AUGUSTA — Basketball teams across the state at last got the final answers on what their regions will look like next winter.

The MPA Management Committee approved a five-class system for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons that has a few differences from the format of the past two seasons. It’s one that stands to shake up basketball in central Maine in the next two years with teams moving regions and even swapping classes.

Teams that failed to average a winning percentage of 25 percent or better over the previous four seasons were dropped one class under the new format. That included the Waterville boys team, which will go from Class B North to Class C South in a move that will impact both regions in the coming years.

“It puts us against schools that may not match our population size but are similar in terms of the number of student athletes participating in our programs,” said Waterville Athletic Director Heidi Bernier. “We know there are still a lot of good teams in Class C, but we’re hoping it’s something that can build momentum for our boys basketball program.”

Waterville had also petitioned to drop down from Class B North to Class C South on the girls side. But that petition was rejected as the Purple Panthers, despite finishing with a 2-16 record this past season, finished well over the .250-over-four-seasons mark with winning seasons in its five previous campaigns.

It’s a move, Bernier acknowledged, that might seem a bit stunning given Waterville’s recent history. The Panthers, after all, were in Class B North titlegames in both 2018-19 and 2019-20, going 39-3 over those two seasons. At this time a year ago, the program was fresh off a 12-5 season and No. 5 seed in the region.


Bernier, though, said it best: “Past performance does not predict future results.” This past season, Waterville was nearly unable to offer a team, ultimately putting together a roster of just nine players. Two of those players are set to graduate, leaving the Panthers stretched thin once again.

“It’s a bit unimaginable to think we’re at this place with our girls basketball program considering some of the recent success, but that’s where we are,” Bernier said. “There’s certainly some disappointment that we couldn’t be placed in Class C, but we understand it’s hard to deviate from a particular criteria that’s been set.”

Bernier said she isn’t certain just yet how having boys and girls teams in different classes over the next two years will affect scheduling. Playing Class C South teams would mean the Waterville boys traveling to schools such as Hall-Dale, Madison and Mt. Abram, schools the girls would be unlikely to play.

Elsewhere, Maranacook, which has made waves in Class B South in recent seasons, is moving to Class B North. It’s a move that have the Black Bears playing regional games in Bangor, where they’ve been historically, rather than in Portland, where they’ve been since the 2009-10 season.

“Our coaches and I looked at numbers, competitions, travel, traditions and many other things, and we thought the North might be the best way to go for us,” said Maranacook Athletic Director Brant Remington. “Traditionally, we’ve been in the North; the two state championships (our boys won) were up in Bangor. It’ll be fun to be back there.”

With Maranacook joining the Mountain Valley Conference this fall, the Black Bears will have a vastly different schedule in 2023-24 and beyond. Going to Class B North, though, gives Maranacook more space to fill future schedules with fellow B North Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference schools Winslow, Waterville, Maine Central Institute and Erskine Academy.


Speaking of Erskine, the Eagles are also a newcomer to Class B North after playing at the Class A level since the introduction of the five-class system in 2015-16. It’s a place where Matt Barry, head coach of the Erskine boys team, thinks the school’s programs might be playing for the foreseeable future.

“Moving that (Class A cutoff) number to 585, that keeps us solidly in B,” Barry said. “Even before we dropped, we were just over (the old threshold of) 550. … I don’t see us going up to 600 kids, but I don’t see us dropping like a rock, either. I think we could be here for a few years if it holds, at least I think so.”

The Erskine boys program, which has gone 2-35 over the past two years and hasn’t had a winning season in decades, was originally placed down in Class C after easily meeting the criteria for the drop. Instead, the team opted for Class B after looking at sub-varsity competition, travel and other factors.

“A lot of C teams don’t have freshman teams, and some of them might not even have a JV team,” Barry said. “That was definitely an area of concern for us, and we also had to think about travel. If we’re in C South, we’re going to play Traip and Old Orchard Beach and all those teams. That’s tough.”

The Gardiner boys and girls had originally been slated to move from Class A North with the former dropping to Class B South after meeting the winning percentage criteria and the latter going to Class A South. Both teams are instead back in A North, where they’ll be joined by the usual suspects as well as Hampden Academy, which has returned from AA.

Mount View, which returns to Class C North after two seasons in B North, was the only other central Maine program to change class or region. Teams making moves elsewhere include Searsport (C North to Class C South), Wiscasset (C South to D South) and Stearns (C North to D North).

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