High school girls basketball

Historic 'moment in time': Vinalhaven has gold ball fever

Islanders celebrate first sports state title of any kind with Class D championship
By Mark Haskell | Mar 06, 2017
Photo by: Mark Haskell Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, with one of the two nets around her neck, kisses the gold ball the islanders won for being state Class D girls basketball champions. The islanders beat Shead of Eastport 55-44 on March 4 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. It was the first high school athletic state championship in the school's history.

Bangor — Just as the Vinalhaven girls basketball team was set to walk onto the court for the opening tip of its state Class D championship game against Shead of Eastport, Viking coach Sandy Nelson said four words to her players that the teenagers will likely never forget:

“One moment in time.”

And with seemingly every resident of the Penobscot Bay island in attendance on Saturday afternoon, March 4 at the Cross Insurance Arena as well, it likely will be a moment they will never forget as well.

The Vikings (18-4) showcased poise, composure and trailed only once early in the contest as the islanders won their first state crown — and the precious, long-sought-after and much coveted gold ball — with a 55-44 win over the Tigers.

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It was the first state athletic crown in the history of the school.

“It’s just amazing,” said Nelson. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m just so happy for those kids. They’ve worked so hard, not that every team doesn’t, but they have just worked so hard. You’ve got to get off that ferry, drag all that stuff, play Friday night, sleep in a gym and be up ready to play at 8-8:30 in the morning. They don’t complain, they never say ‘This isn’t fair.’ This is our way of life.”

And now their way of life will be a life of being known as the school’s first state champions.

Shead’s season ended at 19-3. It was the second straight state championship loss for the Tigers, who fell to Rangeley 28-22 in last season's title game.

Vinalhaven, which won its first regional title in 34 years a week earlier in Augusta, includes Ashlyn Littlefield, Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, Déja Doughty, Cheyenne Bickford, Paige Dennison, Amber Shane, Hannah Newton, Rosanna Morel, Corey Lazaro and Justice Grant, along with head coach Nelson, assistant coach Sam Bickford, team assistants Kelsey Barker and Nikki Osgood and managers Carolyn Hopkins and Tekla Webster.

On Saturday, the Tigers had no answer for a member of the talented Viking junior class, forward Davis-Oakes, who poured in a game-high 28 points to lead the newly-crowned state champions.

Davis-Oakes, who has 978 career points, was regularly double- and triple-teamed by the Tigers, but she had her way with the opposition throughout the 32-minute affair. She made 6-of-7 free throws and netted eight first-quarter points, nine more in the second, six in the third and five in the fourth, when the Vikings spent the majority of their time grinding down the clock.

“I’m just on cloud nine right now,” said Davis-Oakes. "We’re so excited. It’s the first gold ball we’re bringing back to our school, so we’re going to be in history.”

Dennison, Doughty and Bickford added six points for the islanders, while Littlefield and Shane chipped in five.

Holly Preston led Shead with a 22-point effort, while Cassidy Wilder added 11; Katelyn Mitchell, seven; and Madison Greenlaw and Halle Sullivan, two.

The Vikings were 9-of-11 (82 percent) from the charity stripe, while the Tigers were 7-of-13 (54 percent).

Vinalhaven led 13-9 after the first quarter, 24-20 at halftime and 41-30 after three quarters.

Doughty, who said, “we’re just really elated and really excited that we made history for our school,” added that Littlefield did an excellent job defensively containing Preston, Shead’s best player.

“We knew that they had one really good girl, Holly Preston, but we knew if we put Ashlyn Littlefield on her it’d probably shut her down and she did pretty well with her," said Doughty. "And then the offense took care of itself after that.”

Both teams worked through jitters in the first few minutes of the game, but Doughty scored the first hoop on a long two-pointer to put the islanders on the board.

“It just took a moment to calm down, but it’s the championship game,” said Davis-Oakes. “Every team is going to have jitters here and there.”

The Vikings took an afternoon ferry from Vinalhaven to Rockland on Friday, March 3 and got in a night practice at the Cross Insurance Center — their first time playing in the building.

Davis-Oakes said it made a big difference.

"I definitely think that practice last night helped a lot because when we walked in we were all wide-eyed and really jittery, but after practicing we got used to the hoops and it calmed us down,” she said.

Mitchell countered on Shead’s next possession to give the Tigers a brief 3-2 lead, but the Vikings scored the next five points on a hoop by Davis-Oakes on the block and a trey by Dennison from the corner with 3:30 to go to put the islanders up 7-3.

Vinalhaven’s transition game, which had been their bread and butter throughout the regional tournament, was nonexistent in the first quarter until the waning seconds when Littlefield found Davis-Oakes on a two-on-one fast break to put the islanders up four points after the first quarter.

