March 9, 2013

TRAVIS LAZARCZYK: Looking back on the fun

By Travis Lazarczyk tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

The Gold Balls have been handed out, the all-star games have been played and all the big postseason awards have been awarded.

With the season now complete, let’s look back at a few things that stand out about the 2012-13 season.

• All you need to know about former Lawrence High School boys basketball coach Mike McGee can be found in the statewide reaction to his final game.

McGee’s Bulldogs lost the Eastern Class A final to eventual state champion Hampden Academy 50-49 on a 30-foot buzzer-beating heave by Nick Gilpin. In McGee’s first season as Lawrence’s head coach, his team upset heavily-favored Waterville in the 1986 Eastern A final. The Bulldogs were a miracle shot from doing it again.

In the days following the game, McGee received calls and emails from coaches and players around the state. After the game, some Hampden players told him they were sorry they ended his career, McGee said.

Within three hours of the game, I had three people approach me and ask how McGee took the loss. Their concern came from the three decades of respect he earned by always making sure the Bulldogs did things the right way.

In the regular season, Hampden beat the Bulldogs by 25 points in their first meeting and by 16 in the first rematch. Hampden didn’t have a game decided by less than 11 points the entire regular season. Lawrence was the first team to push the Broncos for four quarters.

Losing on a miracle shot in the third game is heartbreaking for McGee, his team and all Lawrence fans, but it’s also a perfect example of how the Bulldogs played under McGee for close to three decades.

Remember McGee as the coach of the team that played such intense defense, nobody wanted to face it in the tournament. Remember McGee as the coach who respected every opponent and earned the respect of the entire Maine basketball community.

• You have to love the town of Jackman’s reaction to the Class D state title won by the Forest Hills boys. By defeating Central Aroostook 55-48 the Tigers earned their first boys basketball championship. Coach Anthony Amero and his players made sure to include the town in the celebration, starting at the end of the game.

As soon as the game was over, Amero and senior captain Evan Worster ran across the court to celebrate with the boisterous Forest Hills fans in the Bangor Auditorium. It was pure, unfiltered joy.

The party continued in Jackman, where the team was greeted with fireworks upon its return.

That kind of enthusiasm is fantastic. The No. 1 team in Western Class D for most of the regular season, the Tigers took nothing for granted, despite being two points from an undefeated season. With 57 students, Forest Hills is one of the smallest public high schools in the state.

Tucked in northern Somerset County, Jackman and Moose River are two towns isolated from much of the state. It’s a 50 mile drive to Bingham, the school’s nearest and biggest rival.

But for a little while on Championship Saturday, Jackman was the focus of Maine’s basketball community. The Tigers and their fans earned that Gold Ball and should celebrate it as long as they can.

• You can debate the merits of the semifinalists for Mr. and Miss Basketball, but one thing is not up for discussion. The Maine Association of Basketball Coaches has no bias favoring the biggest schools when it comes to handing out its most prestigious honors.

This year, none of the six finalists, three for Mr. Basketball, three for Miss, came from a Class A school. For Mr. Basketball, two class D players, Garet Beal of Jonesport-Beals and Mitch Worcester of Washburn were joined by John Murray from Class B Medomak Valley.

The three finalists for Miss Basketball represented two Class B programs, Kristen Anderson (Leavitt) and Chandler Guerette (Presque Isle) and Class C, with Martha Veroneau of Waynflete.

The best players don’t always come from the biggest schools. The MABC knows this. No other statewide player of the year award winners are chosen after such thorough research. The members of the committee that selects the semifinalists for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, long considered the top high school football honor in the state, could take a lesson from its basketball counterparts.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com

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