Maranacook’s Natalie Mohlar, left, tries to get around Madison’s Kylee Furbush during a Feb. 7 girls basketball game in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The Maranacook High basketball teams are once again in the postseason tournament, but this year they’ll be calling Bangor home.

Maranacook in recent years has competed in the Class B South tournament at the Portland Expo. This year, the Black Bears are in B North, which will be played at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

The Maranacook girls have 10 freshmen and sophomores, most of whom will be seeing their first tournament action. Guard Natalie Mohlar, the team’s lone senior, has the most playoff experience.

“The girls are extremely excited,” Maranacook head coach Karen Magnusson said. “All the girls, but one, have never experienced minutes in a playoff game. We’re a really young team, so all the excitement — the prep work you do going into it, the bus ride is going to be fun, to see the (Cross Center) — I think the girls are going to be really excited for this opportunity.”

The Black Bears are riding some momentum as it ended the regular season on a six-game win streak, including a 43-40 win over Madison on Feb. 7 in REadfield.

“Every week, we’ve gotten better and better and better,” Magnusson said. “From week one to now, we’re just a different team. You can see that with how we ended our season and (having) our big win against Madison to close it out. I think we’ve had great leadership. I think the girls have worked hard and are relentless, (especially) on defense, and that allows us to stay in games. Then offense takes hold and we’re able to close out games better than we did at the beginning of the year.”


As much of the team is new to tournament play, Magnusson said she doesn’t believe the change in venue — from the historic Expo to the newer, more sleek Cross Insurance Center — will prove to be much of a factor.

“The one thing we talk about is being excited for the moment,” Magnusson said. “I think they’re excited to be where they are. I don’t think they’re going to care where it’s played, and I don’t think anyone would. Playoff basketball in Maine is so special, to get the opportunity to get there, to be one of the eight (in the conference) that gets to step on the court and have the opportunity to win and move on, I think if you ask any of the girls if they care where they’re playing it, they wouldn’t care.”

The Maranacook girls (13-5), the No. 3 seed, will have its work cut out for them. Ellsworth (18-0) is the defending Class B champion, and junior forward Grace Jaffrey is averaging 22 points per game. Junior guard Abby Radel (12.4 ppg) and sophomore guard Elizabeth Boles (11.3 ppg) have also contributed for the Eagles.

“We’re in this nice little spot for us right now where things are clicking pretty well,” Ellsworth head coach Andy Pooler said. “The girls are excited. It’s virtually the same group that we had last year. We’ve kind of picked up where we’ve left off. We’re happy with where we are, but obviously there’s still a lot of work to be done and still some improvement (to be made) going into this tournament run.”

No. 2 Old Town (16-2) also lurks as a contender. No. 4 Caribou (12-6), No. 5 Belfast (12-6), No. 6 Mount Desert Island (12-6), No. 8 Presque Isle (10-9) and No. 10 MCI — which beat No. 7 Erskine Academy 49-47 in overtime in a prelim game on Monday — round out the field.

Maranacook’s Jack Fontaine, left, Robbie Vivenzio and Winthrop’s Cole Bard fight for a rebound during a Jan. 11 boys basketball game in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“There’s some of the old guard there, but there’s some new (teams),” Pooler said. “Belfast is in there, and I’ve been in their shoes of having to build (a program) and finally get over the hump. They’ve got a nice little team there. Maranacook, I think they’re fairly young. I haven’t seen anything on them, but they must be the real deal if they jumped all the way up to where they are. It’s a good field, having an MDI team in sixth that we’re super familiar with that is going to scare some people. I’m glad they’re on the opposite side of the bracket. You’ve got good matchups right off the bat, and that should make for a nice field.”


The Maranacook boys (15-3) enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed. Unlike the girls team, the Black Bears have several players on the roster with playoff experience, led by seniors Keagan McClure, Wyatt Folsom, Robbie Vivenzio, Brandon Chilton and Jake McLaughlin.

“Our senior class, we’ve been (rolling with the punches) our whole career, so we’re used to doing that when we need to,” McClure said after a Dec. 8 victory over Monmouth Academy. “We’ve always learned to stick together, compete as a team and trust in our coach, and when we needed to do that, we stepped up and did it.”

The Black Bears finished the regular season on a high note, winning eight of their final 10 games, including an exciting 80-69 overtime victory over Class C South standout Mt. Abram on Jan. 30.

Like the girls tournament, Ellsworth enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed. The Eagles are led by senior forward Chance Mercier, who is averaging 22 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

“The last few weeks, I think we’ve been playing very well,” Ellsworth head coach Peter Austin said. “I think it’s a good sign for us, going into the tournament.

Old Town (15-3) — led by junior forward Emmitt Byther (15.2 ppg) and senior guard Aiden Gomm (11.2 ppg) — is the No. 3 seed. Defending Class B champion Orono (15-3) is the No. 4 seed, while No. 5 Caribou (14-4), No. 6 Hermon (10-8), No. 9 Winslow (13-6) and No. 10 MDI (9-10) round out the field.

“It’s kind of a wide open tournament, with us, Old Town and Orono beating up on each other,” Austin said. “Caribou’s been playing well all year, too. It’s going to be a tough road for anybody that wins B North. They’re certainly going to get their money’s worth.”

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