After 56 Eastern Maine boys and girls tourney basketball games in Classes A, B, C and D, here are my observations of the games, officials, coaches and players.
— One of the biggest high-fives goes to the Fort Fairfield and Washburn boys and girls teams meeting in the Eastern Maine Class D championships. Schools that are less than 30 miles apart in Aroostook County and play during the regular season traveled over 180 miles one way to play each other for the third time at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
The Washburn girls and the Fort Fairfield boys won those third meetings. The Washburn girls won their fifth straight Eastern Maine title and will now go for their fifth straight state crown.
— Only three number one seeds won their their tourneys. Four two seeds and one three seed won the other championships.
— A big high-five to the ninth-seeded Gardner girls for the biggest upset of the tourney, beating unbeaten No. 1 Mount Desert Island. Gardiner then won its semifinal and lost to Presque Isle in the Class B final.
— A big high-five for the seventh-seeded Orono boys as the Red Riots upset defending Class C state champion Houlton in the semifinals.
— The best strategy of the tournament goes to Orono coach Jason Coleman in switching from man-to-man to a 1-3-1 zone with pressure especially in the half-court and turning around a 10-point deficit as Houlton had a hard time adjusting to the defensive change.
— The team with the most athletic talent was the Lewiston boys team as the Blue Devils moved to the finals against Hampden after upsetting crosstown rival and top seeded Edward Little after losing to them twice in the regular season. Lewiston scored a tournament-high 89 points in their win over Cony in the quarterfinals.
— The most physical game was the Orono-Calais Class C boys final while the most exciting games were the Class A finals, Hampden-Lewiston boys and Lawrence-Bangor girls.
— It was a great Lewiston-Hampden boys final and Hampden deserves a big high-five for its great comeback after trailing by double figures in the third quarter. Nick Gilpin was the best player in Class A by far. Hampden really plays together as a team. It’s the first time a Class A team has ever won four Eastern Maine championships in a row.
— On the officiating front: There were a lot of player control fouls called as many players driving to the hoop were out of control. Maybe they should change the definition of player control fouls in the rulebook to player-out-of-control fouls. Also, there were fewer lane violations on fouls shots because players can enter the lane as soon as the ball is released by the foul shooter.
— It was nice to see a lot of very skilled young freshmen and sophomores for both boys and girls teams.
— My picks for the best tournament coaching jobs. Boys — Class A, Hampden’s Russ Bartlett; Class B, Winslow’s Jared Browne; Class C, Orono’s Jason Coleman; Class D, Fort Fairfield’s Logan McLaughlin. Girls — Class A, Lawrence’s John Donato; Class B, Gardiner’s Mike Gray; Class C, Dexter’s Jody Grant; and Class D, Washburn’s Diana Trams.
— My selections for tourney Most Valuable players: Boys — Class A, Hampden’s Nick Gilpin; Class B, Winslow’s Justin Martin; Class C, Calais’ Tyler Niles; Class D, Fort Fairfield’s Hunter Beaulieu. Girls: Class A, Lawrence’s Nia Irving; Class B, Presque Isle’s Krystal Kingsbury; Class C, Houlton’s Kolleen Bouchard; and Class D, Washburn’s Mackenzie Worcester.
Good luck to all the Eastern tourney champions next week in their state games.
Tournament Trivia Question: Where were the Class L boys state finals held in the years of 1953-56?