Ibn Khalid of Edward Little High School shoots over Trey Ballew of Portland High School during a game last month in Auburn. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
Edward Little High School isn’t completely unfamiliar with hosting tournament basketball.
The school gymnasium was a hub of state tournament action as recently as the 1960s. The Red Eddies hosted an occasional prelim game since then and briefly woke up the echoes of past do-or-die games, but one would have to be old enough to remember man landing on the moon to have any recollection of a quarterfinal game in the venerable gym.
The new format in AA North changes that, with the higher seeds hosting quarterfinal games that will determine the region’s final four teams to converge on Portland on Feb. 20. Edward Little and Oxford Hills, the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively, are eager to write their own chapter of their home court’s tournament history. EL hosts No. 7 Cheverus on Tuesday night. Oxford Hills welcomes No. 6 Deering on Wednesday night.
While the AA tournament is paring down from its final eight, the other eight regions in four classes will be fanned out across the state settling who gets the final invitations to their quarterfinals with prelims.
Here is a quick glance at the regional tournaments with local teams representing. We’ll break down each region more over the next week in the Sun Journal.
The Vikings have won seven in a row, starting with their 58-54 triumph over the Red Eddies. EL hasn’t lost since and rides a five-game win streak into the quarterfinals. The Eddies beat the Vikes on opening night, and both teams would welcome a rubber match in Portland.
But it’s far from a given. Both teams had home court the first and only time they faced their quarterfinal opponent but had to grit out victories. The Eddies rallied down 17 in the first half to beat the Stags, 64-54. The Vikings edged the Rams in a defensive standoff, 40-37.
Portland begins its quest for a fifth consecutive regional title as the top seed. No. 8 Lewiston has the unenviable task of trying to stop that streak at the Portland Expo on Tuesday night.
Windham hosts Bangor in the 4-5 matchup.
Wells emerged from a season-long scrap for the top seed, and will begin defense of its regional crown with the winner of the region’s only prelim between No. 8 Freeport and No. 9 Lisbon. The Greyhounds will make the short road trip on Tuesday night in hopes of securing their third consecutive quarterfinal appearance.
No. 7 Mountain Valley returns to the Portland Expo for the first time since 2013 and has an inter-conference meeting with No. 2 Cape Elizabeth. The other two settled quarterfinal matchups also pit Western Maine Conference teams against non-conference foes. No. 4. Gray-New Gloucester faces No. 5 Spruce Mountain, once again representing the Mountain Valley Conference. No. 3 Yarmouth draws No. 6 Maranacook, the lone Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference representative.
Quarterfinal games will be played Saturday afternoon and night.
Hall-Dale seized control of the region early in the season and will be the top seed. The Bulldogs await the winner of Tuesday’s prelim between No. 9 Buckfield and No. 8 Traip Academy. Defending champion Winthrop is the No. 2 seed and will face the winner of No. 10 Old Orchard Beach at No. 7 Madison.
Waynflete carries the WMC flag directly into next Monday’s quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center, where it will encounter either No. 6 Boothbay or No. 11 Carrabec. The only set quarterfinal pits No. 4 Dirigo against No. 5 Richmond. The Bobcats won, 68-62, when they met in Richmond during the season.
All four quarterfinals are set for next Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. No. 8 Rangeley draws not only the top seed and defending champion in Greenville, but the hottest team heading into the tournament. The Lakers have won 16 in a row after losing their first two games.
One of the teams to beat Greenville, Forest Hills, could get another crack in the semifinals if it gets past No. 5 Seacoast Christian. No. 2 Valley vs. No. 7 Temple and No. 3 A.R. Gould against No. 6 Pine Tree Academy are the other matchups.