High school basketball in the Midcoast — which includes Knox, Waldo and Lincoln counties — is as unified as ever.

Only four years removed from Oceanside of Rockland beginning the movement — and two years since Mount View of Thorndike joined the ranks — this season, unified basketball has five teams in the area as Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, Belfast and Camden Hills of Rockport have joined the court fray in what arguably has become the state’s most popular high school sport.

Unified basketball combines Special Olympics athletes and general student-athletes (partners) in 5-on-5 competition. The sport has been popular in the state for roughly a decade, but the sport became sanctioned by the Maine Principals’ Association at the start of the 2015 season.

Watch video and see more photos below.

The two most crucial components that make the game different from traditional basketball is there can be no more than two partners on the court at any given time with the Special Olympics Athletes, and the partners can account for no more than 25 percent of the team's total points. Teams also are only permitted to play half-court defense.

The sport has flourished the past few seasons. There were 18 teams statewide during the 2015 season. Now, the state’s numbers have swelled to more than 50 teams.

The Panthers and Lions are part of the MPA-sanctioned 2019 campaign, while the Windjammers technically are a club team, but play other teams in exhibition games.

Camden Hills athletic director — and unified coach — Steve Alex said he did not want to put pressure on the school if it did not have the numbers to support the team.

Now, with 19 players on the roster, he said he plans to have them “officially” in the fold next season.

“We were just kind of testing the waters this year just trying to get a feel for it and see how it would all work,” he said. “Next year we plan to have an MPA schedule.”

In the meantime, Alex said he plans to sign his team up for daylong unified basketball tournaments, which run throughout the state on various dates and sites throughout the season. He also hopes to get a few extra exhibition games on the schedule with Medomak Valley and Oceanside once the other winter sports season begin to wind down.

The Windjammer team has practiced three times a week, and without taxing the already slim amount of afterschool gymnasium time the school has available.

“One of the great things about it that makes it really conducive for the students is that we do it during a period at the end of the day called flex time,” Alex said. “It’s like an extended homeroom. And the kids basically can come after their fourth-period class to the gymnasium at 2:05 p.m. and then we practice right until the end of school.”

Alex said their first game against Belfast “was absolutely fantastic” and that “It was so much fun we actually put an extra five minutes on the clock in the second half because people wanted to play more.”

Medomak Valley unified basketball coach Tracie McLain went to a coach’s training school put on by Special Olympics Maine over the summer.

Initially, she thought starting a team two years from then would be a real possibility. However, “I left knowing it was something he had to start now.”

“It was so motivating to listen to the speakers and those that were already involved share stories of how partners and athletes came together to compete on the court,” she said. “I went to [athletic director Matt [Lash], and he and Principal Linda Pease were very supportive and willing to do whatever we needed to move forward with it.”

McLain said “things have gone great” through the first few games of the season and “the way they all get so excited for each other when they accomplish something, whether it be scoring a basket, securing a rebound, or playing solid defense, is very moving.”

“In the Belfast game, one of our athletes caught the ball, used a shot fake, and passed to a teammate who scored,” she said. “It is good stuff. I also love how everyone cheers for everyone.  Home fans cheer for the visiting team and vice-versa, even the student sections show enthusiasm for both teams, and that means a lot.”

“We talked about it for over a year,” said Belfast athletic director Terry Kenniston. “We really didn’t want to jump into it before we were ready. So this summer we decided it was something we wanted to move forward with.”

“The kids that are involved, especially the athletes, are tremendously excited,” he said. “Here’s an opportunity for them to play a sport that they really like and they haven’t had that opportunity for a long time in a lot of cases. And we’ve had a pretty good turnout.”

Kenniston said, “It’s been a great experience so far” and that “the kids all seem to understand the spirit of it.” He added he was impressed in some of the goodwill being displayed by some of his athletes in the team’s second game of the year at Mount View.

“One of our athletes actually rebounded the ball two or three times and turned around and gave it to a Mount View kid who was trying to score,” he said. “A lot of times you see the support kids doing that, but this was actually one of our athletes that said, ‘Hey, try it again!’ It’s really been a positive thing for us and for the school.”

Unified games typically begin earlier in the day — between 3 and 4 p.m. — and are often precursors to many of the freshman, junior varsity or varsity basketball games.

The following is a breakdown of games for local schools:

Belfast — At Oceanside, Feb. 1, 3:30 p.m.; versus Ellsworth, Feb. 7, 4 p.m.; at Medomak Valley, Feb. 8, 3:30 p.m.; at Mount Desert Island, Feb. 13, 3:30 p.m.; versus Oceanside, Feb. 14, 3:30 p.m.; and versus Mount View, Feb. 26, 3:30 p.m.

Oceanside — Versus Belfast, Feb. 1, 3:30 p.m.; at Bucksport, Feb. 5, 3:15 p.m.; versus Hampden/Bangor, Feb. 8, 3:30 p.m.; at Medomak Valley, Feb. 12, 3:30 p.m.; at Belfast, Feb. 14, 3:30 p.m.; and versus Bucksport, Feb. 28, 3:30 p.m.

