DEER ISLE — There have been plenty of thrilling days for the Deer Isle-Stonington girls’ basketball team in recent years, but few have been better than Monday.
The evening marked Senior Night for the Mariners, who entered the day with a 14-0 record as they sought to move closer to their second consecutive undefeated regular season. Hosting Searsport, Deer Isle-Stonington gave the home crowd a night to remember with a 58-40 victory.
Earlier Monday, the school announced that senior guard Lily Gray had been named to the Maine McDonald’s High School All-Star Game to be played March 9 at Husson University. The team’s head coach, Randy Shepard, received an honor of his own as he was named the Class D North Girls’ Coach of the Year.
“It’s so fun to think all this happening at once,” Gray said. “We’ve been playing and working hard for a long time, and all that hard work is starting to pay off.”
The awards came on the backs of two noteworthy performances for Deer Isle-Stonington, which had previously beaten George Stevens Academy and Jonesport-Beals by scores of 44-25 and 65-35, respectively. In topping Searsport, the Mariners moved within one win of entering the state tournament with a 16-0 record.
In the Senior Night win, Deer Isle-Stonington topped a Searsport team it had beaten by a mere two points when the teams met Dec. 10 in Waldo County. This time, the Mariners led the Vikings (10-7) by as many as 33 points before their starters began to exit the game in the fourth quarter.
“It was an exciting game, and it always is against Searsport because they’re a good team who plays really hard against you,” Gray said. “I think we’re all really happy we were able to come out here and play the way we did on such a big night.”
With the victory, Deer Isle-Stonington has now won 32 of its past 33 games dating back to the start of last season. The Mariners are in search of their first regional title since 1987, which was also the year of their last state championship.
For Shepard, the Coach of the Year honor was the second in a row. Yet he was even more thrilled for Gray, who has been a cornerstone of what is about to become the Mariners’ fourth consecutive trips to the Cross Insurance Center alongside fellow senior Kaley Eaton.
“I was a million times happier for her,” Shepard said. “She’s done so much for her team in the four years she’s been here. She truly deserved that, and it’ll be a great experience.”
Deer Isle-Stonington is scheduled to play on the road against Bangor Christian (2-15) in its final regular season game at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, at Eastern Maine Community College The game will be a rematch of a contest the Mariners won by 29 points last month.
Shepard’s squad, which is locked in as the No. 2 seed in the Class D North playoffs, will then play the winner of the upcoming preliminary playoff game between the seventh- and 10th-seeded teams at 11:05 p.m. next Monday, Feb. 18, at the Cross Center.
“It’s 10 days to stay sharp after the tournament, and that’s tough, but these girls have handled everything thrown their way,” Shepard said. “We ain’t done yet.”