High school holiday basketball tournaments offer teams a chance to play with something on the line, and often against opponents they normally wouldn’t face. Tournaments allow teams to stay active prior to the restart of regular-season games in January.

Now in its 26th year, the holiday tournament at the Portland Expo, sponsored by the Maine Red Claws and Portland High, starts next Tuesday and is actually two tournaments in one.

At York High, the third annual Wildcat Holiday Classic, with a boys’ and girls’ division, also starts Tuesday.

This is the second year the Red Claws are sponsoring the Expo tourney. The opening day has eight schools playing in a Class A vs. Class B format. They will play just that one day in the event because the Class A schools – Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Deering and South Portland – have regular-season games next Friday.

The elimination portion of the Expo tournament, which leads to a championship game,  begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday with Scarborough playing Cape Elizabeth. There are six games Wednesday, four games Thursday and four games Friday, culminating with the consolation and championship games.

Two out-of-state teams are entered. Susan Wagner High of Staten Island, N.Y., returns for another year. Moore Catholic of Brooklyn, N.Y., which has opened with 10 straight victories, including one over Susan Wagner, is the other out-of-state team. Susan Wagner plays Portland at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Falmouth plays Moore Catholic at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The championship final is 7 p.m. Friday.

“A team will need three wins to win the championship,” said Portland Coach Joe Russo, one of the tournament organizers.

The Wildcat Classic has teams from Massachusetts and New Hampshire going against locals.

“We try to get teams from Massachusetts and New Hampshire,” said York boys’ coach Randy Small. “It makes it unique and a lot of fun to play in. This is the third year of the tournament. The first two years, the gym was packed.”

In the boys’ tournament, the opening game at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday has Marshwood playing Marblehead, Mass. York will take on Somersworth, N.H., at 8:15.

The winners play for the title the next day at 6:30 p.m. with the losers heading for the consolation game at 3 p.m.

The girls’ tournament opens Tuesday with a 3 p.m. game matching Massabesic against Woburn, Mass. York will play Dover, N.H., at 6:30.

The championship game is set for 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, with the consolation game at 4:45.

In both tournaments, at the Expo and at York, the price of admission includes multiple games that day.

PORTLAND STRUGGLED to score points Friday against a tough Cheverus defense, finishing with 41.

On Tuesday, the Bulldogs scored nearly as many points in the fourth quarter (35) against Bonny Eagle en route to a 66-47 victory.

The Bulldogs took advantage of 24 Bonny Eagle turnovers.

“We ran the lanes, got to the rim and asserted ourselves,” said Russo. “We were pressing, rotating on defense, rebounding and running. It was what we were supposed to be doing from day one.”

Peter Donato, scoreless in the Cheverus game, had 21 points and was a factor at both ends of the court.

“Peter played tremendously,” said Russo. “He started playing finesse basketball, which is his game. He played great help defense.”

Mike Herrick scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter for Portland.

Bonny Eagle Coach Phil Bourassa was impressed with the Bulldogs.

“They have quick and aggressive guards who gave our less experienced players problems. We had a lot of unforced errors and we didn’t close out plays. Overall we’ve played well defensively, but we’re still trying to figure out our offensive identity,” he said. 

IF EARLY-SEASON games are an indicator, Nate Shields-Auble has been a great addition to Yarmouth, which needed a big man this season.

Shields-Auble, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, was a force at both ends of the court Tuesday in a 46-42 loss to Falmouth – Yarmouth’s first of the season.

Shields-Auble finished with a game-high 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds. He also showed 3-point range, hitting two.

Last school year, he attended Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H. His parents moved to Yarmouth. This fall, Shields-Auble played football as a linebacker-tight end for the Class C state champion Clippers.

“Nate is getting better every game,” said Coach Adam Smith. “Once we get through Christmas, the players will be on the same page with what we want to do on offense. We’ll play better because we’ll have had more time together.”

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

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