SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — Underclassmen played a prominent role throughout the 2012-13 high school basketball season.
Now with the latest gold balls handed out to teams from Washburn to Portland, many of those underclassmen are making the switch to basketball upperclassmen with increased leadership responsibilities beginning with one of the state’s biggest undergraduate tournaments — the 21st annual Great Harbor House Shoot-Out to be held this weekend.
What began in 1992 with seven junior high school-age boys basketball teams has blossomed into an event that this year will feature 82 teams in four divisions playing in six different gymnasiums throughout Mount Desert Island and in neighboring Trenton.
“This is the most teams we’ve ever had, 10 more than we had last year,” said Diana Novella, events and community relations director at Harbor House, a nonprofit organization focused on providing health and fitness, educational and sports activities for the people and communities on MDI.
This year’s field includes 23 high school boys teams and 24 high school girls teams along with 17 junior high boys squads and 18 junior high girls teams.
“It’s growing every year,” said Novella. “We kept getting calls from teams interested in playing right up until Friday. If we’d had another location we probably could have had another 10 teams.”
Among the teams in the boys high school field are MDI, Hampden, Presque Isle, Houlton, Medomak, Oceanside, Brewer, Winslow and Camden Hills, while girls high school teams include MDI, Presque Isle, Camden Hills, Dexter, Narraguagus, Oceanside, Houlton and the Bangor Twin City Magic.
Games in the double-elimination event begin Friday and continue through Sunday, with the finals to be played at the Pemetic Elementary School.
Other gymnasiums to be used throughout the weekend are at the MDI Elementary School, MDI High School, MDI YMCA, Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor and Trenton Elementary School.
MDI High School is back in the rotation this year after hosting the State High School Instrumental Jazz Festival on Shoot-Out weekend the last two years.
Novella said more than 40 game officials and dozens of volunteers will be involved in staging this year’s event.
Falmouth’s 4-0 victory over Lewiston in Saturday’s Class A boys ice hockey state final continued a rather amazing championship run for that school.
This winter alone the Yachtsmen won Class A state titles in ice hockey and boys skiing as well as the Class B state crown in boys basketball.
Counting that trio of titles, Falmouth is the state champion in 10 varsity sports. The Yachtsmen also are the reigning champs in Class B boys and girls tennis, Class B baseball, Class B boys lacrosse, Class B boys and girls soccer and Class B boys outdoor track and field, a crown they share with York.
The school has won five straight girls tennis state crowns, three in a row in girls soccer and is a two-time reigning state champion in boys lacrosse, boys soccer, boys tennis and boys skiing.
Even a dose of midseason adversity couldn’t prevent Greely High School of Cumberland Center from returning to the top of the state’s Class B hockey world for the second straight season and for the third time in five years.
The Rangers had to forfeit victories over Saint Dominic of Auburn on Jan. 19 and Yarmouth on Jan. 21 after self-reporting that an ineligible player had participated in those contests.
One of the Greely players was ejected from a Jan. 10 match against York for fighting, and while previously such ejections resulted in a subsequent one-game suspension, this year that penalty was increased to a two-game suspension.
The player sat out one game before returning to action, and Greely then played twice before head coach Barry Mothes learned of the rule change and informed the Maine Principals’ Association of the situation.
The losses dropped the Rangers’ record to 7-4, but they never lost again on or off the ice.
“I just think they wanted it,” said Mothes. “We had our ups and downs during the season even though we weren’t necessarily losing a lot of games. We didn’t lose a lot of games this year, we really only lost the two on ice in three days at New Year’s and then we had to forfeit a couple that we won, so it was challenging because we had to measure ourselves not by the scoreboard but the way we were playing.”
Greely went on to outscore its three postseason opponents by a combined 17-3, defeating Cape Elizabeth 7-2 in the Western B semifinals and Camden Hills of Rockport 7-1 in the regional final before shutting out Messalonskee 3-0 in the state championship match behind the 17-save effort of sophomore goalie Kyle Kramlich.
“Kyle Kramlich doesn’t always get as much attention or credit because he’s not playing for a team that faces 50 shots a game and he steals a win,” said Mothes. “But he’s played against some of the best teams in the state and New England this year and last year and he’s totally shown that he’s up to the task.”
The Rangers figure to be the favorite to win it all again next year, with just four seniors graduating and the cast of returnees to be led by the high-powered line of junior Ted Hart (35 goals, 16 assists this winter) and sophomores Reid Howland (23-17) and Mitchel Donovan (10-27) along with Kramlich, a sophomore who already is 2-0 in state finals.
“I set very high standards,” said Mothes. “I’m probably the toughest critic of this team and myself and we certainly had to keep talking about playing the game the right way this year.
“We weren’t spreading the puck as much as we should and weren’t playing the game the right way at times, but we worked on that and I’m just really happy that in these last eight days in the playoffs the guys really pulled it all together, played with great focus and really did a lot of the things you need to do to win these kinds of hockey games.”