Mount View — At Dexter, Feb. 1, 4 p.m.; at Bucksport, Feb. 7, 3:30 p.m.; at Mount Desert Island, Feb. 11, 3:30 p.m.; at Belfast, Feb. 26, 3:30 p.m.; and at Medomak Valley, Feb. 28, 4 p.m.

Medomak Valley — Versus Belfast, Feb. 8, 4 p.m.; versus Oceanside, Feb. 12, 3:30 p.m.; at Morse, Feb. 26, 3:30 p.m.; and versus Mount View, Feb. 28, 4 p.m.

Team members for Medomak Valley, coached by Tracie McLain, include Jaden Abruzese, Peter Alexander, Greyson Clark, Angel McKay, Tyler McKay, Von McLaughlin, Jacob Rinehart, Michael Severson, Natalie Shields, Cassandra Smeltzer, Baylee Stewart, Hattie Watmough and Leah Wilcox. Paul Smeltzer, Lydia Simmons and Kayla Donlin also coach.

Team members for Oceanside, coached by Joanna Hall, include Joumana Ben Salem, Aidan Bonzagni, Krista Butler, Haley Callahan, Thomas Coombs, Olivia Dougherty, Erica Dyer, Elaina Emerson, Justin Hunt, Ryan Morse, Kaytlyn Pierce, Caleb Powell, Byron Radley, Angel Seiders, Uriah Thongsophaphone, Ryan Warren and Dylan Whitamore. The Mariner spirit squad also includes Julia Bartlett, Lindsey Brooks, Jackie Daggett, Jacqueline Hall, Lainie Hooper, Mattie Hooper, Justin Hunt, Lydia Laslavic, Valerie Lorleberg, Lexie McMahan and Nina Waldron. Colleen Rickard, Julia Clough and Sadie Street also coach.

Team members for Mount View, coached by Ron Simmons, include Diesel Bryant, Nick Elkins, Austin Grotton, Tamika Henry, Logan Irvine, Emily Kendall, Jen Littlefield, Ricky Nelson, Brendan Savoy, Justice Savoy and Morgan Taylor.

Team members for Belfast include Airy Berry, Jenna Brassbridge, Josh Chun, Mercedes Curtis, Gia Davila, Isabella Degraff, Jordan Drinkwater, Kaitlyn Elliott, Hailey Emerick, Toby Jones, Tiger Lee, Hunter Marish, Nate McGovern, Mykaila Willard, Rico Washington and Sara McIntire.

Team members for Camden Hills, coached by Steve Alex, include Alexandra Southworth, Alexia Cazemajou, Ashley Jacobs, Blaine Cook, Chelsea Field, Deven Short, Ethan Ford, Francis Ostensen, Jerrid Farwell, Joseph Coffey, Josh Henning, Kenny Magivney, Lauryn Keating, Lexi Heidorn, Lincoln Pierce, Nick Braun, Samuel Brownawell, Samuel Moody and Tom Roberts.

Coaches can report results to Courier Publications/VillageSoup by emailing game information or by sending photos, taken by a smartphone, of the home and away books, to sports@courierpublicationsllc.com. Results also can be reported by calling 594-4401, extension 116.

The following is a recap of reported results from area teams throughout the start of the campaign:

Oceanside 55, Mount View 53

At Thorndike Jan. 24, the Mariners headed into the Mustangs’ pen and netted a two-point victory.

Warren scored 13 points for the winners, while Morse and Radley added eight; Pierce, Seiders and Emerson, six; Callahan, four; and Coombs and Whitamore, two.

Elkins led Mount View with 22 points, while Grotton added 19; Savoy, six; Irvine, four; and Justice Savoy, two.

Oceanside 44, Medomak Valley 40

At Rockland Jan. 22, the Mariners emerged with a four-point win.

Warren led Oceanside with 15 points, while Angel Seiders added eight; Byron Radley, six; Pierce, five; Emerson and Callahan, four; and Morse, two.

Angel McKay scored 18 points for Medomak Valley, while Tyler McKay added 16 and Severson six.

Medomak Valley 34, Belfast 31

At Belfast Jan. 25, the Panthers prowled to a three-point win over the Lions.

Angel McKay scored 20 points for Medomak Valley, while Tyler McKay added 12 and Severson two.

McGovern scored 11 points for Belfast, while Grotton and Berry added six; Lee, four; and Jones and Washington two.

Mount View 66, Brewer 57

At Thorndike Jan. 31, the Mustangs upended the Witches.

Elkins led Mount View with 16 points, while Brendan Savoy added 14; Grotton, 13; Justice Savoy, 12; Kendall, four; and Nelson, two.

Calvin Taylor scored 17 points for Brewer, while Sydney MacDonald and Julianna Briggs added eight; Keenan MacDonald, six; Gene Turner, Amanda Tracy and David Sites, four; and C.J. Horr and Jimmy Nile, two.