High school basketball coaches and their players will have one major rule change and some other rule interpretations to adjust to this season.

The most significant rule change involves free throws. Players lined up in the lane spaces are once again allowed to enter the lane once the free throw shooter releases the ball. For the last several years, they have had to wait for the ball to hit the rim or the backboard.

Rules administrators said that rule was implemented for player safety, to cut back on the amount of contact between players before the shot went in the basket or was rebounded. Under the new rule, players lined up from the free throw line extended — including the shooter — and around the 3-point line, are still required to wait for the ball to make contact with the rim or backboard.

Local coaches generally favored reverting to the old rule while acknowledging the need to emphasize rebounding fundamentals to players.

“I never understood why they changed it in the first place,” Gardiner girls coach Mike Gray said. “For any number of reasons, you had to teach (rebounding free throws) as a totally separate way to rebounds from any other aspect of rebounding you teach.”

“You’ve got to make sure of doing your check-outs and sustaining them. You need to rebound like you normally would with the new rule,” Oak Hill girls coach Charlie Castonguay said. “We’ll have to see how they’re going to call (the contact in the lane). That’s going to be the interesting part.”

The new rule could give smaller, quicker teams better odds in the rebounding department, Cony boys coach T.J. Maines said.

“You could do some different things offensive rebounding off the free throw line,” Maines said. “As long as you’re quicker off the lane, you can get in position.”

A major point of emphasis for officials this season will be the defensive hand-checking rule that has been in place the last two seasons.

The rule states that a foul has been committed against a ball-handler whenever a defender:

— places two hands on the player

— places a forearm away from the body on the dribbler (aka arm bar),

— places and keeps a hand on the dribbler or contacts a player more than once with the same or alternating hands.

Coaches said their players are already familiar with the rule, having dealt with it the last two years. What they don’t know is how consistently it will be called and how their players will adjust during games or from one game to the next if it isn’t.

“It’s something we’re harping on every day in practice — ‘Keep your hands off. Keep your hands off,'” Maines said. “We reach probably too much on defense, so I’m interested on how it’s going to be called. It’s good basketball. We shouldn’t be grabbing guys. If it’s called all the way across the board, I don’t mind it.”

“You’re going to have to have more discipline,” Castonguay said, “and as soon as you know what they’re going to call, you’re going to have to adapt to it.”

Among other rule changes, players will no longer need to have a medical reason to wear an arm or leg sleeve or tights. The apparel still must meet rule book specifications. Other points of emphasis include three seconds in the lane, intentional fouls and frontcourt and backcourt status.

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A new chapter has begun in Messalonskee hockey with former player Joe Hague taking over for Mike Latendresse as head coach of the Eagles, however, there will still be at least one familiar face on the Eagles’ bench this winter.

John DelGiudice will once again be back as an assistant at Messalonskee and don’t expect it to take to long for him to build a report with Hague.

“(John) was my coach back in the day so it’s kind of fun to be up there with him,” Hague said. “He’s been in the program for 20-plus years.”

Hague believes that continuity will help make the transtion from Latendresse’s coaching style to his a smooth one.

“That’s kind of why I asked John to be there,” Hague said. “He knows these kids, he coached them with the soccer program so I mean it definitely helps the transition a lot.”

Kevin Castner, a native of upstate New York, will also be on Hague’s staff this year. Messalonskee opens up the regular season Saturday at 11:30 a.m. when it hosts Houlton/Hogdon.

• • •

The Forest Hills boys and girls basketball teams will play interesting doubleheaders next Tuesday at the Augusta Civic Center. Each team will play two games, against two different teams.

The day will begin with a girls game between Forest Hills and North Haven at 11 a.m. At 12:30 p.m., the Forest Hills boys will take on North Haven. At 4, the girls will play Highview Christian, followed by a boys game between the schools at 5:30.

The double, doubleheader at the Augusta Civic Center was a way to save some money, Forest Hills athletic director and boys basketball coach Anthony Amero said.

“It’s $1,000 every time we take a bus trip,” Amero said. “We’ve been trying to find creative ways to save money.”

Amero and girls basketball coach Mike LeBlanc discussed their teams playing two games in a day, and decided it wasn’t an issue.

“They go to summer (basketball) camp. You play all day at summer camp. The kids can handle it,” Amero said.

The Augusta Civic Center was chosen as an easy to get to neutral site for all three schools.

“(The Augusta Civic Center) helped us out. If it works, we’ll keep doing it,” Amero said. “The kids are really excited about it. That’s the bottom line for me.”


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