Trio has Midcoast ties

Donato, Simonds, Bowers among MBHOF inductees

By Staff | Apr 08, 2019

Bangor — The Maine Basketball Hall of Fame is set to induct a handful of worthy candidates this summer and the Class of 2019 will feature three with Midcoast ties.

John Donato, Eric Simonds and Jeff Bowers are among the 11 men, five women, seven “Legends of the Game” and two high school teams that will be honored at the induction ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 18 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

In addition to that trio with area ties, Jim Beattie, Stephanie Carter-Thompson, John Conley, Matt Gaudet, Max Good, Gail Jackson, Dough Lisherness, Becky Moholland-Ireland, Mark Reed, Scott Saft, Derek Vogel, Mari Warner and Linda Whitley also will be inducted, as will legends Mike Bouchard, Bill Burney, Leigh Campbell, Hank Madore, John “Jeddy” Newman, Jay Ramsdell and Dick Sturgeon.

The 1963 Stearns of Millinocket and Morse of Bath boys high school basketball teams also will be inducted.

Information for the three inductees with Midcoast connections includes:

Donato was a three-sport athlete at Middleborough High School in Massachusetts and was inducted into that school's hall of fame. He went on to play baseball and basketball at the former Ricker College in Houtlon. However, it was in his role as basketball coach that Donato became a true legend of the game. His teams have won 11 regional championships and five state titles, the most recent at Lawrence High School of Fairfield in 2015. His other four state titles came as a coach at Houlton High School, while he also coached at Mount View of Thorndike, Messalonskee of Oakland and Hall-Dale of Farmingdale. He currently is the girls basketball coach at Orono High School.

Simonds has spent virtually his entire life involved with basketball. After playing at Waldoboro High School and Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, he attended the University of Southern Maine, where he earned nine letters as well as most valuable player honors in basketball and baseball. After a stint in the Army with the Maine National Guard, he began coaching at Bristol Consolidated School and from there went to Ellsworth High School, where he compiled an 80-30 record and led the Eagles to four tournament appearances and two regional finals. Simonds is best known for his outstanding career at St. Joseph’s College for 23 years, where he compiled a 466-176 (.726 winning percentage) record with 11 conference titles and six national tournament appearances leading the men's program. Simonds never suffered a losing season and ranks as the most successful head coach in Saint Joseph’s College Athletics history. Simonds’ crowning achievement came in 1987 when the Monks astounded the basketball world at the MAIA National Championship in Kansas City as they upset Biola College of La Mirada, Calif., which was ranked third in the country with a 29-1 record. The win was the first of its kind of an NAIA New England program.

Bowers began his athletic career as a younsters in the Rockland area, where his father, Bruce, was a coach at then Rockland District Junior High School. From there, his star continued to ascend. Bowers graduated from South Portland High School in 1982, where he was a second-team All-Maine selection. Following high school, the 6-foot 6-inch guard/forward accepted a scholarship at Boston University. His basketball journey eventually brought him to the University of Southern Maine and reunited him with coach Bob Brown, who also coached early in his career at Rockland District High School and, of course, South Portland. While at USM, Bowers was a two-time honorable mention All-American, averaging 20.3 points and 6.4 rebounds to help the Huskies win the 1989 Little East Conference championship and advanced to the NCAA Division III Final Four. He was selected as Little East co-player of the year, the ECAC Division III New England player of the year and earned first-team all-star accolades from the LEC, ECAC and UPI New England and Maine College Coaches and Writers Association. Bowers still ranks among USM’s leaders in points (1,257), scoring average (17.2), field-goal percentage (.524), three-point percentage (.476) and free-throw percentage (.855).

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

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