Monmouth’s Sammy Calder takes a shot during a Jan. 30 game against Dirigo at Monmouth Academy. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUGUSTA — In a world that’s ever-changing, you can always count on a few things at the Augusta Civic Center come February.

The chicken tenders will be nonpareil; bands will play “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas more times than you can count; last, but certainly not least, the Winthrop, Hall-Dale and Waynflete boys are sure to be playing deep into February.

Well, actually, that last one isn’t true this year as the Class C South boys tournament gets ready to take over Augusta. Although there are plenty of strong teams in C South, the Ramblers, Bulldogs and Flyers are all at home instead of competing for the Gold Ball.

“Honestly, I think the fact that Winthrop, Hall-Dale and Waynflete aren’t at the Civic Center this year shows you how deep Class C South has been,” said Carrabec head coach Erik Carey. “Those are still good teams that could easily have made it, but you have a lot of other teams that have really stepped it up.”

Since 2016, one of Winthrop, Hall-Dale and Waynflete has either entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed, won the regional championship or both. You’d have to go back all the way to 2012 — when the four-class system was still in place — to find the last time none of the three made the regional final.

Whereas Winthrop had the No. 1 seed a year ago, that honor now goes to Dirigo, the reigning state champ. The Cougars (17-1), who won the Gold Ball as Class C South’s No. 3 seed a year ago, returned nearly their entire roster, including a 1,000-point scorer and Mr. Maine Basketball semifinalist in Charlie Houghton.


Dirigo, though a longtime power, had taken a backseat to Winthrop, Hall-Dale and Waynflete for several years prior to the Gold Ball. Now, with a senior class that includes Houghton, an elite shooter in Dakota Tompkins and two strong defenders in Trent Holman and Trenton Hutchinson, the Cougars have the kind of team that’s built to win in February.

“You do lose some of the heavyweights with the Hall-Dales and the Winthrops and the Waynfletes, but teams like Dirigo are used to winning,” said Monmouth Academy head coach Wade Morrill. “It was a senior-heavy conference this year, and when you look at teams like Dirigo, OOB or Traip Academy that made the tournament, they had senior leadership.”

One team that’s somewhat new to the big stage is Morrill’s No. 2 Monmouth team. The 15-3 Mustangs, which made their first-ever regional final last year, are hoping to do one better as they enter the tournament on a six-game winning streak that saw them hand Dirigo its only loss.



Monmouth, which boasts one of the region’s top players in Sammy Calder (17.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.7 steals per game), is an athletic team that can run the floor with just about anyone. Yet Morrill has cautioned that No. 10 Traip Academy (8-11), which will face the Mustangs at 5:30 p.m. Monday, is much of the same.


“They can get to the rim, they can spread you out, and they can attack space and they can kick out to shooters,” Morrill said. “We don’t see a lot of teams that have the top-to-bottom athleticism that we have, so it’ll be a difficult matchup for us because Traip is definitely a team that matches up with us athletically.”

Like Monmouth, sixth-ranked Carrabec (12-7) isn’t a team that’s accustomed to the Civic Center stage historically. Whereas the Mustangs’ quarterfinal win over St. Dominic Academy last season was their first at the venue since 2001, last year’s tournament marked the first time the Cobras had even played there since 1998.

In guard Luke Carey, Carrabec has the No. 2 scorer (20.4 points per game) and the No. 1 distributor (6.8 assists per game) in the Mountain Valley Conference. The Cobras enter the tournament having won nine of their past 10 games, a spell that began after they nearly stunned Dirigo before falling to a 65-63 defeat.

“I think that was a turning point for our players,” Carey said. “I felt all along that this group could beat anyone on any given night, but because we haven’t had that success on a consistent basis, it’s difficult to have that confidence. I think nearly winning that game gave them the confidence that they could play with anybody.”

Carrabec will face No. 3 Richmond (15-2) in Monday’s first C South quarterfinal game at 4 p.m. Led by two strong scorers and rebounders (Wyatt Cassidy and Connor Vashon) and an efficient distributor (Mason Hunter), the Bobcats will look to notch their first win in Augusta in five years.

Carrabec High School boys basketball coach Erik Carey prepares his players for a Jan. 17 game against Dirigo. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Richmond enters Monday’s matchup with Carrabec on a five-game winning streak, its third such streak this year. The Bobcats are also coming off arguably their two best efforts of the season, a 67-41 win Feb. 4 against St. Dom’s a 60-54 road victory last Tuesday against Boothbay.

“As the season goes on, you want to make sure you peak at the right time, and I just feel like we kept getting better,” said Richmond head coach Jason Cassidy. “I think you could say that about Carrabec, too. We know the 3-6 game, if there’s an upset, that’s traditionally the one that happens. If we want to avoid that, we’re going to have to work for it.”

In another changing-of-the-guard moment, longtime bottomfeeder Mt. Abram ended Hall-Dale’s season with a 70-57 prelim win Wednesday. That earned the No. 5 Roadrunners (16-3), led by Payton Mitchell (17.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists per game), a matchup with No. 4 Old Orchard Beach (16-2) at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

Looking to knock off No. 1 Dirigo will be a No. 8 Madison team led by Callan Franzose, the No. 1 scorer in the MVC at 23.7 points per game. The Bulldogs (12-7), who topped Waynflete 52-34 in the prelims, will face the Cougars in Monday’s final game at 9.

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