Massabesic High School has canceled its girls’ varsity basketball season, causing ripple effects for the remaining teams in Class AA South.

Coach Paul Nolette confirmed that the school won’t play a varsity season because of low numbers. Nolette said he and Athletic Director Brendan Scully made the decision last Thursday to proceed with only a junior varsity season.

“We decided our numbers were just too light,” said Nolette, who’s in his first season as Massabesic’s head coach after previously coaching the Sanford boys. “With the combination of sickness and injuries, we felt like we just couldn’t go through with a full season without risking our future varsity status for the upcoming years.”

Maine Principals’ Association rules state that teams that fail to complete a varsity season after starting one are barred from varsity status for the following two years. MPA Executive Director Mike Burnham confirmed that the Mustangs will be eligible to return to full status next year.

Massabesic has an enrollment of 878, according to the MPA’s basketball bulletin, but the Mustangs graduated 11 players from a team that went 13-6 and reached the Class AA South semifinals last season. Nolette said there are only 11 players in the program, including one senior and one junior.

Nolette said injuries to three players and illness made the numbers even thinner.


“I’ve been doing this for 32 years; I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “It was in the best interests of everyone. I think all the players feel that way, too. I think there’s a sense of relief for some of the girls, especially the young freshmen.”

Massabesic’s decision leaves AA South with seven teams, and Burnham said the top seed in the regional tournament will get a bye into the semifinals.

“You get a straight shot to the Civic Center, which is always nice,” Scarborough Coach Mike Giordano said.

There was also the matter of changing schedules and filling open spots. Sanford, Scarborough and South Portland will play third games against each other. Bonny Eagle and Noble will play each other a third time, as well as Biddeford and Kennebunk, respectively. Thornton Academy and Gorham will play each other a third time, and Thornton will pick up a game against Cheverus, while Gorham will play Oxford Hills.

“We’re fortunate because everyone makes the tournament in AA,” Giordano said. “It doesn’t matter who you pick up a third time … (because) you’re going to make it. Now, whether you’re playing at home or away in the quarterfinals, that may matter.”

Thornton Academy will face the defending AA North and South champions, but Coach Eric Marston said he appreciates the challenge.

“We’re looking forward to those games,” he said. “We like the fact that we’re playing those good teams, for sure. We want to play against the best, and the North has some real loaded teams up there.”

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