The Bangor Auditorium, home to numerous regional basketball tournaments since 1956, closed the book on a storied chapter of high school hoops in the Pine Tree State March 2 with Penquis of Milo besting Boothbay 61-54 in the Class C boys championship game — the final game to be played in the building.

Fifty-eight years of exciting contests, buzzer beaters, nail-biting finishes and state championships have taken place in the historic building, which is scheduled to be torn down this spring and turned into a parking lot for the new Cross Insurance Center, currently being built between "The Mecca" and the iconic Paul Bunyan statue.

Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell recently asked a few local coaches, colleagues and media members about their favorite memories — as a fan, player, coach or otherwise — of the storied building that has seen so much high school hardwood history.

Belfast boys coach Scott Benzie — Coach Benzie recalled a few particular moments, but the one that stood out was a Class B regional championship game when he was the girls coach at Rockland, facing Houlton for the Eastern Maine title. Oceanside girls basketball coach Teel Foster, who was then Teel Anderson, was one of the Tigers' best players.

"We were down 18 at halftime [and] came back and with 12 seconds to go, [we] called timeout," he said. "We were running a variation of our inbounds play we'd run before but we ran it so Teel came off a double screen at the elbow, and that was her favorite place to shoot. So Missy Shorey threw it to her and she nailed it, put us up by one with like four seconds to go. And that was the first time we led the whole game. We ended up losing on a foul shot rebound."

Belfast girls coach Stan Sturgis — "I played high school basketball but we never made it up there [for the tournament, we only went there to play John Bapst because they were on our schedule. But the other night [facing No. 3 Nokomis in the quarterfinals] was my favorite moment. Just getting up there with that environment [and] seeing what that's like. I like how the crowd is right on top of you. Kind of bittersweet, but it was a great experience and made the whole experience worth it. There's nothing like playing basketball there."

Mount View boys coach Steve Caron — "I think the best memory I remember was four years ago going up there [as the No. 3 seed] and beating Old Town to get into the semis," he said. "That was a great team. Then we played [second-seeded] Ellsworth who was just a buzzsaw that year. But it was a great game and just the experience is great. Eastern Maine basketball is just electric. It's really something to walk into that auditorium. As a coach, it's humbling to see so many fans at a game.

"I wanted to go there this year [to play]. Everbody does. But having played there [and] having coached there, it's just nostalgia in that place. I'll be very sad to see it go."

Mount View girls coach Erica Gabainelli — Coach Gabainelli recalled several moments, including watching Deidra Ellis and David Heslam playing for Mount View in the 1980s, along with watching the talented program from Schenck of Millinocket, "especially when Stephanie Carter was there."

But the one moment that stood out was when she was an assistant with the John Bapst girls basketball program in 2006.

"That was a special team with a lot of talented, hard working players. It was the first year John Bapst moved back to Class B. We started that playoff run with a prelim game against MCI and never looked back. We went into the tournament as the number 7 seed, and knocked off favored Camden Hills in the first round. From there we defeated Waterville to make it to the Eastern Maine Final against Presque Isle. That group of girls was always very easygoing and loose before a game. They never really got too nervous, until they walked out onto the Auditorium floor to stretch before the game. They looked up and saw fans up into the rafters on both sides. I'll never forget the look on their faces, it was priceless. I looked at them and just told them to enjoy the moment. We, unfortunately, ended up losing to Presque Isle, but it was one of the most memorable tournament moments for me. Presque Isle went on to win the gold ball, quite handily if I remember correctly. That was a very fun season with a lot of great memories."

Searsport boys coach Brad Cook — "My lasting moment is a bittersweet one, 1986, my hometown [fifth-seeded] Searsport Vikings boys versus the [fourth-seeded] John Bapst Crusaders [in the quarterfinals]. I was in middle school. And while we lost a close contest, 61-58, it cemented my love of the game and has fueled my rebuilding efforts as a coach trying to get our boys program back to the tournament."

Searsport girls coach Mel Grant — "I would say last year's Eastern Maine Class C girls final [between] Dexter and Stearns," he said. "When Sigee [Sigrid Koizar], the girl from Austria that played at Stearns, came around. I can remember her going around passing it and they needed a three to tie it and she hit a three fading out of bounds at the buzzer to send it to overtime.

"We played against her during the season and obviously she was a very talented young lady. Dexter ended up winning the game in overtime, but we were obviously rooting for her. That was one of the best moments I've ever seen."

Don Shields, Frank 105.5 FM sports director — "The one game I will always remember if you say what is the No. 1 game it was the Eastern Maine [Class B] final [in 1992], the year Rockland won the state championship. They're playing John Bapst and they're down 13 and they went on a 26-0 run. It was, to me, a great run because [then John Bapst boys coach] Bob Cimbollek took a lot of credit for being [then Rockland coach] Chris Elkington's mentor, so it was like watching the student school the professor.

