A star junior guard, a state champion and Mr. Maine Basketball headline the 67th Bangor Daily News All-Maine Schoolboy basketball squads.
Ellsworth guard Chance Mercier, Brewer wing Brady Saunders, and Thornton Academy guard and Mr. Maine Basketball winner Will Davies led their respective teams through the season and deep into the playoffs, with Saunders and the Brewer Witches winning the Class A state title.
All three are All-Maine first-team selections, along with Cheverus guard Silvano Ismail and Winslow forward Jason Reynolds.
The second team features Oxford Hills senior guard Cole Pulkkinen and junior forward Teigan Pelletier, as well as two-time state champion forward Charlie Houghton of Dirigo, back-to-back Class AA champion guard Jaelen Jackson of South Portland and Lewiston guard Yusuf Dakane.
The third team includes Forest Hills guard Mason Desjardins, Falmouth wing Judd Armstrong, Brewer’s do-it-all guard Brock Flagg, Orono guard Pierce Walston and Bonny Eagle center Elliot Bouchard.
Saunders took over the leadership role this season for the Witches and took his game to the next level, too. He averaged 24 points, 4 assists and 6 rebounds per game while also guarding the opposing team’s best player night in and night out.
Brewer’s lone loss came at home against Skowhegan at the end of the regular season. When the two teams rematched in the Class A North final, Saunders scored a game-high 28 points in a 70-33 win.
“Every year he’s improved and this year he took on an alpha dog role that the team needed,” Hampden boys basketball coach Russ Bartlett said. “He was taking shots they needed, he’s a great shooter and found multiple ways to affect the game.”
Saunders led Brewer to its first Class A state championship, a 42-41 last-second victory over Falmouth. The senior was named the KVAC player of the year and was a Mr. Maine Basketball finalist.
Saunders will play basketball at the University of Southern Maine next year.
Mercier became one of the best scorers in Maine as Ellsworth reached the Class B North regional final.
Mercier scored 27 points on 10-for-25 shooting in that game, but he was consistently double teamed by Orono opponents. Over the course of the season, Mercier averaged 27.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
“He worked so hard but made it look so effortless, which makes it hard to defend,” Presque Isle coach Dillon Kingsbury said. “I think the difference between a good and a great player is how much better he makes the players around him, and Chance makes his teammates so much better around him and a lot of that credit goes to what type of player he is.”
The star junior reached the 1,000-point threshold this season and led his team in points, assists, rebounds and steals.
Davies won the two biggest individual basketball awards this season, Mr. Maine Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year. Averaging 20.4 points, 6.9 assists and 6.9 rebounds a game, the senior helped the Trojans to an appearance in the AA South regional finals.
The offense ran through Davies at Thornton Academy.
“When it comes to basketball, Will was just a complete player,” South Portland head coach Kevin Millington said. “If Will was 4 or 5 inches taller, we’d talk about him the same as Cooper Flagg. His court awareness is second to none and he delivers passes when they should be delivered. Will can shoot the three, is a leader and did everything for them.”
Ismail blossomed this season at Cheverus, scoring 25.6 points, grabbing 7.4 rebounds and dishing out 2.6 assists per game in leading the Stags to the AA North semifinals.
“I thought from our season’s perspective, he was the most difficult guy to guard,” Bartlett said of Ismail. “The thing about him is we tried multiple things defensively that were ineffective and he found things around them.”
Offensively, Ismail, who hasn’t announced his plans for college, was the orchestrator. Defensively, he made life harder on the opposing team.
“His defense was the difference,” said Bartlett, who added that Ismail did a great job defending Hampden’s top scorer, Zach McLaughlin.
Reynolds put up incredible numbers this season for Winslow and earned the B North squad the second seed with a 17-1 record in the regular season.
The 6-foot-5 senior forward scored 28.8 points, 15.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Reynolds shot 41.2 percent from the 3-point line and made a total of 53 on the season.
“We knew Jason was good but didn’t realize how good he was,” Kingsbury said of Reynolds, as Presque Isle played Winslow in their season opening contest. “The first game he put up 39 points and I first asked if he was really good or if we were bad. Then he rattled 30s in the next five games.”
Reynolds scored 1,428 points over his career and became the school’s all-time leader.
“I’ve played against tough players and he’s right up there in toughest players I’ve coached against,” Kingsbury added.
Jackson is a two-time state champion point guard for South Portland. Last year, the Red Riots had stars Owen Maloney and J.P. Estrella on the team, which maybe took some shine away from Jackson.
This season, the 5-foot-11 guard put up 18 points, 5 assists and 6.5 rebounds per game while leading South Portland to a Class AA title over Portland. In the title game, Jackson scored 12 points, grabbed two steals and five rebounds.
