It is, as I type this, one day after the end of the basketball tournament and I’d give anything for three more weeks of it.

I mean, I’m fine with not having to drive I-295 again for a while, or having to pay to park. I won’t miss metal detectors, or being instructed to Wang Chung tonight over and over and over and over again. I’m glad I won’t have to listen to Mr. and Mrs. Call It Both Ways for at least a few weeks or fret over whether I forgot my press badge.

I’d sign up for all of it to start again tomorrow, though, if I could get the daily privilege of seeing kids from all over the state play a game that I love for their school, for their community, for each other and for their own love of the game.

A week ago, our esteemed columnist, Kalle Oakes, wrote an excellent treatise on how the quality of high school basketball in his home state has declined and continues to do so. Kalle watches the games from afar, now, but still nailed why it’s happening and offered a number of good ideas on how to start fixing it.

I saw a lot of bad basketball and far too few close, compelling games, not just over the last three weeks, but all winter. But rather than pile on, I want to celebrate what is still right about Maine high school basketball, because I saw enough examples in just these last three weeks to fill the entire season.

The heartache on Gray-New Gloucester boys coach Ryan Deschenes face after his team lost to Wells in the Class B South semifinals reminded me that coaches put so much more than just their time and talent into the game.


Watching Edward Little coach Mike Adams shake Bangor’s Matt Fleming’s hand, then jokingly wipe it off on colleague Adam Robinson’s sleeve as a smiling Fleming watched after he’d ended the Red Eddies’ championship defense in the AA North final, reminded me the basketball culture in this state is still built on competition, respect and community, not Division I scholarships.

The community aspect was once again palpable at times in Portland, Augusta and Bangor. It was awe-inspiring when the whole town of Caribou traveled 300 miles to fill one side of the Cross Insurance Arena to watch their boys win their first gold ball in 50 years on Saturday. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck even before their classic against Cape Elizabeth went to double-overtime, and I know I wasn’t the only one getting chills.

Part of what makes high school hoops in Maine tough to watch now is the community aspect of it is slipping away. It’s easier than ever for us to come together, but we do it less and less by the day. We rarely even get together with others in our own neighborhoods and towns, let alone with our fellow Mainers. As the sense of community fades, respect deteriorates even faster than our kids’ basketball skills.

At the very least, the tournament puts that on hold for a couple of weeks. This year’s tournament showed that it still has so much more to offer, though.

What a delight it was to watch players such as Fleming, Greely’s Anna DeWolfe, Oxford Hills’ Julia Colby and Edward Little’s Wol Maiwen and numerous others raise the bar for Maine’s best. What a treat it was to see less-celebrated players such as Gray-New Gloucester’s Eliza Hotham and Winthrop’s Nate LeBlanc and Cam Hachey emerge with clutch performances and shots. How heartening it was to see the faces of good kids and good adults from all over the state, from all sorts of backgrounds, beaming with pride as they posed for pictures together holding a gold ball.

And what an honor it was to chronicle a lifetime’s worth of memories for all of them. On second thought, I’d hitch-hike I-295 at rush hour to be able to do it again today.


Oxford Hills’ Julia Colby, center, drives to the basket past Portland’s Gemima Motema, left and Jill Joyce, right during a tournament game in Portland on February 20. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)



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