This weekend’s state championship games brought the curtain down on another exciting high school basketball season. Except for conference and state all-star contests to be played over the next week, those of us die hard fans have to wait until December to get our local hoop fix. So what was my most significant take away from this season that was? It was a concept I’ve known all along but yet was reaffirmed this weekend. There are many paths to securing the gold ball.
Many of us who have been involved with the game for decades have a preference on how the game should be played. Some have developed a formula for success, a recipe that if followed can lead to the holy grail of basketball achievement. The greatness of our game is based on its diversity of ideas. Think about it: if every team and every coached played with the same philosophy, the games would be significantly less interesting.
MDI, in winning their first state championship on Friday night, turned much of conventional wisdom on its collective ear. Many so-called experts have said you can only play seven to eight players consistently to maintain continuity. The Trojans used a ten to eleven man rotation throughout key moments of their title run. Using this many players was a great asset as they were able to wear down many an opponent throughout their contests.
While MDI did feature good size and length, they didn’t have a true back to the basket post player. They did have one attribute which makes anyone a tough out in a tournament situation: they played suffocating man to man defense.
Here are some other observations from state championship weekend:
– The first three gold balls were presented to newcomers to the winners circle. The Gray-New Gloucester girls, Vinalhaven girls, and MDI boys all captured their first gold balls in school history.
– The crowds for the class B, C, and D games in Augusta and Bangor were some of the largest I can remember. A long line snaked out into the parking lot at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center for the Class D session on Saturday afternoon. It was a testament to how much high school basketball still means in the smaller communities of Maine.
– Teams looking to unseat some of the regional and state champions from their lofty perches will have an arduous task next season. Girls Class C champion Monmouth returns their entire roster next season while the Vinalhaven girls return their starting five, graduating only one senior. The Greenville boys also had only one senior on their roster while returning their whole starting line-up. Class C state champion George Stevens Academy returns their top scorer in Taylor Schildroth and center Max Mattson. The Eagles return six of their first eight players. The Houlton girls are also poised to make another deep tourney run next year with the return of Kolleen Bouchard for her senior season.
– Great players shine during big moments when the stakes are highest. George Stevens’ Taylor Schildroth nailed consecutive three point baskets during the final two minutes of the game with his squad trailing by six. Jarrod Chase nailed three shots from beyond the arc in the final period, including the game winner between two defenders with 1.2 seconds remaining. Out of GSA’s 16 field goals, 10 were three-pointers.
Congratulations and thank you to all the teams for a great ride this season. As Hall of Fame coach Roger Reed has taught me, there are many ways to play this game and many of them are right. No truer words have been spoken.