The nostalgia surrounding the final basketball games at the Bangor Auditorium peaked over the weekend with the Class C and D championships, marking the last high school games to be played there.

The building, with its unique V-shaped roof, opened in 1955 and rapidly became a Maine landmark, especially each February during the high school basketball tournament. It will be torn down this spring to make way for the new Cross Insurance Center, which sits in front of the famed Mecca, as it became known to fans throughout the state.

Those wishing to check out the floor, with its famed dead spots, and shoot baskets in the hallowed arena will get one more chance the weekend of March 16-17. Billed as the Final Buzzer Last Shot Shoot Around, the weekend is broken into two segments, one for former players on Saturday and another for fans on Sunday. Proceeds from the events will benefit the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, which will be housed inside the Cross Center.

“I’m going because I have such fond memories of the Auditorium,” said Augusta’s Bill Burney, who scored a tournament record 53 points playing for Cony High in 1969. “I’ve also been involved with the people putting this on.”

In addition to Burney, the Who’s Who list of Maine basketball luminaries behind the event includes Steve Pound, Matt Rossignol, Emily Ellis, Katie Rollins, Skip Chappelle, Peter Webb and Charlie Wootton. Saturday’s schedule is open to high school players, teams, coaches and officials who participated inthe Eastern Maine tournament at the Auditorium and to Western Maine teams that played state championship games there.

Shoot-around sessions are broken into three eras. Era I includes those from 1956-1974 and runs 9:30 a.m. to noon. Era II runs from 1975-2000 from noon to 2:30 while Era III, 2001-2012, runs from 2:30-5 p.m. The shoot-around will be followed by a girls alumni game at 5:30 and a boys alumni game at 7. Participants are encouraged to register at the Maine Hall of Fame website www.mainebasketballhalloffame.com or may show up on March 16. There is a $20 fee for the shoot around or $35 for the shoot around, alumni game and to become a charter supporter of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame. All proceeds go to the Hall of Fame.

“It will be broader than just high school basketball,” Burney said of the Hall of Fame. “It should be quite impressive.”

Saturday’s events are open to fans for a small spectator fee and those fans can get on the floor on Sunday. Information has been sent to athletic directors at high schools throughout the state and a big turnout is anticipated. Burney said the committee is looking to add extra baskets to avoid waiting around.

Former Lawrence High School girls coach Bruce Copper has contacted some of his former players and said many are considering showing up. Cooper and his Bulldogs won four straight Class A state championships from 1991-94 and two of those were at Bangor. He recalled one of the largest crowds ever when his Bulldogs and star Cindy Blodgett played Cony for the 1994 Eastern Maine championship.

“It was probably the biggest crowd they’ve ever had because they had to turn people away,” Cooper said. “It’s just a good basketball atmosphere. It’s old, it echoes and it’s loud as heck on the floor.”

Cooper wasn’t sure if Blodgett, currently an assistant coach for the University of Rhode Island women’s team, would be able to attend. But she touts the facility often.

“I talked to Cindy the other day,” he said. “She said nobody has the type of tournament atmosphere we have up here. She said ‘I tell the other coaches, you’ve got to at least watch this.’ “

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638
[email protected]

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