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Girls basketball: Lewiston's Koral and Josh Morin cherish unexpected and special season together

Mar. 11—Lewiston senior point guard Koral Morin has been coached by her dad since she was a little kid.

Josh Morin had the opportunity to coach her one last time this year, stepping in shortly before the 2023-24 campaign to coach the Blue Devils for Koral's final high school season.

"I would say I was probably 7 or 8, and I grew up watching my older brother play basketball outside with my dad, shooting around and stuff," Koral said. "Basketball was always on in the house, so I feel like it was kind of always around me."

Josh Morin entered the 2023-24 season already familiar with many of the Blue Devils players.

He coached the fourth-grade Auburn/Lewiston YMCA team that included Koral and fellow Lewiston senior Natalie Beaudoin.

"Me and Natalie, we've been pretty much on the same team our whole lives," Koral said. "We did an AAU basketball league together, and started that from fourth grade. We were on the same (AAU) team all the way until sophomore year in high school, so we were really, really close."

Koral and Beaudoin also played on teams with Lewiston teammates Ellie Legare and Skylar Gaudette, so the four seniors have a strong bond that goes beyond high school. Josh said that he and the other parents also recognized the players' talent and skill level from a young age.

Josh is a Lewiston High School graduate and played basketball all four years for the Blue Devils. Along with coaching Koral, Josh coached his son, Jalen, and was once an assistant coach for the Lewiston boys basketball team.

After Craig Jipson resigned, Josh Morin was hired to lead the Blue Devils' girls team this season.

"I think we knew that fourth-grade year, if we can keep this group together, they're going to be pretty good," Josh said. "Fate had it that the other coach quit, and I was like, 'Wow, I've got one year with these kids.' So I talked with (Lewiston Athletic Director Jason) Fuller, and I've been friends with him for a while — he was my next-door neighbor and actually my freshman coach."

Lewiston ended up having one of its best seasons in recent memory.

The Blue Devils went 10-10 overall — a six-win improvement and their first 10-win season since 2015-16 — and placed fourth in the Class AA North standings, which is one of highest regular season finishes for the program this century. They returned to the postseason after a year away, defeating rival Edward Little in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual Class AA champion Cheverus in the semifinals.

Koral credits her dad for Lewiston's success this season.

"I feel like he knows me better than anyone else as a basketball player, so if there were some days where I would come in, and maybe I was struggling with something, I would just look at him and he knew exactly what to say, and kind of how to help," Koral said. "So, I feel like that was really nice to be able to have a coach for my last year, who really knew me better than I knew myself."

Koral said she wishes people were able to see how hard her dad worked behind the scenes to draw plays, manage lineups and boost morale for the team throughout the season, while also running the family business and working long hours outside of coaching. She said there were several nights Josh was up past midnight watching college games to get ideas, watching film from Lewiston games and working through logistics to prepare himself for the next day's practice.

Despite that, Josh said the players deserve the credit for the team's achievements.

"I think when you have players like we had, regardless, there's opportunity there," Josh said. "For me, it was just like, if I can put them in a good position to succeed, you can open the door, but they still have got to walk through it, and I can't make the shots for them. Those kids, they were special all season."

Josh also called Koral one of the "hardest working people he's ever seen," and said she would often leave high school practices and drive straight to another gym to practice until 9:30 p.m. or later. Koral said she is hoping to play basketball in college, and is currently in the midst of the recruiting process.

"She loves her teammates," Josh said. "Koral is kind of quiet, I would say, naturally, but when we're at home, she's a little more open and talks more about how much she cares about her teammates, and how much she would cheer a teammate on when they had a good game or a good play. I would say, maybe some of her teammates or other people might not fully understand that or fully know about Koral."

Looking back on her high school basketball career, Koral said nothing compares to her senior season. She said she was nervous as a freshman and spent the year learning and absorbing. She said she started to feel more comfortable on the court her sophomore year and grew into her playing style. As a junior, her skills grew more as she started playing AAU basketball with the Maine Firecrackers, Maine Basketball Club and Gorilla Basketball.

"I felt my most confident going into this season, my senior year," Koral said. "I felt like I was ready, and I felt like knowing I had him (Josh) there was even more special.

"To be honest, it was a lot of fun, I mean, it still really hasn't hit me yet that this is done — I'll never put on a Lewiston jersey again and he'll never be my coach again, like on the sidelines. You know, it's sad and it's hard to think that this is it, but, I mean, it was really cool."

Josh said when he reflects on the season, he has an overwhelming sense of gratitude because he was able to help the team achieve their goal of making it to the state playoffs at Cross Insurance Arena.

"I would say, out of this whole thing," Josh said, "I didn't realize how gratifying it was when you start in the beginning — and I made sure I asked everyone what their goal was — and to help them fulfill a goal of theirs that they'll never forget the rest of their lives, to me was all I ever wanted to do," Josh said.

Koral said having her dad by her side on the court has only strengthened their relationship.

"I feel like everyone wants to go out and have a great senior year, they want it to be memorable," Koral said. "So I feel like knowing that my dad was part of it has definitely brought us closer, and I think once it finally hits me, I think it'll definitely bring us even more closer."

KVAC winter 2023-24 all-conference and all-academic honors