Mt. Blue’s Evans Sterling shoots the ball against the defense of Erskine’s Cooper Grondin, lower left, and Kaden Doughty (22) during a game last season in Farmington. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

FARMINGTON — Asking Class A North boys basketball coaches and players who the league’s biggest sleeper team might be prior to the season, there was one answer that came up every time: Mt. Blue.

Although the Cougars went just 8-11 last season, those familiar with the program saw things playing out differently in 2022-23. With last year’s entire roster returning, Mt. Blue was projected to go from an also-ran to a contender, and the Cougars have done exactly that in starting 5-2 and climbing to second place.

“We’ve been building toward this year for the past three years,” said Mt. Blue head coach Troy Norton. “We have a lot of seniors and a good group of juniors, we share the ball, and everybody knows their roles. We’re playing really well together as a team.”

Mt. Blue already has some impressive wins under its belt with victories over both Skowhegan and Messalonskee in its first five games. The Cougars’ only losses have come at the hands of 5-1 Cony and 5-0 Brewer, the respective No. 1 and No. 3 teams in Class A North.

The 71-63 loss to Cony came with Evans Sterling, who had picked up two technical fouls in a 33-point effort against Skowhegan, suspended for the contest. Sterling, who transitioned from a wing player to point guard this season, has been the catalyst for Mt. Blue this year with his scoring, distributing, rebounding and defense.

“I think putting him at point guard is the best decision we’ve ever made,” Norton said. “He’s so dynamic, and he has a great ability to make plays. Defensively, he can also play more of a forward role for us because he’s such a good rebounder. … He’s one of the top two or three players in KVAC A North.”


Mt. Blue has two other potent scorers in Zach Poisson and Chandler Briggs and a top defender in Jayden Meader, who broke through on the offensive end Thursday against Lawrence with 24 points. In the post, the Cougars have a pair of solid rebounds in Nicolo Barbieri and Charles Stevens.

Thus far, the only team that’s been able to handle Mt. Blue at full strength has been Brewer, which doubled up the Cougars 64-32 a week ago. Mt. Blue, though, will get its chance at revenge on Brewer this weekend when it faces the Witches in a rematch Saturday night in Farmington.

“We missed a lot of easy shots (in that first matchup); I think we were 0 of 21 from 3 for that game,” Norton said. “They’re a great team, and now that we’ve seen them once, we can make some adjustments.”


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Cony’s Morgan Cunningham collects the ball from Freeport defenders during a girls basketball game Dec. 28 at the Capital City Hoop Classic in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

With one-third of the regular season down, the Cony girls have managed to make the most of what they have.

The list of players who can play significant varsity minutes for the Rams this year isn’t very long. Yet with those players all able to contribute in big ways, Cony has stayed in the thick of the Class A North race with a 4-2 record.

“We’re not very deep; we rely on basically six girls,” said first-year head coach John Dennett. “We’re not there yet, but the girls we have are playing well, and we’re hoping that we can get there and be pretty good by the end of the year.”

The lack of depth has come from the loss of a senior class that included Raegan Bechard, Indiya Clarke, Sierra Prebit and Julia Reny coinciding with an incoming class not quite ready for varsity play. The Rams haven’t been spared from the illness bug either, stretching Dennett’s team even thinner.

In Morgan Cunningham, Sage Fortin, Maci Freeman and Abby Morrill, though, the Cony girls have four players capable of providing 10-15 points on any given night. With those players and a pair of talented rebounders in Cale Barajas and Kylie Quinn, the Rams can put up points, something they’ve done in averaging 55.7 per game.

“One thing that’s been big for us is we have a really good starting five,” Dennett said. “Sage has a really good basketball I.Q., and Morgan is a really good shooter. Cale has really gone unnoticed; she can bring down a lot of rebounds. Abby Morrill, she’s just a great athlete and an all-around good basketball player.”


Cony’s depth could improve this week with junior Abby Clark potentially able to return as early as Tuesday against Maranacook. Once at full strength, Dennett hopes his team can compete with the likes of Gardiner and Lawrence — the two teams to have beaten the Rams thus far this season.

Before taking on the Tigers and Bulldogs again later in the season, though, Cony will face three other challenging slate of opponents this week. After the matchup with Maranacook (4-2), the Rams will host Camden Hills on Tuesday and Nokomis on Saturday in matchups of teams pushing one another in the Heal points.

“It’s a good week that will tell us a lot about where we stand,” Dennett said. “I told the girls, ‘We’re going to have to play a lot harder. They’re going to show up ready to play, and they’re going to get all of the loose balls. You’ll have to be ready, or we’re going to lose.’”


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Nokomis’ Jeff Carr (5) defends Skowhegan’s Adam Savage during a KVAC A game Dec. 20 in Newport. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel



Although the Mt. Blue boys’ rematch with Brewer and three Cony girls games are among the top KVAC showdowns, they certainly aren’t the only major clashes in the conference in the first week of 2023.

Two other notable matchups feature the Waterville boys, who have made hay in the early going with their first four-game winning streak in 10 years. The 4-2 Purple Panthers take on rival Winslow (4-1) on Tuesday before hosting Maranacook in a cross-region showdown on Thursday.

Speaking of Maranacook, the Black Bears will face a stern test Tuesday as they travel to Augusta to take on Class A North Cony (5-1). That game marks the start of a four-game road stand for Maranacook, which will take on Old Orchard Beach and Lincoln Academy after facing the Rams and Waterville.

In A North boys action, Skowhegan, which has won three in a row after an 0-3 start to the season, will host Nokomis on Saturday night. Cony will play on the road against Camden Hills on Thursday before hosting the Warriors on Saturday as part of a boys-girls doubleheader.

On the girls side, Tuesday features a matchup between two of the top-three teams in Class A North as Nokomis (4-1) hosts Lawrence (3-2). Nokomis will then host Skowhegan on Thursday before ending a gauntlet of a week with Saturday’s road matchup against Cony.

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