Davis-Oakes then started the second-quarter with a three-point play to put the Vikings ahead 16-9 and the team’s lead continued to swell later in the stanza when Davis-Oakes received a pinpoint pass from Dennison in the post and converted another hoop moments later, which gave the islanders a 22-12 advantage with 3:34 to go in the half.

Wilder hit a pair of free throws, coupled by a mid-range jumper by Doughty, but Shead rattled off the final six points of the half to cut its deficit to a mere four points off two hoops from Preston and another from Wilder.

Nelson said the third quarter has been her team’s Achilles' heel all season long, but throughout the regional tournament it was a premonition — and was again Saturday against the Tigers.

Bickford scored all six of her points in the third quarter — four of which were part of an 11-0 run — that put Vinalhaven ahead 37-23 with 3:40 to go.

Dennison canned a 3-pointer to put the islanders up 29-23, while Bickford followed that with hoops on back-to-back possessions. Littlefield then missed a baseline jumper but followed her own shot and converted the offensive putback and Davis-Oakes converted a hoop in transition, off an assist from Doughty.

“All season long until we got to the regionals, the third quarter has been a horrid quarter [for us],” said Nelson. “And all of the sudden it’s become our best. We just elevate ourselves.”

The Tigers would not quit, however, as they rattled off seven straight points  before Davis-Oakes converted the final four points of the stanza.

The Vikings were methodical and patient in the fourth quarter, picking their spots offensively and making the most of them as the Tigers could get no closer than eight points the rest of the way.

Davis-Oakes said she and her team cannot wait to get back on the court next season and begin its title defense.

“Our team isn’t going to be any different,” said Davis Oakes of her squad, which will graduate only one senior. “We’re going to have the same freshmen and sophomores and the bench really helps. They pick up the tempo, they’re really supportive and they bust their butts off in practices.”

Now for the Vikings, it is back to island living — albeit with a gold ball in tow to take on the 15-mile ferry ride across Penobscot Bay.

“We’ll try to catch the boat back home and hopefully we’ll be able to celebrate,” said Doughty.

Vinalhaven and Shead were the second seed in its respective regions.

The Vikings defeated No. 7 Highview Christian of Charleston (5-14) 71-37 in the quarterfinals, No. 3 Temple Academy of Waterville (14-6) 66-49 in the semifinals and No. 5 Forest Hills of Jackman (12-9) 61-45 in the Class D South regional championship.

The Tigers defeated No. 7 Ashland (8-11) 73-33 in the quarterfinals, No. 6 Washburn (11-9) 51-29 in the semifinals and No. 1 Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook (19-2) 32-29 in the Class D North regional championship.

Vinalhaven scored 253 points in four tournament games — an average of 63.3 points.

Shead’s previous losses this season came against Class C opponents as they fell to Fort Kent 44-41 on Jan. 14 at Fort Kent and lost to Narraguagus of Harrington — last year’s state Class C champion — 59-40 on Jan. 27 at Narraguagus.

Vinalhaven lost to Temple Academy of Waterville 56-39 on Dec. 22 in Waterville, lost to Rangeley 44-39 on Jan. 7 in Rangeley and lost a pair of contests on the road against Class C Richmond 36-31 on Jan. 13 and 41-39 on Jan. 14. The latter of those contests against the Bobcats went to double-overtime. Richmond finished 19-1 overall and was ranked first in Class C South.

Shead had been to two previous state Class D title games: The Tigers beat Monmouth Academy 60-55 in the 1998-99 game and fell to Rangeley 28-22 in the final game last season.

Previously, Vinalhaven had been to two state Class D title games: The Vikings lost to East Grand of Danforth 72-43 in the 1982-83 game and fell to John Bapst of Bangor 73-52 in the 1980-81 final game.

Fun ride/warm reception

On a brutally cold day and night, the Vikings rode their school bus back down Route 1 from Bangor before being escorted by motorcade, police and fire vehicles from Lincolnville to Rockland, around the city's rotary and down Main Street to the ferry terminal, where fans greeted them.

The players, coaches and fans huddled in the terminal, shared stories from the game and season, hugged and kissed the coveted gold ball as they waited to walk on to two ferry boats that would take them home, to a reception at the school.

The "parade" to Rockland, which included plenty of horns, lights and sirens, began at Lincolnville Beach where the bus was greeted by Lincolnville fire, Northeast Ambulance and Knox County Sheriff's, then Camden fire and police took over in their territory before, at the Rockport line, Rockport fire took charge. Rockport police shut down Route 90 so the bus could pass through that intersection and Rockland police and fire took over at the city line, escorting the bus to the ferry terminal. The Maine State Police also was involved.

