Mike Gray will always remember the 2015 Eastern Maine Class B basketball tournament.
Gray’s Gardiner High School girls basketball team went 7-11 during the regular season and was the ninth seed.
After upsetting No. 8 Ellsworth 39-33 in the preliminary round, the team squared off with undefeated top seed Mount Desert Island, the defending Eastern Maine B titlist, in the quarterfinals.
Gardiner shocked the Trojans 62-50 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor thanks to senior guard Morgan Carver’s 26 points, sophomore forward Mary Toman’s 12 points and 13 rebounds, and a 12-0 run to open the second half.
“That will be stuck in the front of my brain forever,” said Gray, who recently retired after 19 seasons as Gardiner’s head coach. “It is one of the top two or three games I have ever spent on the bench. It was an amazing day. I still see a couple of those kids from that team.”
The Tigers would go on to upset No. 4 Camden Hills 53-42 in the semifinals before losing to No. 2 Presque Isle 47-24 in the regional final.
“That’s the beauty of the tournament. Every team has something to take away from it. Not just the team that wins,” Gray said.
Gray’s Tigers went 18-0 during the regular season this year and reached the North regional final, where they were upset by eventual state champion Lawrence of Fairfield 61-54. The Tigers had beaten Lawrence twice during the regular season.
It was the third straight year they had reached the A North final. They had also lost to Lawrence the year prior and to Hampden Academy in 2020.
In between, during the COVID-19 season (2020-21) in which there were no Maine Principals’ Association-sanctioned tournaments, Gardiner beat Lawrence in a pod championship game.
The Tigers have had a nice run since standout senior center Lizzy Gruber joined the team four years ago.
This year’s Miss Maine Basketball recipient helped the Tigers go 49-5 during the regular season and reach those three regional title games. The Tigers have at least reached the regional quarterfinals every season since 2013.
The 44-year-old Gray is retiring so he can spend more time with his family. His oldest son, Jackson, will be a freshman in high school next season and he and wife Joy also have a 9-year-old son, Charlie.
“It’s the right time. The kids are getting older. Nineteen years is a long time,” said Gray, who previously coached at Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn.
“I’m looking forward to getting a little bit of a break,” said the Farmingdale native and former St. Dom’s basketball player who went on to play college basketball at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.
Gray said this past season was memorable, even though the Tigers didn’t win any hardware.
“It was a great year. We didn’t go as far as we wanted to but it left a lasting memory. These kids really cared about each other and tried to win for each other every night.”