There’s a picture floating around on Facebook showing the last Gardiner girls team to make it to the Eastern Maine finals. It was 1980, and the signs of 1970s fashion are all there, from the wide, flashy ties on the male coaches, to the perms and “we wear short shorts” shorts on the players.

That’s how long it’s been since a Gardiner girls basketball team reached this point. The Tigers play again for the Eastern B title when they take on Presque Isle at 2:05 p.m. Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, and the coaches, the players, and the community are all enjoying it as much as they can.

“As the week’s gone on, the girls are all saying the same thing,” Gardiner coach Mike Gray said. “People are going to games who haven’t been to a game in years.”

“Everybody’s really excited,” Gardiner forward Savannah Vinton-Mullens said. “I’m always getting Facebook messages and a bunch of things on Twitter and stuff. It’s really cool.”

Of course, none of the players were around yet in 1980. Gray was — but barely.

“I was not quite 1,” he said. “That’s come up, too.”

After entering the Eastern B tournament as the No. 9 seed — the Tigers were 7-11 in the regular season — Gardiner went up to Ellsworth and pulled out a 39-33 win in the preliminary round. Then they stunned unbeaten and No. 1 Mt. Desert Island in the quarterfinals, before knocking off No. 4 Camden Hills in the semis.

“We have no pressure on us, really,” Gardiner guard Leah Weymouth said. “We just go out and we play our game.”

The lack of pressure is certainly a factor, and so is peaking at the right time. But still, a lot of people are wondering: How does a team that won seven games in the regular season suddenly look like one of the best teams in Eastern B?

“I think two things,” Gray said. “One, the fact that we had so many games that were so close. A lot of those games were the first time we played a team, so we were able to look at those mistakes and make a difference.

“I think the second piece (is), our group and our individuals are just playing with so much more confidence. Some of these kids, as the season goes on, (are) just gaining so much more experience and are so much more comfortable on the court.”

Another factor is that everyone who gets in the game for Gardiner is coming up big. Morgan Carver has scored 38 points in two games in Bangor, Vinton-Mullens and Mary Toman have controlled the boards. Sophomore guard Lauren Chadwick has played like a veteran, and so has freshman Logan Granholm. And still, Gardiner wouldn’t have beaten Camden without contributions off the bench from Megan Perry, Leslie Stevens and Ellie Luken.

The Tigers expected to have more help underneath. Rachel Quirion, a post presence the last couple years, tore her ACL on the last day of summer basketball, and has missed the entire season.

“It took us a long time to get used to playing without Rachel Quirion,” Gray said. “She was our post presence.”

But as Toman has improved immeasurably over the last few months — she had 18 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots against Camden — Quirion has been there to help guide her.

“She’s done a great job with (the injury),” Gray said. “She’s been here every day for kids like Mary Toman. We have her basically get on Mary at practice and games, and just reinforce what we’re saying.”

With some help from Quirion, the Tigers have made a remarkable transformation on the boards in a short time. Less than a month ago, Gardiner lost 36-32 at Maine Central Institute. MCI pounded the Tigers underneath, as Cassie Miller grabbed 18 rebounds, and Ashley Alton and Katie Hughes combined for 19.

Up in Bangor, Gardiner has faced MDI’s Kelsey Shaw and Camden’s Rachel Pease — two tall and talented post players. Both had good games, but the Tigers kept them from dominating the way Miller had.

“That’s been a bigger emphasis,” Gray said. “Obviously, for Mary and Savannah, we need them getting every rebound we can. It’s not just those two — our guards have been doing a much better job of rebounding. It takes all five of them.”

It will again be crucial against Presque Isle, which has two 5-11 post players in Krystal Kingsbury and Regan Nelson.

“They have so many weapons,” Gray said. “Keeping Nelson and Kingsbury off the boards is going to be a huge piece — and containing the shooters. Hannah Graham is an outstanding player. And if you cheat on her, they’ve got a couple shooting guards who can knock down shots. We’ve got to take care of the ball like we did against Camden, and shoot the ball like we did against MDI.”

“I think we’re just trying to get that extra game in,” Vinton-Mullens said. “We want to go all the way. We just want to keep pushing.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo


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