Basketball players

Basketball: Players and coaches happy as some title games moved to Portland Expo

Yarmouth’s Peter Psyhogeos throws a shot over York’s Jake Fogg during the Clippers’ 50-41 win in the Class B semifinal on Tuesday at Portland Expo. Yarmouth will play in the regional final at the Expo on Saturday, rather than the Cross Insurance Arena as previously scheduled. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Todd Flaherty enjoys playing at Cross Insurance Arena. He has fond memories there, including regional and national championships won in this building by his women’s basketball teams from Greely High.

But when he learned that the Class A South and Class B South championship games were going to be played at Expo in Portland on Saturday instead of Cross Arena on Friday, he wasn’t upset.

“Personally, I prefer Expo for basketball,” he said Friday. “I think you see better basketball there, definitely better shooting. We are happy to be there. It didn’t hurt our feelings at all with the change.

“The Cross arena is fun and definitely special. But for the love of basketball, the Expo is my place. It’s big enough that you always have a special feeling there too.

Friday’s snowstorm forced the Maine Principals’ Association to adjust its tournament schedule. Friday’s games were postponed and venues were realigned to Portland on Saturday. Class B South will start the day at Expo with the girls’ game (#1 Oceanside vs. #5 York) at noon, followed by the boys’ game (#2 Yarmouth vs. #4 Medomak Valley) at 2 p.m. 00 The Class A South girls match (No 1 Brunswick v No 2 Greely) will be played at 4pm, followed by the South A boys match (No 1 Falmouth v No 3 Marshwood) at 6pm

Yarmouth boys’ basketball coach Jonas Allen shared Flaherty’s feelings about Expo.

“We are delighted to be where we are,” he said. “(The players) really like the Expo and so do I. I think it’s a great place for basketball. I think the (Cross Insurance Arena) sometimes feels a little big and empty. They’re excited to play at the Expo.

“It’s much more like what we’re used to. It’s bigger than a high school gymnasium, but not as big as the Civic Center.

The Expo, according to all the coaches involved in Saturday’s four games, provides an intimate setting for basketball. It seats about 3,000 people and the bleachers are only about 10-12 feet from the field.

Members of the York High girls’ basketball team speak after a timeout in the second half of their Class B South semi-final victory over Wells at the Portland Expo on Tuesday. The Wildcats return to the Expo on Saturday for the regional final against Oceanside. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Cross Insurance Arena, still called the “civic center” by many, can accommodate more than 6,700 people. And fans are farther from the basketball court, which sits in the middle of a hockey rink that’s home to the Maine Mariners.

“It’s definitely more intimate at Expo, the fans are so much closer,” said Brunswick women’s basketball coach Sam Farrell, who grew up in Munjoy Hill in Portland and attended games at the Exhibition all his life. “And that has a bigger impact. At the (CIA), the fans are so behind the hockey boards, I don’t know if the fans can make a difference.

“At Expo, the student section is there. It’s very bright. It looks more like a basketball arena whereas the (CIA) is a hockey arena.

Players also seem to like Expo. Shooting at Cross Insurance Arena can be a challenge with a cavernous backdrop behind the baskets. The Expo has a deeper backdrop than most high school gymnasiums, but it’s not as harsh as the CIA.

“Cross Arena is definitely different,” said Greely senior guard Chelsea Graiver, who played there in first and second years. “It’s harder to shoot there. Depth perception is a little off. So you have to adapt a bit. I know it took me three missed free throws before I hit one. I thought they would all be long, but they were all short.

“Even the overtaking is different. And you think the pitch is shorter than it actually is. It therefore takes a few minutes to make these first mistakes before adapting.

Marshwood High boys’ basketball coach Bobby Pratt signals to his players during the fourth quarter of the Hawks’ Class A Southern semifinal against Greely Wednesday night at the Portland Expo. Marshwood takes on Falmouth for the regional final on Saturday at the Expo. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Brunswick senior guard Logan Brown, who played at Cross Arena as a rookie, said it was important to get as many shots as possible during pre-game warm-ups, to adapt in different context.

“You have to make up your mind,” she says. “Focus on the rim.”

Falmouth senior guard Brady Coyne, who played three games at the Cross arena, said he didn’t care where the game was played, but there was a difference in atmosphere between both buildings.

“As a player, the (Cross arena) is always cool, you feel like a great player being there,” he said. “At Expo, if you have a lot of people, it’s better. The Civic Center is difficult to fill.

And, he noted, you can feel the fan energy more at Expo.

“Expo is much better when there are more people,” Coyne said. “You can feel the vibrations on the floor. You don’t get that at the Civic Center. If you get a big crowd at Expo, that’s definitely something.

Underdog teams like Marshwood and York are happy to stay at Expo and don’t have to adjust to yet another new environment. “For us I think it’s a good thing,” said York girls coach Jess Stacy, whose teams feed on the energy of the fans.

And for teams like Medomak Valley and Oceanside, who moved to the South region this year and would normally play Bangor at the Cross Insurance Center, the Expo has proven to be a good site.

“We love Expo, it has some history,” said Medomak Valley boys’ basketball coach Nick DePatsy. “And we’ve been playing well there so far.”

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