Hometown heroes return for reunion

Glenn Adams, of the Kennebec Historical Society, was calling. Would I like to join a reunion of the 1978 New England basketball champion Cony Rams on the 40th anniversary of the event, March 24? I had planned a column on the subject. “Well, please hold your powder for a few more days,” Adams asked.

I told him that I would bring several remaining copies of a record album, “The Magic Show,” my play-by-play broadcast of the tournaments, which I produced and donated as an owner of WRDO radio to the Augusta Boosters Club for fundraising. The recording resides in the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, where Cony all-state star Gary Towle was inducted, and was featured during my induction into the Maine Sports Hall of Honors in Waterville last summer. The late Jack Seymour, a Cony principal whose son was on the team, served as my color man on the broadcasts.

The reunion was a wonderful gathering of 11 of the 14 surviving members of the team. Ironically, John Doiron, later tragically killed in a skiing accident, scored the final two points in the championship final against Windsor, Vermont. Assistant coach Rusty Atwood, who lives in Falmouth, made the reunion; unfortunately, head coach Dave Pound was in Florida awaiting cataract surgery.

Most players, now almost 60, were instantly recognizable. Towle, whom we dubbed “the magician,” was impressive in appearance. He owns a business in New Hampshire. Steve Busque, the team’s trigger man — we called him “Boos-kee” back then — has become a successful insurance executive living in Belgrade. Big Ray Felt, bigger today, was his usual affable self. We didn’t get to ask him what he does now. Raymond made the shot at the buzzer against Providence that was heard around New England.

One of the O’Brien twins who completed the starting five was there. Captain Steve still lives locally; brother Scotty is in Austin, Texas, and could not attend. The bench, which also became famous in the state and New England tournaments, was there, except for Dana Colwill, who was in Florida, and Stan Sobus. Dana retired recently as Augusta Civic Center director. Several of the reserve players were present: Ralph Colfer, Mark Sutton, Tony Seymour, Kirk Cooper, John Fitts, Dave Gallagher — now a highly rated basketball official — and Doug Drummond.

After sweeping the Eastern Maine tournament, Cony, led by Towle with 36 points (in a time when there were no three-point shots) and Felt with 23, beat former Cony assistant coach Bobby Brown’s South Portland team at the Augusta Civic Center for the state championship. The run-and-gun Rams went on to score one of the greatest upsets in New England tournament history, beating Central of Providence, Rhode Island, at the buzzer, followed by a gritty performance in the final against Windsor, Vermont, when the bench came to the rescue.

In a printed summary prepared by Tom Field, who helped to plan the reunion event, we were reminded of some staggering statistics: 82 points a game average (again, before three-pointers), beating opponents by an average of 26 points. Towle averaged 28.4 points per game in a 22-2 season. The starters all came together as freshmen and finished as New England basketball champions. Towle and Busque were great shooters; Felt, a tremendous rebounder; and the O’Brien twins, Captain Steve and Scotty, provided leadership, inspiration, and points when needed. The bench turned out to be invaluable.

Former Assistant Coach Rusty Atwood, current Athletic Director Paul Vachon, and a former all-state Cony star himself, Mayor Dave Rollins, all spoke about the incredible chemistry and dedication to the game that existed on this team.

Vachon stated it simply: “In our changing world, there will never be a team or group of kids like this again.”

A team, a school and a community brought together on one night: “Cony is down by one, eight seconds to play. This is going to be tough, the Rams must get the ball the length of the court. Steve O’Brien gets the ball in to Towle, he’s bumped, he’s pushed, he’s at mid-court, Towle fires it down to Felt, two seconds, Felt drives — he scores. Cony wins, Cony wins.” Gaby screams, Jack Seymour almost falls out of the booth, and I crumple in excited exhaustion.

The reunion brought much introspection, and a decision to exit my political column now, on a positive note. The timing is right. Like you, I am weary of today’s politics.

As I used to say at the end of my broadcasts, “Thanks everybody, so long for now.”

Ecclesiastes: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up

what is planted.”

Don Roberts is a veteran broadcaster, writer and political consultant. He has served Augusta as a city councilor at large, charter commission vice chairman and utilities district treasurer.


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