Lizzy Gruber and her Gardiner High teammates are ending the regular season with five games in six days – including a rare doubleheader this past Saturday. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

When the Maine high school basketball regular season wraps up on Thursday, more than half of the teams in the state will not have completed a full schedule of 18 games.

Based on the Maine Principals’ Association’s Heal point standings and remaining games listed on team schedules entering Wednesday night, 146 of the state’s 263 basketball teams – or 55 percent – will play fewer than 18 regular-season games. On the girls’ side, 74 of 131 teams won’t play 18 games, compared to 62 of 132 boys’ teams.

The impact has been felt, to varying degrees, in all five classes.

In 2019-20, the last full season before the coronavirus pandemic, only 16 of 265 teams (eight boys’ and eight girls’ teams) played fewer than 18 games. Twelve were Class D squads and the other four were in Class C.

The primary reason for fewer games this winter was, of course, COVID. Add in a shortage of officials, busing issues and a bit of winter weather, and rescheduling was that much more difficult. Importantly, the postseason tournaments are open to all teams this season, so there has been less incentive to complete a schedule.

“With COVID, the spread still going on, that’s why we went with an open tournament and changed how we did the Heal points,” said Mike Burnham, executive director of the MPA.


Heal points are now calculated using the number of games a team plays as a divisor, instead of the number of games on a team’s original schedule. That change went into effect for the Spring 2021 season.

“It has worked well and hopefully taken the pressure off putting all of those (make-up) games into the end of the schedule,” Burnham said.

The basketball tournaments begin next week for most classes, though a handful of play-in games will be necessary this weekend.

At York High, students were switched to remote learning with all sports canceled from Jan. 8-17. The Wildcats’ basketball teams (as well as their boys’ and girls’ hockey teams) had four games canceled in that span. Only one was rescheduled. Then, last Friday’s snowstorm wiped out games. Both the York girls’ and boys’ basketball teams will enter the Class B tournament with 14 games under their belt.

“My coaches and myself, we felt the answer wasn’t to cram in four, five games in a week,” said Jeff Oliver, York’s athletic director. “Teams gain a lot from having that practice after a game. It gives coaches the ability to teach their players and improve from each game. When you’re playing back to back, you lose all that.”

Other schools took a different approach. Most notable was Gardiner, where the girls’ basketball team scheduled a rare doubleheader on Saturday. The Tigers, a top contender in Class A North, won both games, then beat rival Lawrence on Tuesday to improve to 15-1. Gardiner played Morse on Wednesday and will finish its five-games-in-six-days stretch at unbeaten Skowhegan on Thursday.


“I think the biggest thing is just knowing that if we can make it happen, we owe it to the kids to get them every opportunity for them to play,” said Gardiner Coach Mike Gray. “High school athletics wise, they’ve already missed out on enough.”

Gardiner’s star forward, Lizzy Gruber, a 6-foot-4 junior, said when Gray first proposed the idea of playing two varsity games on the same day, “I was like, ‘Ha, ha. Not going to happen. That can’t happen.’ And then, our coaches and our AD (Nate Stubbert) got it done.”

In Saturday’s two wins against Camden Hills and Messalonskee, Gray went deeper into his bench.

“It gave some kids that don’t normally get that chance to shine a little more of an opportunity,” Gray said, adding that if nothing else, the experience will be memorable.

“In hindsight, I’m sure everything blurs together, but I think they’ll remember that random Saturday where we played two games back-to-back,” Gray said.

Like York, Brunswick also had an in-school shutdown the week before the Martin Luther King holiday on Jan. 17. Brunswick was able to get in a full girls’ basketball schedule, however, and came up just one game short on the boys’ side.


“I felt, and the administration felt, that to try to honor as many games as we could would be great for our community,” said Brunswick Athletic Director Aaron Watson. “We packed them in, but we were cognizant of our player safety. And, you know, the kids would play five in a week. Three in a row is tough. We drew the line with that, certainly for hockey, but we felt confident (about) going back-to-back and having four games in a week.”

Not surprisingly, reduced schedules were more common among the smallest schools. The Class D island schools of Vinalhaven and North Haven will likely end up with just nine games for their boys’ and girls’ teams.

Across Class D as a whole, 20 of the 24 boys’ teams and 20 of the 23 girls’ teams will not reach 18 games.

Class C squads also lost several games, with 29 of 38 girls’ teams and 22 of 37 boys’ teams playing 17 or fewer. Several teams will likely play no more than 14 games.

In Class B, nine of 32 boys’ teams and 13 of 31 girls’ teams won’t play 18 games.

Seven of 22 boys’ teams and nine of 22 girls’ teams in Class A will end up with fewer than 18 games.

In the 17-team Class AA, four boys’ teams and three girls’ teams won’t complete their full schedule. Class AA North boys is the only region in the state where every team is expected to finish an 18-game schedule by Thursday.

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