Old tourney format was much more challenging for teams

Prior to the 1970’s, Maine basketball tourneys were held on three consecutive days for the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

There were just Classes L, M and S until 1961 when the Maine Principals’ Association added Class LL, today’s version of Class A.

Those tournaments were held first at the Brewer Auditorium, then the old Bangor Exhibition Hall Auditorium for Classes M and S and Class L at the University of Maine’s Memorial Gymnasium, known as the “Pit.”

In 1956, the tournaments were moved to the new Bangor Auditorium and were still held on consecutive days.

Even when there were four classes, the tourney format was still three games in three days with two classes on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and two classes being held on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

In the current tourney format, only Eastern Class C boys and girls play back-to-back games with semifinals on Friday and finals on Saturday. All other teams have at least one day in between quarterfinal and semifinal games while some had two and three days and three teams had four-day breaks. Format changes were made when the girls basketball tourney was added in 1975.

It’s unlikely the old format will return given extra scheduling and limited sites for boys and girls games, but the old format of playing three games in three days was more of a real tournament. Teams that did so had to be in excellent physical and mental condition and had to be prepared for anything the defenses/offenses threw at them.

The only practice time was the day of the semifinal or final game when coaches usually held walk-throughs and limited shootarounds in their own gyms. There was less chance for upsets in the semis and finals because teams did not have time to prepare against the next opponent.

Under the old format, there were two eight-game days for quarterfinals, two four-game days for semifinals and two two-game days for finals. On the two eight-game days, the first game started at 9 a.m. and the eighth game was supposed to start at 9 p.m., but seldom did as it was hard to keep the games on schedule if there were a lot of whistles, injuries or overtimes.

Winning teams coming from long distances stayed in Bangor and the MPA paid for their hotel rooms, meals and travel because there were fewer sports offered. This also enabled schools to get a share of ticket revenue.

In today’s tourney, winning teams get preparation days for their next game as they travel back and forth for each game, except for the Class C teams in the regional finals.

Another difference for current tourney teams is playing on college-sized 50- by 94-foot courts in Bangor, Augusta, and Portland.

It is important for schools to practice on a college floor prior to the tournament as the additional 10 feet makes a big difference for those that want to press full-court defensively or to run a fast break on offense.

However, playing three days with one- to four-day breaks between games on college floors is not as difficult physically and mentally as playing three games in three days on high school length courts.

Preparation is much different for today’s tourney as teams can prepare for just one game at a time. If teams can’t practice on a college floor, then coaches should tape their gym floors with the additional five feet on each side of the court so they can practice in a bigger half-court for offense and defense.

Another good way to prepare is to run a lot of 10-foot sprints for extra conditioning and adjusting strategies if you press full-court or like to fast break. Also, prepare to use more substitutions to help prevent starters from tiring earlier.

Last week’s trivia question: What team did Bangor play in the first high school game at the Bangor Auditorium in 1955? Answer: Old Town