Merry Christmas everyone! Here’s hoping you have been extra good and Santa brings you what you really want this year. This time of year brings with it a myriad of celebrations, decorations, and of course countless college football bowl games (well, 35 this year if you really care). The season also ushers in numerous media outlets looking back over the most significant events over the past year. As a spot dedicated to the promotion of high school and youth sports throughout Maine, I think it’s appropriate to go back through the recesses of our minds and highlight some of the most significant events, stories, and moments of 2013.
2013 had the familiar with the Skowhegan field hockey team winning yet another state championship, their 12th in the last 13 years. 2013 also featured the end of a long dry spell for the Bangor girls basketball team capturing their first Eastern Maine championship in 31 years. This morning, as many of us will be unwrapping what’s under the tree, let’s look back and unveil 2013′s top ten stories in Maine high school and youth sports.
10. Presque Isle Girls Basketball Rallies to Win 2nd Straight Gold Ball- Lake Region, making their fifth state title game appearance in eight years, appeared poised to finally win gold at Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center. The Lakers fell short in their four previous appearance, including a 49-47 setback in last year’s game in Bangor to Presque Isle. The Wildcats, winners of 43 straight, had a tall task that night (pun intended) dealing with 6’2″ center Tiana-Jo Carter of the Lakers. Carter scored 13 first half points and had numerous offensive rebounds in leading Lake Region to a 29-21 halftime lead. Presque Isle, who had been balanced offensively throughout the year, was carried on this night by senior guard Chandler Guerrette. Guerrette, would turn in one of the gutsiest performances ever witnessed in a state championship game, scoring 21 second half points for the 51-44 victory. Defensively, the Wildcats were able to clamp down on Carter in the 2nd half, limiting her touches and holding to only four points in the half.
9. Thornton Academy’s Andrew Libby Misses Senior Football Season to Injury-Injuries are an unfortunate reality in the world of sports, especially in the collision sport of football. Andrew Libby, the reigning Maine Gatorade Player of the Year, entered his senior season as a favorite to win the Fitzpatrick Trophy, symbolic of the state’s best senior football player. Having played a significant role in leading the Golden Trojans to a state title as a junior, they were also a favorite heading into 2013. Everything changed in the first series of the first game of the season at South Portland when Libby went down with an ACL tear in his knee. Thornton would go on to lose the game but would rally to make it to the Western Maine final before falling to eventual state champion, Bonny Eagle.
8. Bangor Senior League Baseball Wins 2 Games in World Series- The Senior League World Series, having been played at Bangor’s Mansfield Stadium since 2002, has played home to some of the best 15 and 16 year old baseball talent from around the world. In fact, Kolton Wong of the St. Louis Cardinals and Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox played in Bangor in 2007 for Hawaii and 2009 for Aruba, respectively. This year’s Bangor contingent, inspired in part by the 2010 run by the locals to the championship game, became only the second host team to win as many as two games in a World Series. The Bangor squad defeated Canada in the series opener before downing a team from the Philippines for their second victory. Following a loss to Martinez, Georgia, Bangor was still in contention for a berth in the semi-finals before falling 11-1 to a team from Pearl City, Hawaii.
7. Parise Rossignol joins father in 2,000 point club- Van Buren’s Parise Rossignol recently scored her 2,000th career point in a victory at Limestone. In doing so the Rossignols have become the only father-daughter duo in state history to eclipse the 2,000 point plateau. Matt Rossignol, who graduated from Van Buren in 1985, scored 2,257 points in his high school career.
6. Bangor Christian Boys Soccer wins Record 5th Straight Gold Ball- The Bangor Christian boys soccer team won their fifth straight state title this fall, a feat that had never been accomplished in boys soccer in any classification.
5. Easton Boys Basketball Shocks Jonesport-Beals- Is there a more iconic name in Maine small school basketball than Jonesport-Beals? The Royals entered the 2013 tournament as the defending state champions, sporting an unblemished 18-0 record. Featuring 6’5″ swing player and eventual Mr. Basketball Garet Beal, the Royals were the favorites to take home another gold ball, their eleventh in program history. The Bears, who lost to Jonesport-Beals by double digits in last year’s quarterfinal, would control the tempo throughout the contest, and built a double-digit lead early in the second half. Clinging to the lead late, freshman guard Logan Halverson banked a three pointer high off the backboard to give Easton an eight point lead with four minutes to play. Garet Beal scored 19 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter to rally Jonesport-Beals but it wasn’t enough as Easton shocked the state with its 55-53 victory. The Bears would go on to lose a methodical 26-24 decision in the semifinals to Hodgdon but this night would resonate throughout the whole tournament week.
4. Maine High School Football Adds a Fourth Class- In a move that was a lot of talk but not much action for a number of years, Maine football finally added a fourth class. Unusual match-ups were born out of this, particularly Cheverus vs. Portland for the EASTERN Maine Championship. With the addition of a fourth class, championship football came back to Eastern Maine, this year with the class B game being held at the University of Maine’s Alfond Stadium. This leads right into:
3. Cony’s Ben Lucas Breaks State Passing Record, Leads Rams to Gold Ball- Lucas, one of three finalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, finished his high school career with the state record for most touchdown passes with 89, breaking the mark set by Winthrop’s Lee St. Hilaire in 2000. Ben would save the best for last, leading the Rams on a 99 yard fourth quarter drive with his team trailing by a point in the state title game against Kennebunk. With a minute remaining, Lucas lofted a 25-yard touchdown strike down the right side of the field to Jonathan Sabin, for the winning score. It was Cony’s first ever state championship game victory.
2. Freshman Nick Gilpin’s 30 Foot Buzzer Beater Lifts Hampden to Eastern Maine Crown- Having blown out Lawrence twice during the regular season, the Hampden Academy Broncos had to down the Bulldogs again to claim the regional title. Hampden would trail throughout the contest, down by 2 when Lawrence missed a free throw with four seconds remaining. Zack Gilpin grabbed the rebound, passed up court to brother Nick, who turned and fired the shot off the backboard and through the net, in a play that made Sports Center’s Top Ten that night. Hampden would go on to defeat South Portland to capture the gold ball and cap off an undefeated season the following weekend. The game also ended the storied career of one of Maine’s best coaches in Lawrence’s Mike McGee.
and the top Maine High School and Youth Sports story of 2013 is………
1. Bangor Auditorium Hosts Final Tournament- What can be said that hasn’t already been told about the venerable barn on Dutton Street? When the Penquis Patriots captured the final gold ball to be won in the historic auditorium it brought back so many memories of time spent there. The number of years spent with legendary broadcaster George Hale in the corner, the night Joe Campbell grabbed Zak Ray’s shot, (or was it a pass), and lifted Bangor over Goliath Deering. The new Cross Insurance Center will be a great tournament host and will provide many great experiences and moments but nothing can replaces the memories from the Mecca of basketball in Eastern Maine, the Bangor Auditorium.
I hope you have enjoyed our look back at the some of the great stories and events of 2013. From the Press Box, I wish you and yours and very Merry Christmas and all the best in what will soon be a new year.