(Ed. Note: The South Portland-Bangor state final, one of the most famous games ever contested, was played March 14, 1992. The following story is about that year’s Red Riots and recreates the action of that night with quotes from then and now)


South Portland 81 Bangor 79 (5 OTs)

B- 18 18 11 19 4 3 0 4 2- 79
SP- 6 17 19 24 4 3 0 4 4- 81

B- Reed 10-12-34, Newman 9-3-21, Heistand 4-1-9, Bradford 2-1-5, Pickering 2-1-5, Tennett 1-3-5

SP- Wassenbergh 15-13-43, Hogan 4-4-14, Rich 4-2-12, Hodge 3-0-7, Thombs 1-1-3, Inverso 1-0-2

B (2) Reed 2
SP (5) Hogan, Rich 2, Hodge 1

B- 14
SP-  10


B: 21-29
SP: 20-26

They’ll be talking about this one for years.

Decades in fact.

A game that was equal parts marathon and miracle.

One that wouldn’t end.

One that no one wanted to see end.


And one that ultimately resulted in the team that all along was expected to hoist the Gold Ball to the heavens doing so, but only after being pushed to the brink time and time again by a valiant underdog.

Saturday evening, March 14, 1992, at the Cumberland County Civic Center, the undefeated, powerhouse South Portland Red Riots, champions of Western Class A, took on Eastern A champion Bangor, seeking its first title in over 30 years, and the teams would produce the epic of epics.

One which required 47 minutes to determine a winner.

And in reality, both teams wound up the winner.

The build-up

South Portland went 12-7 in 1990-91, its first season under coach Tony DiBiase, suffering a disappointing 55-53 setback to the Lewiston Blue Devils in the Western A quarterfinals.


But with the likes of seniors Jeff Hogan and Chris Keene and juniors Darren Inverso, Bert Rich and Steve Thombs returning, the Red Riots expected to embark on a much deeper run and that was before their cause was bolstered by the arrival of a superstar from New York.

A player by the name of John Wassenbergh.

Who would become the squad’s leading scorer and rebounder.

“I came from New York, which was a hotbed of high school talent,” said Wassenbergh. “Coming to South Portland, I knew that basketball was the quickest way to get acclimated with my peers. I went to the Boys Club and met players from the team. The best thing about the guys was that there was no animosity whatsoever. They welcomed me with open arms. We formed an instant bond. I was pleasantly surprised with South Portland’s talent level. I had a very unselfish point guard in Chris. He ran the show. He was a pass-first point guard and that helped my scoring a lot.”

“We had a very good team in 1990-91, but we lost in the quarterfinals,” DiBiase said. “It was a transition year for the guys because we went from a halfcourt offense to going up-and-down the floor. The next year, the kids were used to pressing and fastbreaks. You could see it in the summer. Then, Wassenbergh showed up. I met him the first day of school. He broke his hand in the fall and I never saw him play until the regular season. (Assistant coach) Billy Whitmore told me to put him in and I was like, ‘Oh, my God!’ He was big and strong and had a great personality. He fit right in.”

The Red Riots also featured seniors Matt Olesen, Rick Perruzzi, Mike Skillings and Tim West, juniors Eric Carson and Robbie Neill and sophomores John Coyne and Ryan Hodge.


What was supposed to be a very good South Portland team morphed overnight into an unstoppable juggernaut.

The Red Riots won all 18 regular season games, starting with a palate-cleansing 98-48 win over Lewiston and featuring four occasions when they scored north of 100 points, including a 120-42 victory over Noble. Eleven-point wins over Portland and Deering served as South Portland’s closest calls.

“We were picked number one going into the season, but Deering was right there with us,” DiBiase said. “We were legit and so were they. We had really good athletes. Guys who could shoot and defend. We weren’t overly big, but we could run and jump and we had good guard play. We averaged 92 points per game. We were so deep that if we had guys that didn’t perform well, the starters knew that good players were waiting behind them. It was a very competitive group. A joy to coach.”

The Red Riots also won holiday tournaments in Maine and in Lowell, Massachusetts, where they toppled some of the best squads in the Northeast.

