Mid-February for some means a trip to Florida. But for many in eastern and central Maine, it means one thing...Tourney Time!
The high school basketball kicks off with play-in round games on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the “real” tournament beginning on Friday in Bangor, Augusta, and Portland. Here are a few things to watch out for.
Class A and AA - On the boys' side, the Bangor Rams are back. They go in #1 in “Northern Maine” AA. It’s in quotes because, well you know. It should just be one AA class, but my words don’t carry a ton of weight unless you live in my house, where they carry no weight. In A North, Hampden is still a power at #2 and Brewer had a great, late-season surge and go in #6. Not to be outdone, the Bangor Girls went #3 and the Hampden girls go #2. Not too shabby for the area.
Remember, the AA North tourney is in the booming northern Maine metropolis of Portland. The A North tourney is in Augusta. As Coach Bill says, “It is what it is”. Neither of these classes have play-in games. The top eight go to the quarterfinals. I can get on board with that.
Class B - On the boys side, it’s the usual suspects. Hermon and MDI are in the top three. The newcomer to the party is Caribou. They are young, they have a new coach, and they put up a ton of points. Can they keep it going in Bangor? We will see. Play in game are Winslow @ Ellsworth, WA @ Orono, and Foxcroft @ PI.
The girls also have familiar names there. MDI is always good and they are number one. Hermon, Winslow, and PI are there. So are a young Waterville and Old Town squad. There is not a lot of difference from 1-11 here, so be ready for upsets.
Class C - With reclassification, some teams moved around two years ago, but have seen success. Central Aroostook of Mars Hill boasts the number one teams on both the boys and girls sides. Not bad at all! The boys' tourney is wide open with three-time defending champ GSA in the mix, with CA, Mattanawcook, Houlton, Fort Kent, and Penobscot Valley all trying to lay claim to a title.
The girls may be the same way, with CA, Dexter, Calais, Madawaska, and Penobscot Valley all there. Look for upsets in the play-in round as there are a lot of good teams still around.
Class D - Both defending D champs, Woodland Boys and Southern Aroostook GIrls, are the one seeds. It will take a real good effort to knock them off. Boys teams to look out for include, Jonesport-Beals, Greater Houlton Christian, and Schenck. Girls teams include undefeated DI-Stonington, Woodland, and Schenck.
We always seem to get the same question, “How do I watch the games?” Well, let me give you the information. The quarterfinals are streamed via the National Federation of High School Sports Network, https://www.nfhsnetwork.com/associations/mpa.
There is a subscription fee of $9.95, but hey, you can watch every game from Bangor, Augusta, and Portland. It’s a good deal. The semis and regional finals are free at www.nsnsports.net, and the state finals are on Maine Public TV and streamed at www.mainepublic.org.
So in other words, there is no excuse to not see the games if you want to see them. Buckle up, folks. It’s going to be a great month!