— One need look no further than the scheduling of the Class D basketball regional tournaments to see a different example of the “two Maines,” with the Western D tournament relegated mostly to morning sessions while the Eastern D event gets its share of prime time — and prime attendance numbers, too.
The Western D boys quarterfinals run from 8:30 a.m. through 3 p.m. early Saturday, with the girls quarters held in two morning sessions Monday and Tuesday. That’s followed by the boys semifinals on Wednesday morning and the girls semifinals on Thursday morning before the finals are scheduled for 1:05 p.m. (girls) and 2:45 p.m. (boys) this Saturday.
That’s in contrast to Eastern Maine, where the Class D quarterfinals begin on the first Saturday night of the tournament and continue through the morning, afternoon and evening on Monday. The semifinals are held Thursday afternoon and evening with the finals kicking off Championship Saturday with a morning doubleheader.
The crowds generally are smaller in the West, with the Eastern D tournament drawing some of the larger early round crowds regardless of class in Bangor.
This year, for example, the Monday afternoon Eastern D boys doubleheader in Bangor drew a paid attendance of 2,753, the largest of any crowd for the first nine quarterfinal sessions at the Auditorium.
In fairness, the different schedules between Eastern and Western D do make sense in helping to maximize overall fan attendance for the entire tournament at the Augusta and Bangor sites given the composition of those two divisions.
Eastern D features many tradition-laden small-town programs from Aroostook County and Down East that have gotten even smaller in recent years through an outmigration of population, and overall the division has swelled to 23 schools, significantly more than the 13 in Western Maine.
Western D, by contrast, is an amalgam of geographically diverse public schools ranging from northernmost Forest Hills in Jackman south to Richmond and Buckfield and from westernmost Rangeley east to the island schools of Islesboro, Vinalhaven and North Haven, along with several private schools from Sagadahoc, Cumberland and York counties.
— One key to a successful tournament run is supposed to be overcoming tournament jitters, especially for the freshman players who help teams earn their way to the Bangor Auditorium.
But at least two first-year performers have played crucial roles in leading their squads to Friday night’s Class C semifinals.
Kyle Bouchard, a 6-foot-4 freshman forward from Houlton, debuted with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists to lead No. 7 Houlton to a quarterfinal upset of No. 2 Sumner of East Sullivan, a regional finalist a year ago.
Bouchard, the Shiretowners’ leading scorer and rebounder this season, epitomizes a youthful Houlton club guided by coach Rob Moran that has grown together as a team and seems to be peaking at the right time.
Bouchard is the son of Houlton High School principal Marty Bouchard, who coached Hodgdon to the 1996 Class C state championship, and the grandson of Terry Spurling, a star basketball player at Ellsworth High School under coach Charlie Katsiaficas during the 1950s who went on to play at the University of Maine before embarking on a career in education that included basketball coaching stops at Aroostook Central Institute in Mars Hill and Houlton.
Equally important to her team is freshman point guard Madison McVicar of Calais, who has helped the Blue Devils remain one of four undefeated girls teams in Eastern Maine — along with Class A Cony of Augusta and Class B Presque Isle and Nokomis of Newport — through their quarterfinal win over Narraguagus of Harrington on Wednesday.
McVicar scored a game-high 23 points as coach Dana Redding’s second-ranked Calais team improved to 16-0 by edging its Downeast Athletic Conference rival 49-46 in the opening round, after she had been a catalyst for the Blue Devils throughout the winter.