There’s no way to mark the spot because the ground is long gone, demolished six years ago together with the antique Bangor Auditorium. But Mike Thurston’s unbelievable buzzer-beating basket – heaved from just at the back of the midcourt line – remains part of Maine basketball lore as “The Shot Heard Round the State.”
In Caribou, a city of fewer than eight,000 citizens in Maine’s northeast corner, the tale of Thurston and his teammates resurfaces like frost heaves each March, handiest with extra fondness each succeeding year.
“It becomes an unbelievably interesting sport,” said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, then a sophomore at Caribou High and a number of the masses who stormed the courtroom that night time after the dramatic end. “The emptying out of the bleachers of all of the Caribou fans become absolutely a spontaneous action. It turned into a splendid moment.” That 1969 nation identify stays the handiest one for the Caribou High boys’ basketball group. Fifty years later, the town is embracing any other championship run. The Vikings will play Cape Elizabeth for the Class B nation identify at Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena on Saturday afternoon.
David Wakana, assistant primary and athletic director of Caribou High predicted that the stands would encompass greater Caribou enthusiasts than supporters of Cape Elizabeth. A local bank is sponsoring a pupil bus for the 300-mile ride. Caribou has a pep band, and its local little kids are sprinkled for the duration of southern Maine. “Throughout the (regional) event in Bangor, our facet has been complete, with each person wearing maroon,” junior shield Alex Bouchard stated. “It’s been fantastic, and it’s virtually helped us to recognize some of these human beings are there to observe us and aid us.”
Caribou instruct Kyle Corrigan said his gamers are properly aware of people who came before them. “It’s one of those matters in Caribou,” he stated, “if you don’t understand about the Mike Thurston half-court docket shot, then you ’re no longer truly from Caribou.” On Wednesday night time at Caribou High, the modern-day crew attended a reception and members of previous Caribou teams to reach the country finals. They watched the grainy black-and-white pictures of that ’sixty-nine end and listened to DeWitt’s radio call. “You recognize the outcome,” said Peter Curran, who at 6-foot-7 become the tallest member and considered one of seven seniors at the championship squad, “however you continue to surprise if we can do it.”
‘AS I RECALL, IT WAS ALL NET’
The 1969 Class LL championship recreation become hung on Saturday, March eight. Westbrook, led through proficient shield Matt Donahue, built an eight-point lead with four minutes ultimate most effective, to see Caribou cut the deficit to 3 points inside the final minute. With 10 seconds left, Caribou’s burly ahead, Mike Kelley, scored from the close variety and became provided a loose throw for being fouled inside the act of shooting. He made the foul shot to tie the score at sixty-three.
Westbrook loyalists have long disputed that call, noting that the Blue Blazes had no reason to foul. The 3-factor arc wouldn’t come into being for some other 18 years, so Westbrook should have afforded to give up a basket and hold the lead. “You recognize who fouled me?” stated Kelley, sixty-six, a retired potato farmer who nonetheless lives in Caribou. “The man who fouled me turned into (teammate) Pete Curran. He turned into among me and the basket. It wasn’t any of the Westbrook gamers.”
Westbrook right away inbounded the ball and pushed it up the court. With 5 seconds left, Don Douglas had an open look from 14 ft; however, his shot hit the returned rim and caromed out to Curran. Thurston clapped his fingers for the ball. Curran passed it. Thurston dribbled two times, averted a defender, dribbled twice more, then permit fly from just beyond midcourt, his proper hand closing upraised in observe via, as another Westbrook defender tried to dam his route. “As I let it move,” stated Thurston, sixty-seven, “I remember questioning, ‘If this factor is lengthy enough, it could be right.’ ” “As I take into account, it became all net,” said Collins, 66. “We have been all on our toes. My health club trainer, Irvin Belanger, who eventually went directly to be superintendent of Caribou faculties, became a few rows in advance of me. I recollect his turning and looking at each person at the back of him in amazement when Mike Thurston made that historical shot.”
It wasn’t a fluke. Thurston, Curran, and Kelley take into account a scrimmage at Presque Isle two days in advance – arranged for Caribou to preserve sharp all through the 2-week layoff among the regional and country finals. Thurston sank a buzzer-beater from a 3-sector court docket at the end of a third area, close to the opposite foul line. Presque Isle educates Gary Osgood came over guffawing, consistent with Thurston, and said, “‘ Save that one for Saturday night time.’ ”
WESTBROOK TOOK IT IN STRIDE
Thurston taught elementary bodily training within the Old Town school gadget and coached junior varsity basketball and varsity softball groups. He additionally served as a basketball referee, which includes several nation finals. Thurston stated he’ll make the ride from his domestic in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, to wait for Saturday’s recreation and reunite with some of his former teammates. At least one of the contemporary Caribou gamers had now not acknowledged Thurston’s ancient shot. Guard Austin Findlen, the simplest senior starter, grew up in New Sweden and didn’t attend faculty in Caribou until seventh grade.
“I hadn’t heard of it till the start of this year,” Findlen stated. “It’s simply exciting and approaches lots to absolutely everyone, and it surely method plenty to all of the community individuals. It indicates that basketball is greater than just a game.” Even the Westbrook gamers have come to embody their position inside the drama. Donahue led all scorers with 26 factors but blamed himself for falling into a sound sleep on the afternoon of the finals. It was his first time in a hotel, and the mattress becomes much more secure than the one he shared at home with his older brothers.
“I swear I wakened across the third zone,” said Donahue, who was a skilled basketball participant on the University of Southern Maine (then called the University of Maine at Portland-Gorham) earlier than becoming an artist. “I was a form of in a daze before then.” Ever the loose spirit, Donahue didn’t fret approximately the outcome as soon as the game ended. He remembered drawing close to Thurston after all of the excitement died down and increasing a hand.
“I said, ‘Hey pal. Nice friggin’ shot.’ ”
Douglas, whose pass over from 14 toes installation Thurston’s game-winner, performed minor league baseball inside the Cubs machine and ran a successful title business enterprise in Yarmouth earlier than retiring. He became in Bangor remaining weekend to peer Caribou win the local title. “After 50 years, I don’t have any trouble rooting for Caribou,” he said. “With the gain of a bit little bit of perspective, you realize you have been part of Maine schoolboy basketball history.” A senior in 1969, Douglas has no regrets about not waiting some seconds longer to take Westbrook’s final shot – or for failing to look for Donahue to shoot the ball as an alternative.
“It becomes my shot to take, and I took it,” Douglas said. “Unfortunately, it clanged out, but its installation a storybook finishing.” Collins also became in Bangor last weekend to look at the Vikings win the regional name, and on Friday rearranged her schedule so she may want to attend the game Saturday and nonetheless supply a speech in Bangor. Since the Caribou boys received the country identify in 1969, they were lower back to the championship game two times – dropping in 1975 and 1983. Caribou did win a women’s kingdom title in ’83. Bouchard, one of the modern-day Vikings, said he doesn’t need to accept the second region again. He said it’s time for the lads to bring another Gold Ball lower back to Aroostook County.