“People forget we went to the Lowell Christmas tournament, which was prestigious, and we beat the defending New Hampshire champion, Merrimack, in the quarterfinals, then beat Holy Cross, from the New York Catholic League, in the semifinals, then beat the number one team in Massachusetts, Cambridge Rindge and Latin, in the final,” DiBiase said. “That’s when we knew we could be special.”

As the top seed in the Western A tournament, the Red Riots had no trouble with eighth-ranked Oxford Hills in the quarterfinals (prevailing, 88-64), rolled to leads of 18-7 after one period and 38-19 at halftime en route to a 75-54 triumph over No. 5 Thornton Academy in the semifinals (Wassenbergh had a game-high 28 points), then, in its first regional final in seven years, South Portland got pushed to the brink by second-seeded Deering, but eked out a 61-60 decision, as Hogan led the way with 23 points, including five 3-pointers.


“Every game got tougher as the tournament went on,” Wassenbergh said. “When you’re undefeated, every game has more magnitude. You focus on not losing instead of winning. We weren’t that familiar with close games. We barely escaped Deering. Beating them three times was hard.”

“I think we peaked before the tournament,” said DiBiase. “We ran out of gas a little, but we were so good, we got through it.”

Bangor, meanwhile, hadn’t won a state title since 1959, but the Roger Reed-coached and junior point guard Mark Reed-led Rams rose from the No. 3 seed in Eastern A to the regional crown, thanks to dramatic wins over No. 6 Caribou (69-67) in the quarterfinals and No. 2 Old Town (46-44) in the semifinals before they upset top-seeded Waterville (53-43) in the regional final.

“My Dad started at Bangor in 1985 and it took a number of years of steady improvement to get over the top,” Mark Reed said. “We created a strong pride in the Bangor basketball program and a culture of winning that took on a life of its own.

“Our rival at that time was Old Town. They were a very good team. We beat them in the semis, then we beat a very good Waterville team just to get to states.”

Mark Reed was joined in the starting lineup by junior guard John Tennett, junior center Chris Pickering, senior forward Bill Newman and junior forward Ryan Bradford. Junior Dean Heistand was first off the bench.


The Rams also featured seniors Tom LeClair and Steve Subjoe, juniors Brent Brown, Kip Keeling and Matt Parke, sophomores Rob Jarvis and Matt Newman and freshman Nat Clark.

South Portland and Bangor also met in the first state final sanctioned by the Maine Principals’ Association, way back in 1922, which South Portland won, 24-21.

The Red Riots went on to capture championships in 1926, 1928, 1929, 1931, 1958, 1971, 1979, 1980 and 1983 and were looking to end what was then considered to be a lengthy title drought.

All eyes upon them

Saturday March 14, 1992 featured temperatures in Portland in the mid-20s, but at least it was dry.

George H.W. Bush was ensconced in the White House.


The Chicago Bulls and Pittsburgh Penguins were on their way to repeat championships in the NBA and NHL respectively. The Boston Red Sox were in the midst of spring training and would become a last place team for the first time in 60 years. The New England Patriots were coming off a 6-10 campaign and would soon embark on an even more dreadful 2-14 season.

“White Men Can’t Jump” and “The Power of One” were top movies and “My Cousin Vinny” was released the day before.

Mr. Big’s “To Be With You” was the top song.

Gas cost $1.13 a gallon and a dozen eggs went for .93 cents.

It was against that backdrop that history was made on the hardwood.

A big crowd was expected for the state final and it proved to be a packed house at the Civic Center, as more than 7,000 were on hand, including Governor John McKernan, a Bangor alum.


After Cindy Blodgett led Lawrence past Portland in the girls’ Class A state final, Bangor and South Portland took the floor and a game unlike any seen before, and unlikely ever to be seen again, ensued.

Shocking start

If the Rams were supposed to come to Portland and marvel at the Red Riots’ talent and play the role of the Washington Generals, no one told them and instead, they roared out of the gate in the first quarter.

Newman set the tone, taking a pass from Pickering and knocking down a jumper to give Bangor a quick 2-0 lead.

South Portland’s first points came at the free throw line, as Hogan sank a pair of foul shots, but Reed set up Newman for another jumper, then Bradford fed Newman for a layup.

