Post-regional tournament musings from a guy who admittedly had the opportunity to watch precious little of it:

• Hampden, Greely, Winthrop and Forest Hills certainly can make a compelling case, but I’ll exercise my admittedly hyper-regional bias and argue that Edward Little is Maine’s best boys’ basketball program of the past dozen years and counting.

The Red Eddies consistently play the toughest schedule on that list. They have become absolutely automatic in the early rounds of the tourney. That quarterfinal loss to Hampden as an undefeated top seed feels like it was a hundred years ago.

Of course, the unchanging ingredient this century is the humble architect of that standard, Mike Adams. From setting his own example in the weight room to staying directly involved with the feeder system to organizing out-of-state summer trips, nobody in the state works harder when the spotlight’s off to prepare his team for the fury of February vacation week.

It’s easy to forget, too, but EL boys’ basketball hadn’t been a powerhouse since a year past World War II when Maine’s 1990 Mr. Basketball arrived. Mike Francoeur brought stability and higher expectations in his tenure, but for the most part fore and aft, the coach’s office was equipped with a revolving door and mediocrity was the general rule. Lewiston, with peaks during the Fern Masse and Andrew Dolloff years, held the stronger tradition in the Twin Cities.

More important than any of this, Adams is a stellar role model and leader of young men within a multicultural community. He unfailingly treats rival teams, the media and the game with honor. He engenders respect and earns results without being a jerk. The world needs more like him.

• As someone who was raised just up the road and had a parent inside the school system for 36 years, I couldn’t be prouder of the hoops renaissance at Winthrop High School.

Renaissance applies in its most literal sense to the girls’ program, which was dead in the water by any measure when Joe Burnham arrived. The civic center fixture Ray Convery kept at full song in the 1980s and ’90s sputtered to a full stop after his retirement. The Ramblers spent a year as a junior varsity-only program and struggled to score double digits in an MVC game on either side of that mile post.

The ladies’ slow, steady, scintillating surge back to prominence is a testament to trusting the process, a concept that has become ubiquitous in sports but is rarely combined with the necessary patience. Stakeholders typically have delusions of grandeur about their precious progeny and clamor to change the coach when the program doesn’t experience immediate success. Full credit to the Winthrop community for yielding Burnham the time and patience to build it back the right way.

Todd MacArthur inherited a less dire situation, but one that had descended precipitously from its glory days, when WHS plucked him from the Mike McGee coaching tree at Lawrence to direct the boys. All he’s done is guide the Ramblers to five consecutive regional finals and put them on the cusp of back-to-back state titles.

His tireless style and attention to defensive detail is tailor-made for this basketball epoch in the state when points are hard to come by. Streaky shooters and unimposing, unsung heroes alike thrive in his system. Again, it’s a tribute to what happens when you let a coach be himself and stamp his personality on the product.

Winthrop went through a well-publicized stretch of tragedy 10 to 15 years ago, one for which an inordinate share of blame was unfairly ascribed to its athletic program. The voices who thought sports were overemphasized won out for a while, and the results showed across the board. As a tireless advocate for the role of these silly games we watch in the development of well-rounded young men and women, I’m proud and thankful that comprehension of the big picture won out in the 04364.

• Trivia question for which I admittedly don’t know the answer: How many Maine coaches have guided four different schools to the tournament, three to the regional finals and two to a state title game, all before age 40?

I will go out on the limb and say the solution is one, and that his name is Travis Magnusson. From the moment he took over the Livermore Falls (remember them?) program shortly after graduating from the University of Maine at Farmington, Magnusson has enjoyed nothing but success. From the Andies, to the Cougars of Dirigo and Mt. Blue, and now to what I suspect will be his forever home with the Class B South champion Maranacook Black Bears, he has invigorated and improved programs from the get-go.

Yes, Dirigo and Maranacook enjoyed extended success before Magnusson’s arrival, but getting each one back to state in year one with a cast he’d never met prior to the previous summer speaks to his connection with the modern young athlete. He’s on the short list with Adams as a standard-bearer and a future hall of fame pillar from his generation.

• The final nanosecond of Saturday’s Class C North boys’ final – should we be talking about a Dexter buzzer-beater against Central Aroostook, or would it have been the correct call to wave it off? – has some in the peanut gallery clamoring for the use of replay in such situations.

No, no, a thousand times, no.

It’s much the same crowd that cries for a shot clock, to reiterate my point from two weeks ago, and it’s based on a false equivalency that high school sports should directly mimic the colleges and pros.

I’ll take a hard pass. Of course there are times replay could be implemented, but all it does is open a Pandora’s box in an environment where less is more. Fractions of seconds are gained or lost during a game simply due to human reaction time. Added regulation over the last one won’t improve or enhance the product.

Sometimes we need a reminder that a major component of youth sports is teaching our kids to deal with the reality that crap happens in life. Whether you think Saturday’s call was right or wrong or are indifferent to it, please put it in that perspective and move on.

Kalle Oakes covered the Maine high school basketball tournament every year from 1990 to 2016. He is now sports editor of the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. Keep in touch with him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @oaksie72.

 


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