Julie Bradstreet and Rick Sinclair have each participated in Maine high school basketball tournaments in three different capacities.
Bradstreet, a Bridgewater native, played in the Eastern Maine [now North] tournament for Central Aroostook High School in Mars Hill. She coached girls tourney teams from Central Aroostook and Waterville and she is now a referee with several tourney games under her belt during her 11 years on the Central Maine board of officials.
Sinclair’s tournament experiences came as a player at Hermon, then as a coach at Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln and Hermon and most recently as the athletic director at Hermon.
The 49-year-old Bradstreet, the first Miss Maine Basketball in 1988, said the three experiences are different.
“Playing and officiating are more similar than coaching,” Bradstreet said. “When you’re a player and an official, you have some control [over your actions]. As a player, you can go out and make a layup or grab a rebound, those types of things.
“[As an official] you have days you feel sharp, you feel on [top of your game]. On other days, you feel you’re a second late or you’re late seeing things.”
Bradstreet said that as a coach, there is minimal control.
“You tell the kids what to do but whether they do it or not, you never know what’s going to happen,” Bradstreet said. “You don’t know who’s going to play well, who’s going to compete, who broke up with their boyfriend. There’s a million factors you have no control over.”
Sinclair shared similar observations, saying a player can exert the most influence on a game.
“As a player, you can go out and have an impact on a game,” he said.
Sinclair said coaching in the tournament is a thrill unto itself.
“It’s an exciting time of year because if your team is going to the tournament, it has been successful,” he said.
“But with all the preparation and work you do, it ultimately comes down to the players,” he said.
Athletic administrators have other concerns, including policing behavior and organizing other aspects.
“You have to make sure the kids in the student section are cheering appropriately, that the busses are ready when they are supposed to be and that the cheerleaders and band members have all the information they need,” Sinclair said. “Then you go to the game and cheer like heck!
Another aspect of the athletic director’s job is to console his coaches and players when they get eliminated.
Running through the tunnel at the Bangor Auditorium for a tournament game was a rush for Sinclair and Bradstreet.
“I was excited,” Bradstreet said of playing alongside her teammates.
“It’s everything you look for in terms of a competitive experience,” Sinclair said. “As a player and a coach, you’re more excited than nervous.”
They each have a number of fond tourney memories.
Bradstreet recalls her sophomore year when Central Aroostook upset Deer Isle-Stonington thanks to her three consecutive baskets.
“It was one of those years we weren’t supposed to do well. It was a fun year in that regard,” she said.
She also remembered playing in the Eastern Maine Class C final her senior year.
“Even though we lost [to Schenck of East Millinocket], it was a great feeling to play in a game like that. I wish I had taken in more [of the atmosphere]. You don’t get those days back,” she said.
Bradstreet was a captain at UMaine who led the team in assists during 1990-1991 and 1991-1992 and owns the school record for steals in a game (10) and in a season (107).
In her first season as a head coach in 1993, she guided Central Aroostook to the Class D championship and a berth in the state final against Rangeley, a 45-41 loss.
“There was so much excitement in the County,” Bradstreet said. “There was so much community pride. You didn’t want to let the folks down.”
Sinclair, a member of the Husson University Hall of Fame, recalled losing to Orono in the 1991 EM Class B title game and to Rockland in the 1992 semifinals.
“I have friends from Orono who constantly remind me of that one,” Sinclair said. “We lost to Rockland by five in the semis the next year and Rockland went on to win the state championship [64-48 over York].”
“You don’t remember the wins as much as you do the losses,” said Sinclair, who was the boys basketball coach and athletic director at John Bapst High School in Bangor before taking the Hermon job in 2017.
The 1999-2000 campaign was memorable as he guided the sixth-seeded Hermon boys to the Class B East crown and a state runner-up finish.
“We played [top seed] Erskine Academy [of South Hiram] in the Class B North final,” Sinclair said.
“We had already beaten the three seed and the two seed. Erskine jumped out to a big lead, we were down 13-4 after one, but we switched defenses and beat them pretty good,” he said.
It was Hermon’s first regional championship.
“That was special. It was meaningful back then,” the 45-year-old Sinclair said.
He added that the state game was one of the best experiences he has ever had in sports due to the electric atmosphere.
As an administrator, Hermon’s Class B boys state basketball championship in 2018 was special.
“To go 22-0 and win the state championship in Bangor … that is probably the highlight of my AD career,” he said.
Bradstreet, a kindergarten teacher in Sidney, said there is a lot of pressure refereeing tournament games.
“You don’t want to blow a call that ruins it for some team. These kids work hard all year. You want to officiate as accurately as possible. You are getting watched [and evaluated] as well. You want to give your best every night because the kids and coaches deserve it.”
Both said even though they have experienced a bunch of tournaments in their different capacities, they always look forward to the next one.
“I can’t wait,” Sinclair said.