The University of Maine women’s basketball team will be playing all of its America East playoff games at the Memorial Gym on the Orono campus, known affectionately as “The Pit.”
The newly crowned America East regular season champions will host the No. 8 seed, which has yet to be determined, at 1 p.m. next Saturday in the quarterfinals.
The semifinals will be held Tuesday, March 8, and the championship game will be played at 5 p.m. Friday, March 11.
The games are being held at The Pit due to scheduling conflicts at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, where the Black Bears play virtually all of their home games.
UMaine has a winning tradition at The Pit. The team has won 10 of its last 11 games against league opponents at the Memorial Gym, including league tournament semifinal wins over Albany and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. UMaine’s only loss during that span was a 64-60 setback to Stony Brook in the America East championship game last season.
UMaine went 2-1 at The Pit in Orono this season and 5-5 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
The Black Bears were 2-0 against America East teams at The Pit and 4-3 against conference teams at the Cross Insurance Center.
“The championship game couldn’t have been played at the Cross [Insurance] Center due to a previously scheduled event,” UMaine athletic director Ken Ralph said, referring to the Professional Bull Riders Tour.
Ralph explained that when you share a facility like UMaine does at the Cross Insurance Center, you can’t secure dates in advance because it is dependent upon UMaine earning home playoff games.
He also said there are a lot of logistics involved, like being able to set up the television coverage and providing visiting teams with practice time.
The Maine Principals’ Association is using the Cross Insurance Center for the Class B boys and girls state championship games on Friday night, so UMaine’s quarterfinal round opponent wouldn’t be able to have a shoot-around on Friday night.
The Cross Insurance Center can hold 5,800 fans for basketball games and up to 8,500 for concerts. The Memorial Gym can hold an estimated 1,441.
“It would be nice to have the games at the Cross Center in terms of generating a gate. But we’ve had some great atmospheres at The Pit and our team is focused on winning a championship no matter where the games are played,” Ralph said.
The Black Bears earned a very important 64-55 victory over Albany at The Pit on Feb. 9 in front of a loud and enthusiastic crowd of 945. That tied the Black Bears with Albany at 9-3 in the conference, and UMaine went on to win its next six games to claim its fourth outright or shared regular season title in five years.
UMaine head coach Amy Vachon and her players are looking forward to playing their tournament games at The Pit.
“I love The Pit. The crowd and the energy are awesome. You have all those people right on top of you,” graduate student-forward Maeve Carroll said.
“Because we have a strong fan base, I think our opponents will be affected by that. They aren’t used to playing in a place like The Pit. It will be great for us.”