Jeannie Ross can still remember the shock on her face when she looked around the Augusta Civic Center prior to the 1975 Class C championship game.

Ross, a member of the 1974-75 Hall-Dale team that would become Maine’s first ever to win a girls state title, had played in some big games before for a strong Bulldogs team that was a draw in its own gymnasium. Yet nothing could compare to this scene, that of the first state championship game in front of a packed Civic Center crowd.

“I remember we were all just awe-struck at how big that place seemed,” Ross recalled of looking around the arena prior to the Bulldogs’ state title tilt with Katahdin. “To be in that building and a part of that, it just gave us shivers. Even now, it still does when we all look back on it.”

An opportunity taken for granted by many today, playing for a state championship was an unprecedented one for the girls who took part in the first Gold Ball games 48 years ago. For members of the state title-winning Hall-Dale and Gardiner teams, the experience remains a bond that, as Ross said, “will never ever go away.”

In the fall 1974, rumors swirled that the State Principals’ Association (now the Maine Principals’ Association) was set to sanction a girls basketball tournament for the coming season. Those rumors were eventually proven to be true, setting the stage for the first-ever state championships in February 1975.

“I remember, by the end of that fall, we learned that a tournament that year was a done deal, and it was very exciting,” Sherryl Tracy, a starter for that Hall-Dale team. “It was something brand-new for us. Everybody wanted to be one of those teams playing in that tournament.”




Hall-Dale had been an elite team in the Mountain Valley Conference ranks for a while, and the 1974-75 group was right up there with the program’s top squads. The team went undefeated in the regular season and breezed through the Western Maine tournament at Edward Little High School in Auburn to reach the first state final.

This time, though, the Bulldogs were challenged. Banged up from injuries, Hall-Dale got a stiff challenge from Katahdin before ultimately pulling out a 64-62 victory in three overtimes. Carla Cyr, a 6-foot-1 center, scored 39 points for the Bulldogs, who had two starters foul out.

“That was definitely the hardest game we’ve ever had,” Ross said. “They were rugged, strong girls, and we had never, ever played a team like that before. We were down by double figures at one point, and we were really wondering whether or not we could pull it off, but we did.”

Whereas Hall-Dale was seen as the favorite entering the Class C tournament, Gardiner was tipped as the underdog entering the Class A game against Morse. Yet the Tigers were unfazed, breaking open a 52-52 tie with a 14-2 run to pull away from the Shipbuilders down the stretch in a 70-62 victory.


Starring for that Gardiner team were Crystal Pazdziorko (now Proulx), who scored 33 points in the title game and 104 overall in the Tigers’ four tourney games. Gardiner also had a point guard who could score and make key passes in Cathy Campbell and another pair of solid post players in Debra Clark (now Susi) and Sue Hinds.

“I think we liked being the underdogs; that’s always a fun position to be in for a team because you’re underestimated,” Susi said. “It was a hard-fought game, and it was tight underneath the hoops. (Morse) had some fantastic guards who could shoot the lights out, and that shook up our defense a little bit, but we adjusted.”

Central Maine nearly brought home three state championships in the inaugural year as Richmond fell 49-41 to undefeated East Grand in the Class D title game. In the Class B game, Lake Region pulled away from Van Buren in the final minutes to claim a 63-55 victory.

Both the Hall-Dale and Gardiner communities were in fever pitch for their teams’ tournament runs. Even for the Bulldogs’ regional tourney games at Edward Little and the Tigers’ at Husson University — not exactly a stone’s throw away, unlike the Civic Center — the two teams drew great crowds.

The first Maine high school girls basketball state finals were played at the Augusta Civic Center in 1975. Here’s the page on the Gardiner Tigers from inside the tournament program, which was put out by what was then the State Principals’ Association. Photo provided by Crystal Proulx

Playing in the Civic Center, though, was different. Unlike the places Hall-Dale and Gardiner had played before, this was a brand-new, state-of-the art facility bigger than anything they’d ever experienced. The atmosphere of those first state games, Proulx said, was a sign that girls basketball in Maine was about to be big statewide.

“At the time, I don’t think society wasn’t really sure about, ‘Oh, this girls basketball thing is going to catch on,’” Proulx said. “Then, you get there, and the stands are packed, and you’re in the middle of this big arena with this incredible atmosphere. … People were genuinely excited about it.”


The players on those Gardiner and Hall-Dale teams still relive the memories of that day. Susi said she’s still in touch with Gardiner teammates Campbell, Proulx and Karen Perry. The Hall-Dale players get together frequently and are even discussing putting together a team float for Old Hallowell Day in July.

Nearly five decades later, the Maine girls basketball scene has come full circle. At present, Gardiner just completed an undefeated regular season and will be the favorite to win the Class A North tournament. Hall-Dale, the first champion in Class C, is also its most recent after going undefeated to win the Gold Ball a year ago.

“A few of us went to that last Hall-Dale championship a few years ago, and we absolutely loved it,” Cyr said. “It was just so much (fun) to sit there and watch those girls play and think to ourselves, ‘Wow, we know what this feels like.’ Whether it’s them now or us 50 years (after we did it), it’s so much fun.”

With tourney time dawning once again, five more girls basketball teams will soon be immortalized as they lift Gold Balls of their own. There will only ever be, though, a select few who can say they hoisted the first, and even if they didn’t comprehend their places in the annals of Maine sports at the time, those former players certainly do now.

“It really brings joy to my heart to know that I was at that time and place in history,” Proulx said. “We didn’t really know that at the time, but when you look back on it, it’s even more special. It was wonderful to be a part of that group and have that moment.”

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