Wassenbergh banked home a shot for the Red Riots’ first field goal, but Reed threw a long touchdown pass ahead to Bradford, who made a layup while being fouled by Hogan and he added the and-one free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play for a 9-4 advantage.


Wassenbergh got a point back at the line, but Reed drained a jumper in traffic, then, after a South Portland timeout, Tennett inbounded the ball to Reed, who buried a 3 to make it 14-5.

“We weren’t given much of a chance, so there wasn’t a lot of pressure on us,” Reed said. “We were confident we could go in and just play. I think we were taken a little for granted, but we’d played together a long time and we were confident with who we were and what we were doing. We came out and took advantage of opportunities that came off our pressure. Our zone bothered them early and we got rebounds and got up the floor.”

Thombs made a free throw for the Red Riots, but late in the period, Reed sank a jump shot after a nice fake, then Reed scored on a runner for a stunning 18-6 advantage after eight minutes.

Reed had nine first quarter points and Newman added six, while South Portland made one just one field goal in nine attempts (Bangor was 8-of-13) to dig a hole.

“We didn’t know much about Bangor,” Wassenbergh said. “They had a great player in Mark Reed and a great coach in Roger Reed. They were loose and we were tight. They were ready for us and we were a little flat.”

“Bangor was very talented, but young,” said DiBiase. “We watched video of them and I saw they were good, but I thought we were better. You just never know. We were the hunted and there was a lot of pressure. There were a lot of good players up and down the court. We couldn’t make shots. We were slow and Bangor played well.”


The Red Riots would get going on offense in the second period, but the Rams managed to add a point to their lead by the end.

Hodge opened the frame with a jumper, but Reed buried a 3 to make it 21-8.

After Hodge made a 3, Reed set up Heistand for a layup.

With 4:45 to go before halftime, Wassenbergh went coast-to-coast for a layup, forcing Roger Reed to call timeout and out of the break, Wassenbergh sank a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 23-15.

The great John Wassenbergh goes up for two of his game-high 43 points. John Ewing file photos.

But at the other end, Tennett set up Pickering for a layup and after Wassenbergh sank a leaner in traffic, Reed set up Newman for a layup to make it 27-17.

Inverso countered with a bank shot, but it didn’t spark a run, as Tennett made a jumper, Heistand took a feed from Reed and made a layup, then with 1:35 on the clock, Reed buried a contested jumper in the lane to give Bangor its biggest lead, 33-19.


After Wassenbergh countered with a layup, Pickering’s jumper rolled around and around and around before dropping.

In the waning seconds of the half, Wassenbergh put back a miss and Newman made a foul shot to give the Rams a 36-23 advantage.

In the first 16 minutes, Reed impressed with 14 points, seven assists and four rebounds, while Newman added nine points for Bangor, which shot a sizzling 16-of-22 from the floor.

South Portland got 13 points and five rebounds from Wassenbergh, but only made 8-of-23 shots, including just 1-of-7 from behind the 3-point arc.

The Red Riots then started to close the gap in the third quarter.

Hogan opened the second half with a jumper and after Reed buried another contested jumper, Keene found Wassenbergh for a layup, then Wassenbergh converted a three-point play to cut the deficit to 38-30.


The Rams didn’t buckle, however, and Reed again made a jumper with a hand in his face and Reed added a free throw to push the margin to 11.

Back came the Red Riots, as Wassenbergh stole the ball and raced in for a layup, then Hogan found Thombs for a layup to make it 41-34.

South Portland had chances to draw even closer, but Tennett blocked a Thombs shot, then Keene missed a 3.

Heistand restored order for Bangor with a layup, then Newman made a jump shot to push the lead back to double digits, 45-34.

Then, out of a timeout, the Red Riots closed the period strong.

First, Hogan made South Portland’s first 3-pointer.


Wassenbergh added a layup and after Reed drove and finished, Hodge set up Hogan for another 3 and the Red Riots were within five, 47-42, heading for the final stanza.

Or what everyone thought would be the final stanza.

The Red Riots continued to surge to begin the fourth quarter, as Wassenbergh sank two free throws, then he added two more to make it a one-point game, 47-46, the closest South Portland had been since the score was 4-2.

But just when it appeared the Red Riots were going to take the lead for the first time, Bangor stretched its lead out again.