Justin Hills and Brian Wright were instrumental in organizing the escorts and the exciting ride back to Rockland for Vinalhaven team members.

Also, the captain and crew of the Capt. Charles Philbrook took time to make the ferry boat a festive scene for the new state champions, as they put colored balloons (red-and-white for the Viking colors and gold to represent the gold ball) and signs inside the cabins. That boat transported the players and coaches back to the island Saturday night for their hard-earned celebration.

Also, it was estimated that about 500 Vinalhaven supporters attended Saturday's game, The island has about 1,200 wintertime residents, so, many of them, along with mainland supporters, trekked to Bangor to cheer on the islanders.

Historical family connection

The other times the Viking girls basketball team won the regional title was 1983 and 1981. Well, the family connection for those squads, according to school secretary Amanda Wentworth, include: Jaki Peterson from the 1983 team and her niece Amber Shane, a member of this year's squad, and, from the 1981 team,Tracy Littlefield Martin and her niece Ashlyn Littlefield, who also plays on this season's team.

Another family connection this year is assistant coach Sam Bickford, whose daughter, Cheyenne also plays for the team.

The 1994 Viking boys team, the lost to Central Aroostook in the state finale, featured Sam, and Colby Oakes, who is Gilleyanne's father.

Vinalhaven versus Shead girls basketball
Vinalhaven versus Shead on March 4 in high school girls basketball Class D state championship action in Bangor. (Video by: Zack Miller of VStv)
Vinalhaven team member and fans at ferry terminal
Vinalhaven team member and fans at Maine State Ferry Terminal in Rockland. (Video by: Ken Waltz and Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Holding the banner before the players bust through. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven players, including Paige Dennison, Cheyenne Bickford, Déja Doughty and Amber Shane, approach the banner. Coach Sandy Nelson is back middle. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven players, including Ashlyn Littlefield, left, and Rosanna Morel, bust through the banner. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven players, including Rosanna Morel, Justice Grant and Corey Lazaro, bust through the banner. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Corey Lazaro. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Corey Lazaro. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Banner day. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven players warm up before the game. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven players warm up before the game. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven fans are out in force. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven players converge on the court before the game. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven players converge on the court before the game. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven players during national anthem. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven players during national anthem. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The games opening tip. Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes at right and Shead's Madison Greenlaw. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
The games opening tip. Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes at right and Shead's Madison Greenlaw. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Shead's Roxanna MacGregor, left, and Vinalhaven's Déja Doughty. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Shead's Cassidy Wilder, left, as well as Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes (21) and Cheyenne Bickford. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Shead's Madison Greenlaw, right, and Vinalhaven's Cheyenne Bickford. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Déja Doughty (15) and Paige Dennison (5), along with Shead's Holly Preston, middle, and Madison Greenlaw. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Paige Dennison, back, and Ashlyn Littlefield. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, along with Shead's Cassidy Wilder, middle, and Holly Preston. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Ashlyn Littlefield, middle, on the move up the court. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, right, and Shead's Madison Greenlaw. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, and Shead's Madison Greenlaw. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Déja Doughty, left, and Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, right, along with Shead's Cassidee Lawrence. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Déja Doughty, left, and Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, back middle, along with Shead's Cassidee Lawrence (22) and Cassidy Wilder. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Ashlyn Littlefield, back, along with Shead's Holly Preston. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Amber Shane, middle, Ashlyn Littlefield, right, and Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, along with Shead's Cassidy Wilder (44) and Madison Greenlaw. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Amber Shane, left, and Shead's Madison Greenlaw. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Amber Shane, left, and Shead's Madison Greenlaw. Viking Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes is in back. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Ashlyn Littlefield, front, and Paige Dennison, among others. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Ashlyn Littlefield (2), Paige Dennison, middle and Déja Doughty, right, along with Shead's Holly Preston, left, Cassidee Lawrence, middle, and Madison Greenlaw. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Ashlyn Littlefield (2), Paige Dennison, middle and Déja Doughty, right, along with Shead's Holly Preston, left, Cassidee Lawrence, middle, and Madison Greenlaw. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Cheyenne Bickford (25) and Paige Dennison (5), along with Shead's Holly Preston. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Ashlyn Littlefield. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Ashlyn Littlefield, right, and Cheyenne Bickford (25), along with Shead's Cassidy Wilder (44) and Katelyn Mitchell (34). (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, along with Shead's Madison Greenlaw (24) and Halle Sullivan. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Amber Shane, left, and Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, back, along with Shead's Holly Preston, left, Cassidy Wilder and Madison Greenlaw. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Cheyenne Bickford (25), with her teammates and coaches. