The Heal point system that seeds teams for postseason play in many of Maine’s interscholastic sports is subject to occasional criticism, particularly by fans whose teams are on the outside looking in come tournament time.
But it’s hard to argue this winter with the formula developed in 1947 by Durward Heal, then the principal of Schenck High School in Millinocket, and first implemented for Maine high school basketball in the 1949-50 season.
Of the 10 boys teams that will compete for five basketball state championships this weekend, nine were No. 1 seeds at the end of the regular season in their respective regions — the 10th, Edward Little of Auburn, was the No. 2 seed in Class AA North.
Not only did the top seeds prevail during the regular season, they were fairly dominant during regional tournament play. Of the 30 tourney games won by the state finalists, only seven were decided by fewer than 10 points and just three were determined by five or fewer points.
Here’s a quick look at this year’s gold-ball games in chronological order:
Class A: Hampden Academy (20-1) vs. Greely (21-0), 7:45 p.m. Thursday, Cross Insurance Arena, Portland: Greely enters the game not only as the defending state champion, but riding a 43-game winning streak after defeating Westbrook in the South final. The Rangers graduated 2017 Mr. Basketball Matt McDevitt from last year’s team but returns a balanced nucleus that includes 6-foot-8 center Jack Kane. Hampden is seeking its first state title since 2015 with a similarly balanced cast that has been together for the last two years led by 2018 Mr. Basketball finalist Ian McIntyre, the Broncos’ 6-foot 5 center and a four-year starter for coach Russ Bartlett’s club. Hampden has won 14 straight games since its lone loss this winter at Class AA Bangor on Dec. 27.
Class AA: Edward Little (17-4) vs. Scarborough (17-4), 7:45 p.m. Friday, Cross Insurance Arena, Portland: Edward Little is the first Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference team to reach this state final since AA was added as a fifth class three years ago. The Red Eddies, who have eight straight victories overall and won their three North tournament games by an average of 16.3 points, are after their first state championship since 1946 though they did reach the state final as recently as 2009 and 2010. Scarborough is in search of its first state championship in basketball after knocking off two-time defending Class AA South champion South Portland 55-43 in its regional final. The Red Storm have won nine of their last 10 games and defeated Edward Little 61-56 during their lone regular-season meeting on Dec. 29.
Class B: Hermon (21-0) vs. Wells (15-6), 8:45 p.m. Friday, Cross Insurance Center, Bangor: Hermon joins Greely as the only boys teams this year to reach the state championship game with an undefeated record, and the Hawks have been rarely seriously challenged — just two of their victories have come by fewer than 10 points. Coach Mark Reed’s club is seeking the program’s first state championship after winning its first regional title since 2000. Wells is back in the state game for the second straight year after a regular season in which 10 of its 18 games were decided by seven points or less and a South tournament run that included two victories by seven points or less. Wells, which is seeking its first state championship since winning back-to-back crowns in 1983 and 1984, lost to Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor 59-39 in the 2017 title game.
Class D: Woodland (18-3) vs. Greenville (19-2), 2:45 p.m. Saturday, Augusta Civic Center: Greenville is back in the state game for the second straight year with its entire starting lineup back intact from a 51-39 loss to Machias in the 2017 final. The Lakers opened the season with back-to-back road losses at Piscataquis of Guilford and Forest Hills of Jackman but have won 19 straight since then, including a three-game South tourney run when they yielded just 25.3 points per game. Woodland, which played in Class C last year, ranked at the top of the North standings throughout this winter before making its way through a challenging regional tournament field. The Dragons are in search of their first state championship since 2009, while Greenville is after its first gold ball since statewide reclassification in 1961.
Class C: George Stevens Academy (20-1) vs. Hall-Dale (20-1), 8:45 p.m. Saturday, Augusta Civic Center: GSA is 78-6 since Taylor Schildroth, Max Mattson and Stefan Simmons entered the Blue Hill school as freshmen, 63-2 over the last three years with 11 consecutive tournament victories en route to back-to-back state championships and three straight regional titles. The Eagles currently are riding a 20-game winning streak since a season-opening loss at Lee Academy, with Schildroth a Mr. Basketball finalist and Mattson a semifinalist for the same award. Hall-Dale of Farmingdale has been the best of a deep Class C South field with a one-point loss to Dirigo of Dixfield the lone blemish on its record as the Bulldogs seek their first state championship since 2005. George Stevens scored a narrow victory over Hall-Dale when the teams met during preseason more than three months ago.
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