How will your hoop team be remembered?
The Midcoast is littered with talented high school basketball teams in Knox, Waldo and Lincoln counties.
The Oceanside and Camden Hills boys and girls, the Medomak Valley boys, the Belfast girls and the North Haven boys likely will play in their respective regional quarterfinal games (after a few prelim games for some), while the Belfast and Searsport boys and Vinalhaven, Medomak Valley and Islesboro girls also are on the cusp of potential playoff berths.
Winning high school basketball games in the regular season is difficult, particularly in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B division.
I have heard numerous coaches I have interviewed over the years use the word "dogfight" when trying to explain the competitive nature of teams in the league.
Regardless, winning one of those games in your own gymnasium, let along the gym of another team or the gym of a bitter rival is one thing.
Winnings games at the Bangor Auditorium or Augusta Civic Center, for example, is another matter altogether.
Forget all the clichés: Win or go home. This time it matters. One and done.
What it all comes down to at this point in the season is what team wants it more, what team is more prepared and what team is willing to put in the work to do what is necessary to survive.
Survival, above everything else, is the key to winning in the regional tournament, at the "dance," in the "big show."
The teams that survive typically are the teams that have been battle tested and the teams that have players who have been there before.
With that in mind, let us put a few things in perspective.
The Oceanside boys have been one of the favorites to compete for the regional championship this season, and, by all accounts, still are. They have the depth and have displayed the poise, at times, that it takes to win a regional championship.
Not one player on the roster has won a game at the Bangor Auditorium.
The Oceanside girls have been one of this season's most impressive surprises, are poised to be one of the top teams in Eastern Class B and look as if they will secure an automatic berth to the quarterfinals.
But not one player on the roster has won a game at the Bangor Auditorium.
If the Mariner girls are not the season's most significant hardwood surprise than the Belfast girls certainly are. The Lions have not been to the playoffs since the 2006-07 season and, under first-year coach Stan Sturgis, recently upset the higher-ranked Mariners and have flourished, also appearing to be well on their way to a top ranking for the tournament.
But guess what? That is right. Not one Lion has won a tournament game on the Bangor Auditorium floor.
The North Haven boys slowly have been moving up the ladder in Western Class D the past few years and, under the tutelage of new coach Roman Cooper, seem to have put it together this season and will be one of the top teams in the upcoming playoffs.
Again, not one Hawk has won a game at the Bangor Auditorium (alright, fine, North Haven plays its regional playoff games at the Augusta Civic Center, but I think you see where I am going with this).
The Camden Hills girls have put together another impressive win/loss record during the regular season, are in the middle of the pack in the region and has one of the league's top players in Jordan Knowlton, who recently became the school's all-time career points leader.
But not one Windjammer on this year's roster has won a game at the Bangor Auditorium.
The Medomak Valley boys have been to the regional playoffs several times the past few years and perennial contenders for the regional crown.
Six players on this year's roster — John Murray, Ryan Ripley, Jonathan Hendrickson-Belloguet, Brandon Soper, Boone Olson and Kazu Tibbetts — have been on a team to win a game in Bangor.
Lastly, the Camden Hills boys, in recent years, have, by far, been the most successful Midcoast team, having won numerous state titles and, year in and year out, proven to know what it takes to win in the postseason.
Only four players on the current Windjammer roster — Chandler Crans, Alex Crans, Connor Hart and Colin Morse — have been on a team to win a game at the Bangor Auditorium.
This probably looks like I am diminishing the accomplishments of these tremendous student-athletes who work tirelessly in practices each day with one another to become the best collective groups they can be.
That I am implying that if they have not won a game in the playoffs that all their sacrifices do not matter.
I can assure you that is not the case.
But, only one team each year wins the state championship.
When you are a young student-athlete do you dream about holding that gold ball above your head for all to see, or do you dream about walking off the court defeated in the first round of the playoffs?
More than anything, this rant is merely a reminder that once you get to the playoffs, throw out the records, they do not matter. Whether you're wearing the road uniforms or the home uniforms does not matter. Whether you worked all season to secure that No. 1 seed or you scrapped at the end and got in at No. 8 or lower, it does not matter.
All that matters is that you win. A good win, a bad win, an ugly win or a signature win all get you to the next round.
And for those of you who have not been there, and based on the above information, there are many, let me impart to you a few things to think about over the next few days.
When your team is down 10 points in the second quarter and the opponent's student section is so loud you can barely think, let alone hear your coach from the bench barking out plays, how will you respond?
When you are in a back-and-forth game and your ahead by one point with 10 seconds left and the opponent is charging down the court with a chance to pull ahead, how will you defend?
When your entire town or community has driven many miles to watch you compete and they — metaphorically — live or die with every move you make and every shot you take, how will you play?
Once you step onto that court at "The Mecca" or Augusta Civic Center and hundreds of fans from your hometown are screaming at the top of their lungs in anticipation for the game's opening tip, and you look up far into the stands where the rows and rows of seats seem to stretch to the heavens, you quickly realize that as far as high school basketball is concerned, you have not even been born yet.
So there you have it. We are talking about upwards of 75 student-athletes in local high school hoop programs who will move on to their respective regional tournaments at either the Bangor Auditorium or the Augusta Civic Center — after some play prelim games — in the coming days.
And only 10 of those teenagers have ever won a game in either venue.
Here is to hoping that number goes way up this year.
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.