Bridgewater Classical Academy
State Champions 1954 and 1955
Researched by Jim Carter
In 1954 and 1955 Bridgewater Classical was truly the power house in Maine Class Basketball. The “Bulldogs” were the first team in the State of Maine to win two consecutive Class S high school basketball “State Championships.”
In 1954 Bridgewater reached the Eastern Maine Class S Tournament by defeating Oakfield 59 – 41 and Island Falls 49 – 36 in County play-off competition. In the Oakfield game the “Bulldogs” were led by Burtt’s 21 points and Ed Buckley’s 18. In the Island Falls game Bridgewater was led by Stackpoles 15, McKeen with 12 and Buckley with 10 points.
In the opening round of the Class S Tournament Bridgewater was just too much for the Tigers of Danforth as they scored practically at will in the third and fourth periods to come away with a 54 – 29 victory. Center Hall Burtt paced the team with 15 points, Eugene McKeen added 13and Ed Buckley 11. Malone led the Danforth Tigers with 11 points.
In the semi-final round Coach Doug Harrington’s Bulldogs held of a stubborn Deer Isle team which refused to quit. Bridgewater took the lead half way through the second quarter when guard Ed Buckley drove the length of the floor for a lay-up and held it the rest of the way. Hall Burtt tallied 16 points and Stackpole 11 while Ed Buckley proved to be a great floor man and ball handler for Bridgewater. The Bulldogs were only 10 of 23 from the charity stripe but were 15 of 38 from the floor shooting 39%.
Bridgewater Classical Academy met Beals in the Eastern Maine Finals where they proved to be the “cream of the crop” among small schools by defeating Beals 41 – 38 at the Bangor Auditorium. It was a great night for the Aroostook team especially for coach Harrington who over a four year period steadily built his team. The Bulldogs had a well balanced attack led by Burtt’s 13 points, McKeen with 12 and Ed Buckley with 11. While no one player could take credit for the victory it was Ed Buckley who held his team together after center Hal Burtt fouled out early in the fourth period. It was Buckley who put on a dazzling display of ball handling for 50 seconds late in the fourth quarter as Beal’s fought gamely to get back into the game. Buckley also broke the “Braves” hearts with a driving two pointer just when it looked like the “Bulldogs” would crack under pressure.
Class S All Tournament selections: Ed Buckley and Harold Burtt of Bridgewater; Frank Willette of East Millinocket; Elliot Beal of Beals and Dale McCormick of Unity. Buckley and Burtt were unanimous choices.
The “Bulldogs” then played Standish in the Class S State Final at the Waterville Community Center in front of 3200 hoop fans. BCI held off a last quarter suge by Standish High to win the maine Class S crown 45- 43. Standish entered the game known for putting up astronomical scores during the regular season. However the cool, deliberate Bridgewater attack completely foiled any attempts by the Standish hoopsters to get into their running game which proved to be a determing factor in the outcome. Both teams used zone defenses throughout the game. Hall Burtt led all scorers with 17 points and a strong rebounding performance, Ed Buckley played his usual steady game and chipped in with 7 points, Eugene McKeen added 9 points and Lin Hersey had 7 points coming off the bench. This concluded a very successful season where the ‘Bulldogs’ went undefeated winning 24 consecutive games. The State Championship victory was also the 100 win for coach Dougie Harrington. Harrington began coaching at Bridgewater Classical Academy the 1949 season.
The Class “S” Champions drove to Boston by car where they spent three days and attended the New England High School Basketball tournament held in the Boston Garden. The team was also honored by a banquet held at the Bridgewater Town Hall. There was also a testimonial banquet held in Bangor that honored all four State Champions titled “The Champions Four For Fifty- Four. The four State Champions were Ellsworth, Greenville, Maine Central Institute and Bridgewater. The testimonial was held at the Bangor House and sponsored by the Bangor Chamber of Commerce.
