The Portland Phoenix

Game On: 5 takeaways from Maine’s first normal HS basketball tournament since 2020

South Portland’s Jaelen Jackson shares the gold ball with fans after the Red Riots captured their second straight Class AA boys basketball state championship. (Photo courtesy Cindy Russell)

South Portland’s Jaelen Jackson shares the gold ball with fans after the Red Riots captured their second straight Class AA boys basketball state championship. (Photo courtesy Cindy Russell)

It blows my mind to think that the 2022-23 Maine high school basketball season has come and gone. I wrote about the most wonderful time of the year back in mid-December, and here we are, three months later, with nets cut, gold balls in trophy cases and high school hoops junkies like me finding ourselves with a heck of a lot more time on our hands. 

For the first time since the before-times — this needs no definition — the annual Maine high school basketball tournament happened as we all remember it: no masks, no vaccination cards, no underlying COVID-19 pandemic-related undertones. Most of the tournament details went just as I remembered it, but a few things stuck out. Here are five takeaways.

  1. We need a replay review system (albeit very, very occasionally).

Let’s get this one out the way. The controversial ending of the Thornton Academy and Bonny Eagle Class AA Boys South semifinal contest went viral for all the possible reasons, both right and wrong. Hailed by Bill Simmons, the Washington Post and elsewhere for the entertaining broadcast call and incredible buzzer-beating (or not) ending, the talk of the game here in Maine comes from the myriad social media prognosticators who follow Maine basketball. It appears Will Davies did not get the shot off in time, but it counted. I wasn’t there because I called the A South Regional finals that night, but I’ve seen enough to know the full story. Replay in this situation would’ve stopped the madness. That’s about the only instance all year that necessitated replay review. 

  1. What happened to the bands?

Of the dozens of teams I saw play in both Portland venues and in Augusta, the Lawrence High School girls team had by far the best crowd. They arrived more than an hour early to the Class A state championship game at the Augusta Civic Center, which Lawrence ultimately won, and greeted the team with a standing ovation when they got off the bus. The ACC was about 3/4 Bulldog blue. An electrifying band and intriguing megaphoned person singing the school’s fight song won me over. There weren’t too many bands otherwise, especially in Portland. I heard the school spirit is stronger the further north you go. What gives? Everyone loves a good band. 

An aside, I saw Presque Isle High School brought its band to an ice hockey game in Waterville on the heels of a snow storm, a solid three-and-a-half hour drive each way. Now that’s just plain awesome. 

  1. We also need a shot clock

If you follow me anywhere, you already know my opinion here. I won’t dive into the minutiae, but it’s time we incorporate the shot clock in Maine high school hoops. 

  1. One wildly late night

I’m not quite sure why, but I can’t stop thinking about how late the Oceanside boys basketball team got home after its regional quarterfinal victory over Cape Elizabeth. Due to prior games going into overtime and taking longer than expected, Oceanside (which is up in Rockland) didn’t even start the game scheduled for 8:30 p.m. until nearly 10 p.m. Following the victory and a somewhat slippery drive up the coast, the Mariners arrived back at school sometime near 2 a.m. — thankfully not on a school night. I understand game schedules come out before knowing which teams actually play in them, but I felt bad for the Oceanside team and community. The girls played in Portland the next morning. Did anyone make both trips? If so, I’d love to hear how your car fared. 

  1. It’s time to go back to four classes

While I loved the Portland/South Portland state championship, I didn’t love how few games each team had to win to get there. To me, the team that wins the top class should have to take the most playoff games, not the least. A simple solution is going back to four classes from the current state of five. I know the MPA is in discussions of a realignment, and I’m not a huge fan of the most recent proposed plan, which eliminates AA regions (that’s fine) but makes the class have even fewer teams. An overly simple and probably not likely scenario — Eliminate Class AA. Combine Classes AA and A, the former as the south and the latter as the north. Shift some teams around, i.e. Bangor, Lewiston and Edward Little go to the north; Falmouth, Westbrook and Marshwood stay in the south. Basically, just go back to what it was before the 2015-16 season.  

All that said, I consider the 2022-2023 basketball season nothing but a success, and I look forward to seeing what storylines develop over the spring. 

Greg Levinsky is a Portland native and follower of local sports. He is an alumnus of Deering High School and Boston University whose work has appeared in The Boston Globe, Detroit Free Press, and several Maine newspapers. He can be reached at

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