Game balls for the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame Classic to be played Dec. 27 and 28 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Credit: Ernie Clark

The Maine Basketball Hall of Fame Classic may be a holiday-week high school basketball tournament, but the prizes awaiting the winners are fully regulation in scope. They include Heal Points and a chance to gain experience at the tournament site for the upcoming North regional tournament for Classes B, C and D.

Thirteen regular-season games, seven Thursday and six Friday, comprise the inaugural edition of the event at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

The field features six undefeated teams and five one-loss teams, two defending state champions and several other teams capable of making deep postseason runs when the tournament returns to the Cross Center in February.

Most of the games already were scheduled for this time of year but were shifted from one home court to the Cross Center to provide teams a chance to play at the region’s signature basketball venue. Many want to familiarize themselves with the site and its longer floor — 94 feet compared to 84 feet for a regulation high school court.

Game times for the two days were confirmed on a first-come, first-served basis. The opening tipoff is set for 10 a.m. each day.

“It just kind of happened,” Tony Hamlin, chair of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame board of directors, said. “There was no grand plan, obviously, but the ADs cooperated and decided they could get some benefit from playing on that floor.”

Tickets are $5 per person per day and allow a spectator to watch all seven games scheduled for Thursday or all six games on Friday, as well as visit the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame’s display area in the Cross Center.

“Hopefully we’ll have a good crowd and we’ll also draw some neutral spectators in, too, people who are general basketball fans who want to see some of these teams battle it out,” Hamlin said.

Among the girls games scheduled for Thursday are a 3:15 p.m. Class C girls clash between 4-1 Searsport and 4-1 Central of Corinth, preceded at 1:30 by a matchup of Aroostook County rivals in Fort Fairfield, 5-0 and third in Class C, and Washburn, 3-2 and third in Class D.

Thursday’s boys schedule includes a 6:45 p.m. Class C clash between three-time defending state champion George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill (4-1) and 1-3 Calais, followed by the final game of the day, an 8 p.m. Class A boys encounter between 1-4 Brewer and 4-1 Cony of Augusta.

Thursday’s slate begins at 10 a.m. when the reigning Class D state champion Greenville boys (3-1) face Penquis of Milo, followed by the Penquis girls (3-3) against Piscataquis of Guilford at 11:45.

Also set for 5 p.m. Thursday is a Class C girls meeting between George Stevens (1-4) and Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln (2-4).

One of the more anticipated games of the event is set to kick off Friday’s schedule when Class C top seed Houlton (5-1) faces unbeaten Mattanawcook (4-0), the No. 3 seed in Class C North.

Friday’s slate also includes a battle of the unbeatens at 3:15 p.m. when Dexter, 5-0 and ranked second in C North, battles Schenck of East Millinocket, 3-0 and fifth-ranked in D North.

Two other unbeatens also are on Friday’s schedule, as the 6-0 Dexter boys play Stearns of Millinocket at 1:30 p.m. and the 4-0 Calais girls face Lee Academy at 6:45 p.m. in the final game of the day.

Other games Friday match the Houlton (2-3) and Stearns (2-2) girls at 11:45 a.m. and the Central (1-4) and Lee (2-2) boys at 5 p.m.

There are some weather concerns for early Friday, but Hamlin is hopeful it won’t affect the day’s schedule. If any games have to be postponed they’ll be rescheduled later in the regular season at the original home team’s gym.

“I think we’re going to be OK,” said Hamlin, “but if individual schools can’t make it they’ll just cancel their game.”

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...