First, Reed made two free throws.

Then came a highlight reel play, as Tennett blocked a Wassenbergh shot, Pickering got the rebound and passed the ball to Reed, who fired a long pass down the floor that appeared to be heading out of bounds for a turnover, but instead, Newman saved the ball by tapping it to Heistand for a layup and a 51-46 advantage.


Reed then set up Newman for a fastbreak layup and DiBiase had to call timeout again.

It didn’t help, as Reed found Newman for another layup to push the lead to nine.

After Wassenberg countered with a driving layup, Hodge and Keene missed 3s to potentially pull South Portland closer.

South Portland coach Tony DiBiase discusses a call with referee Gary Agger. 

With 3:49 remaining, a technical foul was called on the Red Riots’ bench and Reed made both free throws.

Tennett then added two more.

After Hogan missed a 3, Pickering rebounded and was fouled and he added one free throw to suddenly make the score, 60-48.


With the situation getting more dire by the moment, Wassenbergh tried to rally South Portland with a spinning layup, but Keene picked up his fourth foul and Newman made two free throws with 3:04 on the clock.

Hogan then put back a Keene miss, but Reed countered with two more foul shots.

Darkness and light

Disaster then struck for the Red Riots with 2:40 remaining, as Reed stole the ball and passed to Pickering, who was fouled by Keene.

His fifth.

Keene crumbled to the court, distraught, and all appeared lost.


“When I fouled out, I remember laying there at halfcourt on the verge of tears thinking that we blew it,” Keene said. “All the hard work we did for the last 10 years or so would be lost. Me and my backcourt running-mate Jeff Hogan always had that dream of winning it all for SP. I remember Gary Agger (the referee) congratulating me on a great season, but I went to the bench thinking it was over, down 12 with just over two minutes left in the game.”

Bangor fans then came down to the court, getting in optimal position to celebrate what appeared to be an imminent victory.

South Portland’s fans followed suit at the other end.

“One of the interesting elements of that game is that we had them on the ropes and our fans came to the floor, then their fans came down to the floor and that created an energy that I think was helpful to South Portland and helped turn the tide,” Reed said.

“What made that atmosphere better than any in all my years is that they let kids come down and surround the floor,” said DiBiase. “Bangor was on one side and South Portland was under our basket. They were yelling and screaming on every play.”

Pickering missed the front end of a one-and-one, but South Portland was still very much in jeopardy of having its perfect season end in agony.


Rich had come in to the game to replace Keene, but his initial shot, a 3-pointer, was blocked by Pickering.

After a Reed miss, Rich was fouled and with 2:06 on the clock, he scored his first points, two free throws, to cut the deficit to 64-54.

Tennett got a point back for Bangor, but at the other end, Rich drained a long 3-pointer to turn the tide.

A 3-pointer that grows longer and longer as the years go on.

“Keene had a phenomenal season, but he fouled out, so I popped in and made some lucky shots,” Rich said. “I only played a little earlier in the game, so my legs were fresh and I was going up against guys who played two-and-a-half hours. Ignorance is bliss. As a high school athlete, I couldn’t fully register pressure, so I didn’t really worry about time (left). I just went in and launched some bombs.”

“When Keene left and Bert came in, we weren’t familiar with him, so we didn’t expect him to hit a 3 from the bench, then keep backing up,’ Reed said. “We also had some foul trouble. We had to protect ourselves, so we stayed in a zone.”


“What Bert did was unimaginable,” Wassenbergh said. “To come in cold and hit 3s like that was storybook-like.”

“I was not surprised to see that from Bert,” Keene said. “In a game of that magnitude, someone from our team was gonna be the hero. That was Bert’s time.”

“We were down 12 with two-and-a-half minutes left,” DiBiase added. “I had put Bert in the game in the first half and he didn’t do well. I turned to (assistant coach) Billy Whitmore and said, ‘What am I going to do?’ He said, ‘Go with Bert.’ Thank God I listened to him. Bert hit like a 35-footer right away.”

Rich then stole the ball and looked to hit another 3-ball, but it was short. Wassenbergh was there for the putback, however, and just like that, it was a six-point game with 1:37 left.

