Following a decade of relative continuity, the second decade of the new millennium has been one of shakeups in Maine high school basketball.

From the renaming of the tournaments to a new class system to a pandemic that sidelined an entire tourney, the past 13 years of Maine high school basketball have looked quite different than the preceding 10. The developments have created a contrasting environment, one in which teams have been forced to adapt.

What hasn’t changed, though, have been the occurrences of moments that will forever hold places in Maine high school basketball history. Here are five memorable moments from a decade that, for better or for worse, has been as memorable as any for what it’s brought to Maine’s capital city.


2012: Tiger takeover

Worster’s miracle propels Forest Hills boys to Class D West title

All dynasties have to start somewhere. For Forest Hills head coach Anthony Amero, what Evan Worster did in the 2012 Class D West championship game was that moment.


Worster’s 33 points in the Western Maine title game propelled the Forest Hills boys to a remarkable 61-60 comeback win over Hyde. It was the first-ever regional title for the Tigers, who have since won five more regional crowns and four Gold Balls to establish themselves as the premier power in Maine’s smallest class.

It was a game in which a victory looked unlikely for Forest Hills, which trailed Hyde 42-23 with 2:36 left in the third quarter. After whittling down the deficit a little bit over the next couple minutes, the Tigers entered the fourth trailing by just nine as Worster did something his head coach will never forget.

Forest Hills forward Evan Worster swings a net after cutting it down to celebrate a victory over Hyde School in the 2012 Western D title game at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“We were down double digits, and what kind of launched it off is that he took a shot that was two steps over half-court to the side and made it,” Amero said. “That cut it to (nine points) going into the fourth quarter, and we just kind of got on a roll and kept going from there.”

Worster scored 14 points for Forest Hills in the fourth quarter, including a bank shot that put it up 59-57 with 31.5 seconds. He then made a pair of free throws with 7.3 seconds left that put the Tigers up four to ice the game. Hyde’s Tyquan Ekejiuba sank a consolation 3-pointer as time expired.

Worster’s performance in the final capped off a regional tournament in which he scored a Class D West-record 106 points. Forest Hills would fall to Jonesport-Beals in the state title game, but his effort proved to be a springboard for a Tigers team that has since dominated Class D.

“He kind of hit that shot, and it was the start of the Forest Hills program going to the next level,” Amero said. “We still watch it on the highlight reel, and it’s one of those things where the momentum went to us at that moment, and we never looked back.”



2013: A heave to remember

Freshman Nick Gilpin’s 30-footer gives Hampden boys regional crown

He would finish four years in high school as a Mr. Maine Basketball winner and an all-time great. Before that, though, his legend began with a shot that will forever hold a place in Civic Center lore.

Nick Gilipin’s 30-foot heave as time expired in the 2013 Class A East championship game gave Hampden Academy a 53-52 victory over Lawrence. The shot kept alive an undefeated season for the Broncos, who went on to win the Gold Ball the following game.

With Lawrence leading Hampden 39-37 with just 4.2 seconds to play, the ball was at the other end of the floor as Xavier Lewis was shooting a free throw. Lewis missed, and Gilpin’s brother, Zach, grabbed the rebound and raced toward half-court, getting the ball past two defenders and into Nick’s hands.

Less than halfway between midcourt and the 3-point line, it was far from the ideal place to take a shot, but with time winding down, there wasn’t much of a choice. In seemingly one motion, Gilpin collected the ball, dribbled and put his weight into the shot, which hit the rectangle square in the middle and sank through the nylon.


Had Zach Gilpin dribbled to the left or to the right, it’s possible he would have eluded the two Lawrence defenders trying to prevent him from making the pass. Instead, he had just enough space to find his brother for the winning shot, which was named a SportsCenter Top 10 play the following day.

“I think everyone in the building thought Zach was going to shoot it,” Nick Gilpin recalled in a 2021 interview. “He always made the right play, and he saw me open. That’s something my brother and I will always have to share.”


2017: Sweet perfection

Messalonskee girls complete perfect season with Class A championship

It was a season as fine as any, and it ended in perfection on the Civic Center floor.

Messalonskee capped off a 22-0 season in 2017 with three wins in the regional tournament and a dominant win over Brunswick in the state championship game. It ended a 30-year title drought for the Eagles, who won their first Class A crown after winning in Class B in 1987.


