Editor's note: Frank Joseph of Northport was co-captain and starting point guard on the 1990-91 Belfast Area High School boys varsity basketball team, led by coach James "Butch" Richards. Joseph said he "thought it would be fun and interesting to share with our community as we celebrate our 30th anniversary. I know COVID-19 has restricted winter sports greatly, [so] hoping this look back will help keep people's spirits up, especially athletes and their families who cannot compete. I will write a follow-up for early February." The following are Joseph's thoughts on that Lion season:

It was 30 years ago today …

The 1990-91 Belfast varsity boys basketball team consisted of 13 scrappy, athletic individuals who breathed basketball. This group of individuals played basketball non-stop, in every season, wherever they could gain access to a gymnasium or basketball hoop. We played in open gyms, snuck into school gymnasiums after hours, played in snow and rain. As soon as the snow began to melt at the City Park in April, we’d play there. We were gym rats. Most of us grew up playing basketball and other sports through various local programs, Peewee football, Little League and youth basketball. We grew up playing sports against and with each other. Our team had tremendous unity. For the past two summers we had attended the All-Maine Clinic Basketball Camp at Unity College. The clinic was a team camp with four or five head-to-head games daily in between drills and seminars. Teams from all over Maine participated from every class (A, B, C and D) and region (East/West). Most of our players attended the camp which ran almost a full week. We had posted a winning record during the summer of 1990 at the clinic. We could feel a great season was ahead.

The 1990-91 BVBB team consisted of six seniors, six juniors, and one freshman. A gnarly, snaky baker’s dozen. We were athletic, fast, quick, we loved to run and jump. Senior co-captain, starting forward Keith Curts, was a force for us on both sides of the court. Keith could rebound, had quick reflexes, could jump high, and was a natural scorer. He was also a great passer. As soon as Keith grabbed a rebound, I was yelling his name for a quick outlet pass. In one game versus Central High School of East Corinth, Keith spotted me on a fast break, fed me a pass over my head in which I was able to receive and lay in simultaneously. A truly great assist by Keith. Senior starting forward Jamie Holland brought tremendous athleticism, speed and a strong defensive prowess to our front court. After making varsity as a sophomore along with myself and Jeff Mosher, Jamie sat out our junior year but was back to give it his all after a grueling and dedicated tryout. Holland was the fastest guy on our team, he would later place second in the Class B 400-meter state [track-and-field] championships in the spring.

I met fellow senior Jeff Mosher in my first year playing youth basketball as a Celtic on Vince Norton’s YBA team. Jeff left an immediate impression on my young basketball mind. Mosher could shoot extremely well, was enthusiastic, and loved to compete. These characteristics carried over in high school. Like a few players on our team, Jeff was a three-sport letterman in football, basketball, and baseball. Whatever seasonal sport it was, Jeff was laser-focused. Seniors Dana Scribner, who was one of our deep threats and Bobby Gould, a hustling guard and three-sport letterman, rounded out the rest of the senior core, including myself, co-captain and starting point guard Frank Joseph.

We had six strong juniors to pull from. Seasoned players led by starting shooting guard Kurt Payson. Like a few of us on the team, Kurt’s basketball lineage began in youth basketball all the way through. From the Country Builders championship teams to becoming a starter on our junior high squad, Kurt was a basketball force. A pure shooter and passer. Kurt had a sixth-sense about the game providing our starting five balance and maturity. Kurt was also our deep shooter, our 3-point threat.

Our starting center was 6-foot 7-inch junior Jim Morse. Jim had been a swimmer for most of his athletic youth and had recently switched to the hardwoods. Like all of us, Jim was learning the game. His size and height brought intimidation as well as shot blocking and added rebounding. In our famed UCLA 1-2-1-1 full-court press, Jim was on the inbound passer. His wingspan caused havoc for many teams often resulting in turnovers and easy scores for us. Junior Albie Salvatore was another up-and-coming Lion. Albie brought tremendous dribbling skills, speed and all-around court hustle [and he] was usually first or second off the bench along with Mosher. Both Albie and Jeff gave us depth and power off our bench. With those two, we ran a solid seven deep rotation. Junior Matt Hunter provided relief in our front court while guards Aaron Mendleson and Jake Holmes rounded out the remaining juniors on our roster. Our 13th player, who wasn’t too far off in age, was 6-5 freshman Jon Cox. Already establishing himself as a force in leagues and pickup play and having a successful eighth-grade year prior, we welcomed Jon for his soft demeanor and shooting touch for a big man. He was the perfect backup center for Morse. With 6-7 Jim and 6-5 Jon, we had our own version of the Twin Towers.

We were excited as tryouts began through the first two weeks of practice. We were led by head coach James “Butch” Richards, a former Belfast point guard on its 1971-72 Eastern Maine Tournament team and, later with the University of Maine men’s basketball program. Richards took over the head coaching duties for the Lions beginning in the 1987-88 season. For us, our freshman year.

The 1987-88 team was led by a senior core. Craig Larrabee, Penson Bartlett, Mike Gould, Jason Perkins, Mark Varney, Jim Young and others including the only non-senior, sophomore Larry Doolan. Belfast earned an eighth seed in the Eastern Maine basketball tournament in Richards' first year at the helm. Belfast basketball was at a frenzy. Although we lost to Hermon in front of an electric crowd, its impression on us was paramount. We too wanted to play at the Bangor Auditorium. Our goal, the program’s goal was to make it to the tournament every year, improving on the previous year’s momentum.

After graduating an almost all senior team, the 1988-89 season was a season of transition. Holland, Mosher, and I made varsity as sophomores. We struggled through a winless, grueling 0-18 campaign. Those numbers certainly did not deter us from continuing to play basketball, if anything it made us work harder and play more. As juniors we felt our team had talent and athleticism to achieve a tournament berth. As the 1989-90 season evolved, injuries and Murphy’s Law saw us improving to a 6-12. Progress yes, [but] still short of a trip to Bangor.

We opened our 1990-91 season on the road at rival Mount View High School. Besides the obvious county rivalry, Mount View had beaten us many times in previous seasons. We knew they were tough and scrappy after just getting by them at Unity that summer. I had my own share of bad and good experiences on the parquet floor at MVHS. From starting as a seventh-grader only to be pulled out of the game early because of shoddy defense to being announced as a varsity team member opening night as a sophomore. Always checking out the1986-87 gold state championship ball in the trophy case as I walked into the [Mount View] gymnasium, we had respect for their basketball program. We still wanted to win. We were handling the Mustangs and the home crowd well. It was extremely loud that early December Friday night. We were in timeout with Richards imploring us to “squeeze” our opponents over the din of the crowd as we held a six- or eight-point lead with the game winding down. Maybe coach could sense we were losing our edge. After having won only six games over the previous 36, we were certainly not used to winning. After three exciting overtime periods, the Mustangs triumphed by two points, 71-69.

Our very next game, our home-opener the following Tuesday, was against another rival Camden-Rockport High School (now Camden Hills Regional High School), we lost by five in yet another overtime thriller, 76-71.

After losing to Messalonskee High School by three on the road, 93-90, we beat near-town rival Searsport District High School, 70-56, at their packed gymnasium earning our first victory of the 1990-91 season.

We were now 1-3. Finally, with a win under our belts the season would take an interesting arc for us as we faced new teams and old rivals. How would the season progress? Would we achieve our goal in earning a berth in the Eastern Maine boys basketball tournament?

Read more from our 1990-91 season in early February as we answer these questions and more in part two of this 30th anniversary series.

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