As eight Eastern Maine coaches look forward to state championship games this weekend, I would like to offer some tips that might be helpful in preparing for these games.
For the coaches, the first thing to do is not waste time celebrating an Eastern Maine title. Planning for the state title should start on the bus ride home from the EM final.
If you are going to Bangor, Augusta or Portland, get your free practice at the site scheduled as soon as possible. If you are the coach of a Class A or B team, you must understand the Cumberland County Civic Center court in Portland is college size at 94 by 50 feet. It is extremely important to also schedule practices during the week on college courts in your area because that extra 10 feet affects your team’s conditioning.
The second thing is to arrange for some of your former players to practice with you so as to make up a team that is nearly the same size and better skilled than your opponent. Then you can duplicate your state-game opponents during each practice.
Third, if you are playing at the Augusta Civic Center, try to get to a site that has portable baskets and that have portable bleachers behind the baskets as the shooting background is different than the Bangor Auditorium.
Fourth, make sure you get or swap some game video of your opponent and get several scouting reports from coaches who have played them.
Fifth, make sure that you have your second group or the alumni play physical during the practices as that is more of the style of the Western Maine teams, especially in Classes A and B.
Sixth, work on foul shooting as you may get to the line a lot because of the physical style of play. Run a drill that has some pressure and make all the practice foul shots one-and-ones.
A good drill for this is to have nonshooting players line up on the lane like in games. Each player will shoot one-and-one. If they make both ends, they just stay and rotate in. If they make the first foul shot and miss the second, they sprint to the opposite foul line extended on the sideline and then sprint back and get in line. If they miss the first, they sprint to the opposite end line corner and sprint back and get in line. This puts pressure on the foul shooters.
Seventh, make sure you have and practice excellent shot selection. If I saw a big weakness during the Eastern Maine tournament for all classes, it was shot selection. Poor shot selection is just like a turnover, and many times it starts the opponent’s fast break.
These tips could help coaches and players and it all comes back to the first point. You cannot be satisfied with just an Eastern Maine championship. You must focus on the state game and not think being in the state game is anticlimactic. I have seen this happen many times.
Good luck to all the Eastern Maine championship teams in their quests for state championships this weekend.
Bob Cimbollek is a retired high school basketball coach and is a basketball official.