Skowhegan senior forward Adam Savage left, dunks as Messalonskee center Merrick Smith defends during a Class A North semifinal game earlier this season at the Augusta Civic Center. Savage got a technical for hanging on rim after the dunk. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

No matter where you went to watch high school boys basketball in central Maine this winter, you were bound to find something — or, more specifically, someone — that caught your eye.

Yes, individual standouts were everywhere in a 2022-23 season that saw players all throughout the region thoroughly impress. For local players, it was a year of eye-popping numbers and spectacular feats of athleticism in gyms from Strong to Newport and Jackman to Richmond.

“There were so many amazing players this year, and I think that’s what made it such a great league,” said Messalonskee head coach Pete McLaughlin. “You go through the top five or six teams, and they’re senior-heavy, and there were also some great juniors. Every game, you’re up against somebody with really good players.”

With Cooper and Ace Flagg down in Florida, Madden White, a Mr. Maine Basketball semifinalist, stepped up for the Nokomis as he averaged 15.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. With White, Grady Hartsgrove and Connor Sides leading the way, the Warriors continued the success from last year’s state title run to go 13-6.

The Warriors’ hopes of a state championship repeat, though, would be dashed in their first tournament game as upstart Messalonskee claimed a 50-48 win over Nokomis in the Class A North quarterfinals. It was a game in which the Eagles’ Merrick Smith, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, made a floater at the buzzer to clinch the upset victory.

Messalonskee had gotten off to a rough start to the season, going 1-8 against one of the state’s most challenging schedules. Yet the Eagles ultimately righted the ship by going 6-3 in the second of the regular season to clinch a tournament bid, and that thrilling win over Nokomis was the cherry on top for a young Messalonskee team.


“I think I’ve watched the whole game eight times and that ending about 400 times,” McLaughlin said. “Starting off rough and then being able to turn it around and have a moment like that, it makes it all worth it. It’s one of those things that makes me wish we could start it all up again tomorrow because we’re still pretty hungry.”

The Eagles (8-12) would see their own season come to an end in the semifinals against Skowhegan (14-7), a flashy team led by 6-foot-5 trio Collin LePage, Kyle LePage and Adam Savage. Also reaching the A North semis was a Cony team (12-8) powered by junior Parker Sergent, who averaged 20.1 points per game.

Elsewhere in Class A North, Mt. Blue improved from 8-11 last year to 12-7 this year as junior Evans Sterling impressed with his athleticism and handles. Lawrence got some big performances from Conner Nutting and Dane Zawistowski, though the Bulldogs lost eight in a row to end the year after an 8-3 start.

No one in Class B could measure up to Winslow’s Jason Reynolds, who averaged KVAC-bests 28.8 points and 15.5 rebounds per game. Powered by Reynolds and guard Andrew Poulin, the Black Raiders went 17-1 in the regular season, though they, like Nokomis, were upset by a No. 7 seed (Presque Isle) in the regional quarterfinals.

Winslow senior Jason Reynolds goes up for a shot as Maine Central Institute defender Owen Moore hits the floor during a KVAC B game earlier this season in Winslow. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Maranacook was competitive in Class B South, going 10-10 in a schedule that saw it play a number of crossover games against KVAC A teams. Led by Keagan McClure and Brayden St. Pierre, the Black Bears made the regional quarterfinals for the seventh consecutive tournament.

In Class C South, perennial powers Hall-Dale and Winthrop failed to emerge as major players in the championship picture. In their place, teams such Mt. Abram (17-4) and Monmouth Academy (17-4) emerged as the top threats to Dirigo, though neither could dethrone the Cougars as regional champs.


“I think this year is kind of an outlier in that sense,” Monmouth head coach Wade Morrill said of Hall-Dale, Winthrop and Waynflete’s absences in Augusta. “I don’t think those teams are going to be down and out of the tournament for long. It kind of speaks to the competitiveness of Class C South this year.”

For Mt. Abram, Payton Mitchell finished in the Mountain Valley Conference’s top 10 in points (17.2), rebounds (7.1) and assists (5.1) per game, and Kaden Pillsbury was first in steals (4.4) and eighth in steals (4.3). Sammy Calder was seventh in points (17.1), ninth in rebounds (7.2) and second in steals (3.7) for Monmouth.

Then, there was Carrabec (13-8), which won at the Civic Center for the first time ever behind Luke Carey, who was second in points (20.4), sixth in rebounds (7.6) and first in assists (6.8) in the MVC. For Madison, Callan Franzose led the conference in scoring (23.7) and was fourth in rebounding (9.3).

Mt. Abram’s Payton Mitchell, right, drives past Old Orchard Beach defender Shilo Thao during a Class C South boys basketball quarterfinal game earlier this season at the Augusta Civic Center. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Central Maine’s lone regional champion on the boys side this year came in Class D South, where Forest Hills won its fourth straight title. The Tigers (18-4) were powered not only by a regular 30- and 40-point scorer in Mason Desjardins but also by Cooper Daigle, who owned the post throughout the regional tournament.

“We’ve been a guard-oriented team for years, and he’s the post player we’ve been missing that’s made life a lot better for us,” Forest Hills head coach Anthony Amero said of Daigle. “He’s got no fear, and he just jumps out of the building. He can go up against anybody and just say, ‘Give me the ball.’”

Valley, which fell to Forest Hills in the Class D South title game, built for the future in a 13-8 campaign. The Cavaliers were led by freshmen Harry Louis and Fisher Tewksbury, both of whom averaged more than 20 points per game in the regional tournament. 

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