42 games over eight days. Many of those contests will be soon forgotten by many, except of course by those who participated in those battles. State championship games will be played next weekend but for all intents and purposes many of us find ourselves facing a crashing jolt back to reality. For those of us who attended every game at the Cross Insurance Center, nothing else in the world mattered.
Of course the major story this year is the tournament’s new home, the Cross Insurance Center. What would the atmosphere be like, would it still have the intimate feel of the venerable barn on Dutton Street? Admittedly, I was optimistic but had a few reservations myself. Yes it was different but by all accounts it was grand. As for the atmosphere, all one had to do was take in the afternoon session on Saturday for the Class B regional championships. The building was electric with excitement, from the bands, who I’ll get to in a moment, to the fans of the teams involved, it was as good a championship game experience as I’ve seen.
As far as the building itself, the concourse area provided ample room to move around and there were plenty of available restrooms. The seating is nearly as close to the floor as in the Bangor Auditorium, in fact there are probably more good seats in the CIC than in the building referred to as the Mecca. One aspect I do miss about the old place are the large banners that each school would hang along the railings separating the bleachers from the upper levels. There isn’t the large expanse of space to do this in the CIC.
Now onto the games themselves. The basketball was as competitive as any tournament I’ve witnessed. Six contests throughout the week went into overtime, there were 14 others decided by single digits. Only seven games were decided by twenty points or more, with three of those involving the Washburn girls, who might be top to bottom the most athletic class D girls team ever.
Many tournament records fell throughout the week. Individually, Parise Rossignol connected on 34 field goal attempts throughout the week, eclipsing the mark of 32 set in 1996 by Jan Beal of Jonesport-Beals. In Van Buren’s quarterfinal victory over Limestone\MSSM she tied Tricia Carver’s 43 points scored in 1996 for Jonesport-Beals. She also set a new class D record for most points scored in a regional tournament with 89, surpassing the mark of 82 set in 1996 by Jan Beal and then tied in 2000 by Tricia Carver.
As for team totals, the Presque Isle girls scored 11 three-point field goals in their Eastern Maine final loss to MDI, which snapped the Wildcats’ 64 game win streak. Ironically, this year’s contingent broke their 2013 record when they connected for 10 three point goals in their quarterfinal victory over Ellsworth. The Mattanawcook Academy girls set a tourney record connecting for 28-33 free throw attempts in their quarterfinal victory over Narraguagus, breaking the 1980 record of 25 by Searsport.
Speaking of tournament records, how about what the three-time defending state champion Washburn girls have done for an encore thus far? All the Lady Beavers did in this year’s extravaganza was set a new mark for total field goals scored in a tournament with 88. They also tied their record from last year’s squad and also 1998 Shead for most 3-point goals in a tournament with 14. In addition, Washburn now holds the mark for most points scored in a regional D tournament with 232, clipping the 2002 Woodland mark of 231.
Here are some other thoughts from this year’s tournament as we get ready for next weekend’s state title tilts:
The Bangor Christian-Easton boys quarterfinal might have set a record for the youngest combined ages of two coaches in a tournament. Dillon Kingsbury at 21 actually has more varsity coaching experience than his counterpart, the Patriots’ John McAllian, three years his senior at 24, in his inaugural season. Both had their clubs as prepared as any veteran coach and have bright futures ahead in the profession.
How about the performances turned in by Hermon’s Tyler Thayer and Penquis’ Trevor Lyford in their teams quarterfinal wins over Oceanside and Washington Academy, respectively? Thayer rallied his team from down seven with 1:30 left in regulation and hit clutch shot after clutch shot to send the game into overtime, leaving everything he had on the floor. Thayer ended the contest with a 40 point output. Against Washington Academy, Trevor Lyford practically willed his team to victory with his 39 point effort in their double overtime victory. He scored seventeen of those in the two overtime periods, including an epic three-pointer to close out the first OT. On top of that, and most importantly, you couldn’t ask for two better people to represent their programs. They play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, they play all-out all the time on both ends of the floor and do so with such class.
How strange was it to see the Stearns and Schenck girls face each other in the quarterfinals of the Class D tournament? Not to age myself but when I was in high school Stearns competed in class A which Schenck had just moved from class B to C. This was their first ever meeting in a tournament game.
Youth was served throughout this year’s tournament. No freshman shined more than Ellsworth’s point guard Bryce Harmon. In their upset win over Camden Hills, Harmon scored 20 points including a 14-15 effort from the foul line, many of which came in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
There are always the unsung players in the tournament, those who leave their mark yet may not make an all-tourney ballot but whose impact is felt. One such player is Hermon’s Joe Plummer. The 6’1″ junior did yeoman’s work on the boards, while also contributing nine points in the Hawks’ quarterfinal victory over Oceanside.
Vying for top game of the tournament was the quarterfinal match-up between Caribou and Winslow. In the back and forth battle of whatever you can do I can do better, Donovan Savage calmly sank two free throws with seconds remaining to lift the Vikings to the 63-61 victory. This was following a missed front end of a one-and-one about a minute earlier. Great shooters have to have a short memory and he did.
Staying with Class ‘B’, the Old Town Coyotes captured their first regional crown since 1991, when they were playing in Class ‘A’. The Big East Conference was assured of taking the regional crown after a thirteen stranglehold by KVAC teams following the first weekend of play when four Big East teams advanced to the semifinals. On the girls side, the Big East scored both finalist and three of four semifinalists.
How appropriate was it for veteran official John Shoppe to officiate the first and last tournament games this year? You may remember Shoppe’s tournament was cut short last year on opening night when he experienced symptoms of a heart attack during his game. Fortunately, he received quick medical treatment and has made a full recovery. It was great to see him back on the floor doing what he loves.
Many media outlets do a great job covering the tournament every year. Veteran announcer Ken Holck of WHOU out of Houlton hit a milestone on championship Saturday by calling his 1000th game. The Houlton station broadcasted every quarterfinal game and did the remaining games which involved Aroostook County teams.
While the media does a great job covering the games either by radio, TV, or online video streaming, to truly experience tournament week you have to be there. The games are only part of the story. It’s the other sights, sounds, and people you come in contact with that really makes the week come alive.
Speaking of people, I had the good fortune to visit with Winslow assistant boys coach Jim Poulin prior to their quarterfinal game against Caribou. Very few people I have encountered in this world have had as much impact in the lives of kids as Jim Poulin. Many of you probably know of his nearly twenty battle with MS and the way he so triumphantly overcomes. You cannot spend even just a few minutes with this man and not leave feeling warm and just positive about life.
Between sessions, I also had the chance to catch up with veteran coaches Roger Reed and Bill Casavant. Casavant’s Caribou team bested Reed’s Hermon club, where both men assist their sons on the bench. Just to stand there and listen to these two giants of the game talk basketball would have made the week complete in and of itself.
Then there are the sights and sounds of the tournament. How about the Houlton cheerleaders and others line dancing to a number done by the band? What about the amazing rendition of Kansas’ Carry on my Wayward Son by the combined Presque Isle and MDI bands before their Eastern Maine final game?
As for my favorite tournament tradition that was continued this week: you’ll just have to wait until next time!