PORTLAND/AUGUSTA – Basketball etiquette dictates that the home crowd pipes down when one of its players steps to the free-throw line.

At tourney time, of course, the bipartisan nature of the fandom means there is usually little better than a 50/50 chance for quiet whenever somebody is standing at the charity stripe.

Even in the most partisan of home court settings, there’s usually one leather-lunged loudmouth who breaks the silence with a well-timed yelp before the shot goes up. Noting this, Freeport finally decided to do something about it – fight fire with fire, or noise with noise, in this case.

Whenever a Freeport player went to the line during Tuesday’s quarterfinal loss to Mountain Valley, their rooting section didn’t go silent. It broke into rhythmic clapping.

“It started about four games into the season. My J.V. coach, Terry Jewett said ‘Why don’t we just start clapping and making noise so that there’s background noise,'” Freeport coach Craig Sickels said. “Sure enough, after about the second game of doing that, the fans and the parents picked it up. The kids would much rather have background noise than dead silence and then one yahoo yell from the bleachers.”

The Falcons, and their unusual methods, deserve a round of applause for ingenuity and effectiveness – Freeport made 14 of 18 free throws Tuesday.

At your service

Brian Clark is familiar with at least two often-thankless jobs that are subject to second-guessing.

One is a healthy hobby: Keeping a watchful eye and mediating a friendly game between two schools that wear different uniforms. The other task involves attempting to keep peace where there is none, where decisions can mean the difference between life and death.

Clark was one of the three officials assigned to Tuesday’s Western Class D girls’ quarterfinal between Buckfield and Islesboro. He is awaiting a return deployment to Iraq.

After his name was announced and he was introduced as a veteran, Clark received a warm ovation. Thanks in large part to the one-sided score (Buckfield eased to a 76-22 victory), not many of those same spectators later took advantage of the opportunity to question Clark’s eyesight.

Rare eagle sighting

Islesboro Central School reclaimed its familiar place as the smallest school represented in the Western Class D tournament. Twenty-eight students attend grades 9 through 12 at the island school, which took a one-hour ferry ride before its lengthy bus trip to the civic center.

Buckfield made it a brief stay on the mainland for the Eagles, who dropped a 76-22 verdict in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

Out of the small pool of available athletes, eight girls (including one eighth-grader) suited up for Islesboro, which did achieve a small measure of tournament history before its whistle stop.

The No. 12 Eagles became the lowest seed ever to qualify for the Western D girls’ quarterfinals with its preliminary win over fellow islanders North Haven last week.

Hyde those socks

Hyde School girls’ and boys’ basketball coach Tom Bragg is known as a dapper dresser, who has made some intriguing choices in sideline attire during his lengthy, successful tenure at the Bath boarding school. One of his annual favorites is an old school, blue varsity sweater with a gold letter ‘H.’

That one stayed in the drawer Tuesday, when Bragg’s combination was one for the ages.

As he stood patiently in the coach’s box Tuesday before Hyde’s quarterfinal girls’ game against Forest Hills, Bragg wore a pink dress shirt with a slightly darker tie. It was certainly different, but not outlandish.

Then Bragg assumed his normal, seated position on the bench, and the rising hem of his pants legs revealed matching pink socks.

Bragg, a former Hyde School basketball and football star and a Division I college hoop standout in the 1980s, is always one of the tallest men in the building at any tournament game. It’s unlikely that anyone accosted him to take a swipe at his sartorial splendor.

Year makes big difference

Troy Eastman’s team didn’t have to act like it had been here before.

Buckfield played in the quarterfinals last year. The loss to Kents Hill paid dividends Tuesday.

Buckfield looked like Bucks caught in the headlights in its 44-34 loss to Kents Hill last year. The Bucks scored two points in the second quarter and five in the third. They looked tentative, tight and uncomfortable.

That wasn’t the case this year, scoring 76 points in a convincing win over Islesboro. Buckfield came out relaxed and confident. They return Thursday for a semifinal with top-seeded Hyde.

“As much as it was about gaining experience on the floor, it motivated them during the summer, knowing that they wanted to do more of it,” said Eastman. “I think as much as having been here before settled them, I think it equally motivated them. They didn’t feel like they played that well. We had young kids. We played 30 games over the summer. They dedicated themselves to lifting, and it was a team bonding kind of thing. Roles began to develop, and they began to believe in themselves a little.”

The Bucks have eight kids that played in last year’s outing. Knowing all the little details at Augusta helped the kids prepare for the game as well as the hoopla surrounding it.

Buckfield was so relaxed Tuesday that freshman Ashlee Hamann fit in nicely, matching Jessie Farrington with 17 points to lead the Bucks.

“I think they helped Ashlee Hamann’s first experience here,” said Eastman. “Having that stability in this situation helped her.”

Better luck next year

Waynflete’s loss in the quarterfinals to Winthrop Tuesday continued an unsuccessful trend for Western Maine Conference teams against Mountain Valley Conference foes.

A WMC team has not beaten an MVC school since Traip reached the semifinals in 2001. WMC teams are now 15-47 overall and 11-31 at Augusta against the MVC in the last 16 years. Only three WMC teams have ever reached the regional final – Traip in 1991, Sacopee Valley in 1992 and Old Orchard in 1998. All three lost to MVC clubs.

The Flyers came into the tournament with an unbeaten record but had played a schedule that featured only three teams that had winning records – St. Dom’s, Buckfield and Richmond. The record of the Flyer’s seven opponents was 53-71.

Waynflete had missed the quarterfinals the last two years and had just two seniors on this years club. With nine underclassmen on the squad, the Flyers should get another try next year.

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