2014-04-18 / Neighbors

Hoop legend among Hall’s first inductees

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

When Tony Hamlin, chairman of the selection committee for the new Maine Basketball Hall of Fame was thinking who should be part of the first induction class, one name quickly came to mind: Lisa Blais Manning.

Manning, a four-time first team all-state selection, led the Westbrook High School girls’ basketball team to four straight Class A girls’ basketball titles from 1978 to 1981.

After high school, Manning went to Old Dominion University, where she was a four-year starter. Manning helped Old Dominion win an NCAA National Championship over the University of Georgia in 1985.

“Lisa Blais is the pre-eminent female basketball player in this state,” said Hamlin, who coached at South Portland High School in the 1980s.

“Having a girl from Maine play at Old Dominion and lead them to a national championship is an amazing story,” he added. “It would have been an insult to not include her in the first class.”

Manning, who works as an education technician at Scarborough Middle School, said she was honored and humbled when she heard she was among the first inductees.

“It’s been overwhelming and humbling that they would select me,” Manning said.

Manning said she may be the one being honored, but her high school teammates are as qualified for inclusion in the hall of fame.

“You can’t get to where I have without support from my family, coaches and all the teammates I had. The high school team we had was sort of an sll-star team,” Manning said.

Discussions about starting a hall of fame for basketball in Maine started three or four years ago.

“The idea is to capture the history of basketball in this state and honor those players who made that history,” Hamlin said.

Manning is one of 16 players, five coaches, one official and one contributor who make up the hall of fame’s first class. The 23 individuals will be honored in a ceremony at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, where the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame is located. Players have to be finished with their playing career for at least 20 years to be eligible for induction and go through a selection process.

Manning said girls’ basketball has come a long way since her tenure at Westbrook High School. When she was growing up, she said, there was one Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team in Maine, now there are hundreds.

“The excitement level is there. Women’s basketball has certainly come a long way. With the WNBA, the exposure has been good,” Manning said.

Dave Currier, assistant principal at Scarborough Middle School, remembers Manning was an “icon in basketball” when he was growing up in Westbrook.

“Other schools and athletes across the state compared themselves to (Manning),” Currier said. “One of the things that stood out was, she was a very skilled player and a tremendous competitor, but wonderful sportsman.”

“I have said for years, she is without a doubt the finest female basketball player this state has ever seen,” said Jackie Perry, who worked as a basketball official when Manning played in Westbrook.

Perry, a member of Scarborough’s board of education, said she didn’t know an official who had a bad word to say about Manning’s demeanor on the court.

“She never reacted when the whistle was blown on her or her team,” Perry said. “She was the consummate sportswoman.”

Scarborough Middle School Principal Barbara Hathorn said Manning was “one of the trailblazers in improving girls’ basketball in Maine.”

Manning is still involved with improving youth athletics by serving as a freshman field hockey, freshman girls’ basketball and outdoor track coach at Scarborough High School

She has also left an undeniable mark at the middle school.

“She is an invaluable member of our middle school team and Dave and I could not live without her in our office,” Hathorn said.

“I am so proud that she is being inducted and I am so proud that she lives and works in Scarborough,” Perry said.

Manning is not the only inductee who has Scarborough connections. Dick Whitmore, who started Pine Tree Seafood and Produce on Route 1 with his son-in-law Jim Hartley, is being inducted for his success as the longtime men’s basketball coach at Colby College. Whitmore earned more than 635 victories in his 40 years as coach. He is currently serving as the interim men’s basketball coach at Thomas College in Waterville.

For more information on this year’s inductees, visit mainebasketballhalloffame.com.

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