Victoria Harris of Lewiston High School and Abby Houghton of Bangor High School compete for a loose ball earlier this season in Lewiston. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
During practice this past Saturday morning, Lewiston forward Victoria Harris hit the deck in pursuit of a loose ball.
It was practice, it was Saturday morning, but that didn’t stop Harris from treating that loose ball like it meant something.
“(Assistant) coach Josh LaPrell’s like, ‘Victoria, we do have a game on Wednesday,’ just reminding her,” Blue Devils head coach Lynn Girouard said. “And I’m like, ‘You can’t remind her, she’s just going to give 100 percent all the time.’”
Harris has nothing to prove. She isn’t vying for playing time. She’s at the end of her senior season, and her standing on the team couldn’t be higher.
But that loose ball did mean something to her. So she dove.
“You practice how you play,” Harris said. “If I go all-out in practice, then that’s how it’s going to be (during the games). I think that’s really important.”
It’s the kind of effort Harris’ teammates have come to expect.
“This team is amazing, and Vic is the one that we can all count on at all times. She always gives 110 percent,” sophomore Cece Racine said. “She’s an incredible player, and all of us on the team would say that we’re honored to play with her.”
Harris and the Blue Devils open the Class AA North girls’ basketball playoffs against rival Edward Little on Wednesday in Auburn.
It’s the third consecutive postseason appearance for Lewiston as it rebuilds after the program had floundered for several years.
Harris credits Girouard for the Blue Devils’ recent run of success.
“I really like Coach G,” Harris said, “and from the beginning she’s been there for me and I think that’s really important to our success.”
Like Girouard, though, Harris has been there for every step of the rebuild.
Before her first season, then-junior Kristina Blais (who currently plays at CMCC) approached Girouard.
“She said, ‘Coach, you’re going to put her on varsity, right?’ — looking at Victoria,” Girouard said. “I’m like, ‘I don’t know, we’ll see how tryouts go.’ She goes, ‘Yeah, she needs to be on varsity.’
“So, yeah, she was the first freshman I put on varsity, and she’s just been great.”
That first season wasn’t always easy or comfortable for Harris. But she became a starter during her sophomore year, and since then has become not only one of AA North’s top post players, but one of the region’s best and most well-rounded players.
“At first, it was kind of scary, I’m gonna admit,” Harris said. “But as time went on, I felt at home, and it was just history from there, I guess.”
During the regular season this year, Harris averaged 12.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. She is shooting 64 percent from the foul line.
Harris can also dribble the ball the length of the court and is expanding her shooting range to the 3-point line. On defense, she is staying out of foul trouble in the post and has the ability to defend shorter players.
“She is a fun player to watch,” Girouard said.
Said Racine: “She’s a great basketball player — scratch that, fantastic basketball player.”
Harris admits that it’s difficult for her to talk about herself. Girouard and Racine say that humility exemplifies Harris as anything she does on the court.
“She’s an amazing person on and off the court, and it’s just … there’s so much about Vic that’s just amazing. I could go on and on forever,” Racine said. “They say she has like this beast mode — there’s so many more modes than that, though. So many more modes. She’s hilarious. She’s just amazing.”
As a middle schooler, Racine heard about Harris (“All the freshmen coming in last year were wicked excited to play with her,” she said). When Racine joined the high school team and saw Harris play up-close, she found that what she had heard was nothing compared to what she would experience.
“The first thing, not gonna lie, is she’s terrifying to play against,” Racine said. “Like I said earlier, she has this beast mode that she gets into, and it’s fascinating to watch her play. Our first impression was just that, we were just awestruck by how she played basketball.”
These past two seasons, Harris and her fellow upperclassmen have been surrounded by young players, those who, like her, were on the varsity team as freshmen. First there was Racine’s class, which came in last year, and then this year’s crop of freshmen.
Harris and her fellow seniors, Gabrielle Wilson and Minaya Abu, have helped guide Lewiston to a 8-10 record and the sixth seed in AA North.
Harris’ on-court impact on those younger players was evident during the Blue Devils’ most recent meeting with Edward Little on Jan. 19 in Auburn.
Lewiston fell behind 6-0 quickly, but Harris attacked the hoop, was fouled and made both free throws. She made two more baskets in the post, giving her the team’s first six points and getting Lewiston back into the game.
The rest of the Blue Devils responded to Harris’ example — especially the younger ones, such as Racine, Myah and Jamayah Nicolas, Maddy and Lauren Foster, and Emily Strachan — and started playing aggressively.
“She kind of gets everybody going, I think,” Girouard said. “They’re like, ‘OK, Victoria’s in it, we’re going to be in it.’ She kind of leads in that aspect. She’s diving on the floor, the next play, somebody else will be diving on the floor.”
Up until the end, Lewiston continued to bounce back when Edward LIttle finally pulled away. The Red Eddies ended up winning, but it was the Blue Devils’ best showing in a few years against their rivals.
Now Lewiston faces third-seeded Edward Little (11-7) for the third time this season, and the last of Harris’ career.
“I’m so excited for that. More excited than I can even say,” Harris said.