Basketball: Saturday's state championship schedule altered by storm threat
Mar. 2—Several changes have been made to Saturday's high school basketball state championship schedule in light of a snowstorm forecast for late Friday night and Saturday across the state.
On Thursday afternoon, the Maine Principals' Association postponed the Saturday afternoon sessions for Class B title games at Portland's Cross Insurance Arena and Class D games at Bangor's Cross Insurance Center.
The Class B games will now be played Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center. The girls' game between Ellsworth and Spruce Mountain will start at 7:05 p.m., followed by the boys' game between Orono and Oceanside.
The Class D games have been moved to Monday night at the Cross Center in Bangor. The Seacoast Christian girls will take on Southern Aroostook at 6:05 p.m. followed by the Forest Hills boys vs. Southern Aroostook at 7:45 p.m.
The Saturday night Class AA games in Portland — Oxford Hills versus Gorham girls, and Portland versus South Portland boys — are still scheduled for 7 and 8:45 p.m. at Cross Insurance Arena.
"We think it would be better for high school basketball in Maine to play on a Saturday night, particularly with Portland against South Portland," said South Portland Coach Kevin Millington. "But we understand the situation we're in, and we all live in Maine and we know how Old Man Winter works."
The Class C games in Bangor are still scheduled for Saturday night: Old Orchard Beach against Dexter in the 7 p.m. girls' game, and Dirigo versus Calais to follow in the boys' game.
The National Weather Service is predicting that the storm could to bring as much as 15 inches of snow to Portland and 10 inches in Augusta, tailing off by late Saturday afternoon. Considerably less accumulation is expected in Bangor.
The Class A schedule Friday night at the Augusta Civic Center remains unchanged. Lawrence will meet Brunswick in the girls' game at 6 p.m., followed by Brewer against Falmouth in the boys' final, scheduled to tip off at 7:45 p.m.
The MPA, in a news release, said it could make further postponements on Friday, "should the forecast worsen, and games not be able to be played on Saturday evening."
"I think Saturday night is an ideal night to play a championship as opposed to a school night," said Mike Burnham, executive director of the MPA. "If we're able to play Saturday night and it's safe for fans and schools to travel, then we will play Saturday. If it's not, then we have a plan to move to next week. We thought it was important to have that two-pronged approach."
Noting that contingency plans are in place, Burnham said there is not a definite timetable for Friday's final decision, but "we're hoping by (Friday) morning, we'll have that information to allow us to make a decision early."
If the Saturday evening games are postponed, the Class AA games will be played Monday at Cross Insurance Arena; Class B games will be Tuesday at the Portland Expo; and Class C games will be Tuesday at Cross Insurance Center. In each case, the girls would start at 6:05 p.m., with the boys to follow at approximately 7:45 p.m.
Cross Insurance Arena is scheduled to host three MPA hockey playoff games on Tuesday, with 4, 6 and 8 p.m. starts.
"Well, we have to prepare as if we're playing Saturday, and if that changes, we'll adjust accordingly," said Oceanside boys' coach Larry Reed.
Millington said players will adapt.
"We talked early in the week about it, and one of our core principles is we embrace the difficult, so we don't care when we play the game," Millington said.
The Old Orchard Beach girls, whose game against Dexter is still on for Saturday night, face a long drive to Bangor — two hours and 15 minutes in ideal conditions.
"I'm guessing (the MPA) will err on the side of caution. We're ready for both scenarios," said Seagulls Coach Dean Plante. "My guess is, if we decide to play, then the roads will be adequate. Otherwise, we'll speak our piece and see what happens. I think the MPA is going to make the decision based on safety first."
Old Orchard's travel plans haven't changed. Only the arrival time has.
"If anyone knows me, they know we'll be early," Plante said. "We had originally scheduled a 12:30 departure for a 7 o'clock game, and we were going to stop and do the lunch thing and take our time and make a day of it. ... My guess is, if we play Saturday, we'll continue with our schedule as planned."
The Seagulls would have a player and assistant coach away on vacation if the game gets moved to next week.
"If they push it forward, if they keep it the same, if they push it back, we're going to be ready regardless," said Old Orchard senior guard Elise MacNair. "I think regardless of if that game is pushed back, our intensity will remain the same. Honestly, it might ramp up just a little bit more because we're that much more excited to play."
Anthony Amero, the Forest Hills athletic director and boys' basketball coach, said he had hoped his Tigers would play Southern Aroostook earlier in the day, now this their game has been pushed back to Monday.
"It's really disappointing that this would cause our people to travel this far at night," he said. "Now, we are tipping off at 7:45 on a school night? We have a two-and-a-half hour ride to Bangor. So let's play this through. The game is over by, say, 9:30, we're on the road by 10. That gets us back in Jackman by midnight. It's very disappointing.
"I know the MPA was trying to work some things out, but it's just disappointing that nothing could be worked out."
The last time winter weather forced the MPA to postpone championship basketball games on a Saturday was 2008, when Maine had a four-class system. Like this season, the Friday games were played as scheduled (Class B). The Class A girls played Monday and the Class A boys on Tuesday at Cross Insurance Arena, then known as the Cumberland County Civic Center. The Augusta Civic Center hosted Class D games on Monday and Class C games on Wednesday.
Weather also caused the postponement of the Class B championship games in 2007.
Burnham thanked the staffs at the four tournament venues for their cooperation and effort.
"They all worked so hard to help us with this impending storm," Burnham said.
Now it's down to watching the forecast.
"The planning is all done," Burnham said. "Now it's just a matter of getting a good weather forecast and saying, 'Is it safe or not safe?'"
Staff Writer Drew Bonifant and Bill Stewart of Central Maine Newspapers contributed to this report.