"They ran a play to end the third quarter," said Shields. "Rockland had the ball out of bounds and the play was for Erik Carlson I believe to take a three-pointer at the foul line extended and somehow Shane LeBlanc took the three and he hit it off glass. And Chris told me he said to them in the huddle 'Good play, good play, wrong play. It was for Erik. So we're going to come out and run that same play again but we're going to run it for Erik, and he's going to hit the three.' And Carlson did hit the three. And that took it from down eight to down two in literally, 18 seconds of playing time. And that was the punch in the gut for Bapst. By the time that run was over, Rockland was up by 13."

Charlie Crockett, Maine TV-85 play-by-play announcer — "As a play-by-play broadcaster for both radio and TV for over 40 years, I find it hard to choose just one favorite moment at the Bangor Auditorium, so I will mention two. In 1973, Camden-Rockport and Orono had played each other for the state title, with Orono coming out on top. In 1974, everyone knew it would be a huge rematch, so the Auditorium was packed — a sea of red and white (colors for both teams), and just a constant roar of noise from the crowds. The 1974 win was the Windjammer's first gold ball, so the moment was extremely special, and the team was amazing to watch.

A second would be the 2002 state [Class B] championship game against Gorham. With perhaps 10 seconds to go, the game was tied and Peter Moro stole the ball, made a basket to tie the game, and sank the ensuing foul shot to give the Windjammers the win 63-60. With four seconds left, Gorham tried to score, but failed. In a matter of a few seconds, the Gorham side of the Auditorium went from a full-out celebration of an anticipated victory to stunned silence, trying to understand how the victory had been snatched away from them in mere seconds. The Windjammer side, of course, erupted in joy and celebration. The video clip [in the link below] shows these last few seconds of the game."

Mark Haskell, Courier Publications associate sports director — "I've been doing this job since 2007. The first game I covered at the Bangor Auditorium was No. 8 Rockland facing No. 1 Maranacook, with the Tigers giving the Black Bears what proved to be their toughest test of the tournament en route to the state crown. I mention this because the Tigers made it to the tournament on the strength of senior Anderson Murphy's buzzer-beating three-pointer over No. 9 Gardiner, which was hands down the most memorable high school sports moment I can recall. But of course, not at 'The Mecca.' My favorite Bangor Auditorium moment would have been two years ago, the last year Camden Hills won the state crown."

"The Windjammers were the top overall seed and they were facing No. 8 Caribou in the quarterfinals. The game was a blowout. Caribou was way overmatched and this was Tyler McFarland's Mr. Basketball year, so all the Camden Hills players were performing at such a high level. Anyway late in the game they were up 23 and Joel Gabriele made a steal at midcourt and was charging for an easy layup when he saw senior teammate Keegan Pieri as the only trailer on the play. Gabriele tossed if off glass and Pieri got above the rim for an alley-oop dunk. While the dunk was impressive, what was even more so was the reaction from the crowd. Both Camden Hills and Caribou fans all rose to their feet — Camden Hills fans to celebrate, and Caribou fans in complete astonishment and appreciation for what they had just seen. Almost immediately after the dunk, Jeff Hart called timeout to pull all his starters off the floor. The dunk, the reaction to the dunk and then the cheers from all over the auditorium as the starters were pulled resulted in a deafening roar and one I will always remember."

Ken Waltz, Courier Publications sports editor — "I have been lucky enough to cover dozens of 'big' games at the Bangor Auditorium in my 30 years in the media business, including being the writer/photographer for The Courier-Gazette for the epic five-overtime Eastern Class B championship game between Rockland and Dexter in 1986. However, the moment I remember most was, just that, a moment, that had nothing to do with the teams I was covering. Perhaps that is the reason it sticks out so much because my mind was not focused on the game, but my senses were open to the 'atmosphere.' I remember one year walking through the floor level doors to the gymnasium during the closing minutes of a girls regional championship game.

"I was arriving to cover the next game, the boys contest, but as I walked through those doors the electricity in the air hit me like a tsunami wave. It was palpable. As I walked into the Auditorium, I glanced up and saw a sea of color on one side and a sea of color on the other, all the way to the top of the old building. Those thousands of fans erupted each time something positive happened for their team. You could cut the tension — and excitement — with a knife. It was at that moment it hit me. This was what high school basketball in Maine was all about. That moment gave me goosebumps, and I don't even remember the teams playing or who won. Just that the Bangor Auditorium was the hallowed ground and those young student-athletes, and their fans, were having the time of their lives. That was one of so many special moments for me in that old building."

Courier Publications sports staff can be reached by phone at 207-594-4401 or by email at sports@courierpublicationsllc.com.