ELLSWORTH — More than half a century has passed since the Ellsworth High School Eagles of 1953 and 1954 won back-to-back state championships and represented Maine in the New England championships at historic Boston Garden.
But the memories live on.
Last week at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, the entire 1953-54 team of Eagles was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, with coach Charles Katsiaficas and players Jack Scott and John Edes singled out for individual honors.
In all, Saturday’s inductions included hundreds of former athletes and others involved with basketball from throughout New England.
“It was unbelievable,” said Edes by phone Monday from his home in East Greenwich, R.I. “There were 1,600 people there. It was like old home week. We swapped a million stories.”
The 1954 Ellsworth team is almost universally regarded in these parts as one of the finest ever to come out of Eastern Maine — and for good reason.
With Scott and Edes leading the way, the Eagles ran off a string of 23 wins without a loss, capping the Maine season with a lopsided 61-30 win over South Portland for a second consecutive state title and trip to Boston Garden.
Unlike the year before, when the Eagles fell to Connecticut’s New London High in the opening game of the tournament, Ellsworth came away with a win in its opening tournament game, downing Providence High School 54-47 with Scott scoring 19 points.
That set the stage for a semifinal contest against Hillhouse High of New Haven, Conn., before a Boston Garden crowd of 13,000-plus that included such luminaries as Bob Cousy and coach Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics.
With hundreds of Mainers glued to the radios back home, the Eagles matched their Connecticut foes basket for basket until the final seconds when Hillhouse finally prevailed 54-53 after three of Ellsworth’s five starters had fouled out.
In that game, it was Edes, the team’s big center, who led the way for Ellsworth with 27 points, including 15 of 18 from the free throw line.
Members of the 1954 team included Scott and Edes, along with Kent White, Charles Butts, Ronald Taylor, Gerald Kane, Gerald Crabtree, Richard Merrill, Phillip Edgerly, Richard Willey, Terrance Spurling and George Stevenson.
Edes and Scott were named to the New England Interscholastic Basketball Tournament All-Star Team.
Both were nominated for high school All-American honors, and Scott went on to be selected and play in the national North-South game in Kentucky.
Edes scored 1,227 points and Scott netted 1,057 in their high school careers at Ellsworth.
Edes was an all-state selection in 1952, 1953 and 1954 and all-New England in 1954. Scott earned both all-state and all-New England honors in 1953 and 1954.
Katsiaficas, who died in January of this year, coached Ellsworth for five seasons and later went on to become a highly respected basketball official.
He achieved legendary status in Maine and was voted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
Also inducted to the New England Hall of Fame on Saturday was Charlie Katsiaficas Jr., who flew from California for the ceremony. He was one of three recipients of the Pathfinder Award, which goes to individuals who began their basketball careers in New England and later achieved excellence outside the region.
Katsiaficas is director of athletics and head men’s basketball coach at Pomona-Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif.
The New England Basketball Hall of Fame, which saw its first class of inductees honored on 2002, was conceived by Dan Doyle, founder and executive director of the Institute for International Sport.
Its purpose, said Doyle, “is to honor a wide variety of individuals and teams whose contributions have been at the heart of New England basketball success.”
Inductees include players, coaches, administrators, referees and members of the media.