The Class AA basketball tournaments, which have been having their quarterfinals at the home court of the higher seeded teams, may join the other classes in having the entire tournament at one site beginning next season.
Mike Burnham, the executive director of the Maine Principals Association, said there was a meeting of the basketball committee on Tuesday and one of the things that came out of it was a strong sentiment among the AA coaches and athletic directors to have the quarterfinals at a neutral site along with the semifinals and finals.
Fred Lower, the athletic director at Hampden Academy, said that the AA coaches and administrators want the entire tournament at one site because they felt the players were deprived of a “tournament feeling” in the quarterfinals.
Lower agrees with the coaches.
“We held a quarterfinal game against Lewiston this season. There was a good crowd but it felt like just a regular season home game,” rather than a playoff game, said Lower, whose third-seeded Broncos beat No. 6 Lewiston 40-20 to advance to the semifinals at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.
“A lot of ADs and coaches feel the same way,” Burnham said. “That tournament feeling is special.”
The basketball committee does intend to investigate the situation and see if it can appease the wishes of the AA coaches and ADs, Burnham said.
Bangor High girls coach Jay Kemble said both formats have value.
“I can see both points of view,” Kemble said. “If you have the quarterfinals at home courts, it makes regular season games more important and more valuable. Playing on your home court is a huge advantage. But I also remember when I played at Mt. Blue and came to the Bangor Auditorium for the tournament. It was a tremendous experience.”
“You want to create equity and opportunities for the kids,” he added.
There were 16 quarterfinal games held at the home courts this past season in AA boys and girls, North and South, and the higher seeds won 14 of the 16 contests.
There were also two Round of 16 play-in games held at home courts prior to the quarterfinals and the higher seeds won both of those games, too.
The Class A, B, C and D tournaments are all held at one site beginning with the quarterfinals.
All the tournaments are held at the Portland Expo and Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, the Augusta Civic Center, and the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, and the latter three facilities also host state championship games.
Facility availability would be one of the issues the basketball committee would have to address in moving forward.
Class AA came into existence in 2016, the first year of five classes in the state.