At the outset of the high school basketball season, defending Class B North champ Hermon and Penobscot County neighbor and rival Old Town were the favorites to reach the regional final.
And that has come to fruition.
The 20-1 Old Town Coyotes and 18-2 Hermon Hawks split during the regular season, each posting impressive road wins, and they will decide the regional championship on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Old Town will bring a 14-game winning streak into the contest with Hermon while the Hawks have won 16 of their last 17.
All the North girls regional championship games except Class C will be held on Saturday. Due to Friday’s snowstorm, the Class C semifinals were pushed to Saturday with the title game on Monday at 6 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
The Class C North semifinals will pit No. 3 Penobscot Valley of Howland, 16-3, against No. 7 Dexter, 12-6, at 4:30 p.m. with top seed Stearns of Millinocket, 14-3, taking on No. 5 Hodgdon, 16-3, at 6 p.m.
The Class AA North final will feature defending two-time state champ and No. 1 seed Oxford Hills from South Paris, 18-2, against No. 2 Cheverus of Portland, 16-3, at 2 p.m. in Portland on Saturday.
The Class A North championship game between No. 1 Skowhegan, 20-0, and No. 3 Lawrence of Fairfield, 17-3, will be played at 7 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.
And the Class D North final will be at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor at 9 a.m. with defending three-time regional champ and top seed Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook, 20-0, tangling with No. 2 Wisdom of St. Agatha, 17-1.
Hermon and Old Town have each ended the other’s seasons the past two years.
Two years ago, Hermon ousted Old Town in the semifinals but the Coyotes returned the favor a year ago when they met in the COVID-19 Class B pod final.
“I know a lot of people talked about us and Old Town being one-two at the beginning of the season and I’m glad we both made it through,” said Hermon coach Chris Cameron. “We’re excited to play. It will be competitive. It will be a good game.”
Hermon senior forward Meg Tracy, part of the imposing frontcourt trio along with Elizabeth Wyman and Maddie Lebel, will play after injuring her knee and ankle in a 42-32 semifinal win over Mount Desert Island.
“She won’t be 100 percent but she will play,” Cameron said.
Cameron said he feels his team matches up well with Old Town even though they have somewhat contrasting styles.
“They’re an outside-first team [for scoring] and we’re more of an inside-first team,” explained Cameron.
“They have good guards and we have good guards. They have good bigs and we have good bigs,” Cameron said.
Cameron said his team’s perimeter defense will be a key to the game.
“The Emerson sisters [Maddie and Makayla] combined for 25 points when they beat us and we held them to four when we beat them,” Cameron said.
Old Town beat Hermon 52-41 on Dec. 16 but Hermon triumphed 38-28 on Jan. 11.
Old Town sophomore forward Saige Evans, who averaged 15.1 points and 8.5 rebounds during the regular season, was the Big East Player of the Year and senior guard Maddie Emerson (11.8 points per game) joined her on the all-league first team along with Hermon senior forward Lebel (14.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.8 assists, 2.4 steals).
Wyman was a second team selection and enters the contest off a 21-point, 9-rebound performance in a semifinal win over Mount Desert Island.
The Class D final pits two Aroostook County schools that did not face each other during the regular season.
Madison Russell, who reached the 1,000-point plateau in the semifinal win over Schenck of East Millinocket, and Cami Shields are Southern Aroostook’s catalysts while Olivia Ouellette and Lilly Roy are the difference-makers for Wisdom.
Shields had 24 points against Schenck and Russell had 10 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Roy’s 21 points and 10 rebounds and Ouellette’s 14 points and 14 rebounds led Wisdom past Machias in the semis and point guard Abbie Lerman added 17 points.
Lerman and the Pioneers are going to have to find a way to handle Southern Aroostook’s relentless full-court press which provides the Warriors with tons of easy transition points.
Two of the state’s premier guards in Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher and Lawrence’s Hope Bouchard will square off in the A North final. Skowhegan won both regular season games, 70-31 and 50-35.
Oxford Hills, led by Class AA North Player of the Year and league scoring leader Sierra Carson (19.3 ppg) along with the conference’s No. 3 rebounder in Ella Pelletier (9.5 rpg), will face a Cheverus team featuring AA North’s top rebounder in Emma Lizotte (10.4 rpg) and third-leading scorer in Madison Fitzpatrick (18.3 ppg).
They split regular season games.