Friday, December 13, 2013
BY TRAVIS LAZARCZYK Staff Writer
Keep it close. They came here expecting a blowout. Don't give it to them.
BEATING THE BIG DOG: Last season, Megan Pelletier and the Messalonskee girls basketball team entered the tournament as the No. 8 seed and upset No. 1 Morse in the quarterfinals.
Staff photo by Joe Phelan
UPSET CITY: Max Haney and the Lawrence High School boys basketball team were the No. 7 seed in 2009 when they upset No. 2 Brewer in the Eastern A quarterfinals.
Staff file photo by Joe Phelan
Do you see their eyes? They're nervous. They never expected to be in a close game. Listen. Your fans are going bonkers, making more noise than a parade. Their fans are pretty quiet. Some of them are even sitting on their hands.
Every decision you make is the right one. Everything they try goes wrong.
There's an upset brewing.
Sometime this week, it's going to happen. Rather, it's likely to happen. A seven seed or lower is going to win a high school basketball quarterfinal game. Since the 2000 tournament, it's happened at least once every year. It should be noted, however, in 2002 the Maine Principal's Association broke each region into two subregions, which eliminated classic 8 vs. 1 and 7 vs. 2 matchups. In the Western C boys tournament, however, Telstar beat Hyde. If you combined the Heal points of the two Western C divisions, Telstar was the No. 10 seed, Hyde was No. 1.
Since the 2000 tournament, a 7 seed or higher has won 19 regional quarterfinal games, approximately one out of every 10 games featuring a low seed against a high seed.
"You've got nothing to lose. Nobody expects you to win. The whole key is keeping that game within striking distance," Lawrence boys basketball coach Mike McGee said. "The most difficult game for the favorite is that first one. In some cases, you're supposed to win by a lot."
Now in his 28th season coaching at Lawrence, McGee has been on both sides of the upset. In 1988, he coached the Bulldogs to a 16-2 regular-season record, and Lawrence went into the Eastern A tournament as the top seed for the first time. They lost to No. 8 Presque Isle, 86-81, in overtime.
"You could see (Presque Isle's) confidence just building," McGee said.
That came just two years after Lawrence pulled off what is arguably the biggest upset in Maine high school basketball history. The Bulldogs entered the Eastern A tourney as the No. 7 seed and won a pair of games, setting up a rematch against top-seeded Waterville. A few weeks earlier, Waterville went into Lawrence's gym and beat the Bulldogs by 56 points.
In the Eastern Maine championship game, Lawrence avenged that loss with a 56-53 overtime win.
"We had to go out and play great, or we could get embarrassed," said Mike Brown, who played on that Lawrence team and is now one of McGee's assistant coaches. "I don't know if you could find a bigger upset. As a coach, you look at that game and say anything can happen, because you went through it."
Twenty-one years later, Brown was the head coach at Maine Central Institute, and was on the sidelines for one of the most recent big upsets. The No. 8 seed in Eastern B, Brown's Huskies knocked off top seed and defending state champion Maranacook, 58-50.
"We were an eight seed, but we were 13-5. We had a lot of seniors. We were a confident group," Brown said.
MCI jumped out to a 19-4 lead, and although Maranacook cut its deficit to five points in the third quarter, that fast start propelled the Huskies and gave them confidence when the Black Bears made a run. Maranacook played without guard Will Bardaglio, who was out with an illness, and it was one of those rare games that season in which the Black Bears didn't shoot well.
"We got off to such a tremendous start. Everything we did offensively early worked," Brown said. "Our kids held together."
(Continued on page 2)