OLD TOWN — With snowstorms and midterm exams wreaking havoc on the state’s high school basketball slate last week, it’s understandable the Presque Isle girls were a tad rusty Saturday.
The Wildcats, who hadn’t played since Monday, shook off some shooting woes and used a stout defensive effort to post a 37-29 Class B victory over Old Town at MacKenzie Gym.
Coach Jeff Hudson’s top-ranked club held Old Town without a field goal over the final three minutes and improved to 11-1 with its fifth consecutive win despite shooting just 11-for-46 (23 percent) from the field. Ninth-seeded Old Town slipped to 6-6.
“We didn’t run that much, we missed a lot of layups, but I thought we did a decent job rebounding,” said Hudson.
Despite Presque Isle’s struggles on the offensive end, the ‘Cats managed to hold Old Town to 13-of-47 shooting (27 percent). They never trailed after Megan Ireland’s 3-pointer from the right corner late in the first quarter.
But the Coyotes managed to hang around thanks to patience on the offensive end, countering Presque Isle’s quickness with two solid post presences in Ashley Abbott and Courtney Treadwell.
“I think they realized that they can’t run with us. I thought they did a good job breaking the press for the most part,” Hudson said.
But the Coyotes’ problem was they couldn’t do it with consistency. Coach Dana Maxim’s club had trouble sustaining any momentum throughout the game while failing to convert some open looks.
“That’s something that’s been hurting us all season long is shooting percentage,” Maxim said. “We were getting good looks, they just weren’t falling.”
Sophomore guard Chandler Guerrette, who led Presque Isle with nine points, also fueled her team’s defense with five steals. She turned two of them into layups in the second quarter to help the ‘Cats maintain their lead.
“Coach told us that we have to win other ways. We have to go to the basket, we can’t just shoot outside,” said Guerrette.
The Wildcats did a better job of that in the second half, using their quickness to penetrate and not just settling for jump shots.
After a back-and-forth third quarter that concluded with PI up 22-20, the Wildcats started to stretch out their lead a bit early in the fourth. Chelsea Nickerson’s baseline pull-up extended the margin to 29-23 with 5:12 left.
The resilient Coyotes chipped away, with Ashley England canning a perimeter shot from up top and Abbott sinking the front end of a one-and-one to bring Old Town within two with 4:34 to go.
But another baseline jumper by Nickerson and a layup from Guerrette restored Presque Isle’s lead to six, and the Wildcats secured the victory at the foul line.
Presque Isle mixed up a full-court press and full-court trap to force Old Town into 18 turnovers.
“I think that our aggressiveness worked for us, getting the ball and putting pressure on them,” Nickerson said. “We came out with a lot of energy.”
The Wildcats also expected the Coyotes to put up a fight with considerable Heal points on the line.
“It was a playoff game for them, because if they beat us then they would make the tournament,” Guerrette said.
Nickerson and Ireland finished with seven points apiece for Presque Isle while Abbott scored a game-high 12 for Old Town. Treadwell netted eight points and grabbed eight rebounds.