AUGUSTA — Starting next season, the Augusta Civic Center will be the busiest of the three high school basketball tournament sites.

Last week, the Maine Principals’ Association voted to add a fifth class to the state’s high school basketball landscape. On Friday, the MPA basketball committee met to determine where each regional tournament will be played.

Class AA North will join Class A North and Classes C and D South at the Augusta Civic Center. Classes AA South, A South and B South will be played in Portland, with quarterfinals at the Portland Expo and semifinals and finals at the Cross Insurance Arena. Classes B, C and D North will play at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center.

The 2016 AA and A state championship games will be held at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Class B championship games will be at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, while Classes C and D will hold championship games at the Augusta Civic Center. Times and dates for all championship games have yet to be determined.

The motion to set the tournament sites passed by an 8-4 vote.

The 2016 state championships were kept on their normal rotation, with Class AA joining Class A in Portland. Class B championships games will be in Bangor, while Classes C and D will be in Augusta.

Doran Stout, Erskine Academy athletic director and site director at the Augusta Civic Center, said he was surprised decisions were made so quickly at Friday’s meeting.

“I thought there’d be a lot of preliminary conversations and maybe stuff to take home and chew on. There’s some very experienced people in that room, me being among the less, quite frankly, and they’ve been through changes before,” Stout said. “Of course, this one changes the face of basketball like none since I’ve been involved. They’re all good people, and we all work very well together.”

The addition of a fifth class means the Augusta Civic Center will host 52 tournament games, not including state championship games. That’s 10 more than the Civic Center hosted under the four class format. Portland will host 38 games, 10 more than in the past. Bangor’s number of games remains unchanged at 42.

To accommodate the increase in games, the AA tournaments in Augusta and Portland will begin with quarterfinal games on Wednesday, Feb. 10 and Thursday, Feb. 11, a few days earlier than the traditional Friday before the usual Presidents Week start of the tournament. With eight teams each, those regions have no preliminary round games, so teams will be able to start quarterfinals earlier than other classes.

Most of the discussion on the new tournament sites centered around Class AA North. The new region consists of schools with enrollments 824 and higher. Class AA North has eight schools. Lewiston, Bangor, Oxford Hills and Edward Little formerly played in Class A East, which had its tournament in Augusta. Windham, Deering, Portland and Cheverus played in Class A West, which held its regional in Portland.

“To put 52 games in Augusta is a hardship. Asking Bangor to make a two hour drive is a hardship,” KJ Anastasio, athletic director at Lincoln Academy, said when speaking in favor of playing the AA North tournament in Portland. “I’m thinking about what’s best for basketball in the state. If there’s bad weather, I don’t know how (Augusta) can do it.”

In the original five class proposal, Class AA had one statewide tournament, but when schools expressed their desire for a regional championship, AA was divided into two regions. Because of that, they should have different sites, Thornton Academy athletic director Gary Stevens said.

“I’m sold on separate regions, but I’m concerned about taxing Augusta,” Stevens said.

Added MPA Executive Director Dick Durost: “I think we might get quite a bit of pushback if we hold (Class AA regionals) at the same sites.”

Stout assured the committee that the Augusta Civic Center can handle the increased number of games.

“Does it make it more busy? Yeah, but whoever takes these games on is more busy,” Stout said during the meeting.

After the meeting, Stout said he planned to contact tournament staff on Friday afternoon to let them know of the change. Stout also expressed concern over what will happen if weather forces delays or postponements during the tournament.

“I can’t wait to hear the reaction of the tournament staff when I start calling them and trying to let them know. They’re all such great people. They love it. They love working those tournament games. I think we’ll be able to staff it OK,” Stout said. “If I have any fears at all, it’s even more so now of a couple really bad days during that week. We had holes to put extra games. The last two years we’ve had to postpone and move games. I don’t know if we can find those holes or not. Let’s hope we don’t have to.”

Durost was pleased with how quickly the plan came together.

“There were a lot of pieces that needed to be pulled together this morning, and they did it in just over two hours of time. A really thorough, rich discussion. After very thoughtful conversation, they worked their way through it, and I think we’re pretty much set for next year,” Durost said. “The conversation was respectful, professional, and I certainly wouldn’t expect anything less from this group. Most of these people have worked together for anywhere between three and six years. They’re very good about getting the points out regarding their schools, their conference, their region, and then at the end the decision is, all right, now that we’ve had the discussion, let’s do what’s best for all kids and what’s best for basketball.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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