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Déja Doughty, front, Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, right, and Paige Dennison, back, along with  Shead's Madison Greenlaw (24). (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Déja Doughty. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven coach Sandy Nelson. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven coach Sandy Nelson, left, and Cheyenne Bickford. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Ashlyn Littlefield (2), Amber Shane, middle, and Déja Doughty. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Ashlyn Littlefield (2), Amber Shane, middle, and Déja Doughty. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven coaches Sandy Nelson, back facing, and Sam Bickford, right, as well as the Viking players, celebrate their state championship win. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven coaches Sandy Nelson, back facing, and Sam Bickford, right, as well as the Viking players, celebrate their state championship win. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven fans celebrate the school's first state championship. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Déja Doughty. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Déja Doughty. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Rosanna Morel. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Corey Lazaro, left, and Rosanna Morel. Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes is in back. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Déja Doughty, middle, shows off her state championship net. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Déja Doughty. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Amber Shane, left, and coach Sandy Nelson. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Déja Doughty. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Cheyenne Bickford, left, and Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
From left, Vinalhaven's Amber Shane, Cheyenne Bickford and Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven coach Sandy Nelson, middle, slaps the hands of each of her players. At left is assistant coach Sam Bickford. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, and coach Sandy Nelson. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Cheyenne Bickford, left, and Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, among others. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, Déja Doughty (15) and Paige Dennison with the gold ball. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, Déja Doughty (15) and Paige Dennison with the gold ball. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, Déja Doughty, right, and Paige Dennison with the gold ball. Assistant coach Sam Bickford, left, takes video of the moment. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, Déja Doughty, right, and Paige Dennison with the gold ball. Assistant coach Sam Bickford, left, takes video of the moment. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, Déja Doughty, right, and Paige Dennison with the gold ball. Assistant coach Sam Bickford, left, takes video of the moment. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, Déja Doughty, right, and Paige Dennison with the gold ball. Assistant coach Sam Bickford, left, takes video of the moment. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, Déja Doughty, right, and Paige Dennison with the gold ball. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, Déja Doughty, right, and Paige Dennison with the gold ball. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, Déja Doughty, right, and Paige Dennison with the gold ball. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, Déja Doughty, right, and Paige Dennison with the gold ball. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven players with their new gold ball. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, Paige Dennison, with the gold ball, Cheyenne Bickford (25) and Corey Lazaro, among others. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, Paige Dennison, with the gold ball, Cheyenne Bickford (25) and Corey Lazaro, among others. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven players and coaches with their newly-won gold ball, the school's first. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes. (Photo by: Mark Haskell)
A sign inside one of the cabins of the Capt. Charles Philbrook. The ferry transported the players and coaches back to the island Saturday night. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Balloons, including the red-and-white Vinalhaven colors and gold for the new gold ball, inside one of the cabins of the Capt. Charles Philbrook. The ferry transported the players and coaches back to the island Saturday night. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Young Vinalhaven fan Madeline Beckman touches the gold ball inside the ferry terminal in Rockland. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Vinalhaven's Paige Dennison has a firm grip on the gold ball inside the ferry terminal in Rockland. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Sue Warren Pitts, a former standout Vinalhaven player, holds the gold ball she and so many generations of Viking worked hard to win. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes with the gold ball inside the ferry terminal in Rockland. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis Oakes, left, and Cheyenne Bickford look through the winter at the ferry terminal in Rockland. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis Oakes, left, and Cheyenne Bickford look through the winter at the ferry terminal in Rockland. The reflection are the many cars of fans who will be transported back to the island via ferry boats. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Vinalhaven's Paige Dennison holds the coveted and precious gold ball in the ferry terminal in Rockland. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Vinalhaven players and coaches brave bitterly cold, windy conditions for a quick team photo, holding the gold ball, of course, on the Capt. Charles Philbrook ferry boat, which will take them home to the island to celebrate their state Class D championship. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Vinalhaven players and coaches brave bitterly cold, windy conditions for a quick team photo, holding the gold ball, of course, on the Capt. Charles Philbrook ferry boat, which will take them home to the island to celebrate their state Class D championship. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Comments (3)
Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Mar 04, 2017 18:33

Great game girls. Well played by a great team.



Posted by: Harry Fitzgerald | Mar 04, 2017 17:09

Congratulations Vinalhaven! Let the celebrations begin! The mid coast is proud of you all.

The Fitzgeralds



Posted by: SUSAN THOMAS | Mar 04, 2017 16:40

Congratulations Vinalhaven!! So happy for all of you.

Susan Thomas



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