With the cold of the oncoming winter comes basketball season, where warm gym and hotter action on the court will last through the tournament week in late February.
But, this year, the high school varsity schedule looks a little different across the state after the Maine Principals Association, the governing body for school athletics, voted last spring to add a fifth class to its traditional four basketball divisions, changing the enrollment ranges for each class.
Smaller schools, historically in the Class D division, had been facing stiffer competition as declining enrollment dropped Class C schools one division down, prompting the initiative which easily passed an MPA member vote.
This spells a change for both Class C George Stevens Academy and Class D Deer Isle-Stonington, although the schools will not move into a different class.
For GSA, some of its stiffest competition has moved up into Class B, such as Orono and Washington Academy, along with Houlton, a tournament regular.
With a new student enrollment range of 131 to 324 students, changed from 190 to 424, GSA is the biggest school in the Class C North, and, even if enrollment sees a bump, that edge will help for the next two years.
“We remain in class C for this year and next for sure. It is always a 2 year cycle,” GSA Coach Dwayne Carter wrote in a recent email. Class C remains competitive, he added, with class D teams Woodland, Hodgdon, Schenck among teams now moved into Class C.
This should benefit Deer Isle-Stonington Mariners, with 15 teams instead of 24 in the northern region, and those bigger schools out of its division.
Deer Isle-Stonington, with 94 students, is seventh in enrollment among its region Class D schools, which now covers schools with enrollment from 0 to 130 students, instead of up to 189.
A new AA class culls the 16 largest schools into one division, with the northern region including Bangor, Lewiston and Portland.
Both the GSA Eagles and DISHS Mariners start scrimmage and exhibition games next week, but not that close to home—GSA’s scrimmages November 25 in Brewer is the closest. However, the two teams meet in early season games: December 4 for the girls, at GSA, and December 5 for the boys at Deer Isle.