Not only has no current member of the Hampden Academy boys basketball team ever lost a home game in varsity competition — stretching that 6-year-old streak to 56 straight victories this winter — these Broncos have never lost a game at their home away from home.
Coach Russ Bartlett’s reigning Class A state champions and four-time defending regional titleholders will take a four-year, 14-game winning streak at the Augusta Civic Center into their 2016 postseason debut Saturday night.
Not since a 70-65 loss to Edward Little of Auburn in the 2011 Eastern A semifinals has Hampden left a tournament game in the Capital City with a loss, and the Broncos are favored to extend that streak as the undefeated top seed in this year’s Class A North field.
Hampden, which returned all five starters from the 2015 squad that defeated Portland by 20 points in the Class A state final before the state’s largest schools were placed in Class AA under a new five-class format, has been led again by a relentless defense and the all-around play of senior guard Nick Gilpin.
The Broncos yielded just 43.1 points per game during the regular season despite a lineup often in flux because of injuries — starting forward Brendan McIntyre remains questionable for Saturday’s quarterfinals with a microfracture in his ankle.
But the Bates College-bound Gilpin has shaken off his own midseason ankle issues to lead the Broncos to their third undefeated regular season in the last four years while increasing his individual career totals to more than 1,000 points, 501 assists and 451 rebounds.
Sophomore center Ian McIntyre, the Broncos’ lone non-senior starter, has emerged as a top two-way threat near the basket, and seniors Brendan McIntyre, Jake Black, Conor Moore, Nick Chasse and Zach Boss provide Hampden a physical, veteran presence with tons of postseason experience.
“The big things for us as a staff was making sure to find things to keep the kids very motivated, and also managing injuries,” said Bartlett. “Getting everything in and being careful with the guys who have to play a boatload of minutes have been the big things, and so far we’ve managed.”
Hampden’s biggest challengers in Class A North figure to be Brewer and Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, respectively.
Brewer (14-4) boasts one of the state’s most versatile big men in senior Matt Pushard, a 1,000-point scorer who ranks among the top scorers and rebounders in the region. Senior guard Carter Smith has teamed with Pushard to provide coach Clayton Blood’s Witches a potent 1-2 scoring punch.
Medomak Valley (15-3) has won two Class B regional titles in the last three years and came within a split second of winning the state crown last winter. Senior forward Nicholas DePatsy leads the Panthers with a diversified all-around game that has pushed him past 1,000 career points. Junior center Cameron Allaire is a top inside threat for veteran coach Nick DePatsy, who recently secured his 300th career victory.
“There will be an upset in the first round,” said Bartlett. “You just hope it’s not you.”
While Hampden looms as the consensus favorite in Class A North, the B North race has been unpredictable since early December.
Old Town, 43-5 in its last 48 games overall with a state championship run in 2014, finished 15-3 to emerge as the No. 1 seed for the tourney, which begins Friday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
But No. 2 Ellsworth (14-4) is the hottest team in the division, as its seven-game winning streak includes victories over No. 3 Washington Academy (16-2) of East Machias, No. 4 Orono (14-4), No. 5 Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor (14-4), No. 6 Caribou (10-8) and Class C North top seed George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill (17-1).
“I think that with the teams that are left at the top, it’s going to be hard for any team to win three in a row,” said Old Town coach Brian McDormand. “The team that wins three games in Bangor is going to have to work and be on top of their game because there’s not going to be any easy games.”
George Stevens hopes to avenge its unfulfilled postseason of a year ago when the Eagles won their last 15 regular-season games before being ousted in the Eastern C quarterfinals.
Coach Dwayne Carter’s club extended its regular-season win streak to 31 games this winter before a 60-58 loss at Ellsworth on Feb. 2, and with two wins over both No. 3 Bucksport (14-4) and No. 4 Lee Academy (15-3), the Eagles loom as a top choice to win their first regional title since 2003.
Fort Fairfield, the reigning Eastern D title holder, made a nearly seamless transition to Class C this winter under second-year head coach Logan McLaughlin.
The Tigers, led by guards Chris Giberson and Isaac Cyr, rebounded from a 1-3 start to finish second at 14-4 — with those four losses coming by a combined 11 points. Fort Fairfield must be wary of its quarterfinal with No. 7 Hodgdon, which handed the Tigers two narrow defeats during the regular season.
Class D North looks like a four-team battle. Top-seeded Easton (16-2) leads three top Aroostook County contenders, with first-year coach Manny Martinez’s Bears joined by No. 3 Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook (14-4) and No. 4 Washburn (13-5).
Easton is 3-1 against those teams so far this season, sweeping two games from Washburn and avenging an opening-night loss at Southern Aroostook with a 66-43 win over the Warriors on Jan. 7 at “The Barn.”
Leading the Down East Class D contingent is Machias, the second seed at 16-2. Coach Jim Getchell’s Bulldogs feature a formidable front-line pairing in 6-5 sophomore Jacob Godfrey and 6-3 junior James Mersereau.
Greenville (13-5) earned the No. 4 seed in Class D South, with coach Bill Foley’s Lakers matched up against No. 5 A.R. Gould (10-8) of South Portland in the quarterfinals. No. 1 Valley of Bingham, at 17-0 and one of two unbeaten boys basketball teams left statewide along with Hampden, looms as the favorite in the division.