Less than two weeks remain in the state’s schoolboy basketball regular season and races are shaping up throughout northern Maine for top seeds, preliminary-round byes and the final tournament berths in each class.
Take Class AA North, where competition is heightening for the No. 4 seed, which is important because while all eight teams in the division advance to postseason play the top four will play regional quarterfinals on their home courts before the scene shifts to the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.
Bangor (7-6) enters the week in a tight battle with Oxford Hills (7-6) for that fourth seed with those teams set to meet for the second time this winter at South Paris on Wednesday afternoon (4 p.m.).
Monday morning’s Heal Point rankings had Bangor fourth, 5.7 points ahead of the fifth-place Vikings, though Bangor’s loss at Portland on Saturday was not included.
Bangor defeated Oxford Hills 56-46 in their earlier meeting at Red Barry Gymnasium in Bangor on Jan. 2.
In addition to Wednesday’s rematch marking the return of Matt Fleming to his former school after the standout junior forward transferred from Oxford Hills to Bangor over the summer, the home-court advantage for a tournament quarterfinal — perhaps for a third meeting of the season between the two Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference rivals — may be at stake in that contest, though both clubs first must play significant games on Tuesday.
Bangor will host cross-river rival Brewer and while the Witches are just 5-9 coach Ben Goodwin’s club should be riding some newfound momentum after surging into the Class A North tournament picture with a 39-38 victory over divisional third seed Skowhegan on Saturday.
Bangor, meanwhile, seeks to bounce back from its 30-point setback at top-seeded and two-time defending Class AA state champion Portland at the Portland Expo.
Bangor fought off the Witches 76-58 in their first meeting of the season on Dec. 20 at Brewer.
Oxford Hills, meanwhile, hosts Class AA North third seed Windham on Tuesday. Windham (9-4) has defeated Westbrook and Deering of Portland since a 66-64 home-court loss to Bangor on Jan. 15 that temporarily moved the Rams into third place in the division.
After their back-to-back games against Brewer and Oxford Hills, Bangor will have games remaining at Skowhegan on Friday and at Class A top seed Hampden Academy on Feb. 6 before coach Carl Parker’s Rams close out the regular season on Feb. 8 at home against Class AA No. 2 seed Edward Little of Auburn.
Bangor already owns a 68-63 home victory over Hampden on Dec. 27 but fell at Edward Little 59-49 on Jan. 9. Bangor and Skowhegan meet only once this winter.
Oxford Hills follows its games against Windham and Bangor with matchups at Lewiston on Friday and Cheverus of Portland next Monday before its regular-season finale at home against Gardiner on Feb. 6. The Vikings defeated Lewiston in their first meeting of the season but have yet to play Cheverus or Gardiner.