The last two winters have seen the Brewer boys basketball team at its best at the most important time of the season.
But two years ago the Witches were outlasted in the final seconds of their Class A North semifinal by Hampden Academy, which went on to win the 2020 state championship.
Then last winter, coach Ben Goodwin’s club went 14-2 and had to settle for winning the Big East Conference AA-A-B pod championships to cap off a schedule limited geographically by COVID-19.
“This group has a lot of confidence in themselves,” Goodwin said. “They came through the COVID situation real well, they handled themselves well and we did the best we could with what we had. We had a tough loss to Hampden the year before that but they came back. They’re always fighting.”
Brewer’s primary competition for regional supremacy is different again this year. Hampden is now in Class AA, but in the Broncos’ stead are talented teams from Nokomis of Newport and Skowhegan.
Nokomis, which is seeking the school’s first regional or state championship in boys basketball, is armed with three notable freshmen led by rangy twins Cooper and Ace Flagg to go with a veteran returning cast that includes junior forward Madden White and senior forward Hunter Flagg, the twins’ older brother.
Skowhegan features a formidable front line with 6-foot-6 junior Adam Savage flanked by another set of twins, 6-5 juniors Kyle and Colin LePage.
So while Brewer still boasts four key players from its recent run of contention, the Witches were relegated to third place in the recent Class A North preseason coaches poll behind first-place Nokomis and Skowhegan.
“We do have some tough teams in our league with Nokomis and Skowhegan but I don’t think you can count us out,” said Goodwin, whose program is seeking its first regional title since 1988. “They’ve put in a lot of time and work to put themselves in a good position, and I’m excited to see what they can do.”
Brewer is led by the fourth-year starting backcourt of Aaron Newcomb and Colby Smith, who team with junior forwards Brady Saunders and Ryder Goodwin. Those veterans are likely to be joined in the lineup by junior forward Brock Flagg.
“What makes them good is they really enjoy playing with each other,” coach Goodwin said. “They play with a lot of passion and they play for each other. You don’t always get that with teams, but this team has that so it should be exciting.”
Skowhegan, which last won a state crown in 1997, also has been on a steady ascent in the last two years, including a 12-3 record last winter as the River Hawks’ three big men teamed with senior guards Levi Obert and Payson Washburn.
Coach Tom Nadeau’s club returns all but one player from a year ago.
Other teams to watch in the 10-school Class A North ranks are Cony of Augusta, Camden Hills of Rockport and Gardiner. All three have players to watch: Cony with senior forward Luke Bridges and junior guard Kam Douin, Camden Hills with 6-4 senior forward Ryan Clifford and Gardiner with 6-8 junior center Kalvin Catchings.