One of the coaching icons in Maine high school basketball has announced his retirement following this season. Mike McGee, the coach at Lawrence High in Fairfield, is in his 29th season as head coach of the Bulldogs. Overall, McGee has 31 seasons with the program, having served as an assistant for two seasons under Irv Blanchette before succeeding him in the summer of 1985.

McGee’s resignation has been called the worst kept secret in Eastern Maine since the 55-year old junior high physical education teacher officially submitted it two days after the opening game with Brewer on Dec. 7.

McGee wanted to finish out with this group of seniors. He saw potential in them when they were eighth-graders. The Bulldogs have lived up to that with an 8-1 record and a No. 3 ranking in Eastern Class A entering Friday’s home game with unbeaten and second-ranked Edward Little (8-0). The Bulldogs and Eddies are chasing Hampden Academy (9-0), the frontrunner and favorite.

“I wanted to do it early and give the school plenty of time to find my replacement for summer basketball,” said McGee.

“A program like this deserves that. My veteran coaching friends have told me I will know when it’s time. Tony Hamlin, Scott Graffram and Tommy Maines said I should announce early.”

McGee and his wife recently bought a house in New Port Richey, Fla., and he said he will teach one or two more years. But this season is McGee’s farewell tour around the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, and he won’t miss the long Tuesday bus rides and having to get up early the next morning to teach.

His teams have won 334 games. He has coached Lawrence to two Class A state titles (1990 and 1994) and six regional titles, with one as an assistant. He has been named coach of the year 16 times by various bodies.

Lawrence has never won a state or regional title without McGee as either a player or a coach. In his sophomore and senior years, the Bulldogs won Eastern Maine titles but lost to Rumford in the state final. He was an assistant in 1984 when Lawrence lost to Westbrook for the state title. In his first year (1986) as head coach, Lawrence lost to Portland in the state final. The Bulldogs lost to Morse in 1988 before winning the school’s first state title in 1990 and another four years later.

The Bulldogs made it to the state final again in 1999 but fell to Portland.

McGee played at Colby College before transferring to Clark University in Worcester, Mass., where he also played and graduated. His father, Dick, coached football at Lawrence before moving on to Colby.

McGee is hoping this year’s starting five of Spencer Carey, Xavier Lewis, Matt Saunders, Nick Noiles and Mason Travers can muster a magical run to the program’s first state title in 24 years. That would be a fitting end for one of Maine’s most knowledgeable and passionate coaches.

AT 6-FOOT-5 EACH, D.J. Breunig and Alec Hazlewood give Westbrook a presence inside. Against a smaller Bonny Eagle club on Tuesday, the Blue Blazes kept going inside with success. Breunig finished with a team-high 18 points, including all of his team’s nine points in the third quarter. He had eight rebounds. Hazlewood added 12 points and seven rebounds. The Blazes (7-2) held on for a 53-50 win over the Scots (7-2).

After being upset by Noble two weeks ago at home, Westbrook has beaten Windham, Marsh-wood and Bonny Eagle to improve its Heal point ranking. The Blazes are fifth in Western Class A.

Westbrook’s other loss was to South Portland, 54-36.

Westbrook hosts Sanford on Friday in a key game for both teams. Sanford (5-4) is ranked sixth.

“It will be interesting to see of we can back up a strong game with another,” said Westbrook Coach Mark Karter.

After a Tuesday game at Gorham, the Blazes face their most challenging back-to-back games of the season with a home game against Deering a week from Friday and a game at Portland on Jan. 22.

If the Blazes stay in fifth, they would head straight to the Portland Expo for the Western Class A quarterfinals. Sanford and Scarborough are two of the teams looking at that spot.

“I think it will be difficult for any of us to crack the top four positions,” said Karter.

“Portland, Bonny Eagle, Deering and South Portland seem headed for those spots. It’s tough to be looking ahead because of the number of games remaining.”

The Blazes have an all-senior starting five. There are plusses and minuses with that.

“When you have a senior club, some of the younger players don’t get as much playing time as you would like,” said Karter.

SCARBOROUGH (5-4) has won its last two games to creep over .500. The Red Storm beat Thornton Academy on Jan. 4, 81-74, and Cheverus,  73-51, on Tuesday. Scarborough is ranked seventh in the Heal standings.

“It all depends on whether we’re knocking down shots,” said Coach Tony DiBiase. “We’re not very big so we have to shoot the 3s well. The Cheverus game was by far our best all-around game.”

The Red Storm made 11 3-pointers against the Stags. The game before against the Golden Trojans, Scarborough canned 14.

“We have five guards on the floor and they all can shoot. We’ve been competitive in all our games with the exception of one. South Portland beat us pretty handling,” said DiBiase.

The Red Storm are balanced offensively. Sam Terry scored 24 points against Cheverus. Dillon Russo led the team with 21 against Thornton. Kevin Manning had 15 in the last game and 11 in the game before. Brendan Hall and point guard John Wheeler can also shoot the 3-pointer.

“They all play hard and are very coachable,” said DiBiase in his first year at Scarborough after spending 30-plus years as a head coach  at six other schools.

Scarborough’s three other losses have been close. The Red Storm lost to Westbrook by four on Dec. 11, in overtime to Marshwood on Dec. 14 and to Portland by 10 on Dec. 21 after it was tied with 3:30 to go.

“We have some issues because of our lack of height. We come down looking to shoot,” said DiBiase.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

tchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: TomChardPPH