BANGOR, Maine — Larry Gardner of Fort Fairfield has the distinction of coaching the school’s only three Eastern Maine championship basketball teams.
The most recent was Saturday’s Class D girls victory over Central Aroostook of Mars Hill at the Bangor Auditorium.
Earlier in his career, Gardner directed the Tigers’ boys team to regional titles in 1984 and 1988. Both squads were defeated in the state game.
Gardner coached the Fort Fairfield boys to a 97-73 regular-season record in 10 seasons.
He has spent the last 12 seasons as Fort Fairfield’s girls coach. Despite losing eight players to graduation, the Tigers have rebounded with an exceptional season.
Fort’s goals this season have included returning to the tournament, winning two more games [to claim the championship] and playing for a state title.
“We wanted two more wins than we had last year to go for gold, so we’re there,” Gardner said. ‘We just need to have a good week of practice to get ready for next week. We’ll be ready to go.”
Panthers maintain perspective
Central Aroostook was at a disadvantage during Saturday’s Eastern Maine title game against Fort Fairfield.
As had happened twice during the regular season, senior twins Chelsea Hartin and Brianna Hartin were unable to play because of their religious beliefs.
As Seventh-Day Adventists, the Hartins reserve the time between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday as the Sabbath, which is reserved for rest, worship and ministry.
“My hat’s off to the Hartin girls and their family for that decision,” said Fort Fairfield coach Gardner, who explained the Hartins provided senior leadership, defensive intensity and a 3-point presence in helping the Panthers earn the No. 1 seed this season.
“It probably wasn’t a hard decision for the girls because that’s their faith, that’s what they believe in and they’re fine with it,” he added. “They’ve got my utmost respect for that decision. This is just a game of basketball. Theirs is a game of life and they’re the champions for making that decision and following that.”