BANGOR, Maine — They came in with the top seed in Eastern Maine Class B and a 17-1 record, but the Presque Isle girls basketball team was being thought of as an underdog against No. 8 Waterville.
Coach Jeff Hudson’s club silenced many critics in a big way Saturday afternoon, as freshman Chandler Guerrette poured in 25 points and the Wildcats used a box-and-one defense to shut down Waterville star Jen Nale in a convincing 52-37 win at the Bangor Auditorium.
The 18-1 Wildcats will face No. 4 Nokomis of Newport in Wednesday’s 8:35 p.m. semifinal while Waterville finishes 12-8.
The Warriors defeated fifth-ranked Medomak Valley of Waldoboro 46-32 earlier in the afternoon.
In the second game, Presque Isle wasn’t intimidated by Waterville’s mystique — the Panthers had won the last three Class B state championships — and set the tone early, opening the game on an 8-2 run.
“We were tired of hearing that we were underdogs,” Hudson said. “Everybody said, oh you got to play Watervile, too bad, but we took it to them.”
Guerrette certainly did in a big way, scoring 14 of her points in the second half, during which Presque Isle outscored Waterville 29-21 to stretch out a 23-16 halftime lead.
“We came out strong, we pushed the ball up the floor, we attacked their defense, and it worked for us,” said Guerrette. “We just attacked, attacked, attacked.”
Waterville responded to Presque Isle’s opening-game run, scoring the first four points of the second quarter to close to 18-16, but the Wildcats scored the final five points of the half, capped by Guerrette’s fast-break layup.
“Right from the get-go, she just dominated the game,” Hudson said. “I thought our guards dominated the game.”
And Presque Isle’s defense dominated Nale, holding her to 14 points on 6-for-18 shooting, and everywhere the senior guard went, there was always a Wildcat — mainly Chelsea Nickerson — right there.
“We had one person on her the whole time, so we shut her down and we got the edge on screens, so she was being guarded at all times,” Guerrette said.
Presque Isle led by as many as 19 in the second half, while Krista Cofstad contributed nine points and six rebounds and Kayla Richards had three assists.
Taylor Frame was the other Panther in double figures with 13 points.
In the earlier game, while Nokomis coach Kori Dionne was certainly happy with the way her Warriors played offensively in the first half, they didn’t play defense the Nokomis way in the first 16 minutes, yielding 22 points while holding a 26-22 halftime lead.
“We were giving them too much on dribble penetration, we were closing out too close,” said Dionne. “We said we needed to buckle down defensively.”
The Warriors are now 15-4 while Medomak finishes 14-5.
Nokomis also slowed things down a bit offensively, going to a four-corners scheme as Medomak was switching between man and zone looks.
It worked, as the Warriors outscored the Medomak 9-4 in the third quarter, with Danielle Watson scoring the first four of those points as Nokomis took control.
“That was more trying to get them to come out, they were mixing it up between man and zone, and we just told the kids we didn’t need to be in a hurry, stand out there and make them come out and get you,” Dionne said.
Junior guard Julie Smith, the only Warrior with only tourney experience — having played at the Auditorium her freshman year at Belfast — led all scorers with 16 points while Marissa Shaw had 10.
Smith gave her teammates plenty of advice before the game.
“It’s a lot different than playing at a high school, there’s a lot more people,” Smith said. “The floor’s definitely different and the whole thing is just a great experience.”
Alanna Vose led Medomak with 11 points.