York High fans cheer on the boys’ basketball team during a Class B South quarterfinal against Cape Elizabeth at the Portland Expo on Friday afternoon. Maine’s high school basketball tournament has returned after a one-year absence. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The ball floated through the air, eventually dropping through the basket with a definitive swish.

And the crowd, waiting in anticipation, roared.

The Maine Principals’ Association’s high school basketball tournament returned to the Portland Expo on Friday afternoon after a one-year absence, much to the joy and excitement of not only the players and coaches, but the fans.

The first fan arrived, according to tournament director Gerry Durgin, at 9 a.m., looking to buy tickets for a game that wouldn’t start for seven hours.

“That tells you something,” said Durgin, standing inside the Expo as the York and Cape Elizabeth boys’ teams played the first game. “It’s just great to have this enthusiasm and to have people back in the gym.”

Last year’s tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020-21 winter season was modified to include geographic schedules and fewer games. And fans weren’t allowed in the gym to watch the games, instead watching livestreams on their computers or televisions.


“We had cardboard cutouts of us and other people in the stands,” said Angela Frazier, whose son JP, a senior at York, scored 24 points in leading the Wildcats to a 67-51 Class B South quarterfinal win over the Capers. “And other people’s pets, too.”

Over 600 fans came to the Expo for the 4 o’clock game on a Friday afternoon. Durgin called it “a great crowd.” They were  boisterous from the opening tip. Both Cape and York had sizable student sections, each taking up six rows in the stands. They stood and cheered throughout, the Capers dressed in black, the Wildcats in light gray.

From left, Cape Elizabeth High seniors Matt Picarillo, Hamza Shir and Brett Hetrick cheer on the boys’ basketball team during a Class B South quarterfinal at the Portland Expo on Friday afternoon. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“It means so much to be here,” said Emily Supple, a senior at Cape Elizabeth who will next play soccer at Bryant University. “I mean basketball in Maine is just very, very big and brings huge crowds. So not having a tournament last year, that was a huge part missing from my high school career. … It’s so great to have it back. The Expo is always a great experience, there’s nothing like it.

“It’s definitely great to have it back.”

Frazier, her husband, Kevin, and family friend Paul Whitmore (who attended Portland High and played at the Expo) sat about six rows behind the York bench, what Kevin Frazier calls “the Red Auerbach seats.”

Angela Frazier said not having the tournament last year was difficult, especially since the Wildcats had advanced to the Class A state championship game in 2020. “We’re just grateful that we’re having a game here in this beautiful arena, and that we can watch it,” Kevin Frazier said.


Gregg Frame arrived early, grabbing front-row seats at midcourt with his wife, Jill, and brother Doug. He anticipated a large family group to watch his son, Jake Frame, the starting point guard for Cape Elizabeth.

Gregg Frame, who played collegiately at Dartmouth College, said simply the idea of having a tournament this year gave the athletes hope.

“My wife and I left every game, all 18 (regular season) games they played, and said, ‘We snuck another one in,'” he said. “We just didn’t know. There was always the hope that there would be a tournament.”

Jill and Gregg Frame of Cape Elizabeth cheer on their son, Jake, during a Class B South quarterfinal Friday at the Portland Expo. At right is Jake’s uncle, Doug Frame. “It’s a great opportunity for them to play, especially for the seniors, at the Expo,” Jill Frame says. “They’ve been waiting for this for years.” Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The tournament, said Jill Frame, “means everything. It’s a great opportunity for them to play, especially for the seniors, at the Expo. They’ve been waiting for this for years.”

And for the parents and fans, it is a chance to see the players in person, unlike last year.

“It’s very exciting to be able to be here and not watch it on TV,” said Jill Frame. “It makes a world of difference.”


Tournament games also were played Friday at the Augusta Civic Center and the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Regional champions will be crowned late next week (when the games in Portland shift to the larger Cross Insurance Arena), with state championships scheduled for March 4-5.

Tom Peaco and his wife, Michelle, drove an hour and 45 minutes from Rockland to Portland to watch Oceanside High play Yarmouth in the second of four games Friday at the Expo. Their son, Andrew, is a senior with the Mariners, who lost to Yarmouth 63-43.

Oceanside moved to the South region this year from the North, making this the Mariners’ first trip to the Expo.

York High’s Gavin Davis is congratulated by fellow sophomore Meghan Daly after the Wildcats defeated Cape Elizabeth, 67-51, in a Class B South quarterfinal at the Portland Expo on Friday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“We normally play in Augusta or Bangor so it’s neat to see a different venue,” said Tom Peaco. “And of course the Expo has a lot of history to it so it’s fun for the kids to have a chance to play here.

“This is phenomenal. To have some sense of normalcy back this year, especially for the seniors, is really nice.”

For many of the students who came, the game provided another opportunity to get together.

“It’s another social setting, something else to do,” said Crispin Duryee, a senior at Cape Elizabeth who leads the student section. “Just to be here with your friends is so much fun.”

And they didn’t mind the COVID-19 protocols – such as providing proof of vaccination and wearing masks – they had to follow.

“We’re making it work,” Supple said. “We’re just happy to be here doing this.”

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