February 23

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Wide-open 2014 tourney second to none

Nine No. 1 seeds bowed out before the state championships.

By Travis Lazarczyk tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The upsets started in the preliminary round, and they didn’t end until all the regional finals were complete on Saturday night.

The Washburn High School boys were the first No. 1 seed to go down in the 2014 Maine high school basketball tournament, when they lost to No. 16 Jonesport-Beals in the preliminary round of the Eastern Class D tournament. The Greely boys were the last top seed to fall, losing to No. 6 Poland in the Western Class B finals. Washburn and Greely were joined by seven other No. 1 teams over the course of the tournament, making the 2014 tournament one of the most wide open in recent memory.

Only one state championship game features a pair of No. 1 seeds — Class A boys, where defending state champ Hampden Academy will face Portland. Hampden is the only boys team making a repeat appearance in the state finals, and this is the third straight regional championship won by the Broncos. On the girls side, four teams — McAuley (fourth straight regional title), Washburn (fourth straight), Lake Region (third straight) and Calais (second straight) — are back in the state championship game.

As those teams prepare for a trip they’ve made before, a few are going to the state championship for the first time. Among the newcomers are the Carrabec girls, who won the Western Class C title as the third seed, and will face Calais in the state final on Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center.

The Cobras were one of the most improved teams in the state, and now have 18 wins after winning just five games last season.

“We needed to come in with a different attitude,” Carrabec coach Skip Rugh said. “Think positive, and positive things will happen.”

Joining Carrabec as first time participants in the state championships are the Poland boys, who overcame a 19-point deficit to beat Greely in the Western B final, and Waynflete, which won the Western C boys crown.

The Forest Hills girls won their first regional title in 17 years when Kori Coro hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Rangeley. Forest Hills coach Mike LeBlanc said he watched the play once, before turning his attention to scouting Washburn, the Tigers’ opponent in the state game.

“I was more impressed with our opportunity to get a shot off,” LeBlanc said. “If it went, it went. There’s no shame in losing to a good team like Rangeley.”

The Valley boys didn’t have as long a regional title drought as the Forest Hills girls, but the finish to their 50-49 win over Hyde was just as thrilling. The Cavaliers won when Cody Laweryson hit a 3-pointer with 8 seconds to go, capping a rally that saw them erase a six-point deficit in the final 1:44.

It was Valley’s first regional title since 2006.

“Even though we’ve seen a lot of success at Valley over the years, it’s been a while,” coach Luke Hartwell said. “We talked about how we want to win one more.”

Eight teams entered the tournament undefeated, and four are left. Portland and Hampden will play each other, so the Class A boys champ will have a perfect record. The Houlton boys and Forest Hills girls also will try to go undefeated.

Arguably, the most impressive tournament run belongs to the Mt. Desert Island girls, who knocked off two undefeated teams on the way to the Eastern B title. The Trojans beat Nokomis in the semifinals, then snapped Presque Isle’s 64-game winning streak in the regional final.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242 tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM
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