Here’s a Final Four for you — Caribou, Maranacook of Readfield, Brewer and Camden Hills of Rockport.
You won’t be seeing them battling on the hardwood anytime soon as “March Madness” is already behind those four talented boys basketball teams from central and northern Maine.
But devoid of a traditional statewide tournament this year, I’d love to see these teams match up for a weekend of championship-level competition.
All four of these programs have been crowned champions of the largest schoolboy pods for the northern two-thirds of the state. Those are the only areas where postseason play took place, because the southernmost counties got off to a later start after initially being coded yellow by the state Department of Education.
Class A Brewer and Camden Hills and Class B Caribou and Maranacook were the best in their respective regions, combining for a 57-4 record.
Caribou (15-0) and Maranacook (16-0) were opponents in the epic 2020 Class B state final won by Caribou — at the buzzer of the second overtime.
With schedules focused on regionalized play due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Caribou captured the Aroostook County championship while Maranacook won the Central Maine Classes A-B crown.
Both teams were dominant. Maranacook outplayed a Class A-heavy schedule while Caribou handled Class B rivals Presque Isle and Houlton as well as many of the County’s smaller basketball programs.
Maranacook is led by Mr. Maine Basketball finalist Cash McClure, an explosive, sharpshooting senior guard who added the dunk to his arsenal this winter. Classmate Casey Cormier was a key complementary backcourt mate.
Caribou features Sawyer Deprey, a Mr. Basketball semifinalist who has developed a Mr. Basketball-quality resume while playing a key role in helping the Vikings capture back-to-back Class B state championships — including last year’s hair-raising victory over Maranacook — and a 56-4 overall record over the last three years.
This year alone the senior averaged 25.4 points, 10 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 65 percent from the field.
Brewer (14-2) epitomizes balance, with its top six players each capable of taking over a game. Senior forward Dylan Huff is another Mr. Basketball semifinalist, while juniors Colby Smith and Aaron Newcomb and senior Kyle Goodrich comprised a top backcourt trio. Brady Saunders and Ryder Goodwin emerged as elite sophomore forwards during the abbreviated season.
Camden Hills, a program with as much tradition as anyone over the last quarter-century, showed itself to be on the way back with an 11-2 finish in the Kno-Wal-Lin pod. It battled the likes of perennial contender Medomak Valley of Waldoboro and neighboring Oceanside of Rockland.
Jeremy Fraser is a top senior for coach Jon Moro’s club while Ryan Clifford is a talented junior forward for the Windjammers.
Pair these teams up against each in any order and you’re sure to get an intense yet entertaining contest.
Perhaps surprisingly, such contests were more the norm than the exception this winter, which may have lacked the usual tourney fever but didn’t lack for competitiveness nor a unique aura of gratitude just to be able to play and coach basketball when nothing was guaranteed from one day to the next due to a once-in-a-century pandemic.
But these games won’t be played anytime soon, and that’s OK.
Conditioning workouts for baseball and softball pitchers and catchers are on track to begin next Monday, and after spring sports were wiped out last year by the pandemic, everything should be done to ensure those teams can celebrate their sports in 2021.
To be honest, I’ve never been one to support playing down to a single state champion in any high school sport, particularly at the high school level where those celebrations transcend the schools to the fabric of communities large and small.
But in this case, it is fun to think about.