High school girls basketball

After 34-year drought, champion Vikings reign in Class D South

Davis-Oakes earns tournament's outstanding player award; Vinalhaven faces Shead for state crown
By Mark Haskell | Feb 26, 2017
Photo by: Mark Haskell Vinalhaven players, from left, Gilleyanne Davis Oakes, Déja Doughty, Paige Dennison and Cheyenne Bickford, are all smiles after winning the high school's first girls basketball regional title in nearly three-and-half decades. The Vikings beat Forest Hills of Jackman 61-45 on Feb. 25 in the Class D South championship game at the Augusta Civic Center.

Augusta — It had been 34 long years since Vinalhaven girls basketball players hoisted a regional championship plaque above their heads.

Now, that decades-long drought is over.

And perhaps a new Viking reign has begun.

The No. 2 Vikings (17-4) rattled off the first 12 points of the game and never trailed against No. 5 Forest Hills of Jackman (12-9) en route to an emphatic 61-45 victory to clinch the Class D South championship on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 25 at the Augusta Civic Center.

Click for photos from this game.

Watch video below.

The win was the third regional basketball championship in school history for the Viking girls, who also won titles in 1981 and 1983.

The Viking boys also won a regional hoop crown in 1994, but the small island school has never won a state championship — a coveted gold ball — in the sport.

With Saturday's victory, the Vikings advance to the state Class D title game, where they will face North champion Shead of Eastport (19-2) on Saturday, March 4 at 1:05 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

The No. 2 Tigers knocked off No. 1 Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook (19-2) in the regional championship earlier on Saturday. Thus, the number two seeds from each region advanced to the state championship game.

The Vikings, who continue to find postseason success whenever they invade the mainland, defeated No. 7 Highview Christian of Charleston 71-37 in the quarterfinals and bested No. 3 Temple Academy of Waterville 66-49 in the semifinals.

In three regional playoff games, the Vikings scored 198 points.

In Saturday's regional championship, the Vikings scored the first 12 points and took a 14-2 lead after the first quarter, led 27-13 at halftime and extended their advantage to 46-20 after three quarters.

Ashlyn Littlefield pumped in 18 points to pace the newly-crowned champions, while Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes — who also won the Patricia Gallagher Award signifying the tournament’s most outstanding player — added 15; Paige Dennison, 10; Cheyenne Bickford, nine; Déja Doughty, eight; and Hannah Newton, one. Doughty also had 11 assists for Vinalhaven.

Davis-Oakes, who battled back from a broken leg suffered during soccer season, said she “wasn’t expecting” to win the Gallagher Award, but was honored to do so. She is the first Vinalhaven player to win the award since Kris Davidson in 1983.

“I was just playing my game,” she said. “I try my hardest and try to be better than I was yesterday every game, every practice, in season and in [the] offseason. And hard work pays off and today shows it. And next weekend we’ll show it again.”

Caitlin Logston dumped in 24 points for Forest Hills — 16 of which came in the fourth quarter with the game already in hand — while Patricia Lessard added 10; Alexandra Lessard, seven; Madison Cuddy, three; and Hannah Harmon, one.

The islanders were 15-of-23 (65 percent) from the charity stripe, while the Tigers were 5-of-8 (62 percent).

“It’s unbelievable,” said Viking coach Sandy Nelson. “There’s some good players on that island. I’m only new to it for three years, but I’ve been really fortunate to have these girls and we’ve just grown together. I’m so proud of them and I just love them so much.”

While the Viking players will participate in their first state title game, it will not be the first for Nelson.

A 2013 inductee into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, Nelson coached at David Prouty High School in Spencer, Mass. for nearly four decades and coached that team to a state championship in 1999.

And the combination of Nelson’s coaching experience and her players overall talent proved the winning formula for the Vikings.

“My mind was racing before this game and then when the ball went up, I just forget about it,” said Davis-Oakes. “The whole team forgets about it. We have one goal and that goal is on our minds.”

“It’s really just unbelievable that we even got here,” said Doughty. “It’s hard to comprehend what just happened, but we’re all really excited about it.”

Vinalhaven School has 55 students in grades 9-12 — 26 of whom are girls. Thus, 50 percent of the school’s girls (13 players) are members of the regional championship team.

On Saturday against the Tigers, the Vikings rattled off the first 12 points when Davis-Oakes scored on a putback, Littlefield converted a short curl in the paint and Bickford hit a midrange shot from the baseline — before Dennison netted back-to-back 3-pointers from the same spot on the floor.

Logston got the Tigers on the board with 20 seconds to go, but Doughty countered with a mid-range jumper to put the islanders up 14-2 in the early going.

The second quarter went back-and-forth as the Tigers got no closer than 12 points, but it was the third quarter where the islanders essentially clinched the regional title with yet another 14-0 run.

Vinalhaven led 29-16 before a baseline jumper by Bickford, a hoop by Littlefield in transition, two at the line by Davis-Oakes, one at the line by Bickford, two open transition layups by Littlefield, a Davis-Oakes hoop from Doughty on a 2-on-1 fast break and another foul shot from Doughty to put the islanders ahead 43-16.

The islanders, led by a talented group of junior players, wore the Tigers down throughout the game, particularly in that third-quarter run.

“That was sort of our plan,” said Doughty. “We knew they couldn’t really run with us, but we also knew they were going to try to slow our offense down, so we just tried to stick with what we can do.”

“That’s our key is running,” said Davis-Oakes. “We run the floor like no one’s business. We have really strong passers up front and we’re always looking for outlets and whoever gets the rebound looks right up the court up the sidelines.”

The Tigers got no closer than 17 points the rest of the way.

And now the Vikings — and essentially the entire island — will prepare for their trip to play at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor to compete against Shead for the state crown.

No members of the Viking team have played a game there, but Davis-Oakes, also a standout soccer goalie and softball pitcher (she has been an East-West Conference athlete of the year recipient), said the islanders will go into the game with no expectations.

“I’m sure they’re good, but we’re good too,” she said. “I have confidence in my team.”

Vinalhaven versus Forest Hills girls basketball
Vinalhaven versus Forest Hills on Feb. 25 in high school girls basketball Class D South championship action in Augusta. (Video by: Zack Miller of VStv)
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