This is the most competitive division in Maine high school basketball

By Larry Mahoney, Bangor Daily News Staff

The Class C North schoolgirl basketball race has plenty of contenders.

In fact, it is the only division among the 10 boys’ and 10 girls’ classes across the state that has five teams with one or fewer losses.

Dexter, the defending C North championship, is 7-1. Its regional rivals Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln and Penobscot Valley of Howland are 9-1 and 8-1, respectively. The other two one-loss teams are Hodgdon and Machias, which was previously in Class D, at both 8-1.

Mattanawcook Academy, Dexter and PVHS play each other twice, and round one is in the books, with each of the three being 1-1. PVHS beat Mattanawcook 66-55, Mattanawcook edged Dexter 39-38 and Dexter topped PVHS 39-34.

Bangor Daily News file photo/Kim Higgins
TOP TEAMS — Dexter’s Mazie Peach looks to score on Penobscot Valley defender Lila Cummings during the 2023 Class C North championship at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The two teams are again among the best in C North this season.

“Every matchup between the three of us is different,” said Mattanawcook Academy coach Pat House. “We have a unique advantage against Dexter because we’re the only team that can match their height. Penobscot Valley has a unique advantage against us because they constantly pressure us.”

The tight competition is bound to lead to an exciting C North tournament come February, with the regional crown seemingly up for grabs among at least five teams. Dexter beat Penobscot Valley 34-27 in the C North championship game a year ago, while Mattanawcook Academy lost to Central of Corinth 44-43 in the quarterfinals. 

Old Orchard Beach beat Dexter in the state final 35-24.

House said one thing all three teams have in common is the desire to defend. 

“And that always makes for good, competitive basketball,” he said.

Jody Grant’s Dexter teams have always stressed defense and his current team is giving up just 26.1 points per game. The 39 scored by Mattanawcook is the most given up by the Tigers this season.

PVHS is surrendering 28 points per game and Mattanawcook is allowing 33.9 ppg.

PVHS coach Nate Case said it is “crazy what’s happening right now” with the parity in the division and he feels his team, Dexter and Mattanawcook Academy would be competitive even in Class B.

“I think we could definitely hang with them,” said Case, while acknowledging that defending Class B state champ Ellsworth and Old Town would provide stiff challenges.

Grant said it is a “very competitive” class. 

His team was in position to beat Mattanawcook Academy but Addison Cyr scored off her offensive rebound at the buzzer to win it for the Lynx.

Grant’s Tigers have four seasoned starters back including 6-foot-2 center Mazie Peach, the Most Valuable Player of the C North tourney a year ago.

Grant said she is averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds a game.

Guards Cally Gudroe and Abby Corson are having productive seasons with Gudroe good for 10 points a game and Corson doing a top-notch job running the offense as the point guard, according to Grant. 

Three-year starter Hanna Dean has been providing Dexter with another effective post presence and Grant said sophomore guard Desiree Adams has played great defense and chipped in assists, steals and 3-4 points per game.

“We’ve been a little bit up and down,” Grant said. “There’s always room for improvement.”

Case said 5-foot-11 junior guard Ellie Austin is having a tremendous season, averaging 19 points, 12 rebounds, six steals and six assists per game. 

Point guard Rylee Moulton is averaging 17 points and six steals per game, Case said.

Forward Lila Cummings is capable of scoring in double figures on a regular basis and the Howlers have been bolstered by the return of 5-11 forward Mia Neal, who missed last season due to a knee injury.

Case said Neal struggled early this season but is starting to play up to her potential.

Freshman Brooklynn Raymond was the team’s leading scorer in one game.

House’s leading scorers are a pair of sophomores, Cyr (17 ppg) and his daughter, Megan House (16 ppg).

Lauren House, his senior daughter, is the team’s zone-buster as she is shooting 37 percent beyond the 3-point arc. She is the team’s point guard.

The 6-foot-1 Cyr and 6-foot-2 Kaitlin Thornton supply the Lynx with a formidable inside presence. Navenah De La Cruz is the shooting guard.

“Our perimeter attack has been our biggest area of improvement,” House said.

Hodgdon has been having an impressive season thanks to prolific scorer and difference-maker Anna Oliver. Aleyah Matheson has complemented her nicely.

Hodgdon has a pair of noteworthy wins over an athletic Fort Kent team that is 7-3. 

Its only loss was to defending two-time state Class D champ Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook, 65-53.

Machias has made a smooth transition to C from Class D.

Machias was 15-3 a year ago and the third seed for the Class D North tournament, where it was upset in the quarterfinals by sixth seed East Grand of Danforth, 45-27.

The Bulldogs have been led by Kristin Grant, Layla Wright and Maleah Rhodes and the only blemish on their record is a 59-46 loss to Woodland that snapped their 11-game home winning streak. Machias had beaten Woodland earlier this season, 47-36.

Dexter will visit Penobscot Valley on Jan. 19, Mattanawcook will travel to Dexter for a Jan. 22 showdown and Mattanawcook Academy will go to Penobscot Valley for a season finale on Feb. 7.

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