Ellsworth boys' basketball fans cheer on the Eagles in their 52-34 win over Orono for the Class B Northern Maine championship on Feb. 20 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. PHOTO BY TAYLOR VORTHERMS

Ellsworth basketball fans travel cross-country for state championship

ELLSWORTH — The Class B boys’ basketball state championship is drawing fans from across the country.

One 1965 Ellsworth High School graduate made the trip all the way from Florida on Thursday to watch the Eagles play Lake Region on Friday for their first state title in 50 years.

Wayne Bragdon, a recently retired project coordinator at E.L. Shea Inc., has spent the past few months wintering in Venice, Fla. He said this post-season basketball tournament is the first one he has missed in more than five decades.

“I just love high school basketball,” Bragdon said. “I always have.”

Bragdon never played the sport in high school, but he was in the stands when the Eagles won state titles in 1964 and 1966, though his recollection of those championships is murky.

“That was so long ago,” he said laughing. “I barely remember.”

But the program’s success in the 1960s established a fan ship in Bragdon that could withstand the distance of some 1,500 miles.

Bragdon left Maine halfway through the regular season — around the time the Eagles’ squad started clicking. They would go on to win their first regional title in 28 years.

Their pivotal moment came on Jan. 16 — Ellsworth coach Peter Austin’s birthday — when the Eagles lost to Old Town 64-57 and dropped to 7-4.

Since then, second-seeded Ellsworth has won 10 straight games, including over top Class B teams such as No. 3 Washington Academy, No. 4 Orono, No. 6 Caribou and No. 5 Mount Desert Island as well as eventual Class C Northern Maine champion George Stevens Academy.

“They just seemed to be a team that would hang together and come back,” Bragdon said.

Ellsworth junior Bryce Harmon solidified that in what Bragdon called a “miracle finish” in the Class B North semifinal against Caribou on Feb. 17. Harmon hit a 3-point bank shot at the final buzzer to tie the score and keep Ellsworth’s season alive. Senior Bruce St. Peter would score the winning basket in overtime.

“That’s when I thought, maybe this is going to be the year,” Bragdon said. “They’ve got some great players, and they’re coming together as a team.”

Bragdon isn’t the only Ellsworth fan who has been en route to Maine this week for the championship game scheduled for 8:45 p.m. Friday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

He wasn’t even the only one on his flight, which he shared with Peter Austin’s son, Andrew Austin, who lives in Clearwater, Fla.

Bragdon said that, no matter the outcome, the trip will have been worth it.

“Whether we win or lose,” Bragdon said, “I’ll be happy.”

Taylor Vortherms

Taylor Vortherms

Sports Editor at The Ellsworth American
Taylor Vortherms covers sports in Hancock County. The St. Louis, Missouri native recently graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism and joined The Ellsworth American in 2013.

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