BANGOR — Every February, the Cross Insurance Center turns high school boys’ and girls’ basketball players into legends. Every August, it remembers them.
Times change, and so does the the sport of basketball. Yet certain players and coaches stand the test of time and are remembered for generations. On Sunday, basketball legends from all over the state forever cemented their legacies as the newest members of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.
Three former Hancock County players officially became members of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon at the Cross Insurance Center. Keith Ogden, Elwood “Bimbo” Pinkham and the late Delmont “Del” Merrill were among 22 people to be inducted as members of the 2018 class.
Pinkham was the first former Hancock County player to be inducted. The former Sumner standout was one of six players to be named to the Hall of Fame under the organization’s “Legends of the Hall” classification. He was recognized as a “major part” of Sumner’s dominant run in the late 1960s and early 1970s, during which the Tigers played in five straight championship games from 1969-73, winning two of them.
Some of the Class C championship game records Pinkham set in Sumner’s 103-61 win over Freeport in 1973 still stand. Only one player in the class been able to match his 14 field goals, and nobody has been able to surpass his 38 points. He is currently in his second stint as head coach of Sumner’s girls’ basketball team after previously spending time at Narraguagus.
The next local inductee, Ellsworth’s Merrill, boasted a résumé that made his career in basketball look like a mere footnote. After serving in the United States military’s Fifth Marine Division in World War II, Merrill later went on to become the president of Husson College before retiring from the post in 1987.
Merrill’s accomplishments in basketball, though, were not to be forgotten. After playing at Ellsworth High School and fighting in the war, Merrill coached the men’s team at Husson for 14 years and also served as athletic director and head baseball coach. He finished his coaching career with a 197-86 record, including seven Northeast College Conference titles, state small college championships in 1955-56 and 1957-58 and an undefeated season in 1960-61.
Bucksport’s Keith Ogden was the last former Hancock County player to be inducted. The 6-foot-9 Ogden led the Golden Bucks to back-to-back state titles in 1978 and 1979 before continuing his career at the college level at Husson.
Ogden found more success when he arrived at Husson, where he averaged 15.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game under former head coach Bruce MacGregor. MacGregor had Ogden on his recruiting radar from the moment he first watched him play, but getting him to campus wasn’t easy.
“I called and called and called, and the answer was always, ‘No,’ ‘No’ and ‘No,’” MacGregor recalled. “Finally, I called his mom, and she said, ‘Come on down to the house, and he’ll be there.’ He was there, and I became a better coach that day.”
Cindy Blodgett and Sandi Carver, teammates at the University of Maine from 1994-98, highlighted the rest of the 2018 class. Blodgett scored a state-record 2,596 points en route to winning four state titles at Lawrence before leading the NCAA in scoring for four straight seasons at Maine from 1994-98. The Cleveland Rockers selected her sixth overall in the 1998 WNBA Draft.
Peter Hamlin of the former Milo High School, Leroy Patterson of Bangor and Thaxter Trafton, an ex-Morse star who later became the president of basketball operations for the Cleveland Cavaliers, were among the other inductees. The 1959-60 Lewiston boys’ squad, topped Brewer 81-64 in the Class A title game to cap off an undefeated season, was enshrined as a team.