A remarkable story had been unfolding around the Western Class D world this year.

Arthur R. Gould, a school within the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, has had a boys basketball team play a Maine Principals’ Association-sanctioned regular-season schedule and even qualified for the regional playoffs.

In fact, the No. 2 Bears were undefeated heading into Wednesday morning’s semifinal playoff game with No. 6 Vinalhaven, with the right to advance to the regional final on the line.

That is when another remarkable story unfolded — for a group of island student-athletes.

Despite trailing for most of the game, and the odds stacked against it, Vinalhaven delivered in the fourth quarter in the game at the Augusta Civic Center.

The islanders outscored Gould 24-7 over the final eight minutes and handed the Bears (12-1) their first loss of the season as Vinalhaven (12-6) pulled out the improbable upset and advanced to its first regional championship game in nearly 20 years with a 72-59 victory.

The Vikings will now face top-seeded Richmond (18-1) for the right to advance to the state Class D championship game after the Bobcats defeated No. 5 Hyde School of Bath (11-5) Wednesday in another semifinal game.

Vinalhaven and Richmond will square off on Saturday, Feb. 20 at 2:45 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.

Richmond defeated Vinalhaven in two regular-season games, winning 45-34 Dec. 18 and 40-22 Dec. 19. The two schools also have meet in boys soccer playoffs the past few years.

“I felt as though the boys did exactly what they needed to do to win the game,” said Viking coach Matt Slivinsky of how the islanders beat heavily-favored Gould. “We came out at halftime and made a few adjustments, they followed the game plan and they put out an exceptional effort and I couldn’t be more proud of these boys. They have worked hard all year and I am so happy for them.”

Despite the eventual loss Wednesday, A.R. Gould led 10-5, 23-17 and 38-31 at the quarter breaks.

Nathan Hopkins led the Vikings with a game-high 20 points, while Steven Osgood added 19, followed by Bobby Beckman with 13 and Tyler Chilles three.

Ian Nono keyed the Bears with 15 points, followed by Tra Pham with 12; Nick Aldrich, nine; Julius Ishag, seven; and Gedeon Semuhoza, two.

The Vikings were 15-of-23 (65 percent) from the free-throw line and Gould was 4-of-9 (44 percent).

With their undefeated status and the high-scoring Nono, who poured in 45 points in their opening-round win over No. 7 Greenville, it at first appeared the Bears would be a lock to advance past the Vikings and into the regional finals. The Bears’ quarter break leads in Wednesday’s game did not help Vinalhaven either.

While the islanders were trailing early on, Slivinsky calmed his players, which he said helped them gain the confidence they needed to begin their late comeback.

“They just had to settle in and play their game and not the other team’s game,” the coach said.

Coach Slivinsky saw Nono as the biggest threat and “the key to their team.”

“We obviously keyed on [Nono],” said Hopkins. “He only had 15 [points] today, so we had at least one guy all the time on him. It was key to shut him down. We knew if we could shut him down the whole team couldn’t beat us.”

The Vikings picked up their game after the first half, which started to foreshadow the play to come. Up until that point the islanders managed to contain the Bears, but could not take leads.

Even in the third quarter the Vikings were slowly crawling back into the game, thanks largely in part to a pair of 3-pointers from Beckman with less than four minutes to go in the stanza.

With three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Vikings trailed 33-27.

Vinalhaven came from behind and took the fourth quarter by storm. Not only did the Vikings outscore the Bears by 17 points over the final eight minutes, but they managed to get their opponents in foul trouble, which bode well for both Slivinsky and his team.

“I thought we could get them in foul trouble and get them to actually beat themselves and they did,” said Slivinsky.

“I think some of the pressure got to the kids,” said Gould coach Tom Profenno. “They have never been down more than four or five points [in a game] the whole season.”

With 6:36 to go, the Vikings finally overtook the Bears 39-38 thanks to two points from Beckman.

After four points by Osgood with six minutes remaining put the Vikings ahead 43-38, the island fans really came to life.

The Bears had opportunities to draw even but could not convert as the Vikings continued to pull away.

Even with the loss, Profenno called the two away playoff games in Augusta “outstanding” and was pleased with his team’s overall season.

“All I have to say is I’m very proud of them for sticking to it and staying with it because [they have done] a lot of work in the facility to be where they are to actually make the team.”

He continued to say that he hopes this year’s performance helps strengthen a basketball program for the school in the future.

Slivinsky, on the other hand, looked towards the regional championship game where the Vikings will face the top-seeded Bobcats.

“They are very solid, they are very big, they are very deep, they are very disciplined, they don’t beat themselves,” he said. “They are a heck of a team and we’ll have our hands full again.”

That was the case Wednesday, but a group of young island student-athletes found a way to persevere — and win one of the biggest games in school history.

Could they do it again? Stay tuned.

Click for more photos from the Vinalhaven and A.R. Gould playoff game.

VillageSoup Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at fritz@villagesoup.com.