Sunday, February 25, 2018

Reflections on the 2018 Maine High School Basketball Tournament

The whirlwind intensity and excitement of the Maine high school basketball tournament in Portland, Bangor and Augusta is over and regional champions have been crowned in all 5 classes. Now it is "just" the state championships left. I was the Public Address announcer for about a dozen games in the Portland tournament and played music for a handful more. I also got a bit of skiing in at Sugarloaf too. Unfortunately I had a minor hyper-extension of my knee when skiing last week so I am writing this blog instead of skiing on this Sunday morning. However, I feel 90% back which is good... but I just don't want to push it today.

It is a really fun week of basketball and here are a few reflections on the week.

As I wrote in my post describing my PA announcer journey, being the announcer for the Maine high school tournament games is an absolute thrill for me. I hope the players and the fans carry with them many positive memories from these games. Here is a short snippet of me calling out the starters at one of the games I did this week.



It takes many hands

Being part of the tournament PA team gives me a glimpse behind of the scenes of the many hands and hard work it takes to administer a tournament. While I sat at the scorers table along with the scorer, timekeeper and scoreboard operator, who spent many hours making sure the games themselves ran smoothly, there are many more people behind the scenes making sure things go well for the teams involved. Ticket takers, finance, locker room attendants, ball persons, media relations, awards and countless other tasks are done by many capable hands. A special thanks to Portland's site administrator Gerry Durgin who leads the crew and spends countless hours running the tournament. His steady leadership and focus on the kids is key and I think the tournament is very well run under his guidance. I also very much enjoyed working with my fellow Portland site PA announcers Rich Peterson and the legendary Peter Gribbin. The Bangor and Augusta sites have great crews working hard to run the tournaments as well. Job well done by all involved I say!

Media Members

A shout-out to the media members too. The reporters and writers from the local TV and newspapers as well as the radio and on-line broadcasters who were at all the games working hard to shine a bright light on the players on the court. A lot of words were written & spoken, tweets sent, footage edited and broadcasts given by these folks. Great job by all!

A special call out to The Forecaster's Michael Hoffer. He has a unique position where he is able to write long-form game stories for his publication. He wrote a lot of words this week and did a great job as always. I know the teams in his coverage area really appreciate his game stories.

Freeport Boys & Girls

It was a great tournament week by my hometown Falcons. The boys won their preliminary game against Lisbon and lead the eventual southern division champion Wells late in the 4th quarter of their quarterfinal game. It had been 10 years since the last time the Freeport boys made it to Portland and they represented themselves very well. Coach Ridge and the boys should be able to take the experience of this week and build on it for next year. The future of the boys program is bright.

And what a run by the Freeport girls reaching the regional championship game! After close and exciting wins over Wells and Poland, they showed tremendous desire against Lake Region but they just couldn't get the shots to fall in the second half. The Lake Region defense had a lot to do with that and congratulations to the Lakers on a well deserved regional title. The first time in 41 years a Freeport girls team had made it to the regional final. What a run! Coach Hart is building a great program and the future is bright.

Even though my own kids are now out of school, I am so pleased our town and RSU (Freeport, Pownal, Durham) is supporting our schools. We had a tremendous crowd in Portland for all the playoff games. The RSU has recently supported bonds to renovate the high school and athletic fields as well as supporting school operating budgets each year. I think we are seeing the result of this investment play out in the classroom and on the athletic field. There are a lot of options in southern Maine for education and associated athletics. It is important that the public schools systems compete and provide high quality academic and co-curricular options for all. Hats off and thanks to the RSU towns for their great support.

Game of the Week

Each tournament week has a fair share of lopsided games. However, I was extremely fortunate this year that just about all the games I was PA announcer for were highly competitive. If I had to pick one game that stood out for me it was the Biddeford vs Brunswick Boys A-South quarterfinal. Brunswick made a furious comeback from down 8 points with under three minutes left to tie it up late. However, Biddeford's Zach Reali grabbed a rebound and scored as time expired to give Biddeford the win. It was an extremely well played game and you can't beat the excitement of a winning basket as time expires. As PA, it is really fun to be part of these close contests and help add to the exciting atmosphere in the arena.

No Dunking?

There was quite an uproar on social and print media in regards to technical fouls being given for dunking. Not all dunks got T's in this tournament, but this one did:


This lead to an interesting article from Travis Lazarczyk calling this the "dumbest rule in Maine Hoops". My take? He is right. For one, the high school rule on "grasping the rim" is inconsistently enforced. Some refs call any little rim grab on a dunk a T. Other refs let it go. The kids have no idea what to do. Secondly, every high school gym has break-away rims. Dunks are an exciting part of the game. I see it all the time in the college games I do. Players should be able to dunk, snap the rim and get his team fired up. It is not show-boating... it is part of the game! Time for the state officiating body to take another look at how this rule is interpreted and clarify it with the officials for the good of the game.

Overall I thought the officiating was satisfactory for the tournament. There were some good calls and bad calls but it is part of the game. Players make and miss shots, make assists and give the ball away on turnovers. Coaches make good and bad coaching decisions. The teams in the state finals are the ones that successfully managed all facets of the game, including how each game is being called by the officiating crew.

What's Next

March is a great time to ski in Maine, so I am looking forward to getting back on the slopes and have my fingers crossed for more winter weather in the mountains. I should be able to get a skiing post or two on this blog in the coming weeks! I do have at least one more busy weekend of basketball left with two and possibly three events I will PA for.
  • Class A State High School Basketball Championships - On Thursday, March 1, I will be on the PA mic for both the boys and girls Class A state title contests in Portland. Both Hampden and Greely are sending both their boys and girls teams to the games. What a great accomplishment for both of these programs and I am looking forward to be on the PA for two highly competitive state championship games. 
  • American East Women's Basketball Championships - I will be on the PA mic for 4 of the 6 America East games at Cross Insurance Arena March 3-4. I did these games last year and this is a great event. Most all the teams bring pep bands and energetic crowds to provide a lively atmosphere. If you are a fan of basketball I highly encourage you to check out this tournament. College Division 1 Women's basketball has highly skilled players that are fun to watch (and PA for). The UMaine women should will come into this tournament as a the #1 or #2 seed.
  • NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament (hopefully CONFIRMED) - Unfortunately, the Bowdoin women bowed out of the NESCAC conference tournament in the semi-final round to a very strong Tufts team. However, with a record of 24-2 they still have a great chance to host at Bowdoin College the 1st and 2nd round of the NCAA Division III tournament March 2-3. With NCAA Division III, travel costs come into play when selecting host sites. Hopefully the geographic makeup of the tournament teams fall in Bowdoin' favor so they can host. We will find out on Monday. Regardless the Bowdoin women have had an outstanding season so far and will be looking to have a great NCAA tournament.
    • UPDATE - Bowdoin was selected as a host site! The are hosting Husson, Skidmore and FDU-Florham.
Til my next post, you can likely find me on a ski slope or basketball arena in Maine!

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