The 2010 Eastern Maine Classes B, C and D basketball tournament was marked by the highest attendance for the eight-day event in eight years.
The eight-day event drew 40,436, up markedly from last year’s 33,299 and the highest since 44,166 turned out for the 2002 tournament.
Mild weather and a diversity of schools represented were credited for the renewed interest in the tournament.
This year’s big turnout marks the second straight year of increased crowds since the low point of recent times, 32,577 in 2008.
The biggest crowd among this year’s 20 tournament sessions was for the Class B regional finals Saturday afternoon, which drew 3,536 fans for a doubleheader that included the Nokomis of Newport and Mount Desert Island girls teams and the Camden Hills of Rockport and Ellsworth boys team.
The Class B finals also produced the top crowd in 2009, but that was just 2,745.
The average for this year’s sessions was 2,028, up from 1,665 in 2009.
Nine sessions this year drew more than 2,000 fans compared to just five last year, and four sessions this year topped 2,500 in attendance.
Other large crowds this year included 2,926 for a Class D boys quarterfinal doubleheader on Monday afternoon of tournament week involving teams from Washburn, Jonesport-Beals, Schenck of East Millinocket and Greater Houlton Christian Academy; 2,886 for the three-game Class B session that opened the tournament on Friday, Feb. 12; and 2,583 for a tripleheader of Class B quarterfinals the following afternoon.
The smallest crowd for a session this year was 1,105 on Thursday evening for the Class D girls semifinals.
This year’s Class B tournament drew 15,527 fans, compared to 12,256 last year. The 2010 Class C tourney drew 12,552 compared to 12,128 in 2009, while this year’s Class D games drew 12,357 compared to 8,915 a year ago when weather forced the move of one of the semifinal sessions from Thursday afternoon to Friday morning.
Final figures for the Eastern A and Western C and D tournament at the Augusta Civic Center and the Western A and B tournament at the Portland Expo and Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland are not yet available, but Maine Principals’ Association executive director Dick Durost expects turnout at those venues to be up slightly from a year ago.
Blue Devils title streak ends
Calais High School’s run of four consecutive Eastern Maine Class C basketball championships came to an end Saturday night, but not until the Devils returned to the regional championship game for a fifth straight year.
Coach Ed Leeman’s club bounced back from a 37-point regular-season loss at Washington Academy of East Machias less than three weeks earlier to challenge the Raiders into the final minute of play before dropping a 54-49 decision.
That ended a 16-game tournament win streak at the Bangor Auditorium for Calais, a run that began in 2006 and produced not only four EM titles, but two of the Blue Devils’ three state championships during that run.
“The kids I’ve had over the last five years have just been kids of great character, great kids for our community, and I think that’s been reflected in how they’ve played,” Leeman said. “They just go out and work hard. I don’t think we really think about winning and losing too much, we try to go out and play the game and do the best we can.”
Calais has gone 17-2 in the equivalent of a full season of postseason play during the last five years, with losses only in the 2008 state final to Winthrop and in this year’s EM “C” final.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a ton of talent,” Leeman said of rosters that have included Bangor Daily News All-Maine choices Brandon Tomah, Sam Bell and Cal Shorey and fellow Eastern Maine Class C all-tournament honorees Chris Taylor, Rod Tirrell, Jordan Leeman and Jeremy Carr. “I look back at the pieces we’ve had over the years and we’ve had a ton of talent, and a lot of good kids.
“But they’ve still gone out and played. You can’t just have talent and not go out and do it. It’s like WA, they’ve got talent and this year they really worked hard and put it together.”
The Blue Devils have gone 98-8 overall since the start of the 2006 season, a run that began with 63 consecutive victories that produced undefeated state championship seasons in 2006 and 2007.
And with just three seniors graduating from this year’s team and a returning cast led by center Cam Shorey, Leeman is hopeful the Blue Devils will be back in contention next winter.
“It’s been a nice run, and I don’t think it’s over,” he said. “We’ve got a good group coming back, but I don’t know where we’ll be next year because we really don’t think about next year at this time.
“We’re going to relax, take a breath, do some sleeping, those kinds of things, but I’m proud of my kids [in the Eastern Maine final] and the effort they