You don’t have to remind the Searsport High School girls basketball team’s seniors about their freshman year.
They’d rather forget it.
The Vikings went 0-18 in Eastern Maine Class C.
But they are making up for lost time in their first season in Western Maine Class D. They just concluded the regular season with a 14-4 record good enough for the No. 3 spot in the Heal Point standings behind 17-0 Forest Hills of Jackman and 15-1 Rangeley.
They went 9-0 at home and played in front of packed houses.
“We’ve gone from having nobody at our games to not having enough seats,” said senior forward/guard and tri-captain Briana Grant.
“It’s crazy. It’s real nice,” said senior forward and tri-captain Alicen Brooks.
“It’s a great feeling walking out on the court and seeing people having to stand because there aren’t enough seats,” said senior guard Kelli Gibbs, the other tri-captain.
“And we went to one game on the road and we had more fans than (the home team) did,” said Brooks.
Third-year head coach Mel Grant, Briana’s father, said the community support has been “amazing.”
“And it’s something the community needed,” he added.
The captains said making the tournament has been a goal of theirs since they won a middle school championship in eighth grade.
“Our freshman year, we all said we were going to be in the tournament within a couple of years,” said Briana Grant.
They thought they had a shot at it last season but Grant, the team’s leading scorer, and speedy guard Kaitlyn Shute both missed the entire season due to knee surgeries.
Searsport wound up 7-11 and finished 15th in Eastern Maine Class C. They went 2-16 the previous season.
Mel Grant said the keys to this season’s success have been “maturity and the fact we have four girls who could average double figures every night if they see fit. If one of them isn’t playing well, someone else will step it up.”
His 5-foot-7 daughter is averaging 18 points per game along with eight rebounds, four steals and four assists. She posted 33 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists and five steals Monday night in a 77-55 win over Bangor Christian.
Brooks is the team’s top rebounder (10 rpg) and has averaged 10 points, according to Mel Grant. Sophomore guard/forward Melinda Ogden has averaged 14 points and eight rebounds.
Brooks and Ogden are also 5-foot-7.
The 5-4 Gibbs and 5-3 junior Brittany Ward are the guards and are speedy, reliable defenders who spearhead the full-court press.
Anna Bucklin, a 5-5 sophomore G/F, has supplied nine points and 4-5 rebounds per game.
Freshman guard Karigen Coffin comes off the bench and provides quickness and a defensive presence as has Shute.
However, coach Grant said Shute suffered an injury to her other knee and she may be lost for the season.
Forward/guard Allison Walker, forward Libby Lane, both seniors, and freshman guard Paige Ireland provide depth off the bench as does 5-10 freshman forward Jillian Hartman.
“We knew we were going to have a good season but we didn’t expect this,” said Briana Grant.
“We figured we’d have more wins but I don’t know if we thought we’d have 14 wins,” said Gibbs.
The players said that teamwork has been a key to their success.
“We’ve wanted it so bad this year,” said Briana Grant.
“This is a great way to end your senior year,” Gibbs said.
The team has retained its Eastern Maine-oriented schedule with two games against Islesboro and two against Valley of Bingham representing the Western Maine part of its schedule.
“It has been different. We’ve had one long bus ride,” said Brooks.
Mel Grant has been spending a lot of time on the road scouting Western Maine teams and the Vikings are looking forward to the tournament in the Augusta Civic Center.
“We had getting to Bangor as our goal but going to Augusta is the same thing overall,” said Briana Grant.
“We’re going to practice hard every day. There won’t be any fooling around,” said Brooks.