February 10, 2013

A lucky penny led to a scent for a state title

Melissa Tracy – then Missy Belanger – led Caribou to a win in 1983 that led to a college career.

By Steve Solloway ssolloway@pressherald.com
Columnist

Before each game, Melissa Tracy placed a penny under her chair on the sideline at the Bangor Auditorium. She and a classmate, the Caribou High team manager, put their pennies face up for good luck.

"It worked. We never lost there in 1983 and 1984," said the woman known then throughout Aroostook County as Missy Belanger. The Caribou girls beat Portland 70-60 for the Class A title in 1983.

Portland beat Caribou the next year but the state final was played at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The lucky pennies didn't work there.

"The Bangor Auditorium is a magical place," said Tracy, writing in an email. "Once you go there as a player, you dream of getting back. The energy in the building gives you goose bumps when you go onto the floor. (It) actually vibrates when the cheering gets loud.

"I was lucky to play in what I think was a great era of girls' players. Liz Coffin (Ashland), Annie Allen (George Stevens Academy), Leslie Boyle and Laura Thibodeau (Bangor), Kathy Roope (Presque Isle), Laurie Gott (Old Town), Victoria Watras (Mt. Desert Island) to name a few."

Caribou was the sixth seed in Eastern Class A in 1983, then tied Gardiner on a last-second shot to force overtime and eventually win. In every tournament game at the Bangor Auditorium, said Tracy, Caribou seemed to barely hang on.

Portland was next in the game for the state title. "Talk about country meets city. (Portland star players) Carolyn Brooks and Liz Pelletier were all over the papers. I owe my college career to the fact that scouts came to see them play against us."

Tracy had 26 points and 16 rebounds in that game. She was recruited by the University of New Hampshire, playing four years there. Later she was an assistant coach for Gary Fifield at the University of Southern Maine.

"My family still goes (to Bangor) when we can to watch the County teams play. It's such a great atmosphere."

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

 

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