NEWPORT — The Nokomis girls basketball program has always prided itself on defense, dating back to the Danielle Clark-led teams earlier this decade.
The Warriors showcased the trait that powered them to the Eastern Maine Class B championship last winter, forcing 28 turnovers while getting a balanced, efficient effort from the offense en route to a 50-19 win over an undermanned Waterville club in a mutual Friday night opener.
Coach Kori Dionne’s club had no trouble with the Purple Panthers, as Nokomis’ full-court trap harassed Waterville right from the start.
“The first thing we do when we step out on the floor every year is a defensive drill,” Dionne said. “These girls take a lot of pride in their defense.”
And great defense generally leads to offensive prowess, as the Warriors opened the game on a 10-0 run, scoring all those points off turnovers. Nokomis led 13-1 at the end of the first quarter and held Waterville without a field goal during the first half.
The Warriors picked apart Waterville’s 2-3 zone with solid jump shooting, with freshman Kelsie Richards canning a perimeter shot from the left wing to spark Nokomis’ first-quarter run.
Nokomis didn’t see a great deal of zone looks last winter.
“We have a feeling that it’s going to be a big part of people’s defense (against us) this year, so we just have to react to that,” said senior point guard Julie Smith, who led Nokomis with 10 points, while Richards had nine and Marissa Shaw and Stephanie Stone eight apiece.
That kind of balanced offense is a strong early indication for the Warriors.
“I think that’s one thing we have this year that I haven’t had in (my) four years is depth,” Dionne said.
Nokomis stretched its lead to 23-4 at the half, and Waterville didn’t hit its first field goal until Jennifer Smith’s baseline pull-up on the first possession of the second half.
Julie Smith was impressed with the outside shooting of Stone and Richards, whom the Warriors are expecting big things from this season.
“They really bring a lot to the table,” said Smith, who was also a force on the glass with eight offensive rebounds.
Even though Dionne was certainly impressed with the way her team played defense, Nokomis struggled somewhat with its shooting, going 19-for-63 from the field.
“We said at halftime, I like giving up four points in a half, it’s obviously pretty decent defense, but we need to put up more than 20 in a half, so that is something that we’ll be working on,” Dionne said.
Nokomis dominated the backboards, outrebounding the smaller Panthers 34-11.
A lot of teams are going to be gunning for the Warriors as defending champions, but they made a surefire opening-night statement.
“I think that motivates us to work harder and push each other more,” Julie Smith said.
Shaw was also strong on the glass for Nokomis, coming up with nine rebounds while pacing the defensive effort with three steals.
Emily Karter was Waterville’s high scorer with eight points.