Last Thursday’s decisive vote by the Maine Principals’ Association’s membership spawned a new era for the state’s high school basketball programs. Teams will be separated into five classes from the traditional four beginning this upcoming season. Whether you agree or disagree with the change in format, this modification will be in place for at least the next two years.
Some traditional rivalries will fall by the wayside, in terms of competing for championships. Games such as Bangor-Brewer, and Bangor-Hampden, will still likely take place during the regular season. With the new classification, Bangor’s tournament opponents will consist of schools from Lewiston southward. Brewer, in the newly structured Class ‘A’ will be paired up against some of the more traditional Eastern ‘A’ programs. Schools such as Nokomis, Waterville, and Gardiner, return to the fold after a sojourn in the B ranks.
The former Class ‘A’ has played a closed schedule for the past several years, meaning many neighboring schools did not compete against each other during the season. Waterville and Lawrence will meet for the first time on the hardwood in a countable game since 2005. The heyday of the rivalry came during the late 1980’s and early 90’s when both schools regularly contended for the regional title. Back then both regular season contests were played at Colby College to accommodate the large crowds.
Longtime rivals Cony and Gardiner will also battle it out for the first time since 2007.
In Class B, for the first time in their history, cross-town rivals Orono and Old Town will be competing in the same class. Since the Indians, who became Coyotes, moved to Class ‘B’ in 2008, the two schools have gone against each other in regular season tilts. The possibility now exists they could meet with much more at stake.
The three largest schools in Aroostook County, Presque Isle, Caribou, and Houlton, will compete in the same class for the first time since 1979-80 when they all played in Class A. Central High School rejoins the ‘B’ ranks for the first time since 2009. They will renew their acquaintances with Foxcroft Academy, only fifteen miles down Rt. 15.
In Class C, Calais and Woodland, who have played each other during the regular season, could now also square off in post-season play. Penobscot Valley, following a brief stint in Class D, reenters the C ranks and could face league rivals Penquis and Piscataquis when tourney time rolls around.
This coming week tournament officials will gather to decide what the new postseason format will look like. A number of questions still remain as to the nature of regular season schedules. Will the new structure eventually result in the dissolution of conferences as we know them? Previously, the Kennebec Valley Conference was divided into two classes with a fairly even number of schools in each class. With the new set-up the league now has four large schools, four small schools in Northern Maine with the rest of the league composed of schools in the new Northern ‘A’
In the Big East ‘B’ Conference, with the new classification, its membership has swelled from eight to thirteen schools. In a closed conference schedule, the possibility exists for each school would play six opponents twice and six once for an eighteen game schedule. If it were so simple. Factor in schools such as Foxcroft Academy, who will likely maintain contests with local rivals Dexter and Piscataquis Community. Washington Academy will probably continue to play county rivals Calais and Narraguagus. Add in the possibility of playing cross-over games versus the KVAC ‘B’ squads and scheduling could become quite involved.
Like all issues that have arisen the powers that be will work through them. Whether you are for or against this newest set-up, most teams will still play an eighteen game schedule next winter. The tourneys will still go on and most of us will still show up in support of winter’s grand pastime in Maine.