With so many entertainment options at ones disposal interest in the local high school basketball scene is waning. That’s the conventional thought, anyway. And there is some probably some truth to that notion. There were many games I attended over the winter in which attendance was quite sparse.
Over the past week, fans from rivaling communities came out in droves to support their local squads in regular season finales. Of course, these were not your ordinary end of season contests. These match-ups featured adversaries from a short distance, all of which are enjoying outstanding seasons.
The much anticipated Hampden-Brewer game sold out approximately two hours after tickets went on sale a week prior to Thursday night’s tilt. Orono held their ticket presale on Saturday morning at 9:30 prior to their Wednesday match-up with neighboring Old Town. Tickets for that game were gone by 11:15. MDI in the larger Barnard Parady Gymnasium played before a huge crowd in their regular season finale against bitter rival Ellsworth.
Go forward, wouldn’t a two day basketball extravaganza at the Cross Insurance Center be nice? Take one or two Saturdays where there is nothing else scheduled and have a basketball jamboree of sorts. Officials from various schools could collaborate once it becomes apparent which games would create the most interest. Imagine what a six game day of Brewer-Hampden, Old Town-Orono, and MDI-Ellsworth could draw for attendance. The schools could split the costs and the proceeds from the games. I’m guessing Brewer, whose gym seats about 850, could have sold at least another thousand or more tickets. Multiply that by four or five dollars a person and the revenues generated would more than offset the costs.
Speaking of Hampden-Brewer, the rivals will meet again. No, I’m not projecting a possible regional finals showdown. I’m talking about the KVAC Championship game. Other conferences around the state will also be staging “championship” games over the next few days. Both the Hampden and Brewer boys will board buses and head on down Interstate 95 to Augusta when they take the floor Saturday afternoon at Cony High School. I’m guessing there won’t be the hype surrounding this game as there was the other night in Brewer. Just a hunch.
Basically, these two neighboring schools each have to make a 150 mile round trip to play what in essence is a glorified exhibition game. Since Northern A consists entirely of KVAC schools, isn’t the winner of the Northern Maine championship by default the KVAC champion? Most teams at this point would rather not play an opponent they could see later on in two weeks. At least if conferences are going to hold these contests, they should be played on a 94 foot floor to give teams an opportunity to become acclimated to tournament conditions. If not, perhaps it’s time to put an end to these conference championship tilts.
Officials at the Augusta tournament site are likely holding their collective breaths hoping for good weather beginning Wednesday night through the following Saturday. While basketballs will be bouncing almost non-stop in Bangor and Portland, the Augusta Civic Center will be hosting the Southern C and D, Northern A, and new this year the Northern AA tournaments. Over ten days, 52 basketball games will be contested in the Capitol City, beginning with the Northern AA girls quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
With the addition of the new class AA, the Maine Principals’ Association seemed fixated with fitting everything into school vacation week. Prior to 2006, Class A began tournament play the weekend of the B, C, and D state championships. According to some MPA officials, in the past the A schools wanted to be a part of the February tourney week tradition. Of course, any system in going to have its pluses and minuses but there was no question the larger schools enjoyed better exposure with a separated tournament than over the last ten years.
I propose starting the AA tournament after the state titles are concluded in the other four classes. The regular season would conclude on the Thursday prior to the state championship games. Play the quarterfinals on the higher seeded team’s home court on Tuesday. Why at the higher seeded team’s home court? Since only six teams qualify for the AA tournament, in Northern Maine is it fair for a team to sit out while a lower seeded team gets to play a game at the Augusta Civic Center? Semifinals for each gender could be played that Thursday and Friday with regional championships on Saturday. State championship games would be played the following Saturday.
Finally, a shout out goes to the Highview Christian girls basketball team. The Lady Knights of Charleston became the first basketball team from the school to qualify for postseason play. They are seeded fifth in the Southern Maine tournament with a 12-6 record. They will take on fourth seeded Temple Academy of Waterville on Tuesday, February 16th at 8:30 A.M. at the Augusta Civic Center.