“He’s great with the ball with his hands, sees the court really well and is a true point guard,” Bonny Eagle boys basketball coach John Trull said. “Against us he hit a game-winning 3-pointer. He’s clutch and confident, which is his best attribute, and he’s a guy you want on your team.”
Houghton also won back-to-back Class C state championships to end his high school career. The 6-foot-4 forward for Dirigo averaged a double-double this season with 19 points and 10 rebounds per game, adding in 6 assists per game, as well.
“He can score in the post, hit the mid-range, shoots the three, hits free throws, handles the ball well, he does it all,” St. Dom’s boys basketball coach Josh LaPrell said. “And at his size, which is even more awesome to watch, he has handles like a guard, posts like a big and makes his teammates better.”
Houghton scored 1,390 points and grabbed more than 800 rebounds for Dirigo. He will continue his basketball career next year at Southern Maine Community College.
Dakane had a breakout junior year for the Lewiston Blue Devils. The 5-foot-10 guard averaged 23 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 steals per game and helped Lewiston to the Class AA North semifinals. Next year, Dakane will play at Pomfret School in Pomfret, Connecticut.
“He was a nightmare to guard and what we had to do was make sure he couldn’t get to the paint,” Oxford Hills coach Scott Graffam said. “The thing you can’t account for is his ability to steal and get in transition. He was really good in transition and you couldn’t defend that.”
Pulkkinen also had a big year this season, coming into his own while being the point guard for the Vikings, who lost in the Class AA North final.
The 6-foot guard averaged 16 points per game while tacking on 3 rebounds and 3 assists a game, as well. Pulkkinen will join Houghton at SMCC next year.
“I thought he was just a great point guard,” Edward Little coach Mike Adams said. “He didn’t force as much offensively and just involved his teammates well. I thought he was better offensively this year. He took better shots and made his teammates better.”
Pelletier was one of the top juniors in Maine this season, averaging 17.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 guard will play at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, next year.
“His athleticism is great, he’s a tall player and can go inside and out and he can get to the basket,” Lewiston head coach Elgin Physic said. “Then of course, you cover that and he can pass out and he’s also a good rebounder. You have to keep him off the boards because that’s where he really kills you.”
Desjardins helped his team to a runner-up finish in Class D while averaging 23.8 points, 4.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game to cap off his prolific career for Forest Hills. The 5-foot-11 senior guard hasn’t made a post-high school decision yet.
Desjardins can score from seemingly anywhere on the court and was the main focus for defenses.
“One time Mason took a shot 27 feet away and made it and one of my players looked over and asked, ‘What am I supposed to do?’” Seacoast Christian boys basketball head coach Lee Petrie said. “He knows what we’re doing while we’re rotating. For him to pick it up as it’s going on, he picked us apart.”
Walston was the ringleader for the Class B state champion Orono Red Riots this season. The junior 6-foot guard did everything this season, averaging 17.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists.
“He’s tough because he’s a great scorer and is a floor general,” Kingsbury said of Walston. “He sees the floor so well, gets teammates involved. It isn’t like if the ball is in his hands then he’s going to shoot it. He can put it on the floor, pull up, dish, and if he’s in the open court you’re in trouble.”
Walston was also the emotional leader for the Red Riots, pumping up his team and the crowd after every big play on Orono’s tournament run. Walston scored 12 points in the state championship game over Oceanside.
Armstrong blossomed this season and was a big part of the reason the Navigators reached yet another Class A state title game, putting up a stat line of 18 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists per game.
“Judd’s really good,” Millington said. “He’s one of the few three-level scorers in Maine. He shoots well, gets to the rim and plays above the rim. He takes and makes mid-range jumpers, too.”
Defensively, he is a weapon. The senior had the assignment of guarding Saunders in the Class A state final against Brewer and Armstrong held Saunders to one of his lowest-scoring games.
Brock Flagg isn’t the tallest player on the court, but the 6-foot-1 guard/forward grabbed 7.3 rebounds per game while adding 13.5 points and 4 assists per contest.
The do-it-all senior for Brewer was crucial in the Witches’ title run this winter.
“When you see Brock step on the floor he’s not imposing but at the end he’s gonna have 15 points and is a great rebounder for his size and has great instincts,” Bartlett said.
Bouchard was one of the most physically imposing players in Maine this year.
The 6-foot-8 Bonny Eagle senior center averaged 14 points and 13.5 boards per game while shooting 34.1 percent from beyond the arc. On defense he averaged 4.2 blocks and was a focal point for coaches preparing for the Scots.
“I am not saying we wanted to play Thornton Academy in the [Class AA South] final, but we were nervous about Bonny Eagle because when he’s around the basket you can’t get good looks,” Millington said of Bouchard. “He was an equalizer, you couldn’t get anything around the basket.”