1955 Season the “Bulldogs” won their second straight Aroostook County Class S Championship at the spacious Houlton High School gymnasium defeating Easton in the championship game 69-51 by outscoring the “Bears” 24-8 in the third period. The “Bulldogs” displayed a high-powered, potent offense led by Charlie Uptons 20 points, Fred Richards 14, Stackpole 12, Phil Faulkner 11 and EugeneMcKeen 10. Upton and McKeen also controlled the rebounding action in this one. The Bulldogs defeated Island Falls 65 - 51 in the opening round to advance to the County Chamionship game. Bridgewater came into the County tournament with a 15 -1 record and improved to 17 – 1 entering the Eastern Maine Class S Tournament.
Bridgewater met Milbridge in the quarter final round in their attempt to defend the Eastern Maine and State Championship titles. Coach Doug Harrington’s “Bulldogs” played on even terms with the Milbridge quintent in the opening stanza but then blew the game wide open in the second quarter putting 26 points on the board, including 13 consecutive points and rolled to a 85 – 64 victory. Again the “Bulldogs” displayed a balanced scoring attack with Charlie Upton, Garth Stackpole and Gene McKeen leading the wiay with 19, 18, and 17 points respectively. Fred Richards tossed in 12 point while Phil Faulkner added 10 more. Herbie Huckins led Milbridge with 17 points.
Bridgewater met Monson in the Eastern Maine semi-finals. The Bulldogs use precision passing and accurate shooting in the opening moments of the contest and never faltered from that point on coming away with a 58 – 48 win. Gene McKeen was the star of this one for Bridgewater as he was 11 for 18 from the floor and four of seven from the free throw line for 26 points, he also was dominate in the rebounding action. Garth Stackpole added 12 points, Charlie Upton with an injured arm chipped in with seven and Fred Richards and Phil Faulkner added six points each. Brown of Monson led his team with 20 points and an excellent job on the boards.
In the Eastern Maine Class S Final Easton came away with a 39 – 36 win over Freedom Academy to come away with the title. The win earned them the right to defend the State Title against Western Maine Champion Porter High of Kezar Falls. This victory for Doug Harrington’s crew was hard earned. Playing before more than 2,100 fans at the Bangor Auditorium, the “Bulldogs” had to come from behind for the win. Going into the final quarter Bridgewater trailed by 3, but they were not to be denied they began to rebound and score and forged ahead at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Charlie Upton, Gene McKeen, and Fred Richards combined for nine points while Freedom scored once to put the game on ice. Charlie Upton played the game of his life grabbing rebound after rebound while scoring 13 points. McKeen was also strong off the boards and tallied 10 points. Garth Stackpole eight points, Phil Faulkner and Fred Richards were also credited with jobs well done. The team received a homecoming welcome when the townspeople gathered at the high school auditorium to pay tribute to the “Bulldogs” who had racked up their second consecutive Eastern Maine Title.
Class S All Tourney 1st Team: Wendell Alley of Beals, James Trafton of East Corinth, Bob Hothman of Freedom, Garth Stackpole of Bridgewater and Gene McKeen of Bridgewater. Charlie Upton of Bridgewater was selected to second team.
At the State final held in Waterville and in front of 3,000 fans the “Bulldogs” whipped Porter High 64 – 59 to claim the State Class S title for the second consecutive year. Lanky center Gene McKeen played a tremendous game as he collected 25 points. The “Bulldogs” hit on five of their first six shots to take a 10-2 lead and move ahead 17 – 8 at the quarter break. The Porter quintet fought back in the second period and 30 – 26 at half time. Porter continued its comeback in the third quarter but then McKeen collected rebound after rebound and scored seven points to keep the “Bulldogs” in the game. In the fourth quarter McKeen and Upton combined for baskets to move Bridgewater ahead 57 – 51a lead they managed to maintain to come away with the championship. Phil Faulkner added 13 points, Richards 10, Stackpole 9 and Upton 7 for the “Bulldogs.” Bridgewater concluded their season with a 21 – 1 record. Coach Harrington now had 121 wins in his coaching career.
I wish to thank Elizabeth Stevens of the Bangor Public Library, Northeast Publishing, Central Aroostook Athletic Administrator Heather Bradbury and Ed Buckley.