Looking over tournament schedules, I noticed there are three eight-game days at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday this season.
This brought back memories of my coaching days at Orono. In the 1960’s before there were girls tournaments and other high school sports held during tourney week, boys basketball dominated the winter high school sports scene during the February vacation week.
At that time, there were four classes, LL, L, M and S, which were later adopted as Class A, B, C and D. Eastern Maine tournaments were held just the one week of vacation with two classes Monday through Wednesday and the other two Thursday through Saturday.
Quarterfinal days on Monday and Thursday were the eight-game days with the first game beginning at 8:30 a.m. and the final game at 9 p.m. — if the other games ended on time, which usually didn’t happen because of overtime, injuries and all the other intangibles involved in a basketball game in Bangor.
In 1967, 1968 and 1969 Orono went in number one and for that we were rewarded the 9 p.m. game three years in a row. This was not a positive reward and today’s number one teams are still slotted in the latest games.
When we got back to Orono after playing the late game, it was almost midnight even if we started at 9 p.m. By the time players got home and wound down from the game it was probably 1 a.m. before they got to sleep. We encouraged them to sleep in and then held a walk-through practice 3-4 p.m. They would go back home and then return to school at 6:30 p.m. and head back to Bangor.
During one of those years, we started one of the games at 11 p.m.
Number one seeds should get to play in the late afternoon or early evening as basketball is a rhythm game and teams are used to practicing or playing games in the 3 to 7 p.m. time slots. However, starting at 9 or 9:30 p.m. is much better than having to play the 8:30 a.m. game because basketball wasn’t meant to be played in the morning.
The tourney of past years, however, was more of a real tourney with three games on three straight days. The best-prepared teams had an advantage because the only practice time would be a walk through on the semifinal and final game days.
One way to prepare then and still today for the late game is to have late practices.
My suggestion to the Maine Principals’ Association is to reward the number one seeds by giving them the late afternoon or early evening games on the eight-game quarterfinal games. Those teams shouldn’t suffer a disadvantage after a regular season of work in which they earned the top seed.