BANGOR — For two players hoping to receive top honors at the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches awards banquet, their paths there couldn’t have been much different. 

Gardiner’s Lizzy Gruber, the tallest of her peers ever since she was little, has been a standout on the court for many years. For Thornton Academy’s Will Davies, though, the road to both of those things – a more ideal frame for the sport and success on the floor – took a bit longer.

Both were rewarded Friday with the state’s top individual prizes, as Gruber received the Miss Maine Basketball award and Davies was named the Mr. Maine Basketball winner.

Davies is the first Thornton Academy player to win Mr. Basketball, and he and his father, Thornton Coach Bob Davies, are the first father-son duo to win the award. Bob Davies won in 1994 for Old Orchard Beach High.

“It’s just a great honor,” Davies said. “Just to be able to be here in this building, it’s amazing. You think about all the great basketball players in this state who have won this, and you’re able to walk across that stage and be a part of that. It’s really cool.”

Gruber, the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Player of the Year, averaged 20.7 points, 15.7 rebounds and 5.6 blocks per game to lead Gardiner to a perfect regular season and 20-1 overall mark. The 6-foot-4 senior reached the 1,000 mark in career points and rebounds this season, capping an illustrious high school career for the St. Joseph’s University-bound senior. Gardiner was 67-11 in Gruber’s career, going undefeated at home.


Gruber beat out fellow finalists Sierra Carson of Oxford Hills and Elise MacNair of Old Orchard Beach. The three have been AAU teammates for years, and the award, Gruber said, was something that really belongs to all of them rather than her alone.

“When it came out that the three of us were the finalists, we texted each other right away,” Gruber said. “It was a win-win-win situation; there was no way we could lose from there. Those are my ride-or-dies, and I honestly do think of it as a three-way tie. It’s great to go down in Maine basketball history together.”

Davies, stood just 5-3 his freshman year and played on Thornton Academy’s freshman team. Then his sophomore season was truncated by the pandemic.

By the start of his junior year, though, Davies had grown to his current height of 6-3. He quickly emerged as the star of last year’s Thornton team, averaging 17.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists to set the stage for a senior season in which he could truly shine.

Davies improved his averages to roughly 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as Thornton went 17-4 and finished as the runner-up in Class AA South. In the South semifinals, he made a buzzer-beater against Bonny Eagle that, though controversial, will forever be an all-time tournament moment.

“My junior year was definitely a big adjustment for me,” Davies said. “My freshman year, I was so little and didn’t play varsity, and my sophomore year, we had COVID, and I came off the bench. I had two great leaders, Dylan Griffin and Payton Jones, who helped me become a leader myself. I owe a lot to them and my coaches.”

In his speech, Davies called being able to share the stage with fellow finalists Silvano Ismail of Cheverus and Brady Saunders of Brewer “an award in and of itself.” He thanked everyone from his coaches and teammates to his parents, drawing a chuckle from the audience as he mentioned his mom and dad’s countless stays at hotels.

Gruber’s speech was written not just from her own perspective but also from those of Carson and MacNair. She rarely spoke of her own accomplishments, instead deflecting credit for her success as a player to her teammates, coaches and community, whether in Gardiner, on the AAU circuit or elsewhere.

“That’s just who she is,” said recently retired Gardiner coach Mike Gray. “Everything she’s ever done has been about what her team needs or what she can do to make her teammates better. For her to get this recognition, I’m thrilled for her.”

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