The Eastern Maine tournament at the Bangor Auditorium doesn’t officially tip off until Feb. 18, but the old building will certainly have a postseason atmosphere Thursday night.
The stakes will be high when longtime rivals Bangor and Brewer square off in a Class A girls basketball showdown at 5:30 p.m., kicking off a boys-girls doubleheader.
Both the Witches and Rams are among four teams duking it out for two playoff positions, and coach Andy Nickerson’s Brewer club is currently ninth heading into Tuesday night’s road game against Skowhegan.
With the Class A tournament being played in Augusta, a chance to play a meaningful game in the historic Auditorium will have plenty of tournament flair.
“We have to play down at Augusta for Class A, and we see all the other teams play (at the Auditorium), and we don’t get the chance,” Brewer senior Holly Nickerson said.
“They say it’s like nothing else,” added classmate Rylee Hutchins.
Eighth-place Bangor has been on a roll of late, having won five of its last six, including victories over the Indians at home on Friday and at sixth-place Messalonskee on Feb. 1.
The Rams play at Mt. Blue of Farmington Tuesday night.
Skowhegan, the defending regional champion, is currently 10th in Eastern Maine, and like Bangor, will likely have to win its last two games to sneak in.
The Rams’ victory over Skowhegan on Friday vaulted coach Katie Herbine’s club up to eighth place.
Mount Ararat of Topsham, which split with the Rams during regular-season play, concludes its schedule with home contests against top-ranked Edward Little of Auburn and Oxford Hills of South Paris, which dealt Morse of Bath its only defeat.
If Mount Ararat loses one or both of its final two games, it’s possible the Rams and Witches could both advance to Augusta.
A lot has changed since the rivals met on Dec. 21 in Bangor, a 48-30 Rams victory.
Both Bangor and Brewer feature excellent guard play, and the Witches feel one of the most important factors will be to control the backboards against the Rams’ post players.
But there’s no doubt both clubs can’t look past their respective road tests at Mt. Blue and Skowhegan.
“As of right now, yes, that’s what’s most important,” Hutchins said.
The Witches also have a young nucleus of talent, led by freshman Maddy Bailey.
Bangor has been bolstered by the return of junior forward Kate Treadwell, and she gives the Rams a strong post presence with Bri McKenna.
Kim Jordan and sisters Denae and Deidre Johnson lead the Rams’ backcourt, while Hillary Throckmorton is one of Bangor’s top scoring threats.