This four-season formula helps basketball teams in tourney quests

Hall-Dale’s Austin Stebbins (right) tries to get around George Stevens Academy’s Caden Mattson during the Class C state final in Augusta last March. Teams will be focusing on making the tourney over the next five weeks. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

During my tenure as a high school basketball coach, I liked to break down the season into four seasons of Maine high school basketball.

The first season was three weeks of preseason, which was five weeks before the Maine Principals’ Association changed the sports season policy.

The second season of 3 1/2 weeks was the official start of the regular season leading up to New Year’s Eve, followed by the next 5 1/2 weeks to the last countable game, and then the fourth season of postseason, which was hopefully three weeks.

In 29 years of coaching high school basketball, my teams had the talent to make the tournament 26 times and finished ninth the three times we didn’t make it. So, we always planned on making the tourney and divided the season into those four seasons to get specific things done so we could peak at the right time — tourney week.

I was fortunate to have teams reach 12 Eastern Maine finals and six state championship games.

Here’s a look at those four seasons.

FIRST SEASON: This three-week season includes tryouts and before the MPA sports season policy, teams started on the first Monday in November. That gave coaches five weeks and wasn’t as rushed for tryouts as it is now.

When it went to three weeks, final cuts were posted on Wednesday morning and first team practices started that afternoon. We hosted or went to a tip-off tournament on Friday and Saturday.

The next two weeks we tried to get ready for the opening of the season by determining starters and first subs and what type of offense best suited the players.

SECOND SEASON: In this five-week season, we continued getting ready for games and at the Christmas break it was time to make any major changes in offensive or defensive strategies. During the Christmas break we had more practice time so sometimes we had double sessions or just longer single sessions.

Before the sports season policy, we also usually hosted or attended a Christmas tournament but with the current policy, it’s harder to get as much done as many teams play regular-season games during Christmas vacation. That also occurs because of the limit of five exhibition dates the MPA now enforces.

Previously, the schools determined the number of exhibition non-Heal point games they played and now fewer teams play in Christmas tourneys.

THIRD SEASON: This comprised the final few weeks of pivotal regular-season games until final countable games, which usually occurred on the first Thursday in February. At that point, we should be trying to play as we will in the upcoming tourney.

FOURTH SEASON: Luckily, my teams were seeded high enough not to have to play a prelim game, so we played an exhibition game on Tuesday as we did before there were prelim games.

Regardless, if it was before or after the MPA sports season policy, we’d bring in former Orono and John Bapst players that matched up with our opponents to practice against and this really helped us to prepare for our tournament opponents.

If we won the regional title, then we’d play an exhibition game on the Tuesday before that weekend’s state final.

Preparing for the tourney began on that first day of practice and following that formula of four seasons was the best way to reach the tourney and the ultimate goal of a state championship.

Happy New Year to all of Maine’s loyal high school basketball folks!