Editor’s note: As of March 12 the Great Harbor Shoot Out has been cancelled. According to event organizers: “In light of the current health crisis and Governor Mills’ request to limit large gatherings and promote “social distancing,” Harbor House Community Center has decided to cancel the Great Harbor Shoot Out basketball tournament.”
BAR HARBOR — The biggest offseason basketball tournament of the year is no longer about to take over Mount Desert Island.
Players, coaches and families from all over the state would have traveled to the area this weekend for this year’s edition of the Great Harbor Shootout. The tournament, sponsored by Harbor House, was set to begin Friday, March 13, and conclude Sunday, March 15.
In all, 86 teams were set to descend on the year for this year’s tournament. That number would have surpassed last year’s total of 83 as the most in the event’s 28-year history.
“It’s the largest offseason tournament in the state,” Harbor House Event and Community Relations Director Diana Novella said. “We have a waiting list, but [86 teams] is as many as we can take with the number of referees and volunteers we have.”
Teams would have travelled from as far south as Bath and as far north as Fort Kent for this year’s tournament. Last year’s winners included the MDI girls (high school bracket) and three from elsewhere in the state (Hermon, high school boys; Skowhegan, junior high boys; Bangor, junior high girls).
Locally, the high school boys’ bracket was to include the MDI varsity and junior varsity teams as well as Deer Isle-Stonington. The high school girls’ bracket would have included teams from MDI, Deer Isle-Stonington, Ellsworth, Sumner and George Stevens Academy.
This year, the MDI girls were set to defend their title as they play in the South bracket. On the boys’ side, MDI would field both varsity and junior varsity teams with the varsity team playing in the North bracket and the JV squad playing in the South bracket.
At the middle school level, the island would have been represented by Acadian Youth Sports. AYS would field A and B teams in both the boys’ and girls’ brackets.
Between coaches, athletes, parents, spectators and volunteers, Novella expected the tournament to draw between 4,000 and 5,000 people. With those individuals eating at local restaurants, staying at local hotels and visiting local shops, the event is one of MDI’s biggest draws outside of tourist season.
“Economically, it’s a huge weekend for us,” Novella said. “For some of the teams that are coming from farther away, they’re going to be staying [on MDI] and in Ellsworth. You also have a lot of restaurants that are just opening up this time of year.”
This year’s tournament was to take place as many large gatherings around the country were being canceled due to the coronavirus. Although no cases of the virus have been confirmed in Maine thus far, volunteers planned to take precautions to keep those in attendance safe.
“It’s definitely something that’s been in the back of our minds,” Novella said. “We’re going to have hand sanitizer at every gate, and we’re preparing to be extra vigilant.”
Games would have been held at Mount Desert Island High School, the MDI YMCA, Mount Desert Elementary School, Pemetic Elementary School, Trenton Elementary School and Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School. Play would have begun at 4 p.m. Friday, March 13, and concluded with the championship games throughout the late morning and afternoon Sunday, March 15.
This story has been updated.