Stunning comebacks. Legendary streaks extended (and later broken). Droughts ended. A shot that defied just the tallest of odds.

The first decade of the new millennium brought all of the lore, drama, excitement and passion that make Maine high school basketball what it is to the Augusta Civic Center. With the arena seeing the arrival of a new class and the departure of another in 2006, new teams got to make memories in the state’s capital city.

It’s a decade with moments that, though 15-20 years old now, are still fresh in the minds of those that experienced them. Here’s five of the more memorable ones from the basketball tournament at the Augusta Civic Center from 2000-09, presented in chronological order.


2000-06: Conquerors, then conquered

Valley, Dirigo streaks reach legendary status — then get snapped 

The dominance of the Valley boys and Dirigo girls defined Maine high school basketball in the late 1990s. Those teams would continue their mastery into the 2000s — before, on the very same Civic Center floor where they began, their runs came to an end.


The start of the new millennium saw the Valley boys take what was already an impressive streak to unprecedented status. After repeating as state champions in 1998 and 1999, the Cavaliers added four more titles from 2000-03 amidst a streak that saw the team win 101 consecutive games overall, the longest in state history.

Chris Willer and Nick Pelotte celebrate Valley’s victory in the Western D final on Feb. 26, 2000. Morning Sentinel file photo

Many of those games came at the Civic Center, where the Cavaliers decimated their Class D West foes. Augusta would also be where Valley’s streak of six straight Gold Balls would be snapped by Calvary Christian, which beat the Cavaliers 72-69 in the 2004 state final as Mark Gaudet’s 3-point attempt as time expired drew iron.

On the girls side, Dirigo entered the turn of the century with five consecutive Class C West championships to its name. The Cougars were no less dominant over the next few years, cutting down net after net at the Civic Center stretching their run of consecutive regional championships to 11.

Just as the Valley boys’ record Gold Ball streak had come to an end in Augusta, so, too, would the Cougars’ run of regional crowns. Hall-Dale claimed a 39-31 win in the 2006 Western Maine title game to deny Dirigo, which would not return to the regional final until 2014.


2003: From old ball to Gold Ball

Winslow boys ride good-luck charm to end 64-year wait for Gold Ball


When a championship drought stretches more than six decades, it can be hard to find artifacts connecting that past to the present. Twenty years ago, though, one of those items was never too far from a local team that did just that.

The 2002-03 Winslow boys ended a 64-year Gold Ball drought by beating Mountain Valley 58-48 in the Class B final at the Civic Center. It capped off a season in which the Black Raiders rallied around a deflated basketball from the 1938 season, the second in Winslow’s state championship three-peat from 1937-39.

Winslow had won three close games at the Bangor Auditorium, beating Mt. Desert Island 52-44, Camden Hills 52-49 and Erskine Academy 52-48. This time, playing for the Gold Ball, the Black Raiders appeared to have their hands full against a Mountain Valley team with two big forwards, 6-foot-6 Jarod Oldham and 6-5 Isaac Stickney. 

Instead, Winslow controlled the game essentially from start to finish, leading by 10 at halftime before using a 13-2 run late in the third quarter to pull away. Micah Grant (18 points) and Adam Haskell (10 points, 11 rebounds) starred for the Black Raiders, who limited Oldham and Stickney to a combined 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Winslow High School boys basketball players Micah Grant, left, and Nate Boutin carry the Gold Ball after they beat Mountain Valley in the Class B final on March 1, 2003 in the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Winslow did it with the game ball from the 1938 team’s Eastern Maine final win, a matter of feet from the bench. An old keepsake of 1938 star Emilien Gagne, it had been passed on to his granddaughter, Britney Morin, who then loaned it to her classmates prior to the state final.



2005-06: Hometown heroines

Cony girls claim glory at Civic Center following Class A’s move to Augusta

For years, the Bangor Auditorium was home to countless exploits for the Cony girls basketball team. When the Class A tourney moved to Augusta in 2006, the Rams turned the Civic Center into a new house of horrors for opponents.

Cony, as noted, had never lost a tournament game on the Civic Center floor prior to the defeat against Oxford Hills in 2008. That included Eastern Maine championship wins in 2006 and 2007 that saw the Rams stretch their regional title mark to four straight and five in six years.

After getting a scare from Nokomis in the 2006 quarterfinals, Cony blew out Bangor 62-33 before topping then-unbeaten Skowhegan in the regional final. The Rams repeated as Eastern Maine champs with a 63-60 overtime win over Messalonskee in the final and did one better the following game by topping McAuley 58-41 for the Gold Ball.

