AUGUSTA — Talk about living the dream.
Bangor High School’s state championship season in boys basketball, capped off by Saturday night’s 58-49 victory over Cheverus of Portland, is just the latest in a series of storybook athletic achievements by the current crop of Rams.
From reaching the championship game of the Senior League World Series last August to winning the Class A state title in soccer and the Eastern Maine Class A crown in football last November, there’s been little stopping this group — most of whom have had a hand in two or more of those experiences.
“I definitely think they help you as you go along,” said Bangor senior point guard Luke Hettermann, who scored 14 points in the basketball state final and also scored the winning goal in overtime of the 2010 Eastern Maine Class A soccer final against Brunswick. “All the guys I’ve done this with, whether its the World Series or soccer, we just want to win every time we go out there. That’s what this is all about.”
One advantage of such experience is that it enables veterans of the big-game state to cope better with the next high-stress moment that comes along — like late in the basketball state final, when Hettermann made nine fourth-quarter free throws and soccer teammate Jacques Larochelle came off the bench to make three of four from the line in the final seconds.
“In soccer, my biggest fear was getting too pumped up and too intense for the game because then I don’t play well,” said Larochelle. “It’s really important to stay calm in a fast-paced, intense game like this.”
Bangor coach Roger Reed sees the benefits of student-athletes playing multiple sports, win or lose — though it doesn’t hurt that this generation of Bangor players are on a fairly unique run of success.
“I think the fact that we encourage our kids to play a lot of different sports is a big thing,” said Reed. “They get into a number of situations where they’re competing all the time, and this all comes down to competing, and who’s going to compete for the 32 minutes out there.
“All of that pays off in the long run more than we realize. You’ve got some of these kids who have been through a soccer championship, others who have been in a couple of football championship games in the last few years, and kids who have played in the championship of the Senior League World Series.
“It all helps them become better competitors.”
Bangor’s matchup against Cheverus in the Class A state final represented a role reversal of sorts from their last battle for the gold ball in 2008.
In that game, Bangor was the undefeated team while Cheverus was attempting to knock off the defending state champions. In that game Bangor held a halftime lead before Cheverus rallied for a 49-41 win, while this time it was Cheverus that had a six-point fourth-quarter lead before the Rams mounted the game-winning rally.
“In all fairness to the Cheverus kids, they hadn’t lost a game in the last two years and that’s tough,” said Bangor coach Roger Reed. “We had the 31 wins in a row going into the  game and I really think we had the best team that year. But when it came down to the end of that game they were the ones going to the foul line like we did tonight.
“I think all year long when you play in some close games it helps you when you get to a situation like this. I really believe Hampden, Edward Little and Mt. Blue are very good basketball teams and there’s no question in my mind that those teams helped us here tonight because we had very tough games against them during the season.
“I don’t think Cheverus had been in a lot of close games this year, and that’s tough.”
Reed’s record grows
Reed is now 8-2 in Class A state championship games at Bangor High School, with victories in 1993, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007 and now 2011.
His only state championship game defeats with the Rams came in 1992 — a five-overtime loss to South Portland — and in 2008 against Cheverus.
The Carmel native now has 557 wins during a coaching career that began at Bangor Christian and has remained at Bangor High School since the 1985-86 season, but Reed is quick to deflect credit for that success.
“It’s never about me,” said Reed. “It’s great for the kids, and the big thing about this for me is that you’ve worked through the schedule, you’ve worked through all the practices for two hours a day, and then you get to this point and you get to see the kids do what you started out to do at the beginning of the fall and have some success with it.
“And with anyone who’s fortunate enough to get here and win it, I think there’s a little luck involved, and I think the good Lord’s been pretty good to me.”
A welcome return
Josiah Hartley was dunking a basketball with either hand as a freshman at Bangor High School.
But it was that sort of athleticism that led him to forgo the sport as a sophomore and junior to compete in indoor track as a hurdler and a high jumper.
Yet one last chance to play high school basketball — and perhaps compete for a championship — proved too tempting for Hartley to pass up, so he returned to the hardwood this winter.
“My friends were encouraging me more than anything,” recalled the senior center after Bangor’s 58-49 victory over Cheverus of Portland in the Class A state championship game. “There was nothing negative about it, they just wanted me to come back so I could be a part of this with them, and I was glad I could help.”
Hartley immediately stepped into the starting lineup for a Bangor team that had advanced to the Eastern A semifinals a year earlier, and his physical presence provided an instant boost.
“There was talk that he missed basketball last year and was coming back,” said Bangor coach Roger Reed. “I didn’t know if he was going to play or not, but he showed up and you can see how good he’s been for us.
“He’s helped us because he’s a very strong, physical player and he’s made some great contributions scoring inside. It’s not easy to defend those big players inside, but physically he’s a specimen and he’s been a good kid to coach.”
Hartley earned All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North honors for his play during the regular season, then was named to the Bangor Daily News Eastern Maine Class A all-tournament team.
But it wasn’t about individual accolades for Hartley, who will begin a college football career next fall at the University of Maine. It was about winning the final game.
“It was just the feeling that I wanted to contribute to something,” he said. “Everybody on this team wanted this more than anything I’ve ever seen before, and that drive made me want to be a part of this.”