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BANGOR — A shared passion for their chosen sport often had most modest roots a generation or more ago.
Sometimes it was as simple as a backboard and rim attached to a garage or barn located at the end of a dirt driveway.
Other times it might have been a smallish indoor court with overlapping dividing lines that typically served the community in many other ways — to the point that overhanging balconies in more than one bygone town gym served as as an extra defender of sorts when an opponent dared dribble into the corner.
Such obstacles, or others like them, were no obstacles at all for the second class of inductees into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame that was honored Sunday at the Cross Insurance Center.
“Most every school has a basketball team, and basketball is No. 1 in the state of Maine as far as I’m concerned. This is extra special,” said inductee Dwight Littlefield, a graduate of Besse High School in Albion who went on to coach the boys basketball team at Upper Kennebec Valley High School in Bingham to 471 victories over 31 years.
Littlefield, whose tenure at Valley included a run of six consecutive Class D state championships and 101 straight victories, was one of 29 inductees honored before a crowd of more than 600 friends, family members and basketball supporters from around the state.
Other coaches inducted were Dick Barstow (Central Aroostook of Mars Hill, Presque Isle and Katahdin of Stacyville), Art Dyer (Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, Westbrook, Fairfield University), Gene Hunter (Morse of Bath, South Portland and Portsmouth, New Hampshire), Bruce MacGregor (Husson University), Dick Meader (UMaine-Farmington, Thomas College) and Roger Reed (Bangor HS, Bangor Christian).
Players inducted were Ray Bishop (Morse HS, So. Maine), Wayne Champeon (Greenville HS, University of Maine), Denis Clark (Winthrop HS, Springfield University), Liz Coffin (Ashland HS, University of Maine), Steve Condon (Presque Isle HS, UMaine), Maureen Burchill Cooper (Deering HS, So. Maine), Danny Drinon (Bangor HS, University of San Francisco) John Edes (Ellsworth HS, Colby College), Emily Ellis (Mount View HS of Thorndike, University of Maine), Paul Fortin (Lewiston HS, Hardin-Simmons University), Peter Kelley (Caribou HS, Harvard), Keith Mahaney (Fort Fairfield HS, UMaine), Ed Marchetti (Morse HS, Colby), Edward “Bo” McFarland (Scarborough HS, Bowdoin College), John Norris (Bangor HS, Georgetown, UMaine), Nick Scaccia (Sanford HS, Colgate University), Marcie Lane Schulenberg (Cony of Augusta, Boston University, New Hampshire), Ted Shiro (Waterville HS, Colby), Gary Towle (Cony HS, Providence College, Assumption) and Bob Warner (Thornton Academy, UMaine).
Officials in the 2015 class were Peter Webb and Jack Coyne.
The 1954 Ellsworth High School boys basketball team led by Edes and 2014 inductee Jack Scott and coached by Charlie Katsiaficas was honored for its undefeated state championship season and berth in the New England tournament semifinals where the Eagles dropped a 54-53 decision to Connecticut power Hillhouse before a crowd of 13,000 at the Boston Garden.
Also recognized were seven “Legends of the Game” for various contributions to Maine basketball ranging from coaching subvarsity and youth teams to Augusta’s Marcia Adams, a former Cony High School standout who went on to play two seasons for the barnstorming All-American Red Heads. Other “legends” were Mike DiRenzo, David Dorion, George Hale, Kim London, Bernard McKenzie and Bob Whytock.
Many of the inductees boasted small-town roots similar to Littlefield’s, including Meader, a Solon native who has spent four decades as a small-college head coach, currently at the University of Maine at Farmington and previously at Thomas College of Waterville.
“For some reason I think it goes back to the sixth grade that I always wanted to be a coach,” he said. “How many people have been able to do what they love every year? Coaching basketball has allowed me to think that I don’t have a job. It’s been just incredible.”
Champeon, who played his high school basketball on a home court he described as being topped with cork, led the Lakers to the 1954 Class M state championship and then took his lightning quick point-guard skills to the University of Maine, where he starred on what many considered some of the Black Bears’ best teams during the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Like other inductees, Champeon was grateful for the opportunity Sunday’s event allowed him to renew acquaintances with former opponents.
“I’ve seen guys here that I haven’t seen since I played against them in college,” said Champeon. “I’ve seen Ed Marchetti and John Edes, and there are probably others. I was apprehensive about being here, but I’m not now. I’m humbled, but I’m darned glad I’m here.”
Schulenberg, who helped revolutionize girls basketball in the state while at Cony in conjunction with the adoption of the 3-point line during the mid- and late-1980s, sees the two-year-old Maine Basketball Hall of Fame as natural for a state where the sport is a rite of passage for so many youngsters and a source of deep community pride each winter.
“It is important to preserve this history,” said Schulenberg, who arrived early to tour the Cross Center as well as the permanent Maine Basketball Hall of Fame display located in its hallways. “I loved looking at the pictures of people, especially the girls in the long skirts playing. That history is important, and it’s great to now be part of this.”
Meader, a conference coach of the year honoree in five different decades, also appreciates the historical aspects of the hall, in part to complement personal recollections from his small-town youth.
“I think of idolizing guys like (2014 MBHOF inductee) Skip Chappelle and seeing Maine playing Connecticut on black-and-white TV,” said Meader. “Being from Solon High School and now being a part of an elite group of basketball people like this is mind-boggling.
“Maine is basketball, basketball is Maine,” he added, “and to have something that recognizes the importance of it and the feelings everybody has about it — especially from the small schools — is just wonderful. I hope somehow I’m representing those smaller schools.”
Seated at the head table, this year’s inductees are introduced at the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Sunday.