The Cony High School girls basketball team huddles up on its home gym floor a few days before it would play McAuley in the 2005 Class A final. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“We were very fortunate to have a lot of young ladies who were dedicated to the program and helped build a great culture,” said Paul Vachon, Cony’s head coach from 1985-2008. “We loved that Bangor Auditorium, but to be able to play in the Civic Center for a few years and have the tournament come to your home city, that was really special.”

No, the Civic Center wasn’t technically the home arena for the Rams, who, like everyone else, were still designated as the home or away team based on seeding. But with Cony spending nearly all of every day for two weeks hosting a summer camp at the venue annually, the team knew the ins and outs of the arena better than anyone.


“Those girls grew up there; they knew every entrance, they knew every locker room, they knew every corner,” Vachon said. “We knew the staff, the custodians, the directors and everyone there. It’s a special place, and it was an advantage. We loved every second of it.”


2008: Comeback queens

Oxford Hills girls complete remarkable comeback to end Cony’s A East reign

The Cony girls’ run of remarkable success, of course, was something that long preceded the Class A tourney’s move to Augusta. In 2008, it appeared as if the Rams would rule once again — until a double-digit comeback by Oxford Hills denied them a fifth straight regional crown. 

The Vikings rallied from 12 points down at the half to defeat Cony 52-49 for the Eastern A championship, the first regional title in program history. It capped off a trying regional title run for Oxford Hills, which had battled injuries and deficits all tournament long.

Oxford Hills had fallen behind in the first half after Cony established its 12-point lead through a 16-0 run. Yet the Vikings, who got 15 points from Megan Joyce, 12 from Melanie Cloutier and 12 from Kari Pelletier, chipped away little by little to win as the lower-seeded team for the third straight game.


Earlier in the season, Oxford Hills had become the first team in nine years to defeat the Rams at Cony High School. But beating Cony, which had won the rematch in South Paris by 36 points, on a Civic Center floor where it had never lost a tournament game might have been an even bigger feat.

“We knew we were going to win. There wasn’t any other alternative,” Pelletier, the tournament MVP, told the Sun Journal. “We were the first team to beat them on their home court in something like eight years, so we knew we could do it.”


2008: Manny’s moment

5-foot-7 Martinez stands tall to deliver last-second state title winner

It’s the play every player dreams of in their youth. To Manny Martinez, it was real life — and even had, as he aptly put it, a “David-and-Goliath” twist.

On March 3, 2008, Martinez hit a floater with just 0.8 seconds left to lift the Central Aroostook boys to a 54-53 win over Richmond in the Class D championship game. Even better, the 5-foot-7 Martinez made the state title-winning shot over one of the state’s tallest players, 6-foot-10 Richmond center Marc Zaharchuk.


“As a kid growing up, you take those shots in practice, and the one dream you have is to make a game-winner in the state championship game,” Martinez said. “It’s like a movie scene, and it happened to me in real life. It’s something you can’t describe because it’s very humbling.” 

With Central Aroostook trailing by one with 8.3 seconds, head coach Tim Brewer called timeout to draw up a play. With Richmond, Martinez recalled, thinking the ball was going to go to the Panthers’ top player in Cameron York, Brewer instead planned to give Martinez a lane for an open shot.

Richmond High School’s boys basketball players and assistant coach Jon Spear look on in the final minutes of the 2008 Class D championship game against Central Aroostook at the Augusta Civic Center. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

The play worked to perfection. York came off a pair of screens going toward the weak side, drawing multiple Richmond toward that part of the court. Martinez then went the other way off the same two screens off the dribble and had just enough time and space to shoot over the onrushing Zaharchuk.

“He was coming at me so fast, so it was kind of like an instinct shot where I just kind of put it up, and it just happened to go off the glass,” Martinez said. “All I remember is it going off the backboard and in, and I couldn’t believe it. All I could do was bow my head and thank God for that moment.”

Following the game, after Central Aroostook players had hoisted the Gold Ball, they also did so to Martinez as they walked off the Civic Center floor. The scenes, he said, didn’t feel real — but the stories, the photos and the day-to-day interactions are reminders that they were.

“To this day, 15 years later, I still get people who come up to me and talk to me about it,” Martinez said. “I get emotional thinking about it because I know how hard that team worked. We weren’t the best team, but we had a lot of trust and played hard for each other.”

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