After a Rams’ turnover, Hogan missed a 3, but again, Wassenbergh was there for the putback, making it 65-61.

After Reed made one of two free throws, Rich rose to the moment again, taking a pass from Hogan, then draining another 3 and suddenly, Bangor’s lead was a tenuous two points, 66-64, with 52 seconds still to play.


Rich then fouled Newman, but with 46 seconds on the clock, he missed the front end of a one-and-one and Wassenbergh grabbed the rebound, giving the Red Riots a chance to tie or take the lead.

At the other end, Rich went up for a 3 that would have enhanced his legend further, but this time, the shot was off-target.

That was the bad news for South Portland.

The good news is that Wassenbergh snared the rebound and with 24 seconds to go, he laid the ball up and in and for the first time since the score was 2-2, the contest was even.

Bangor had a chance to win it, but with 5 seconds remaining, the Rams turned the ball over and suddenly, improbably, the Red Riots had a chance to win it, but Hogan’s desperation 3 was short and fittingly, the contest went to overtime tied, 66-66.

And the fun was just beginning.


Settle in

A three-minute overtime ensued and like the 32 minutes of regulation, it didn’t produce resolution.

Wassenbergh won the tap and after the teams traded fruitless possessions, Hodge fed Wassenbergh for a layup and for the first time all night, South Portland was on top.

But at the other end, Reed was fouled and sank both attempts to tie the score again with 1:51 left in the OT.

“We had already battled all tournament, so being in a close game wasn’t a surprise,” Reed said. “Going into overtime, we knew we just had to take care of the next three minutes, survive and win.”

Sixteen seconds later, Rich got a jumper to bounce in, but with 1:08 to go, two Reed free throws tied the score once more.


The Red Riots then milked the clock, but Hodge’s game-winning attempt was blocked by Newman and while Reed got the rebound, his prayer wasn’t close to being answered and the game went to a second overtime, deadlocked, 70-70.

Bangor won the tap to start the second extra session and Bradford set up Newman for a jumper.

At the other end, Wassenbergh made one of two foul shots, but Heistand answered with a free throw for the Rams to make it 73-71.

South Portland, no stranger to coming from behind, drew even again with 1:25 on the clock, as Hogan set up Hodge for a floater that found the mark.

This time, Bangor would milk the clock and look to end it, but Wassenbergh blocked Reed’s shot and while Bradford got the rebound, he couldn’t get off a shot and with the game evened up at 73-73, it was on to the third overtime.

The third OT would end the way it began, all even.


Wassenbergh won the tip, but he missed a shot and Tennett got the rebound.

At the other end, Newman missed and the rebound went out of bounds to the Red Riots.

South Portland then ran the clock down before Rich missed a 3.

Bradford got the rebound, but his fullcourt heave was off line and a fourth overtime would be necessary with the score remaining, 73-73.

The fourth OT would see the teams rediscover their scoring touch and the Rams hitting their most clutch shot of the night to ensure the contest would continue.

South Portland’s Bert Rich drives to the basket as Bangor’s John Tennett watches helplessly.

After Wassenbergh won another tip, Rich drove for a layup and his final points to snap a 5 minute, 42 seconds scoring drought.


After Thombs blocked a Reed 3 and Rich blocked Newman’s shot, Wassenbergh was fouled with 1:09 remaining and he sank both ends of a one-and-one, getting fortuitous rolls on both, but 24 seconds later, Bradford put home a Reed miss to pull Bangor back within 77-75.

The Red Riots hoped to milk the remaining clock, but Reed stole the ball and then, with 5 seconds showing, Reed made yet another contested jumper to send the game to an unthinkable fifth extra session.

“The emotion of hitting that shot and forcing another overtime was short-lived, because we had to just go into the huddle and get ready for (another OT),” Reed said. “There were momentum changes for each team and that shot kept us alive.”

“We had the game won and we were trying to kill clock, but Bangor tipped the ball away and Mark Reed tied it up again,” DiBiase said. “I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.'”

The fifth OT would finally prove to be the decisive period, but even that frame came down to the bitter end.

Wassenbergh again won the opening tip and while Thombs had a shot that was off the mark, Wassenbergh got the offensive rebound and was fouled.


He calmly sank both attempts and with 2:17 left, South Portland, at last, was on top to stay.

