Editor’s note: One in a series on tournament basketball memories at the Bangor Auditorium, which is hosting its final tournament this season. Part II: five top boys teams.
BANGOR, Maine — It’s almost impossible to identify the best handful of Maine high school boys basketball teams ever to play at the Bangor Auditorium.
The memories go back 57 years and if you ask 100 people which is the best team they’ve ever seen, you’ll get 100 different answers.
Here are some of the teams that have distinguished themselves at the facility on the way to winning state championships.
The auditorium was eight years old when the 1963 Class LL (now Class A) tournament was held. By all accounts, Morse High School of Bath, coached by Clyde Haden, made its way easily through the Western Maine tournament.
The Shipbuilders were severely tested by an unbeaten Stearns of Millinocket team (21-0) when they arrived in Bangor on March 9, 1963. Morse was led by Joe Harrington, a 6-foot-5 senior. The three-time Bangor Daily News All-Maine pick later played at the University of Maryland.
The ballclub also featured Rick Woods, who earned an All-Maine first-team nod and went on to play at the University of Maine. Dale McNelly was an All-Maine second-team selection and went on to gain a first-team spot the following year. The Shipbuilders’ other starters were Jack Hart and Dave Dodge, while Spencer French also played in the state game.
It took two overtimes, but a Harrington foul shot with 19 seconds left lifted Morse (20-0) to a 61-60 win. Other Morse players were Leon Beal, Granville Harrington, Scott Johnson, Maynard Overlock, Richard Page and David Soule.
The two teams met again in the New England Championships at Boston Garden. The Minutemen won the rematch 56-54.
Coach George Wentworth’s Stearns program continued its momentum as the Minutemen went 22-0 and won the Class LL state championship in 1964.
Stearns won 72 consecutive regular-season contests from 1963-66 and the ’65 team featured one of the most talked-about high school players in Maine hoop history, senior Jon MacDonald.
The Minutemen averaged 82 points a game during the season, including three consecutive 100-point efforts. In one game, they routed Caribou 131-64. In Bangor, Stearns beat Houlton, Bangor (by one point) and Presque Isle on the way to the states, where the Minutemen took the title with a 76-66 victory over Lewiston at the auditorium.
MacDonald gained all-tourney accolades in 1965 and was named to the All-Maine team for the third time, his second on the first team. He went on to play with his former Morse foe Harrington at Maryland.
Jim Barnes, who scored 17 points in the state game, also took home all-tournament and All-Maine first-team honors.
Tom Wentworth, the coach’s son, scored nine of his 17 points from the foul line in the state game. Bob Brown (9), Pete Fitzpatrick and Jon Pound also contributed. Vincent Pelletier, David Segee, Rod Morrow, John Bouchard, John Barker, Clair Grant and Joseph Roop were the other team members.
No discussion of Bangor Auditorium excellence would be complete without the ’73 Cony ballclub. Coach Dick Hunt’s Rams had been a contender the previous three seasons and reached the state final in 1972.
A year later, Cony was primed to go all the way. The Rams finished with a Heal Point Tournament Index of 202.61, which speaks to its strength of schedule.
The catalyst was rugged 6-5 senior center Dave Rollins, who was joined by junior forward Tim Leet as an EM all-tourney choice that season. Rollins went on to claim All-Maine first-team recognition.
Cony boasted eight seniors, among them starters Neal Glazier, Bill Hayward and Paul Vachon, along with Steve Marchildon. Other team members were Tom Cooper, James Hogerty, Bill Ottman, Mark Cameron, Daryl Dumont and Scott Goggin.
The Rams cruised through the EM tourney, beating Bangor, Stearns and Mount Desert Island (in the final) by an average margin of 21.7 points. They finished off their state championship run on March 17, 1973, edging Rumford 67-61 — for the third time that season — at the Augusta Civic Center.
Late BDN sportswriter George Cushman called the 1976-77 Rumford Panthers “maybe the best title-winning team to ever come down the pike.”
Coach John Shaw’s team had won a Western Maine championship in 1973 and state crowns in 1974 and ’76 before this ballclub emerged. The returnees would post another perfect season.
Rumford wore opponents out, sparked by a heralded trio of seniors in All-Maine first-team selections and tri-captains Tim Ziko, a 6-7 center, 6-2 senior guard Matt Kaubris and 6-5 senior forward Andrew Shorey, who was an All-Maine second-teamer.
The Panthers also played strong defense, dispatching South Portland, Brunswick and Cheverus of Portland while limiting them to an average of 44 points per game in the WM tourney.
The roster included seniors John Zinck and Tim Shea, juniors David Gerrish, Mike Arsenault, Mike Fraser and Peter Carignan, and sophomores Mike Anastasio, James Conti, Sidney Hazelton, Bill Batherson, Tim Knox and Matt Montgomery.
Rumford ran its win streak to 44 games on March 19, 1977, with a 78-58 win over Stearns at the Bangor Auditorium. It was the last state title for the school before it merged with Mexico and became Mountain Valley High School.
At a time when every EM Class A basketball game was a dogfight, Waterville rose to the challenge during the 1984-85 season.
Coach Ken Lindlof’s Panthers had tremendous upperclass experience, led by senior Scott Saft and senior guard Todd Hanson, both of whom were all-tourney picks. Saft, a 6-5 center, went on to receive an All-Maine first-team berth and Hanson was a second-team choice.
Waterville also relied on senior forward Gary Karter, junior guard Dick Whitmore and sophomore forward Kevin Whitmore, along with junior forward Eric Browne. The Panthers also suited up juniors Tracy Halliday, Joe Jabar, Mike Smith, Chris Hill and Peter Connellan and sophomore David Mizner.
The top-seeded Panthers lost once during the regular season (17-1), but racked up a tournament index of 204.64 that put them an incredible 94 points ahead of No. 2 Cony. Waterville beat Winslow and Bangor before edging Cony 66-63 in the regional final.
The Panthers returned to Bangor on March 16, 1985, and drubbed South Portland 60-35.
Many other outstanding teams received consideration for inclusion on our All-Auditorium list, but they are too numerous to mention.