COMMENTARY

Tourney highlights are memorable each season regardless of the venue

Easton fans hang on the edge of their seats as they watch free throws by their team during the final minute of play against Jonesport Beals during an Eastern Maine Class D quarterfinal on Feb. 18 at the Bangor Auditorium. Eighth-ranked Easton beat No. 1 Jonesport-Beals 55-53 in the biggest upset of this year’s tourney.
Easton fans hang on the edge of their seats as they watch free throws by their team during the final minute of play against Jonesport Beals during an Eastern Maine Class D quarterfinal on Feb. 18 at the Bangor Auditorium. Eighth-ranked Easton beat No. 1 Jonesport-Beals 55-53 in the biggest upset of this year’s tourney. Buy Photo
Posted March 14, 2013, at 6:15 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Just a couple of events remain in the basketball history of the Bangor Auditorium.

This weekend marks the The Final Buzzer Shoot Around, a two-day fundraiser for the fledgling Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.

On Saturday, teams, players, coaches and officials who participated or were eligible to participate in the Eastern Maine basketball tournaments as well as Western Maine teams and players who competed in state championship games at the Auditorium are invited to shoot around on the historic hardwood. The Sunday Shoot Around will be open from noon to 4 p.m. for anyone else who wants their turn on the Auditorium floor.

Then on Tuesday night, the Harlem Globetrotters return to the venerable venue one last time — and I bet they win.

After that, Eastern Maine’s basketball capitol shifts a few feet to the east, where construction of the Cross Insurance Center is nearing completion and slated for its grand opening in September.

Some high school basketball fans are worried that the new facility won’t have the same cozy ambiance of the Auditorium when it replaces the aging edifice as the home of the regional basketball tournament for Classes B, C and D next February.

But I’m here to say such ambiance will take care of itself, and that while the Auditorium’s 57-year tournament history will not only be remembered but treasured, the new home of the region’s landmark winter sporting event quickly will become a most welcoming host.

That won’t be difficult because it’s never really been about the building — save for the leaky roof — but it’s always been about the event.

Take 2011, when the Eastern Maine Class C finals were moved to Alfond Arena at the University of Maine because of weather delays and a prior booking on that makeup date at the Auditorium.

The Alfond hadn’t been held in high regard as a basketball facility since Cindy Blodgett racked up more than 3,000 points as a Black Bear, but pack a few thousand basketball fans in to watch a couple of championship contests and the hockey venue proved to be a more than adequate temporary home for high school hoops — even on short notice.

And this year’s final tournament run at the Auditorium provided a myriad of memories that will stand the test of time no matter their location.

A quick reflection on Tourney 2013 at the Bangor Auditorium brings to mind the unbridled glee shared by the players from Forest Hills Consolidated School in Jackman and their fans decked out in black and orange after the Tigers won their first Class D boys basketball state title.

Or take the two thundering slam dunks by Penquis Valley of Milo star Isaiah Bess in the Class C state championship game that sent a message to rival Boothbay that the Patriots were not going to be denied one last victory for themselves and outgoing coach Tony Hamlin in the final tourney game at the Auditorium.

There were the annual upsets, none bigger this year than No. 8 Easton upending top-ranked and undefeated Jonesport-Beals, the defending state champion, 55-53 in the Eastern Maine Class D quarterfinals.

Or the near-upsets, none more thrilling than the top-ranked Calais girls team rallying past Narraguagus of Harrington 55-54 in the Eastern C quarterfinals when Blue Devils senior Meaghan Cavanaugh stole the ball at midcourt and went in for the game-winning layup in the game’s final 10 seconds.

There were dominant teams like the Washburn girls, who ran and pressed and executed their way to a third consecutive Class D state championship, and the Presque Isle girls, who capped off a second straight undefeated season by sweeping through the Eastern B tourney and then traveling to Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center to edge Lake Region of Naples in the state final behind a stunning 33-point performance from senior guard Chandler Guerrette.

Other compelling individual performances were plentiful, among them Houlton sophomore Kyle Bouchard’s showcase 41-point, 15-rebound effort in a Class C quarterfinal victory over Bucksport and the newly crowned Mr. Basketball Garet Beal’s stirring 38-point performance for Jonesport-Beals in defeat against Easton.

Of course, new memories also were created in Portland and at the Augusta Civic Center just as they were in the Auditorium.

And none was greater at any of the venues this year than freshman Nick Gilpin’s buzzer-beating 30-footer that turned lingering defeat into sudden victory for undefeated Hampden Academy as the Broncos miraculously secured a 40-39 victory over Lawrence of Fairfield in the Eastern Maine Class A final en route to their first state title since 2005.

Memories? There are plenty of new ones every year come tournament time — and that’s not going to change.

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