“I wasn’t a great free throw shooter, but I felt comfortable on those,” said Wassenbergh.

Rich then stole the ball and Wassenbergh was fouled again, but this time, he missed the front end of the one-and-one.

Thombs managed to keep possession with an offensive rebound and Hogan would be fouled with 1:06 to go.

Hogan calmly sank both attempts and the Red Riots had a little breathing room.

After the Rams missed a 3, then turned the ball over, South Portland was on the brink of victory when Wassenbergh went back to the line with 11 seconds showing, but he again missed the front end of the one-and-one and Bangor had a sliver of life.


With 3 seconds left, Newman made a jumper to cut the deficit to two.

The Red Riots were oh so close to finally ending it, but first, they had to get the ball inbounds.

Thombs did the honors and bounced a pass to Hogan, who was smothered by the Rams’ defense, but the horn sounded and after 47 minutes of breathtaking, grueling game action, South Portland had emerged victorious, 81-79.

In five overtimes.

“When we finally pulled it out, emotions were all over the place,” Keene said. “Relief that we didn’t have to sit through another OT and sheer excitement because we just won the Gold Ball. There was compassion for the Bangor players and we had a sense of accomplishment. All our hard work had paid off. We were proud that we kept up our end of the bargain, so to speak, with the SP community.”

“Truthfully, I don’t think we settled in until overtime,” Wassenbergh said. “I was concerned in overtime that (Bangor) could run the clock down for the last shot and with Mark shooting it, they could win it. We just wanted to survive to the next OT. Overtime is one possession at a time. Three minutes with no shot clock doesn’t give you a lot of possessions. We just focused on valuing the ball and getting good shots.”


“I don’t recall being super-tired,” Rich said. “We didn’t go up and down the floor too much. We’d been dominant all season, so it was just a matter of getting back on track.”

“It’s the greatest game I’ve ever been associated with,” DiBiase added. “It was a game of courage and determination. People remember the game because it was five overtimes, very competitive, so much drama. It was really well-played by a lot of really good players. We were 28-0 and we were down 12 and the upstart team was going to win, but Bert came off the bench to save us, then it was OT after OT after OT.

“At one point, I asked (assistant coach) Mike Giordano, ‘What OT are we in?’ He went down to the table to find out. The game got done after midnight and a bunch of people told me after the fact that the streets of the Old Port were quiet. Everyone was inside watching our game in restaurants and bars.”

Following the horn, the Red Riots were mobbed by a mass of fan humanity and for a disconcerting moment, Rich worried for his safety.

“After the game, everybody rushed the court,” Rich said. “Ryan Hodge and I hugged and we got buried. I was worried. We were getting crushed.”

“I have very clear, vivid memories of the fans rushing the court,” Wassenbergh said. “I’ll never forget that. It was an incredible atmosphere.”


South Portland’s John Wassenbergh, left, and Jeff Hogan cut down the net following the Red Riots’ five-overtime victory.

Wassenbergh finished with one of the greatest state game stat lines in Maine basketball history, not only leading all scorers with 43 points, but also grabbing 20 rebounds, stealing the ball five times and blocking three shots.

“Wassenbergh was one of the best players I’ve ever played with,” Rich said.

Hogan added 14 points, six assists and three rebounds.

Then, there was Rich, who cemented his legend with a dozen points in limited action, to go with two rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Hodge tallied seven points and had three assists, Thombs finished with three points and four rebounds and Inverso had two points and three rebounds.

South Portland enoyed a 41-35 rebound advantage, overcame a poor shooting start to wind up 28-of-68 from the floor (including 5-of-21 from 3-point land) and made 20-of-26 free throws, while only turning the ball over 10 times in 47.


It took an eternity, but South Portland’s boys’ basketball team was finally able to declare itself state champions.

South Portland then retreated home to a reception in front of an estimated crowd of 1,500 people at Beal Gymnasium that was delayed, but was still memorable.

“After the game, it took 45 minutes to go from the Civic Center to school,” said Kevin Millington, South Portland Class of 1992, who has returned to his alma mater as head coach and recently led the Red Riots to the 2022 state title. “We had people riding on cars, and obviously you can’t do that today. There were so many people at the reception. I remember talking to Bert. Bert was super-shy. He didn’t realize the magnitude of the moment. I said to him at the reception after, ‘Do you have any clue what you just did?’ Then, he came out of his shell.”

