Editor’s note: One in a series on tournament basketball memories at the Bangor Auditorium, which is hosting its final tournament this season. Part III: five top girls players.
BANGOR, Maine — She burst onto the scene as a wiry freshman phenom in 1991.
Playing more like a senior than a freshman, Cindy Blodgett averaged 22.1 points per game and capped a remarkable first year with 25 points to lead her Lawrence High School Bulldogs from Fairfield to a 77-67 win over Portland in the State Class A final.
Four years later, she capped a record-setting career with 47 points in a hard-fought 78-69 win over Cony High of Augusta in the Eastern Maine final, capping the win with six straight free throws, and she appropriately poured in 32 more to beat Portland 56-53 in the state title game to conclude her career.
Blodgett’s illustrious high school career saw her become the state’s all-time leading scorer with 2,596 points and she led her Bulldogs to four state championships.
She went on to score 3,005 points and guide the University of Maine to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances. She twice led the nation in scoring and became the first University of Maine basketball player to be named an NCAA Division I All-American in 1998, earning a spot on The Associated Press third team.
Blodgett, a dynamic 5-foot-9 guard who went on to play in the WNBA, was selected as the top schoolgirl player to play at the Bangor Auditorium by coaches and media officials.
This will be the final season for the Auditorium, as it will be torn down and replaced by the new Cross Insurance Center.
“She is the best ever, without a doubt,” said Brenda Beckwith, former coach and radio color analyst. “She never lost a game on that floor.”
Blodgett went 14-0 at the Bangor Auditorium and averaged 28.8 points per game.
“She worked on her game all the time, that’s what made her special. That’s what made her better than everybody else,” said former Cony coach and current athletic director Paul Vachon. “She played basketball 24-7. She loved the game. She had passion for the game. When she would come to watch her teammates play softball, she’d be dribbling a basketball.
“She earned everything she got,” added Vachon.
Joining Blodgett on the top five list are Westbrook High School guard Lisa Blais, Schenck High School of Millinocket center Stephanie Carter, Cony of Augusta guard Marcie Lane and Mt. Blue of Farmington center Heather Ernest.
Westbrook’s Lisa Blais
Like Blodgett, Blais was a four-time Bangor Daily News first team All-State selection.
She led Westbrook to a 70-0 record and four state Class A championships.
The 5-foot-10 guard scored 1,566 points and, during her senior year, averaged 19.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.
She capped her career with 28 points in a 61-59 win over Presque Isle in the State A final.
She went on to help lead Old Dominion University to an NCAA championship in 1985.
“She was a powerhouse physically,” said former Old Town star Lauree Gott, who played against Blais in the 1980 state final. “She had great size and quickness and she was also a perimeter shooter.”
At the time, ODU assistant Jerry Busone called her “fundamentally perfect.”
Schenck’s Stephanie Carter
The 5-10 Carter broke Central Aroostook of Mars Hill’s Julie Bradstreet’s scoring record by pumping in 2,167 points during her sensational career.
She led Schenck to three straight state Class C championships from 1987-89.
“She was a very complete ballplayer,” said former Schenck coach Steve LeVasseur. “She could handle the ball, she could shoot the three, she could post-up down low and she was a great passer. She had all the things you need to be a great basketball player. And she was unselfish.”
Carter, a nurse at Millinocket Regional Hospital, acknowledged that she had “some good games” at the Auditorium but credited her teammates for playing a major role in her success.
“We were tight-knit. We were all friends on and off the court and played all three sports together. We won a state in soccer my senior year,” said Carter who called the Auditorium a “special place.”
Cony’s Marcie Lane
The lightning-quick Lane was a tenacious 5-2 guard who not only averaged 17.1 points over 14 Eastern Maine Tournament games, she was also a great ball-handler who teamed up with younger sister Meaghan to play smothering team defense that fueled Cony’s transition game.
“She was a great Bangor Auditorium player,” said Gott. “She always stepped up when she played at the Auditorium. She fed off the crowd. She was always in your face.”
“She was a game-changer,” said Husson University assistant women’s basketball coach Randy Dodge.
Vachon said the Lane sisters “embarrassed people” with their intensity, defensive play and steals.
“They dominated games,” said Vachon. “They turned heads as far as girls basketball was concerned. People started to watch it because of them. I truly believe that.”
Mt. Blue’s Heather Ernest
The 6-foot-1 Ernest thrived at the Bangor Auditorium, where she averaged 17.1 points and 15.6 rebounds in her 10 games there.
The Temple native had a double-double in every game at the Auditorium and was a two-time winner of the Osborne Award given to the tourney’s Most Valuable Player.
The Cougars won state championships in her junior and senior years (1999 and 2000).
“She’s a very talented player,” said her former coach, Chandler Woodcock, to the BDN several years ago. “Unless you know her real well, you’ll never understand how competitive she is. She’s intensely competitive. Winning is important to her.”
The list of other top players who played at the Auditorium is an extensive one.
Emily Ellis, a 5-10 center/forward didn’t start playing organized basketball until seventh grade but had a terrific career at Thorndike’s Mount View High School, scoring 43 points in a tournament win over Hampden Academy. She went on to have her number retired at the University of Maine.
Amy Vachon was a flawless floor general for her father’s Cony High teams who averaged over 18 points per game at the Bangor Auditorium; Danielle Clark was a dominating inside presence for Nokomis High of Newport and a two-time tourney MVP; 5-9 guard Trisha Ripton averaged more than 18 points per game for Nokomis and Stearns of Millinocket; Presque Isle 5-11 guard-forward Kim Condon averaged 21 points per game at the Auditorium and had a state record 41 points in her team’s state-title win over Portland; 6-2 center Katie Rollins of Cony averaged more than 20 points and eight rebounds in back-to-back tournament MVP seasons; the Ames sisters, Mallory and Ashley, controlled the paint for the Dexter Tigers and were both MVP choices, with Ashley being a three-time selection. Jonesport-Beals sisters Sandi and Tricia Carver were also MVPs.
Calais’ Lanna Martin and Waterville’s Morgan Frame were the only other three-time MVPs and another Calais player, Holli Tapley, was a two-time choice. Mount Desert Island’s Bracey Barker was another one of several two-time MVP selections, as were George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill’s Lora Trenkle, Lee Academy’s Shelby Pickering and Orono’s Susan Gardner.
MDI’s Victoria Watras, Ashland’s Liz Coffin, Catherine McAuley’s Sarah Marshall and Ashley Cimino; OId Town’s Andrea Pardilla (21 points, 7 rebounds over three years) and Gott, CA’s Bradstreet, Cony’s Cassie Cooper and Houlton’s Diane Nagle are among other notable standouts, along with Hampden Academy’s Cindy Rand, Gardiner’s Crystal Pazdziorko, Caribou’s Missy Belanger and Presque Isle’s Kathy Roope and Debbie Lennon and Gorham’s Kelly Butterfield.