It’s a dream matchup that basketball fans have been eagerly anticipating since the Nokomis and Leavitt girls met in Newport in mid-January.
The Hornets’ high-octane offense against the Warriors’ stingy defense. Two of the state’s top point guards in Nokomis’ Julie Smith and Leavitt’s Courtney Anderson.
These two Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference foes will battle for the state’s ultimate prize in Friday’s 7:05 p.m. Class B state championship game at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.
This is truly a classic matchup of offense vs. defense, as coach Tammy Anderson’s Hornets are averaging a robust 62.3 points per game during postseason play while coach Kori Dionne’s Warriors gave up only 39 ppg in the Eastern Maine tourney.
Leavitt won the regular-season meeting between the teams 66-61, while the Warriors were victorious in Turner Center last season.
Nokomis will have to adjust to playing in the larger Cumberland County Civic Center, which features a 94-foot court.
“I think we’re a little nervous about playing there but we’re going to have our whole town behind us,” Smith said after the Eastern Maine finals in Bangor Saturday.
The Warriors practiced in Portland on Wednesday evening.
“It was really nice to be able to go down there, we had a really good practice,” Dionne said.
It took the Hornets a while to adjust to playing in the Civic Center last winter, but Anderson’s players are fully acclimated now.
“It is different,” said Anderson. “It’s a tough gym to shoot in although I have seen other teams shoot well in it. It’s a hockey rink, you’re out in the middle, it is different.”
But with the way Courtney and Kristen Anderson, Tammy’s daughters, are shooting this postseason, it doesn’t matter where they’re playing.
Kristen Anderson, a sophomore, scored eight of her 21 points in overtime of Leavitt’s 58-55 win over defending state champion York in the regional final, hitting a couple of bombs at NBA range, while her big sister, a University of Maine recruit, had 20.
That win snapped York’s 43-game winning streak.
While the Andersons are certainly two weapons the Warriors will have to be wary of, the Hornets have plenty more, including Abby Randall, Amanda Jordan, Adrianna Newton, Sarah Foster and Jenna Cote.
That will be crucial in matching the depth of Nokomis, which went eight to nine deep during the EM tourney.
“I don’t think we take anybody lightly on that team,” said coach Anderson, the former Tammy Anair who was a standout player at Winthrop High and the University of Southern Maine.
Smith, Emilee Reynolds, twin sisters Kylie and Kelsee Richards and Danielle Watson are all capable of scoring 10-plus points for Nokomis.
The Warriors have started games quickly throughout the tourney, something Dionne hopes will continue.
“The atmosphere’s going to be a little bit different. It shouldn’t be something that we should be too surprised about,” she said.
But Nokomis has struggled to finish games in its last two contests, and that’s something the Warriors likely won’t get away with against the Hornets.
“It’s a game we’re going to have to play 32 minutes of,” said Dionne. “We need to be focused on putting 32 minutes together.”
The Warriors also will have to be wary of Newton inside, especially on the offensive glass.
“That’s something we’ve also been focusing on and concentrating on this week,” said Dionne.
Newton stands 5-foot-10, about an inch shorter than Nokomis’ Watson, who is 5-11.
While Nokomis is a tradition-laden program, the Hornets have been building one of their own over the last few years, making the Class A quarterfinals in 2009 while appearing in the semifinals after dropping to Western Maine Class B last winter.
“A lot of people don’t have the fortunate situation that I was in,” coach Anderson said. “The seniors, I’ve had since kindergarten. I knew this was coming, this was no surprise.”
While the Anderson sisters are certainly known for their offense, they also key the Hornets’ ballhawking full-court press.
“Kristen does so much for us defensively,” said coach Anderson.
Turnovers played a big factor in the first meeting between the teams, and Dionne expects that to be the case again.
“They love to pressure up and down the floor, they’re all over the place,” she said. “They look to force you to make mistakes, that’s something they got us to do when we played earlier in the season.”