BANGOR, Maine — The sentimentality surrounding the 2013 Eastern Maine B, C and D tournament being the swan song for high school basketball at the Bangor Auditorium before the aging edifice is replaced by the Cross Insurance Center this fall wasn’t reflected in the number of fans who turned out for the event.
The unofficial paid attendance for this year’s eight-day event was 39,299, approximately 2,600 fewer than last year, according to tournament co-director Norris Nickerson.
The 2012 Eastern B, C and D tournament drew 41,915 fans, the most since 44,166 fans turned out in 2002.
Total attendance in 2010 was 40,436, while the 2009 count was 33,557 after a low total since 2002 of 32,577 in 2008.
Nickerson said this year’s attendance may have been affected by weather issues involving snow and wind both in the Bangor area and northern Maine during the first Saturday and Monday of the tournament.
“It was a little slow early on,” said Nickerson on Sunday, “but it turned around the last part of the tournament.”
All 20 sessions drew at least 1,000 spectators, with the two largest sessions turning out for Saturday afternoon’s Eastern B championship games and Wednesday night’s Eastern B boys’ semifinals.
Nickerson said Saturday afternoon’s attendance of 3,957 was one of the tourney’s largest single-session draws in recent years, while the Class B boys semifinals drew 3,341.
Class B attendance took the biggest hit this year with 13,669 fans compared to 16,057 in 2012. This year’s number was hurt by a crowd of just 1,437 for the Saturday, Feb. 16, morning session that was affected by inclement weather in the region.
This year’s turnout for Class C was up from a year ago, with 14,154 in 2013 compared to 13,526 in 2012, while Class D was down from 12,337 in 2012 to 11,456 this year — a fact possibly attributable to the quarterfinal exit of defending state champion Jonesport-Beals and its star player, University of Maine-bound senior Garet Beal.
Nickerson did say there were many examples of sentimentality among the fans who did turn out for this year’s tournament.
“The people that came were taking a ton of pictures of the old building,” he said. “They were taking pictures of the court, of themselves outside in front of the building, in the hallways, everywhere.
“And a lot of people were asking what they were going to do with different parts of the building when they tear it down, whether they were going to sell the seats and other things.”
The Bangor Auditorium is set to be torn down later this spring, and the Cross Insurance Center is scheduled for a formal opening in early September.
Another milestone for Penquis’ Hamlin
Penquis of Milo’s come-from-behind 46-41 victory over Houlton in Saturday night’s Eastern C boys basketball final offered plenty of memories of its own for veteran Patriots’ coach Tony Hamlin.
Of particular note to him was the determination of his players, who trailed for the game’s first 3½ quarters but refused to give in to a talented Houlton squad.
“There was a lot of doubt in my mind,” said Hamlin, whose team trailed by seven points before outscoring the Shiretowners 15-3 during the game’s final 4 minutes, 21 seconds. “We didn’t have any timeouts and they were making runs. To be honest with you, at that point you’re realistic about how this is going to end because they’re a good team.
“But boy, these guys have got a lot of fight in them, and I knew we wouldn’t go quietly.”
The comeback victory also made Hamlin the newest member of an elite varsity basketball coaching fraternity in Maine — the 400-win club.
“It’s a memorable thing,” said Hamlin. “I’m 61 years old and been doing this a long time, and I think of all the kids I’ve coached since 1974. It’s been a long road, but this will be a great memory because it was an unexpected one with about 10 minutes left in this game.”
Hamlin was a star guard at both Milo High School and Penquis, playing his first two years at Milo and his final two years at Penquis after SAD 41 was formed during the late 1960s.
Hamlin went on to be a four-year letterman in basketball at the University of Maine and captained the Black Bears in 1974.
He then went into teaching and coaching, spending his first three years at Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield before moving to the Class A ranks at Morse of Bath in 1978. He guided the Shipbuilders for four years, then moved to South Portland in 1982. During seven years there he led the Red Riots to the 1983 Class A state championship and Western A titles in 1983 and 1985.
Hamlin left coaching in 1988, but returned to his hometown and took over the Penquis program in the 1996-97 season.
In 17 seasons at his alma mater, Hamlin has amassed 247 victories and led the Patriots to the school’s first Class C state championship in 2000 as well as Eastern Maine titles in 1999, 2000 and now 2013.
“I hate to say it sometimes because he gets on us a little bit,” said Penquis junior guard Trevor Lyford, “but coach Hamlin’s one of the best coaches in the state of Maine if not the best coach in the state of Maine, so it’s nice to get him his 400th on a big night for us.”
Hamlin next will face a member of the 500-win club, Boothbay coach I.J. Pinkham, when Penquis and the Western Maine champion Seahawks battle for the state title next Saturday night, also at the Bangor Auditorium.