Editor’s note: This story is one in a series on tourney basketball memories at the Bangor Auditorium, which is hosting its final tourney this season. Part I: five top girls teams.
One of the greatest plays in the stellar career of Westbrook High School’s Lisa Blais came as a decoy.
When the Blue Blazes set up for a final play with 11 seconds left on the Bangor Auditorium floor tied at 59 against the Presque Isle Wildcats in the Class A state final on March 14, 1981, Blaise had already guided her team to 69 straight victories and three state titles while averaging 25 points a game.
A big Auditorium crowd and the Wildcats figured the ball would go to Blaise. It did, but she passed the ball to freshman Diana Harris, who passed it to a wide open Nancy Anthony, who hit the winning basket.
That play epitomizes a team that Lisa Blais Manning remembers as one of the best to hit the Auditorium hardwood.
“For years we always had plenty of height and other players who finished the whole game,” recalled Manning, a 5-foot-10 guard who went on to a standout college career at Old Dominion.
“One player cannot win everything. Every year we were in there, we had the big players inside like Anthony,” Manning added. “They opened things up for us outside. We always had good athletes. That year we also won the field hockey championship.”
Manning finished with 28 points in Westbrook’s fourth state-title win and Anthony put in 19. Other members of the team included seniors Stacey Anderson, Sandy Legere, Cindy Leighton and Heidi Schade; juniors Josephine Anthony, Rita Bettney, Susie Gagne, Michelle Harvey and Ann Skvorak; and sophomore Carol Gray.
Manning and the Blue Blazes were familiar with the Auditorium as they had won their second title there, 80-42, over Skowhegan in 1979, and didn’t have many pre-game jitters when preparing for Presque Isle in 1981. In those years, the state finals alternated between the Augusta Civic Center and the Auditorium.
“It’s kind of funny, but when I look back on it, it was just kind of like another game,” she said. “We weren’t really thinking about how much the game meant, it was let’s just go out and play.”
Manning relished her time on the Auditorium floor.
“The crowd was so much closer to you. It got you more pumped up for the game,” she said. “In Augusta, the crowd was much farther away, not much of a factor. The Auditorium was a pretty homey place.”
Ten years after the Blue Blazes made Auditorium history, another Class A team stepped on the Auditorium floor to win its first of four straight titles, the Lawrence Bulldogs, led by freshman phenom Cindy Blodgett and seven seniors.
“All four of [the state championship teams] had their own little signature to them, but I have to feel that very first one, they broke the ice,” recalled Bruce Cooper, who coached a Lawrence of Fairfield team that attracted a statewide following.
“We had seven seniors in that first group and the year before we had missed the tourney by one-tenth of a point,” Cooper added. “You take those hungry seniors and then add Cindy to that mix.”
The result was a team that sparked a winning formula for four straight seasons.
“All four teams loved to run, loved to press, pass the ball up the floor and could go from defense to offense faster than anyone,” Cooper said.
Many recall Blodgett as a scoring and passing machine, but Cooper pointed out that the Bulldogs always had other offensive weapons and valuable role players who enabled the championship success. In that first title season, the Bulldogs also relied on offensive output from senior Dawn Anne Higgins and junior Taffy Witham while seniors Airami Bogle (5-11) and Aimee Lanteigne (5-10) provided strong production on both ends of the court.
Other members of the team included seniors Dawn McKeen, Kristi Hamlin, Mary Hamlin and Julie Bradstreet; juniors Jessica Giorgetti, Shawna Rogers, Bridget Pelotte, Marsha Hamlin and Jessica Daigle; and sophomore Danielle Batey.
The Bulldogs captured their first state title by battling back from a seven-point deficit with 7:07 left in the game to outscore the Portland Bulldogs 25-8 behind some intense defensive pressure that forced seven turnovers.
Blodgett keyed Lawrence’s rally as she scored 12 of her team’s 25 points and finished with 25 while Higgins added 22 and three key steals. Witham chipped in with 14 points and Bogle grabbed 11 rebounds.
A few seasons before Lawrence began its four-year state-title run, coach Paul Vachon’s Cony Rams of Augusta were concluding a dominating surge capped by their 59-57 win over Portland in the Class A state final in 1989. They finished with a 22-0 record for their second state title in three years and won 65 of their last 66 games.
Cony did so behind a dynamic pair of guards, sisters Marcie and Meaghan Lane. Senior Marcie capped her Cony career with the state-title win as she broke loose for 11 points and five assists despite some intense defensive pressure from Holly Feeney.
Cony’s title quest was also aided through the efforts of Meaghan Lane, a junior, and front-court seniors Becky Demos and Lisa Morang. Meaghan Lane put in 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Demos and Morang chipped in with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Other players on Cony’s title team included seniors Christine Tschalmer and Donna Gilbert; juniors Holly Washburn, Jessica Ayer and Kari Goraj; sophomores Lisa Samson and Amy Parent; and freshman Chrisanne Burns.
Another team that capped a dominating run in 1989 was coach Steve LeVasseur’s Schenck Wolverines of East Millinocket, led by senior center Stephanie Carter, who poured in 34 points to lead Schenck by Winthrop 68-51 for its third straight Class C title.
In the game, Carter set what was then a career schoolgirl scoring record with 2,167 points. She turned in a dominant all-around effort in her final game with 27 rebounds and four blocked shots. Senior guards Stephanie Fiske and Dawn Mankowski and junior forward Rita Floyd each added eight points for Schenck.
Other players aiding Schenck’s title quest were seniors Wendy Hopkins, Laurie Spearrin and Christine Bigney; junior Beth Martin; sophomores Mary Beth Currier and Cynthia Deveau; and freshmen Amy Morin and Darcy Clark.
In 2003, another team capped an impressive run of three state titles when seniors Bracey Barker and Shelley Gott guided the Mount Desert Island Trojans by Greely of Cumberland Center 58-33 in the Class B final in 2003. Barker, coached by father Burt Barker, paced the Trojans with 21 points, nine rebounds, seven blocks and four assists. Gott added 20 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Other members of the state-title squad included seniors Jenna Gorduis, Tracy McGarr, Leah Joy, Kara Horton and Abby Wilson; junior Jessica Norwood; and sophomores Emma Stanley, Stephanie Shuster, Amanda Young, Emily Christie, Sarah Banks and Chelsea Dow.