June 21, 2018
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Tourney week produces a few clunkers, but stars shine

By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

So what have we learned so far this Tourney Week?

— Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like folks are in a more affable mood this week than other recent tourney weeks I can recall. Perhaps it’s just that the winter has been so miserable between 10-inch snowstorms or below-zero temperatures with no middle ground until this week.

Oh wait, I write too soon. Predictions of six to 12 inches of snow Friday may bring us all back to our grumpy, cabin fever-induced misery, particularly if it causes any games to be postponed.

—- One well-worn tourney week adage certainly has lived up to its billing, that even the best teams must survive one clunker of a game in order to continue their pursuit of the championship dream.

On Wednesday night alone three No. 1 seeds — Bangor, Camden Hills of Rockport and Cheverus of Portland — were unable to wow the crowds in Augusta, Bangor and Portland, respectively, with the smoothest of two-way play that has propelled them to a combined 59-1 record so far this winter.

But Bangor yielded just 34 points, Cheverus 41 and Camden Hills 44, numbers that bring to mind another popular Tourney Week cliche — that defense wins championships.

—- Some favorites haven’t been as fortunate, as Tourney Week has not been without its upsets. No. 9 Dexter knocks off No. 1 Calais — the defending state champion, in Class C girls play, while No. 8 Messalonskee of Oakland does the same to top-seeded Morse of Bath in Eastern A.

And several other teams have jumped out to comfortable early leads, only to have tenacious lower seeds refuse to settle for just being at the Bangor Auditorium and rallying for victories, like the Machias boys over Schenck of East Millinocket and Sumner of East Sullivan over Calais.

We’re left with a few dominant teams, but also a lot of parity — just three of last year’s EM champions, the Edward Little of Auburn and Camden Hills boys and the Nokomis of Newport girls are still alive.

—- The stars have come out to play, generally backing up their strong regular-season performances win or lose.

From Tyler McFarland of Camden Hills to Joey McCloskey of Penobscot Valley of Howland, from Andrew Austin of Ellsworth to Garet Beal of Jonesport-Beals and Mitch Worcester of Washburn, and from Hannah Pray of Central of Corinth to Amanda Hotham of Fort Fairfield, early tourney victories have stemmed from their leadership.

And from Nokomis of Newport phenom Chris Braley and his 43-point coming-out party in an overtime Class B quarterfinal loss to undefeated Ellsworth, to Graham Safford trying to will his Hampden Academy team to a Class semifinal win over Edward Little of Auburn, there was significant nobility in defeat.

—- The Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference continues to rule Eastern B. Of the four regional finalists, three come from the league that has produced the last 10 boys regional champions and six of the last seven girls titleists.

That fact should really come as not too much of a surprise given that the KVAC involves more of the higher-enrollment schools in Eastern Maine Class B than the rival Big East Conference.

—- And one more thing we know, that the best of Tourney Week has yet to come. So don’t worry about another snowstorm, it too will melt in a few months and then we’ll be complaining about the blackflies.

For the rest of this week, at least, just enjoy the games.

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