High school girls basketball

Vikings show poise in second half in semifinal triumph over Bereans

Talented junior class accounts for all 66 points, islanders to face No. 5 Forest Hills for regional crown
By Mark Haskell | Feb 23, 2017
Photo by: Mark Haskell Vinalhaven's Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, left, and Temple Academy's Daphne Labbe during a Feb. 23 high school girls basketball game. The Vikings beat the Bereans 66-49 in a Class D South semifinal playoff game at the Augusta Civic Center.

Augusta — Vinalhaven girls basketball coach Sandy Nelson had two clear messages to deliver to her squad prior to its Class D South semifinal playoff game on Thursday morning, Feb. 23:

“Don’t panic, and pass the ball.”

The No. 2 Vikings made good on the advice of their veteran leader — particularly in the second half — as the islanders ran away with the high school court game late and bested No. 3 Temple Academy of Waterville (14-6) 66-49 at the Augusta Civic Center.

Click for photos from this game.

Watch video below.

With the win, Vinalhaven (16-4) advances to its second straight regional championship game, where the Vikings will play No. 5 Forest Hills of Jackman (12-8) on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 1:05 p.m. back at the ACC.

The Tigers knocked off top-seeded Rangeley (16-4) 33-29 in another regional semifinal court clash on Feb. 23.

The Vikings beat the Tigers twice this season in a pair of close contests on its home-opening weekend — 39-33 on Dec. 9 and 41-38 on Dec. 10.

Previously in the playoffs, Vinalhaven bested No. 7 Highview Christian 71-37 in the quarterfinals, while Temple Academy defeated No. 6 Greenville 42-40 in the quarterfinals.

The Vikings also split with Rangeley during the regular season, winning 58-36 and losing 44-39.

On Thursday, junior guard Déja Doughty certainly took Nelson’s advice and ran with it as she scored just six points, but racked up nine assists, several of which came on an 11-0 Vinalhaven run in the third quarter which helped the Vikings take the lead for good.

Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes pumped in 23 points to pace the islanders, while Ashlyn Littlefield also tossed in 15; Cheyenne Bickford, 11; Paige Dennison, seven; and Amber Shane, four.

“We played really well. At first we got out to a slow start, but we really pulled through as a team,” said Davis-Oakes. “We made strong passes and we made smart decisions. There were a few times here and there where we messed up, but we knew it and we recovered.”

Kiara Carr led Temple Academy with a 16-point effort, while Selam Heinrich added 13; Delayni Carr, seven; Veronica Rossignol, five; Allison Frankenfield, four; and Sarah Derosiers and Daphne Labbe, two.

The Vikings were 13-of-21 (62 percent) from the foul line, while the Bereans were 3-of-10 (30 percent).

Temple Academy led 13-11 after the first quarter, while Vinalhaven took a 28-24 advantage at halftime. The islanders surged to a 46-37 edge after three quarters.

Vinalhaven scored the first four points of the game on baskets by Davis-Oakes and Littlefield, but Temple overcame two technical fouls in the first quarter and rode the coattails of Kiara Carr, who pumped in 13 of the team’s 24 first-half points.

Nelson said the Vikings went to man-to-man defense primarily to harass the Temple Academy shooters, many of whom had shown the ability to connect from beyond the 3-point arc.

“Some teams live and die on that three-point line,” the coach said. “And I think this was one of those teams. And we had to come out [of our zone] and get out there [on the shooters].”

Doughty picked up her third foul a mere 13 seconds into the second half and hit the bench, but Nelson subbed her back into the game a minute later.

“She [coach Nelson] was just making sure I wasn’t making stupid fouls, which sometimes I have trouble with,” said Doughty. “But it worked out.”

The score was knotted 32-32 with about four minutes to play in the third stanza when the Vikings’ transition game took off to the tune of an 11-0 run as the higher seed surged to a 43-32 lead with 1:42 to go in the third.

“The funny thing is, all year the third quarter has been our worst quarter,” said coach Nelson, now in her third year guiding the Vikings. “We’d just be flat, flat, flat. I keep telling them, ‘You’re in the pond water come on get out of there.’ But the third quarter is what turned it around for us.”

Doughty found Bickford on back-to-back possessions off bounce passes for layups, followed by a trey from Dennison and another bounce pass from Doughty to Bickford on the block. Doughty then found a streaking Davis-Oakes over the top of the Berean defense as the islander lead swelled to 11 points.

“She’s a really strong ballhandler,” said Davis-Oakes of Doughty. “She can dribble through anyone, she makes really strong passes and it’s really nice to have two ballhandlers [along with Dennison] on our court.”

“My main goal is to see the whole floor and see whoever I can get it to and get it down the court as fast as I can,” said Doughty.

Nelson praised Doughty’s court vision, but added that Dennison “does not get as much credit” and “directs the traffic,” while Bickford converted three of the four Doughty assists during the 11-0 run to help key the islander scoring run.

“Cheyenne was a big part of that,” said Nelson. “She made, two, three layups right down there in that corner. It was just awesome.”

The Vikings continued to get to the basket in the fourth and led 56-43 on the heels of a 6-0 run from two hoops from Davis-Oakes and another from Dennison, but the Bereans would not go away as they whittled their deficit to 56-49 after three straight baskets from Heinrich, Desrosiers and Deleyni Carr with 2:45 to go.

But Carr’s basket would be the last of the season for Temple Academy as Vinalhaven closed out the game on an 10-0 run on two free throws each from Davis-Oakes, Bickford and Doughty, along with another hoop from Davis-Oakes and an offensive putback by Shane.

Now, the Vikings will prepare for the Tigers — an opponent they have beaten twice this year, and a team they are not taking lightly.

"Forest Hills was probably the dark horse in this whole tournament," said Nelson. "My experience in tournaments has always been that it's a whole new season. You toss your records aside and it's a whole new game. We'll see. It'll be a battle."

Interestingly enough, the team’s six juniors — Davis-Oakes, Doughty, Dennison, Bickford, Littlefield and Shane — accounted for all 66 of the team’s points Thursday against Temple Academy.

“They’ve been playing ball since fourth grade together,” said Nelson. “They’re quite a group. They’re a fun group. Good kids [and] good families.”

“We all grew up together all of us juniors,” she said. “We live together, we eat together [and] we practice together.”

And a berth in the state Class D title game — set for Saturday, March 4 at 1:05 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor — would be the icing on the cake.

"We don’t have a gold ball in our trophy case yet and it would really bring a lot of hometown pride to our community,” said Davis-Oakes.

Vinalhaven versus Temple Academy girls basketball
Vinalhaven versus Temple Academy on Feb. 23 in high school girls basketball Class D South semifinal playoff action in Augusta. (Video by: Zack Miller of VStv)
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