BANGOR, Maine — When Mary Badeen’s first shot — a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key — found nothing but nylon, you could sense it was going to be that kind of afternoon for the Nokomis girls basketball team.
The fourth-ranked Warriors from Newport broke out to a seven-point lead after one quarter and never let No. 2 Mount Desert Island creep any closer, using a suffocating defense and a patient offense to post a 37-22 Eastern Maine Class B championship victory at the Bangor Auditorium Saturday.
Nokomis (17-4) will play York in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. state title game in Bangor.
A regional crown returns to “Warrior Nation” for the first time since 2003, when the team played in the Class A ranks.
“It’s amazing, it really shows what hard work does for you,” said junior guard Julie Smith.
Nokomis led 14-7 after one quarter and put the game out of reach with a 9-4 run in the second quarter, highlighted by another deep perimeter basket by sophomore guard Badeen.
“We came out really relaxed and confident and that pushed us through,” said Badeen, who finished with 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the floor.
MDI (18-3) did apply some defensive pressure throughout the game to try to force some turnovers, but Nokomis’ ball-handlers — Badeen, Smith and Marissa Shaw — were unshakable, and the Warriors only turned it over six times.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I put my faith and my trust in those girls handling the ball,” said Nokomis coach Kori Dionne, whose club slowed things down in the second half and limited MDI junior forward Megan Phelps.
Phelps was held to 13 points on 3-for-12 shooting, mainly thanks to the pressure applied by Rachel Tozier, Shaw and Kara Batchelder. Tozier was thrust into action after Danielle Watson had to sit most of the first half with two fouls.
“Until Watson got in foul trouble, we mixed it up with Marissa and Kara, but for the most part it was Rachel and she did a good job on her,” said Dionne.
Then again, Nokomis established a reputation as a tough defensive unit under coach Earl Anderson a few years back, and when Dionne, a former Bangor High player, came on board, that’s a tradition she upheld.
“That’s been the name of our game all season long. We’ve always said we’ve wanted to play Nokomis defense; defense first and the offense will come,” Dionne said.
MDI made things interesting early in the second half, with Phelps’ shot off the glass and a Mackenzie Curtis free throw cutting Nokomis’ lead to 23-14, but Batchelder put the Warriors up by double-digits to stay with a 3-pointer from the left wing and Badeen contributed the last four points of the period.
“If we play in the half-court, we can beat them,” said Batchelder. “That’s why we wanted to just slow down the tempo and play their game, not ours.”
When that happened, coach Brent Barker’s Trojans grew frustrated, committing 15 turnovers in the process.
“They took away a lot of things we wanted to do, and I give them a lot of credit,” said Barker. “They had a good game plan and they went through it.”
The game plan involved a blend of outside and inside shooting, and the Trojans’ defense had a difficult time adjusting.
“They couldn’t really take away one or the other, they had to respect both,” said Dionne.
Shaw contributed nine points while fueling Nokomis’ defense with three steals.