Entering the tournament, Messalonskee had won 17 of its 18 games by double digits. The Eagles kept that going by beating Gardiner 67-56 in the quarterfinals and blowing out Hampden Academy 70-41 in the semifinals to reach the A North title game, where they had fallen to Lawrence the year before.

Messalonskee’s Mckenna Brodeur embraces teammate Makayla Wilson after the Eagles won the 2017 Class A girls basketball state championship game against Brunswick at the Augusta Civic Center. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald

This time, Messalonskee dispatched Nokomis 55-39 in the regional final to reach a state championship game for just the third time in program history. On that stage, the Eagles put forth a dazzling performance to claim a 58-33 win over a Brunswick team that had upset Greely in the Southern Maine title game.

“This is a dream come true,” senior captain Sophie Holmes said following the win over Brunswick. “You dream about cutting the nets down, holding the game ball and then just showing it to the community, to everyone who comes to support every game. It’s just beyond words.” 

Holmes was named the Class A North tournament’s top player after a 66-point stretch that included a 33-point effort against Gardiner. McKenna Brodeur, Alyssa Genness, Ally Turner and Makayla Wilson also made key contributions for the Eagles.


2021: Dark days

Civic Center stays silent as pandemic pummels basketball


For 50 years now, basketball has been a late-February staple at the Augusta Civic Center for fans across the state. It would be remiss, though, to forget about the one year it wasn’t.

As a result of state regulations stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Maine Principals’ Association was forced to cancel the 2021 state tournament. It left arenas such as the Civic Center, usually harbingers of joy to thousands, empty as teams instead played modified schedules behind closed doors.

Denied were dreams of Gold Balls, celebrations in front of fans and plays that drew roars from raucous crowds of passionate onlookers. In scenes seemingly impossible to anyone pre-2020, the arena sat empty, home to nothing but a darkness that dimmed even the memories of tournaments gone by.

An official looks on during a Dec. 7, 2021 high school basketball game at the Augusta Civic Center. Games returned to the ACC floor in 2021 after the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 tournament. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

It’s a moment that, unlike many others in this series, will be shared by the entire Maine high school basketball community. From Rangeley to Richmond, from Bingham to Brewer, from Augusta to Newport, the loss of an entire tournament hit every player, fan, coach, official and more that would have packed the Civic Center on a personal level.

Twenty years from now, the players competing in the tournament 20 years from now will be too young to remember why no there’s no entry in the championship record books where 2021 should be. Thousands of us will, though — because even if it’s a memory no one cherishes, it’s one our history is incomplete without.



2022: Flagg Mania

Nokomis freshman Cooper Flagg makes presence felt 

Recency bias? Perhaps, but consider the context of what Cooper Flagg did in Augusta last year.

Even without Flagg, last year’s tournament would have been a special one. After 2021, there was always going to be a different level of excitement for everybody involved as tournament basketball returned to the Civic Center and other venues throughout Maine. The return of basketball alone was something to cheer about.

With the 6-foot-7 freshman phenom’s presence, though, the electricity was elevated beyond belief. Hoping to see Flagg’s remarkable athleticism and skill set, fans — even those who might normally have gone to Portland or Bangor for games — traveled from far and wide to pack the Civic Center when the Nokomis boys played.

Nokomis’ Cooper Flagg (32) dunks the ball against Cony High during a Feb. 23, 2022 Class A North semifinal game at the Augusta Civic Center. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

They didn’t leave disappointed. In his first game in Augusta, Flagg, the top-rated prospect to ever come out of Maine, had a triple-double in addition to adding five blocks. He would record at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in each of his three remaining games as Nokomis claimed the Class A title, its first-ever state championship.

So strong was the desire to see Flagg’s thunderous dunks, emphatic blocks and wicked handles that Civic Center officials discussed the possibility of having to turn fans away. That ultimately didn’t happen, though tournament director Doran Stout said the 5,099-seat arena did come close to reaching capacity.

“It was electric, and coming at the end of COVID with people having the freedom to go to the games and watch it, everybody needed that,” Stout said. “We had fans coming from all different parts of the state to watch that Nokomis team play. It was incredibly exciting.”

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