Not quite enough

For Bangor, Reed was sensational as well, scoring 34 points, while finishing an assist and a rebound shy of a triple-double. He also had three steals.

Newman bowed out with a stellar 21-point performance. Heistand had nine points (and six rebounds) off the bench, while Bradford (four rebounds, three assists), Pickering (six rebounds, four blocks) and Tennett (five blocks, four rebounds and two assists) all added five points.

The Rams made 28-of-62 field goals and sank 21-of-29 foul shots and only committed 14 turnovers, but couldn’t quite close out what would have been a stunning upset.


But wait, there’s more

If you thought that 1992 was the end of the Bangor-South Portland story, guess again.

In 1992-93, Bangor fought its way through Cony, Lawrence and Old Town to return to the state final and sure enough, the Red Riots were there waiting, after dispatching Edward Little, Deering and Sanford in their regional tournament.

This time, the game was played at the Bangor Auditorium and this time, after building a lead, the Rams didn’t let up and went on to a 62-37 victory to snap a 34-year title drought and get a taste of revenge.

“Obviously, we had a lot of motivation going into (1992-93),” Reed said. “We had a bad taste in our mouths. We still had to get past Old Town to get the opportunity to play South Portland again. The script couldn’t have been written any better. We had most of our guys back and they were a little bit of a different team. Snow moved the game from Saturday to Wednesday, so the atmosphere wasn’t nearly as electric for them because not as many people made the trip. We still had a strong showing. It was quite a bit of satisfaction winning that game.

“I was willing to walk away with what I considered a draw.”


Some members of the Red Riots actually had mixed feelings after that game ended.

“I was happy for Bangor when they won the next year,” Rich said. “I felt good for Bangor after what we went through together the year before. It was their turn.”


Thirty years have now come and gone and the heroes of 1992 will forever be linked.

In fact, in the aftermath of their game for the ages, the players immediately sought each other out, no longer as rivals, but as human beings who had shared something transcendent.

“We didn’t have an ability at that moment to understand what we’d just done,” Reed said. “We just had to support each other. It was disappointing to lose and we were exhausted, but I remember both teams wanting to congratulate each other. We talked about the game and got to know each other.”


“One of the most emotionally powerful things I saw was after the game, with everyone exhausted, the Bangor and South Portland kids came out and talked and congratulated each other,” DiBiase said. “The kids didn’t really realize until they got older just how special that was.”

Sadly, both teams have lost players from that long ago night.

South Portland’s Inverso passed away a couple years ago. Bangor has had to say goodbye to Pickering and Keeling.

“Both teams have experienced the loss of teammates and that brings wins and losses into a better perspective,” Reed said.

After winning the title in 1993, Bangor captured Gold Balls in 1995 (over Bonny Eagle), 1996 (over Westbrook), 2000 (over Westbrook), 2001 (over Deering, on Joe Campbell’s fabled putback at the horn), 2003 (over Cheverus, in overtime, just one overtime), 2007 (over Portland), 2011 (over Cheverus) and 2019 (over Bonny Eagle).

Mark Reed went on to play college basketball at Liberty University, then followed his father (who is alive and well as he nears his 83rd birthday) into coaching, first at Brewer from 2000-09, then at Hermon through the present day. Reed has a son who plays baseball at Husson University and a daughter who is a three-sport athlete at Hermon High School.


Not surprisingly, it was Wassenbergh, the biggest star 30 years ago, who went on to have the most prolific basketball career post-high school.

Wassenbergh starred at St. Joseph’s College, then went on to play professionally with the Portland Mountain Cats and later in England, South Korea and in the International Basketball League and United States Basketball League. He resides back in New York and now coaches his young daughter.

“All the players involved knew immediately that we took part in something special,” said Wassenbergh. “Both teams came into each other’s locker rooms and hung out. Relationships started. When you take part in an experience like that, it only makes the bond stronger. The older we get, it’s not so much about who won and who lost. Now, it’s more about the connection.

