AUGUSTA — The high school basketball tournament. So much tension. So much drama. Lead changes. Close games. Overtime. Buzzer beaters.

You saw all of that this week, unless you exclusively followed the Class D South girls and boys tournaments at the Augusta Civic Center. In Class D South, there was less drama than in a Three Stooges film festival.

The Class D South tournaments were almost devoid of close games. Of the seven girls tournament games, only one was decided by fewer than 10 points — No. 7 Valley’s 31-22 upset of No. 2 Forest Hills in the quarterfinals. The average margin of victory in the girls tournament was just over 23 points.

The boys side wasn’t much better. While it had a one point game, No. 3 Seacoast Christian’s 52-51 win over No. 6 Vinalhaven in the quarterfinals, the only other game decided by fewer than 10 was No. 1 Valley’s 52-45 win over Seacoast in Saturday afternoon’s final.

While not many of the games were close, the Class D South tournaments were proof that games don’t have to be close to be entertaining. Everyone who saw “Titanic” knew how it was going to end, but it was still a captivating movie.

At the forefront of the blowout parade were the two top seeds, the Rangeley girls and Valley boys. The Lakers and the Cavaliers put on basketball shows all week that made it worth the time of the fans who came out to watch.

Rangeley’s tournament was delayed from Tuesday to Wednesday due to weather, and that postponement was the only thing that slowed the Lakers down. Rangeley opened with a 76-29 win over Greater Portland Christian. The Lakers followed that with a 60-23 win over Temple Academy in the semifinals. Saturday’s regional final started the exact same way, with Rangeley ahead 21-2 after a quarter. Vinalhaven had more than six times as many turnovers (13) as points after a quarter, and that was pretty much that.

Vinalhaven hung around for a few more quarters, staying within a dozen or so points of the Lakers for a while, but that was a mirage. Rangeley won by 25 points, 58-33, to complete its march through the regional tournament.

“I think that things came together for us this week, which you always hope, as a coach, they do. Offensively and defensively. Sometimes you don’t get both. I think we had both this week,” Rangeley coach Heidi Deery said.

Rangeley is a perennial contender for the regional title. Next week’s state championship game will be the Lakers’ second in a row and fifth under Deery.

“From start to finish, this is the hugest amount of growth that I’ve seen out of a team. I mean, I’ve had some great teams, and I don’t want to take anything away from them, but from November, if you saw our alumni game, it was not good,” Deery said. “These guys were so coachable. Every single kid has just improved so much this year.”

The Valley boys program also knows how to make noise in the playoffs. The Cavs beat Rangeley in the quarterfinals, 62-33, and Greenville in the semis, 60-45. Seacoast lost by 32 and 16 points to Valley in a pair of regular season games, but coach Luke Hartwell expected a tighter game for his Cavs on Saturday.

“Seacoast is a team that’s played a lot of Class C teams. Every time they played us, they played us closer and closer,” Hartwell said.

The girls side of the Class D south tournament missed Richmond, which jumped up to Class C this season with the addition of a fifth class to the Maine high school hoops landscape. The Bobcats handed Rangeley their only loss of the season, back on opening night. The top seed in the Class C South tournament, Richmond almost certainly would have challenged the Lakers.

On the boys side, the move of Richmond to Class C and Hyde out of Maine Principals’ Association competition to the prep school ranks opened things up a bit for Valley. In the regular season, Richmond was the only team to stay within 10 points of the Cavs.

The lack of drama in Class D South this season was an aberration. Hartwell knows that when his team faces Class D North champ Easton for the state title next week, it will be a tight game.

“I know Easton is a very good team. They’re very well-coached. I saw them on Thursday. We’re going to have to play our best game of the season to win a Gold Ball. That’s what it should be. You can’t play sloppy and expect to win a championship,” Hartwell said.

It sounds like Hartwell is ready for close games and buzzer beaters. Maybe an overtime. Certainly some drama.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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</URL>Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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