Hermon's Isaac Varney drives up for two past Washington Academy's Justin M. Vilone during Class B North basketball quarterfinal game at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Feb. 18, 2017. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

The Hermon boys basketball team already is in rarefied competitive air this winter as it enters postseason play ranked atop the Class B North standings for the second straight year.

It’s a position similar to that held by George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill, back on top of the Class C North standings and seeking its third consecutive state championship.

In Class D, the race for the No. 1 seed was set to go down to the final days with No. 1 Woodland and No. 2 Jonesport-Beals set to meet for the second time in five days in their mutual regular-season finale.

[Here’s how to watch every Maine high school basketball tourney game]

In Class B, Hermon began the final week of regular-season play at 17-0 and was one of just two unbeaten boys basketball teams statewide along with defending Class A state champion Greely of Cumberland Center.

But while the regular-season dominance is nice, coach Mark Reed’s veteran team is focused on making the most of postseason play after falling to Orono in last year’s semifinals.

One particular target is a regional championship, which would be the first for the Hawks since 2000.

Hermon seemingly has all the tools to return to the top, beginning with experience and depth. The Hawks have all five starters back from last year’s rise to the top of the Heal points, led by senior point guard Keenan Marseille and sophomore forward Isaac Varney.

If that weren’t enough, 6-foot-6 Jacob Godfrey has been an impact transfer with championship experience of his own after helping Machias capture the Class D state title last winter.

Hermon largely dominated its regular-season competition save for an overtime win over Presque Isle, a team it defeated 70-47 in the rematch on Feb. 3 in Aroostook County. Godfrey scored his 1,000th career point during that contest.

The Wildcats, led by another 1,000-point scorer in senior guard Griffin Guerrette, still figure to be one of Hermon’s chief challengers in the division, with defending state champion Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor, Oceanside of Rockland and Winslow poised to earn the other first-round byes in Class B North.

MDI’s fortunes became less certain when the Trojans lost senior point guard Andrew Phelps to a late-season appendectomy, leaving Drew Shea and Derek Collin to pick up much of the slack.

Oceanside, the Class A regional champion in 2016 and a finalist again last winter, has found its transition back to Class B fairly challenging with two losses to both Hermon and MDI and a split with KVAC rival Winslow. But coach Matt Breen has a tournament-tested roster led by senior forward Michael Norton Jr. and junior guard Cooper Wirkala that has been gaining momentum late in the season and is capable of flourishing again as the new postseason arrives.

[2018 Maine high school basketball tournament brackets]

Winslow was another hot team late in the season under the guidance of longtime former Waterville coach Ken Lindlof. The Black Raiders, semifinalists in 2011 and 2015, have one of the bigger front lines in the region led by 6-4 seniors Jack Morneault and Jake LaPierre to go with classmate Michael Wildes, a senior guard.

Ellsworth bounced back from a slow start with a solid second half of its season and along with 13-5 Washington Academy of East Machias and Caribou were in position to earn preliminary-round home games ahead of Belfast and Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield.

Foxcroft Academy and Orono battled into the final days for the 11th and final B North playoff berth, though Orono was without 6-3 junior forward Connor Robertson, sidelined by a late-season knee injury.

The path to the Class C North championship seemingly will go through the reigning two-time champions from George Stevens who have put together a fairly remarkable run over the last few years.

Coach Dwayne Carter’s Eagles were 58-2 over the last three seasons entering the final week of the 2018 campaign and 73-6 since current standouts Taylor Schildroth, Max Mattson and Stefan Simmons joined the program as freshmen during the 2014-2015 season.

“We have a bullseye on our back,” said Carter, whose team has lost just one to a Class C opponent during the last three years. “We know it and we’ve gotten used to it so it doesn’t affect us. We just go out and prepare for each game the same way.”

Schildroth, a reigning BDN All-Maine first-team choice, remains one of the state’s more explosive scorers while the 6-6 Mattson is equally dominant defensively with Simmons, junior forward Percy Zentz and sophomore guard Caden Mattson providing plenty of support at both ends of the court.

“We’ve been steadily improving and coming out so intense,” said Carter. “I praised the kids the other day because we’ve been coming out and putting teams away.”

If anyone is to challenge the Eagles, it may be Fort Fairfield, which during the regular season was the best of a deep Class C contingent from Aroostook County and positioned to earn the second and final preliminary-round playoff berth in the division.

Coach Logan McLaughlin’s Tigers gave GSA a solid battle during last year’s Class C North final and has senior guard Isaac Cyr as a leading playmaker.

Central Aroostook of Mars Hill, with junior guard Ben Thomas leading the way, has made a successful transition up from Class D, while Fort Kent, Houlton and Madawaska are other County teams that entered the final week of regular-season play bound for at least preliminary-round action.

Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, Penobscot Valley of Howland and Piscataquis of Guilford have led the division’s central Maine contingent.

MA, led by playmaking guard Alex Brown, entered the final week of play with 11 victories after winning just once while in Class B last winter while coach Jeremy Durost’s PVHS club has been the hottest team in the region short of GSA and is led by junior forward Grant Kidon. PCHS, with 1,000-point scorer Bryce Gilbert spearheading the charge, similarly has moved up the crowded standings during the second half of its schedule.

Other contenders in what looks to be the deepest division in northern Maine include Lee Academy, Bucksport, Calais and Dexter, with Sumner of East Sullivan battling Hodgdon for the 14th and final playoff berth.

Woodland, which reached the Class C North quarterfinals a year ago, has rested atop the Class D standings for nearly the entire winter thanks to an experienced cast led by junior guard Drew Hayward and senior center Justin Worden, back after missing his junior year due to injury.

But a Jonesport-Beals club whose roster has more sophomores (six) than juniors and seniors combined (four), was pushing the Dragons for the top spot as the regular season concluded — an effort highlighted by the Royals’ 40-37 win at Woodland on Feb. 3.

Jonesport-Beals has gotten a boost recently from the return to the lineup of sophomore captain Ryan Alley, who spent most of the regular season sidelined by injury.

Katahdin of Stacyville and Greater Houlton Christian Academy look solid as the third and fourth seeds, followed by a dangerous Schenck of East Millinocket team that played 12 of its 18 regular-season games against Class C foes — and defending state champion Machias and its senior guard Jordan Grant, a new addition to the 1,000-point club.

One of those teams was likely to earn the fifth and final D North preliminary-round bye, which Schenck may end up securing thanks to its two regular-season victories over Machias.

Easton, Bangor Christian, Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook and Deer Isle-Stonington, which entered the final week with just three wins had one point-worthy victory over Jonesport-Beals, also are poised to join the postseason fray, with Shead of Eastport and Wisdom of Saint Agatha batting for the 11th and final spot.

In Class D South, the Greenville Lakers are attempting to win their second straight regional championship and look poised to enter the tournament as the top team in its division.

Coach Bill Foley’s club, which dropped its first two games of the winter, went into the final week of its schedule riding a 14-game winning streak since that slow start. The Lakers boast a veteran nucleus led by guard Nick Foley, center Devin Boone and forwards Connor DiAngelo and Evan Bjork, all seniors.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is 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...