Stacey Porrini (32) and her University of Maine basketball teammates are joined by former Black Bears benefactor Larry Mahaney as they celebrated the 1997 conference basketball championship at Alfond Arena in Orono. Porrini died of cancer Tuesday at age 42. Credit: UMaine athletics

Stacey Porrini Clingan of Bristol, Connecticut, was a vital component in the University of Maine’s ascension to a perennial NCAA tournament team during a basketball career that spanned 1993-1997.

At 6-foot-4, she was a difference-maker in the paint, a game-changer.

Clingan died on Tuesday after a long bout with breast cancer. She was 42.

“She was a great teammate and a great friend,” said former teammate Rita Sullivan, a Bangor native who lives in Portland and works for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“She was the kind of person you could call if you needed help. She was very positive and very upbeat. She never complained. And she had a great sense of humor,” Sullivan added.

Former teammate Stephanie Guidi said Clingan was a wonderful, caring teammate.

“She was genuine. She was a caretaker and a nurturer,” said Guidi. “She had a heart of gold.”

Sullivan called Clingan an “eternal optimist.

“Even if we were down by 20, she always believed the game wasn’t over. She never gave up. She always felt things would work out if you tried your hardest and that kind of attitude spread to her teammates,” said Sullivan.

Clingan, who graduated from UMaine in 1997, ranks fifth in program history with 929 rebounds and 17th in scoring with 1,128 points. She also blocked 220 shots.

She shares the school’s single-game and single-season record for blocked shots with seven and 79, respectively.

Clingan, a two-time all-conference player, helped lead the Black Bears to their first three NCAA tournament appearances and a 93-26 record, including a 61-5 North Atlantic Conference mark in her four seasons.

She averaged 9.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for her career.

After her playing days, Clingan was a longtime first grade teacher and a loving mother who came from a wonderful family, according to her friends and former UMaine head coach Joanne P. McCallie.

“I’m so happy people like Stacey Porrini [Clingan] are in the world teaching our kids,” Sullivan said. “You couldn’t have a better person in the classroom. She had such a positive outlook.”

“She was an extraordinary mother and a loving wife,” said McCallie, the head coach at Duke University. “She was one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever known. She was very involved in her community and very involved in finding a cure (for cancer).”

According to a 2012 story in the Hartford Courant, Clingan was diagnosed with aggressive type of breast cancer in November 2010. She had no family history of the disease.

Clingan initially underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy and underwent a mastectomy in April 2011 and had seven weeks of radiation treatments.

“My world kind of fell apart,” Clingan told the Courant prior to the Race in the Park 5K, a road race that benefits the CT Breast Health Initiative.

Clingan is survived by her husband Bill and two children, ages 12 and 14.

“Her children meant the world to her. She would do anything for her kids,” Guidi said.

McCallie said Clingan was one of the first players who exhibited a belief in what UMaine was doing in terms of building the program into a consistent winner.

“She definitely played a huge role in our success,” McCallie said. “She was a great defender and a great shot-blocker. She had a presence on the court.

“She was special. She was low-maintenance to coach and she was committed to Maine from the very beginning,” McCallie added.

Clingan was an exceptional swimmer in high school and McCallie said watching her precise and powerful execution of the butterfly stroke “meant her whole body was in shape. And she never got injured during her four years at Maine.”

Guidi said Clingan provided a presence in the paint at center that helped the UMaine program take the next step in its evolution.

“I was undersized (at 5-foot-11) and she added a whole new dimension to the program,” said Guidi, the director of basketball operations at the University of Central Florida.

“She was such a big player and such a presence in there, it opened up a lot of opportunities for us to do a lot of different things.”

Clingan, who was an outstanding track and field athlete in high school, was inducted into the Bristol Hall of Fame in 2016. She was all-conference in all three sports and upon her graduation owned the city’s girls rebounding record with 1,032.

All of her talents came together during her time at UMaine.

“She had an incredible career,” Sullivan said. “She was an all-around player. She was fundamentally sound and she was such a hard worker. She listened to the coaches and improved so much. She did so many things on the court that wouldn’t show up on a stat sheet. She altered what other teams did offensively.”

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