Middle school basketball

Busline League crossover games between large, small schools new to schedule

Teams that do not traditionally play one another will square off this winter
By Mark Haskell | Dec 05, 2019

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go” is not only a famous book written by children’s author Dr. Seuss, but it also fits the travel plans for many parents, friends and fans of teams who participate in the Busline League’s large and small school basketball division this season.

Lincolnville Central School Principal Paul Russo, who has been involved with the Busline League since 1991, said this season will feature a multitude of crossover games between the large and small school divisions.

The decision was made at a league meeting in the fall.

"We’re trying to cater to the needs of all our schools, so we’re being fairly flexible,” said Russo, who is currently the secretary and treasurer for the league. “And it fits in with our philosophy of what we’re trying to do.”

In the large school division, there are eighth- and seventh-grade divisions — boys and girls — with four separate tournaments and championship games (7th-grade girls, 7th-grade boys, 8th-grade girls, 8th-grade boys).

In the small school division, there are two tournaments and title games — boys and girls — with no divisions separating classes.

Competing in the eighth-grade large school divisions this year are Oceanside of Rockland, Medomak of Waldoboro, Camden-Rockport and Great Salt Bay of Damariscotta boys and girls; while Oceanside, Medomak, Camden-Rockport, Great Salt Bay and Troy Howard of Belfast boys and girls will comprise the seventh-grade large school divisions.

Competing in the small school division this year are Appleton, Boothbay, Bristol, Edna Drinkwater School of Northport, Hope, Islesboro, Jefferson, Lincolnville, North Haven, Nobleboro, Searsport, St. George, Troy Howard (8th grade), Vinalhaven, Wiscasset and Woolwich.

The small school playoffs will be separated into north and south divisions — with the division winners to face off for the league title — while the large school playoffs will have only one division.

Russo said the most significant reason for the change in the regular-season schedule is the number of teams now competing in the small school division, with the large school teams faced with playing only a few opponents.

“We’re trying to address concerns with having [large school] teams play one another three or four times over the course of a season,” said Russo. “Small school schedules seem to be getting bigger and bigger with more schools wanting to play in the small school division and it leaves very few larger schools. And this gives us an opportunity to get more games for the large schools. And it gives everyone an opportunity to get out in the league and get to some gyms they wouldn’t normally get to.”

For example, a few games that may seem odd on paper have Vinalhaven playing the Medomak eighth-graders, Oceanside eighth-graders facing Hope and Camden-Rockport eighth-graders against Appleton, among others.

Of note is the fact that, unlike the Maine Principals’ Association with high school teams, the Busline League does not have specific enrollment numbers that signify whether a team will compete in the large or small school division.

"We have the flexibility to do that kind of stuff in the league when it warrants it, which is one of the strengths of the league," said Russo in a 2010 interview about the history of the league, which began in the 1960s. "It's really based on the honor system. Schools know what they have, they understand the level of competition and the goal is to try to match your school to the appropriate level of competition."

The most significant changes of note for this season are Boothbay, a longstanding participant in the large school division, moving to the small school ranks, as is Troy Howard’s eighth-grade programs.

Russo said it is not lost on the league that “there is some potential for some large deficits between schools, but we get that within leagues anyway.”

And, if a team accumulates a steady amount of losses, it will not keep them from the playoffs.

“Everybody makes the tournament,” said Russo. “So if it’s the competition at the end people are concerned about, we still have separate small school and large school tournaments. And everybody participates in the tournament.”

The large school championship games are slated for Saturday, Jan. 25 at Oceanside High School, while the championship game dates and times for the small school finals have yet to be announced.

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