Drama, action, excitement. Nope, we’re not talking about Academy Award-nominated films; we’re talking about the high school basketball tournament at the Augusta Civic Center during the 1980s. The decade was loaded with overtime wins, underdog stories and dominant athletes. Here’s a selection of five top moments from the ’80s, presented in chronological order.


1982-83: Double feature

The Dirigo boys win back-to-back Class C West titles in overtime.

The Dirigo Cougars had to roll up their sleeves to win Class C West titles in 1982 and ’83. In ’82, Dirigo outlasted Madison — the 11th and final seed — 67-65 in overtime to win the regional crown. Down by 7 points with 2:35 left in regulation, Madison forced OT on a 22-foot jumper by future University of Maine quarterback and assistant coach Bobby Wilder with seven seconds remaining.

But Dirigo’s Doug Clark, who finished with 28 points, heaved a 20-foot jumper with 3 seconds left in OT to bring the title to Dixfield. The Cougars went on to defeat Katahdin 54-47 for the state title a week later in Augusta.

The Feb. 28, 1983 Morning Sentinel chronicles the Dirigo boys’ overtime win over Jay for the Class C West title.

The script for 1983, this time a 67-66 win over Jay, was much the same as in ’82. Jay trailed by 13 points in the second half and took the lead before Dirigo forced overtime on a 3-point play by Don ‘Pino’ Hebert, described in the Kennebec Journal as “a forward who would look more at home in a helmet and shoulder pads.”


Bob Leavitt’s free throws with 13 seconds left in OT decided the game for the Cougars, who repeated as Class C state champs a week later.


1986: ‘I saw the Gold Ball’

Hall-Dale girls capture Class C title

There have been countless dominant performances at the Civic Center over the years, but few likely can top what junior Rachel Bouchard did for Hall-Dale in 1986. The future University of Maine star, who finished her Hall-Dale career with 1,777 points and 1,255 rebounds, averaged 26 points and 21 rebounds over three Class C West tournament games, including 30 points and 19 rebounds in a 51-45 regional final win over Winthrop.

Bouchard won the tournament MVP award — and also “the beginnings of a black eye from an exchange with a Rambler player,” according to the Kennebec Journal’s account of the game.

The Feb. 24, 1986 edition of the Kennebec Journal illustrates the Hall-Dale girls’ 1986 Class C West title.

“No one stopped her this year and teams we played tried it all,” Bulldogs coach Colin Roy said in the KJ after the game. “When the game is on the line she is the type of player who wants to ball. And we’re glad to give it to her.”


In the state championship against Penobscot Valley, the 6-1 Bouchard fell one assist shy of a triple-double (29 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists) in a 70-57 win. But Hall-Dale was far from a one-woman show: 5-10 Brenda Olum scored 22 points, 12 in the fourth quarter. Why the sudden surge late in the game?

“I saw the gold ball on the table,” Olum told the Sunday Sun-Journal afterward.


1987: From No. 8 to No. 1

Richmond girls are giant killers in Class D West tourney

Maybe it’s fitting that one of the bigger underdog stories of the 80s came not long after the release of “Hoosiers,” the famous tale of an Indiana high school team that beats long odds to capture a state title. 

The 1986-87 Richmond girls finished 6-12 and squeaked into the Class D West tournament as a No. 8 seed. The Bobcats proceeded to stun No. 1 Valley, which had lost only one game in the regular season, 54-42 behind Jen Small’s 18 points. The next victim was No. 4 Rangeley, which fell 55-34. In the regional final, Richmond completed its run of upsets with a 44-38 win over No. 2 Buckfield. The 5-foot-5 Small scored 17 points, giving her a three-game total of 50 and the tournament MVP award.


The Feb. 23, 1987 Kennebec Journal sports page features regional championships from Richmond and Livermore Falls.

“To come in No. 8 and go out No. 1 is a thrill for me and the girls.” Richmond coach Bruce Beasley told the Kennebec Journal after the game.

One factor that might have helped Richmond: The Bobcats played mostly Class C schools in the Mid-Maine Conference, which made them rather battle-tested heading into the playoffs.

The miracle run ended a week later with a 53-46 loss to Deer Isle-Stonington in the Class D final. But that certainly doesn’t put a damper on one of the most memorable tournament performances of that era.


1987: Survival of the fittest

Livermore Falls girls outlast Winthrop in three OTs to take Class C West title

One player was limping on the court from a collision sustained in a game two days earlier. The head coach’s glasses were shattered in the post-game crush. The Livermore Falls girls didn’t just defeat Winthrop 71-68 in triple overtime for the Class C West title in front of 3,500 fans at the Civic Center — they survived the ordeal.


The Andies had to overcome a tremendous performance from Winthrop’s Christine Hunter, who scored 25 of her game-high 38 points during the fourth quarter and OT. She was named tournament MVP. Her shot with 1 second left in regulation tied the game at 51-all and forced overtime. 

Livermore, which saw three starters foul out, trailed by six in the second OT, but Cary Gammon’s put-back with 3 seconds left forced a third 3-minute session. A 3-point play by reserve Julie Chretien and a pair of free throws from Denise Childress — who had been on crutches just a day earlier after she was injured in the semis — sealed the win.

Gammon led the Andies with 21 points. 

“This was the best game I’ve ever been in,” Livermore Falls coach Byron Bean, whose glasses were crushed during the post-game excitement, told the Sunday Sun-Journal after the game. 

The Andies went on to fall to Schenck 57-46 in the state title game a week later in Bangor.



1988: A good first impression

Underdog Erskine girls win Class C West title

While the Erskine Academy girls had experience in the postseason (never advancing past the preliminary round) and at the Augusta Civic Center (as a home court in the late 1970s), the Eagles had never played a postseason game at the Civic Center before 1988, when everything changed.

Behind 6-1 sophomore sensation Tina Bonsant, Erskine outlasted Winthrop 50-44 in double overtime to take the Class C West title. Bonsant scored 28 points, six in overtime, to go with 10 rebounds and three blocks. Her put-back with 10 seconds left in regulation forced overtime, and her 84 points over three tournament games tied a record.

Erskine’s double-OT win over Winthrop for the Class C West girls title is shown on the Feb. 22, 1988 Kennebec Journal.

“It’s hard when you haven’t been here to play before,” Bonsant told the Kennebec Journal after the game. “It was hot and there was so much noise I couldn’t hear my own teammates.”

Bobbi-Jo Cunningham’s four free throws in the final minute sealed the win.

Erskine coach Pete Macklin had predicted in the preseason his team could contend for a title, and even carried the newspaper clipping in his wallet, with his prediction outlined in blue.

“I carried this with me,” he told the Kennebec Journal. “I like to look back on things. I never doubted the girls.”

Schenck spoiled Erskine’s title dreams a week after with a 77-52 win in Augusta.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story