Even the Vinalhaven High School boys basketball players called themselves a Cinderella story.

That is because the No. 6 Vikings were the underdogs in all of their recent Western Class D playoff games, including when upsetting No. 3 Valley of Bingham in the quarterfinals and shocking No. 2 A.R. Gould of South Portland in the semifinals.

However, that remarkable run in the regional tournament at the Augusta Civic Center came to an end Saturday afternoon at the Augusta Civic Center, as the Vikings dropped a 47-32 decision to top-seeded Richmond in the championship game.

Many might have felt the young islanders, who had only four seniors, should not have even reached the regional finals against mighty Richmond (19-1), however, Vinalhaven was there, and fought hard to the end.

The Vikings finished the season 12-7 and earned their school coveted hardware by bringing home the Western Class D runner-up plaque.

“Nobody expected us to get this far this year,” said Vinalhaven senior co-captain Nathan Hopkins. “We had a young team so we all had to work hard. Everybody just did their role.”

“I’m very happy they made it this far; no one thought they would,” said Vinalhaven coach Matt Slivinsky. “They were the lowest seed left in the tournament, I think, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Richmond has, in a sense, been a thorn in the Vikings’ sides, having upended Vinalhaven in recent soccer playoffs and now the basketball tournament. Richmond defeated Vinalhaven in two regular-season games this winter, winning 45-34 Dec. 18 and 40-22 Dec. 19.

Richmond was the two-time defending regional champion. The last time Vinalhaven won the regional title was in 1994.

Although the islanders were not ecstatic about the outcome of Saturday’s game in Augusta, they were pleased to have advanced as far as they did in the playoffs.

“I guess we got cut short on the last game, but we had a good ride,” Hopkins said.

Dana Tolman, another senior co-captain, had similar feelings about making it all the way to the regional championship game. “It’s a great feeling,” he said. “We just did what we had to do and basically got here.”

He also commended his team. “These are the best group of guys ever,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys.”

In Saturday’s game, it appeared Vinalhaven might pull off its third straight playoff upset as the Vikings led 10-7 and 16-15 at the first two quarter breaks. However, while the game was still close, Richmond secured a 28-22 cushion after three quarters.

For Vinalhaven, Hopkins and Steven Osgood spearheaded the team’s offense with 10 points each, trailed by Dana Tolman with six; and Will Drury, Robert Beckman and Tyler Chilles, all three. Osgood made two 3-pointers.

For Richmond, Nick Woods scored 13 points, followed by Michael Christie, nine; Thomas Carter, eight; Eric Murrin, seven; Bruce Carver, six; and Eric Dowd and Kyle O’Brien, two.

Vinalhaven netted 8-of-13 foul shots and Richmond 13-of-26 (50 percent).

“I want to congratulate Vinalhaven,” said Richmond coach Phil Houdlette. “I thought [coach] Matt [Slivinsky] and his kids had a great season and really, since we played them in December over there [on the island], their team has come a long way. I thought they played great basketball.”

The Viking clawed to a 10-7 lead after the first eight minutes, thanks to four points from Tolman and two each from Chilles, Hopkins and Osgood.

In the second quarter, Richmond was keen on catching up. The Bobcats managed to overtake the Vikings at 15-14 near the end of the stanza, but, with 22.5 seconds remaining in halftime, Drury scored to put the islanders ahead 16-15 after a low-scoring first 16 minutes.

The third quarter proved the beginning of the end for Vinalhaven. The Vikings managed six points in the quarter — all coming from Hopkins — but Richmond tallied 13 points to grab the momentum.

By the second half, Vinalhaven was playing Richmond’s game, not its own. The Viking players were beginning to tire and became distracted by their opponent’s third-quarter offensive spurt. That seemed to affect the islanders’ play in the fourth quarter.

“They just broke down our defense really well,” said Hopkins of the Bobcats’ play in the second half. “I mean, Richmond is a good team; they are well coached, they know how to break down a team and score.”

Slivinsky said Richmond was simply too deep. “The depth just wore us down,” he said. “The defensive pressure — when they came out in the second half — just wore us down.”

Despite the deficit, the Vikings did not lose all hope as Osgood put forth a dedicated effort and managed to sink two 3-pointers at 1:40 and 38 seconds left to keep Vinalhaven within striking distance.

“Even now, after losing the game, I’m so proud of these guys, the way they’ve played all year,” said coach Slivinsky. “They have been a super team; I mean a real team together. They have gotten along; there have been no attitude problems with these guys whatsoever. I haven’t had one bit of problems with them in any way, shape or form. They have just been a great solid group of guys that ran into a deeper group today.”

Slivinsky also looked to the future. He noted the team’s up-and-coming players such as Beckman and Osgood, who he feels is one of the top five or six players in Class D, and provides a bright path ahead for the Vikings.

“I think we’ve got a lot of veteran guys coming back and we’ve got a lot of younger guys that have a lot of potential and we are going to keep working them hard,” the coach said. “We’re going to continue on to try and be competitive in [Western Class] D and hopefully make the tournament again.”

Click for more photos from the Vinalhaven and Richmond regional championship game.

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