“I had a basketball career at St. Joseph’s College I am proud of and was fortunate to play professionally all over the world, however, everything that came from my 1992 South Portland experience is certainly something I will never forget and I am thankful for the connections with my teammates, classmates and community that I still have.

“In Maine, it’s always going to be about that five overtime game.”

Rich wasn’t done starring athletically for the Red Riots. In the fall of 1992, he became the feature back on a football team that won a Class A state championship game for the first time.


“What’s the probability of playing in two of the biggest games in the same year and to have an impact in both?” Rich said.

Rich then went on to play football at the University of Maine (John Tennett was his teammate in Orono). He now lives in Florida.

“Experiencing a state championship, let alone the way we won it, is a very tough feeling to reproduce,” said Rich. “The relationships are the first thing that I think of. Not only with the guys on my team, and we’re very close, but the guys on the other team too. Gratitude is what I feel the most.”

The 1992 state title was DiBiase’s third (he also won one apiece at Gorham and Portland) and it would prove to be his last. He stayed at South Portland through the 2006-07 season, then had two more head coaching stints, at Scarborough and Gray-New Gloucester. DiBiase, now 68, still works at South Portland High School and coaches freshman boys’ basketball at Cheverus, where he’s also the varsity baseball coach. Earlier this year, DiBiase was inducted in the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.

DiBiase thinks that the 1992 Red Riots, who finished with a 29-0 record when you factor in regular season, postseason and holiday tournaments, are one of the best teams to grace the Maine high school basketball scene and that time has only strengthened his opinion.

“I had some great teams, but that team would have been hard for anyone to beat,” DiBiase said. “We had really good guards and a great interior player in ‘Wass.’ We were really good on defense too. The guys all got along and played together. I’d put that team up against any I’ve ever seen.”


South Portland returned to the state final in 2013, 2016 and 2017, but lost each time, to Hampden Academy on the first occasion, then to Portland in consecutive years.

Then, the Red Riots finally ended their 30-year drought earlier this month with a 58-44 state game win over Oxford Hills.

Prior to South Portland’s state game win over Oxford Hills earlier this month, 1992 South Portland team members Tim West, left, Chris Keene, Eric Carson, Rick Perruzzi and Josh Wassenbergh gathered to reminisce. Contributed photo.

That evening, with the game again being played at the Civic Center, now known as the Cross Insurance Arena, a few stars of yore gathered to cheer on their alma mater.

Keene and Wassenbergh were joined by 1992 reserves Eric Carson, Rick Perruzzi and Tim West and the stories of the glory days flowed.

“I think of Darren often and still talk to Bert regularly,” said Wassenbergh. “We’ll always be connected.”

That’s because for 47 game minutes and the better part of three hours on a mid-March evening 30 years ago, Bangor and South Portland put on a show that has withstood the test of time.


There will be other memorable state finals, perhaps some that even go multiple overtimes, but the Rams and Red Riots can forever claim that they produced a game like no other.

“Kids grow up dreaming of an opportunity to play in that type of game,” Reed said. “People who watched it saw something that doesn’t happen often. You don’t realize it when you’re 17, but when you get older, you realize that you’re blessed with that connection that basketball gives you, with your teammates, with your opponents. It’s still a lot of fun when ‘Wass’ and I go back and forth.”

“I feel like that whole season was filled with great friendships and lifelong memories,” Keene said. “The way it all came to an end that night was very special. I think the bonds created with all my teammates is something that has had a positive impact on all of us. I remember feeling like we had a big impact on the South Portland community. We felt like rock stars, so to speak.”

“The 1992 state game had a tremendous impact on my life,” Wassenbergh said. “From a basketball perspective, we accomplished our goal of winning states, however, 30 years later its more about the relationships and connection to the community that I will always cherish.

“As I reflect on 30 years, the 1992 state game has become a moment in time that will live on. Almost as a ‘where were you’ moment that is often discussed. Considering the way it played out for me, I am grateful to be part of the conversation.”

“People still want to talk about that game,” DiBiase added. “So many people say they were there or watched it and they say it was the best game they’ve ever seen. Not only the stars, but even the guys who didn’t play much took pride in contributing.

“It’s hard to win a championship, man. Even with a team like that. I just enjoyed being part of it.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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