December 10, 2018
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Tip-Off Tournament at Memorial Gym ‘pretty good’ but future events returning to Bangor

Pete Warner | BDN
Pete Warner | BDN
University of Maine women's basketball coach Richard Barron diagrams a play during a timeout in Saturday evening's exhibition game against McGill University at Memorial Gym in Orono. The Black Bears cruised to an 81-41 victory.

University of Maine interim women’s basketball coach Amy Vachon admitted that she was “skeptical” about holding the second annual Tip-Off Tournament at the 82-year-old Memorial Gym on campus in Orono rather than the four-year old Cross Insurance Center in Bangor where they play all of their home games.

But Vachon was pleased with the tourney even though she wants future Tip-Off Tournaments to return to the Cross Insurance Center.

It was UMaine’s first regular season game at the Memorial Gymnasium since March 2, 2013, although the Black Bears hosted McGill University of Montreal for an exhibition game in 2014.

“Overall, I thought it was pretty good,” said Vachon, whose Black Bears lost Tulane 42-34 before beating Harvard University 76-51 in the consolation game.

Dayton University won the tourney, beating Harvard 72-66 and then rallying past Tulane 71-65 in the championship game.

“The crowd was very vocal and energetic, which was nice,” said Vachon. “There were four very good teams. And we had two coaches with over 500 career wins which is amazing.”

Harvard University coach Kathy Delaney-Smith entered the season with a 567-384 record in her 35 seasons at the helm and Tulane University’s Lisa Stockton was 542-269 in 26 seasons. This is her 24th year at Tulane after spending three as the head coach at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

UMaine was the only one of the four teams that didn’t get to play in a postseason tournament a year ago as Dayton earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament while Tulane and Harvard received Women’s NIT bids. UMaine did reach the America East championship game but lost to six-time titlist Albany.

Attendance was listed at 1,054 at the 1,340-seat facility for the UMaine-Tulane game and 855 for the UMaine-Harvard game although both figures appeared to be inflated.

“Attendance was based on tickets issued (not actual fans in the seats) and that included season ticket holders,” explained Will Biberstein, the university’s senior associate athletic director for internal operations.

Dayton University coach Shauna Green and Dayton players JaVonna Layfield and Jenna Burdette said they didn’t mind playing in an old gym and enjoyed the tournament.

“(Playing in an old gym) didn’t bother us. We just like to lace up and play,” said Green. “I loved this tournament. We got to play two really good teams for our first two games of the season with a quick turnaround. This was a great test for us.

“I’m happy we won the tournament. But, win or lose, we learned so much stuff from these two games,” Green added.

“It was a real good tournament,” said Layfield, the tourney’s Most Valuable Player. “Everybody was really nice here. We had good service. And it was real good to meet the teams at the beginning. Everybody was pretty cool.”

There was a dinner for all four teams at Wells Commons the night before the tournament and players shared tables with players from the other teams.

“Getting to talk to players from the other teams was really cool. It was fun,” said Burdette.

The first Tip-Off Tournament a year ago at the 5,800-seat Cross Insurance Center attracted 2,416 to UMaine’s 67-47 victory over former UMaine head coach Sharon Versyp’s Purdue University team and 2,182 to the championship game loss to Mississippi State.

MSU went on to play in the NCAA championship game against South Carolina after ending the University of Connecticut’s 111-game winning streak in the semis 66-64.

South Carolina won 67-55.

Biberstein said the intention was to have the tourney at the Cross Insurance Center but for a variety of reasons there was an oversight with the scheduling with the Cross Insurance Center.

The Cross Insurance Center had already booked the Maine Harvest Festival for this past weekend.

He said they are already discussing future Tip-Off Tournaments with Cross Insurance Center officials.

Biberstein felt things went well at the facility known as The Pit.

“There are certainly going to be some warts when you play in a place that was built in 1935. But this gave our players a chance to play a tournament on the court where they practice and our students had the opportunity to watch the team without having to take a bus or a car to Bangor,” said Biberstein.

“It also saved us money because we didn’t have to pay rent like we do at the Cross Center. Was it ideal? No. But I thought we turned a negative into a positive,” said Biberstein.

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