NEWPORT, Maine — When Kori Dionne took the Nokomis girls basketball job in 2007, she wanted to keep the defense-first mentality that longtime boss Earl Anderson had established at the school.
The Warriors got defensive in a big way Tuesday night, as their zone press forced 29 Lincoln Academy turnovers, then used a balanced offense to run away with a 61-33 victory in a Class B crossover matchup.
“Before I got here, Nokomis was a defensive school, and that’s something I’ve just tried to stick with,” said Dionne, whose club won its sixth straight game to improve to 7-2.
The Eagles of Newcastle, who play in Western B, fell to 3-6.
Lincoln Academy hung tough early, and Marni Jones’ one-hander in the lane gave the visitors a 7-6 lead halfway through the first quarter.
But Nokomis never trailed after Marissa Shaw’s short jumper from the block at the 2:37 mark of the opening period, and that jumpstarted a 25-7 run that gave the Warriors a 31-14 advantage at halftime.
Sophomore guard Mary Badeen paced Nokomis on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, scoring 11 points and coming up with four steals, while Shaw and Kara Batchelder each had nine points and Emilee Reynolds eight.
Shaw also had nine rebounds, including five on the offensive end, while Danielle Watson grabbed four offensive boards.
While Nokomis shot a solid 8-for-22 from the perimeter (Badeen was 3-for-7), many of the Warriors’ buckets were created in transition off Lincoln Academy turnovers.
“For the most part, we’re more aggressive on defense and it kind of turns into our offense,” said Batchelder.
Badeen added, “It turns us up.”
The quick, athletic Warriors swarmed passing lanes early and often, and the Eagles struggled to get the ball over half-court and work it into the post.
Even though the Warriors shot well from the outside, that’s not exactly their whole offense.
“That’s what we count on our zone press to do is to turn them over so we can get some layups and get some easy baskets,” Dionne said. “Our defense absolutely dictates our offense.”
The Warriors’ balanced offensive effort was also another welcoming sign for Dionne as the season turns to the second half and the battle for tournament positioning gets more heated.
“We’re just starting to come together these past two games where everybody’s looking to score,” she said. “We’re very unselfish with the basketball. It’s great to see.”
Nokomis’ two losses were by a combined six points (two to Waterville, four to Winslow), and the scary thing is the Warriors are gaining confidence every night.
“I think we’re where we should be right now,” said Batchelder.
The Warriors are certainly hitting their stride at an opportune time, as they’ll head into the meat of their schedule with six of their next seven contests coming on the road, including matchups with unbeaten Western Maine contender Leavitt of Turner Center and Eastern Maine contenders Camden Hills of Rockport and Winslow.
Jones led all scorers with 17 points for Lincoln Academy.