Veteran GSA, Woodland teams top contenders in North boys ranks

Two teams that met in the regional quarterfinals last February — George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill and Woodland — appear likely to hold down the top spots in different classes when the 2017-2018 boys basketball regular season concludes late next week.

George Stevens emerged from Monday night’s 78-36 victory over Central of Corinth atop C North with a 14-1 record that includes 14 consecutive victories since an opening-night loss at Lee Academy.

The Eagles’ remaining schedule includes a road test at Class B North No. 5 seed Ellsworth on Friday and a home game against resurgent Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln on Feb. 6

Fort Fairfield, which gave GSA a competitive battle in last year’s Class C North final, is within striking distance of the Eagles for the top spot but is better positioned to outpoint three other Aroostook County programs — Central Aroostook of Mars Hill, Fort Kent and Houlton — to secure the division’s second and final preliminary-round bye.

Eleven C North teams entered the final two weeks of the regular season with at least nine victories, including a 12-4 Central Aroostook squad that has made the move up from Class D with considerable success and 10-4 Mattanawcook, which won just one game in Class B a year ago.

The Heal Points have been less kind to teams like Madawaska and Dexter, who despite nine wins apiece were 11th and 14th in the division prior to Tuesday’s games and working to keep the preliminary-round road games that go to their current placements.

But it’s close, as the five teams ranked between 11th and 15th — Madawaska, Calais, Hodgdon, Dexter and Sumner of East Sullivan — were separated by less than five Heal Points with one of those clubs destined to fall short of qualifying for postseason play.

Woodland avenged its only loss so far this season with a 63-56 win at Class C North fourth seed Fort Kent on Saturday, but the 12-1 Dragons likely will be challenged again Tuesday night when they host 11-2 Jonesport-Beals in the first of two late-season meetings between Class D North’s top two seeds.

The rematch is set for Jonesport on Feb. 7.

Katahdin of Stacyville has put together a strong season under head coach Jamey McNally to hold third place in D North, though defending state champion Machias has won four straight games to surge within four points of the Cougars.

Greater Houlton Christian Academy and Schenck of East Millinocket are battling for the final direct ticket to the regional quarterfinals at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, with Schenck having a bevy of pointworthy games remaining to move into the fifth spot if the Wolverines can knock off the likes of Class C sixth seed Piscataquis of Guilford (9-3) or Class D South leader Greenville (12-2) in late-season home games.

Easton, Deer Isle-Stonington and Bangor Christian were ranked seventh through ninth through Monday’s play but separated by less than five points in a battle that at present would leave BC on the road for the prelims.

Tenth-place Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook, less than a point back, also figures into that mix while Shead of Eastport holds a slight edge over Wisdom of Saint Agatha for the 11th and final D North playoff berth.

Ernie Clark

About Ernie Clark

I'm a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, my coverage areas range from high school sports to mixed martial arts.