Just touching on a few of the hot-button issues that come up nearly every time the state high school basketball tournament rolls around.

• The private school issue comes up during each sport’s tournament throughout the year, but the spotlight really shines on it during basketball season. It gets a lot of folks riled up. We’re mostly talking about six or seven schools — Cheverus, McAuley, St. Dominic, Hyde, Lee, Waynflete and depending on the year and the sport, North Yarmouth Academy. Haven’t heard many complaints yet about Seacoast Christian.

The problem, as critics see it, is these schools recruit athletes and their recruiting base is worldwide as one coach told me. If that’s the case, they’re doing a poor job of recruiting since only one of them won a Gold Ball this year. Are these schools historically strong in athletics? Yup. Do they dominate the tournament? Sometimes.

It’s debatable how much recruiting is actually going on, but there’s also little doubt that some students choose these schools because of athletics. It’s a selling point, but not the only selling point. Many of the students at these schools are home grown. Those that aren’t add a little flavor to the tournament.

The Class D tournament was much better off for having Hyde’s Tyquan Ekejiuba play in it. Same goes for Waynflete’s Martha Veroneau, who set a single-game tournament scoring record. Players like these raise the bar for everyone. It’s also a special treat when some team knocks off one of these schools. The biggest win in the history of Forest Hills boys basketball came during this year’s tournament when they rallied from 19 points down to defeat Hyde.

There’s also a problem identifying which schools are private or semi-private. Every school with an academy attached to its name qualifies in one way or another. Same for schools like Maine Central Institute. It really comes down to which schools win and it can be a pretty convenient excuse when you’re beaten by a “private” school.

Valley coach and former player Wade Morrill told me before the tournament that the Bingham school never would have had its run of glory if it hadn’t been beaten by Hyde in the tournament. Instead of whining about private schools, get better.

• Just like that favorite old car or pickup truck, the Bangor Auditorium has seen better days. One day it’s the wipers, the next day an oil leak or an electrical problem.

Finally it’s time to trade up. The Mecca, as it’s been known practically since its opening in 1955, has one more year left before it’s replaced, but it’s running on fumes. A leaky ceiling, a faulty floor, a cramped lobby and bleacher seats are just a few of the things that scream for a new building.

You’ll be missed old friend. You’ve been the best place to watch a tournament game for years but it’s time to go. Hope the new place lives up to your reputation.

• Of the Augusta Civic Center, Bangor Auditorium and the Cumberland Country Civic Center in Portland, the latter has generally been accused of having the least amenable basketball atmosphere.

You’ll get no argument here. How about bringing fans and bands a little closer to the action with some seats closer to the end line? And it wouldn’t hurt to turn up the lights in the stands.

• Will Maine high school basketball ever get a shot clock? Probably not. It comes up every year but I’ve yet to hear any groundswell of opinion in its favor. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. Cost is often cited but once you buy the clock, you could find a student or adult operator to do it for free.

Making teams shoot, say every 30 seconds, would make them more effective in the long run and bring more strategy into the game. Three seconds on the clock and you have the ball out of bounds, what do you call?

It would also help you avoid overtime debacles like the Penquis Valley-Lee game in which Penquis twice held for the final shot in both four-minute overtime periods and Lee stayed in its zone. I’m not blaming either team, but it didn’t make for very exciting basketball.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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