 30-5 after the first quarter a week and a half ago was up only 16-7 after one period.

But the Black Bears’ pace has a way of wearing you down, and in the second quarter, Maranacook broke through. Casey Cormier (24 points) hit four 3-pointers in the period alone, McClure had nine of his 24 points, and the Black Bears were off and running with a 26-point quarter that made it 42-19 at the half.

As they began to run away with the game, the Black Bears showed the two-way style that gives them an extra gear. Maranacook’s offensive style is well-known, a fast-paced attack with shooters all over the floor that racks up the points. But it’s the defense that is everywhere, pressing and trapping relentlessly, with what feels like seven or eight players snatching up loose balls and picking off any pass that tries to break up the pressure.

“Our defense creates most of our offense,” Magnusson said. “Our defense gets us our open layups, our open threes … and they’re also smart in that they can mix it up. We did four different defenses today.”

That style is so suffocating that even teams resolved to change the tempo, like Winthrop on Tuesday, can’t help but get swept up in the breakneck pace.


“It’s easy to fall into the trap of playing the pace of the game they want to play,” MacArthur said. “To be disciplined enough to work every possession and get good shots is a hard thing. It would take a perfect game plan.”

It’s a style of play that carried Maranacook to the brink of a state title last year, and would have made them clear-cut favorites in Class B this season. Instead, the team was walloped by a bad break, but after initially bemoaning that lost objective, the Black Bears have zeroed in on another.

“We would love to have a full state championship and all that, but we’re not going to let, because an organization doesn’t hand us a Gold Ball, that’s not going to define what a basketball season is for us,” Magnusson said. “We’re trying to define it as every night is our state championship. In our hearts, we know what we are, and we’re trying to prove it to everybody else. We’re not treating this like it’s a different season.”

That means a locked-in team, each time out. The Black Bears haven’t cut anyone a break yet, and it’s doubtful they’ll be changing that anytime soon.

“That’s the biggest goal,” McClure said. “We just want to prove that we’re one of the best, if not the best, team in the state. By doing what we’ve been doing, I think we’ve done a good job with that.”

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