BAR HARBOR — The biggest offseason basketball tournament of the year is about to take over Hancock County.
Players, coaches and families from all over the state will travel to Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island this weekend for this year’s edition of the Great Harbor Shootout. The tournament, sponsored by Harbor House, is set to begin Friday, March 13, and conclude Sunday, March 15.
In all 86 teams are set to descend on the year for this year’s tournament. That number will surpass 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 will travel from as far south as Bath and as far north as Fort Kent for this year’s tournament. Last year’s winners included one local team (MDI, high school girls) 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 will include the MDI varsity and junior varsity teams as well as Deer Isle-Stonington. The high school girls’ bracket includes teams from MDI, Deer Isle-Stonington, Ellsworth, Sumner and George Stevens Academy.
At the junior high school level, Hancock County will be represented by DEFY, Acadian Youth Sports (A and B teams) and Deer Isle-Stonington on the boys’ side. The girls’ bracket will feature AYS (and B teams), Deer Isle-Stonington and Sumner.
Between coaches, athletes, parents, spectators and volunteers, Novella expects 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 the area’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 takes place as many large gatherings around the country are being canceled due to the coronavirus. Although no cases of the virus had been confirmed in Maine as of press time, volunteers will be taking 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.”
Tournament games will be held at Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School, Trenton Elementary School, Mount Desert Island High School, Mount Desert Elementary, Pemetic Elementary School and the MDI YMCA. Play will begin at 4 p.m. Friday, March 13, and conclude with the championship games in the late morning and afternoon Sunday, March 15.