December 29, 2012

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Hoop Classic looks for ways to add excitement

By Gary Hawkins ghawkins@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The Maine Principals' Association didn't have Christmas basketball tournaments in mind when it limited non-countable dates a few years ago or when it moved the Class A tournament to February vacation.

But both decisions have had a profound effect on the Capital City Hoop Classic played Friday and today at the Augusta Civic Center. The boys session was held Friday and because of non-countable dates being limited to five, which includes conference championships, all the games were held in one day.

The Cony boys ended up playing four games in one day because Lincoln Academy was forced out of its second game when it had to play a makeup game Friday night. Cony has a regular-season game tonight against Mt. Ararat and played many of its reserves throughout Friday's games.

Lawrence, Hall-Dale and Gardiner are also playing regular-season games today or tonight. In the past, many Class A teams had an extended break over the holidays but that's no longer the case since their season is several days shorter. What it added up to was less than stellar play and well below average crowds.

"This is a result of the MPA shortening the season," Hoop Classic chairman Dave Rollins said. "It's not just happening in this tournament. I'm concerned sponsors and people won't continue to come out because the product on the floor isn't entertaining."

The afternoon contest between Cony and Lawrence did count as a regular-season game and generated the most interest, but many of the other teams didn't want to play a third game, including Gardiner and Hall-Dale because they both have regular-season games today.

One solution floated among tournament officials was to have more countable games, perhaps the first four on each day of the tournament. Several areas teams, Hall-Dale, Boothbay and Winthrop, Cony, Erskine add Lawrence, and Gardiner and Maranacook, play in the same conferences.

"You'd have to get the ADs to agree," Boothbay coach I.J. Pinkham said.

• • •

There were a couple of close games Friday albeit played with many reserves. Lawrence coach Mike McGee sat three of his starters in his team's 71-70 loss against Boothbay. The Seahawks got 18 points from Anthony DiMauro and 15 from John Hepburn while Jason Bushaw and Chris Doyen led the Bulldogs with 18 and 16 points, respectively.

Jensen Orewiler scored 14 points and Brad West nine as Gardiner nipped Cony 45-44.

"(Cony coach) Tim (Bonsant) kept a lot of starters out," Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy said. "This was their third game of the day so he didn't play quite as many starters as I did."

Mitchell Bonenfant led the Rams with 14 points and Liam Stokes scored 13.

Earlier in the day, Boothbay topped Gardiner with DiMauro and Hepburn scoring 14 each for the Seahawks and Orewiler scoring 10 for the Tigers. Hall-Dale split a pair of games, beating Lincoln 55-41 behind 14 points from Zac Plummer and 11 from Michael Woods and losing to Cony 67-40 as Zack Lachance scored 28 for the Rams.

Cony beat Boothbay in the championship game 68-65. Kevin Kingsbury scored 19 points and Mitchell Bonenfant added 17 for Cony. John Hepburn had 22 points and Lincoln Simmons 12 for Boothbay.

• • •

Players from Hall-Dale and Gardiner each sustained ankle injuries. Gardiner lost sophomore starter Seth McFarland against Boothbay while Hall-Dale center Sam Shepherd rolled his ankle against Lincoln. Hall-Dale plays at Dirigo tonight while Gardiner travels to Camden Hills.

"We've got to get him an X-ray on Monday so he's unavailable for us for (tonight)," Cassidy said of McFarland. "He's concerned with maybe the ligament tearing off the muscle."

Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said he believes Shepherd will be ready to play tonight. Ranslow also got a chance to look at sophomore guard Nat Crocker who has missed most of the season with a broken wrist.

"He played a little bit up at Carrabec, but Carrabec's not the competition that these teams were," Ranslow said. "I was really impressed with Nat. He's a young kid but he plays with a little bit of emotion."

• • •

Each year, the tournament presents a contributor's award to an individual who has had an impact on the tournament and the sports community in general. This year's recipient was local businessman Norm Elvin, a Cony graduate who played football and basketball for the Rams. Over the years, Elvin has supported a number of causes in the capital area and has been a sponsor of the G & E Roofing Tip-Off tournament and the Capital City Hoop Classic while being an active supporter of Augusta Little League and Babe Ruth, soccer, football, hockey and softball as well as many of the recreational trails throughout the area.

Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638

ghawkins@centralmaine.com

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