NEWPORT, Maine — The Nokomis of Newport girls basketball team roared through the first third of its regular-season schedule, outscoring its first six opponents by an average of more than 42 points per game.
The Warriors’ more recent outings have been much more competitive, but the bottom line has been the same — coach Kori Dionne’s team remains undefeated, now 12-0 after a 61-60 overtime victory at Leavitt of Turner Center on Tuesday night in the rematch of their 2011 Class B state final.
Nokomis’ last three wins — over Camden Hills of Rockport, Gardiner and Leavitt — have come against teams with a combined record of 32-7, but the Warriors’ ability to defeat those Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference rivals by an average of 6.3 points per game suggests that the two-time defending regional champions are well prepared for the close contests that are inevitable when the Eastern B tournament begins at the Bangor Auditorium on Feb. 17.
“I knew this stretch would be big for us,” said Dionne. “I think the fact those three games were all on the road was big, too, because being on the road is similar to a tournament atmosphere for us and it was good for us to be in those close games.”
None of the games were closer than the eagerly anticipated match-up against Leavitt, which defeated Nokomis 49-37 in last year’s state final.
Leavitt got out to the faster start, using its full-court pressure to build a 15-point second-quarter lead.
But rather than get blown out, Nokomis responded with 10 unanswered points to end the period and trailed just 31-26 at halftime.
“We were breaking their press in the backcourt but turning it over in the frontcourt,” said Dionne, whose sophomore guards Kylie and Kelsie Richards were both on the bench with two fouls. “We weren’t settling down once we got in the frontcourt, but we finally relaxed and pounded the ball inside where we had the advantage.”
Nokomis built a five-point lead by the end of the third quarter, but Leavitt quickly closed that gap behind junior guard Kristen Anderson, who scored a game-high 39 points.
The Warriors finally persevered in overtime and earned the victory, ultimately thanks in large part to the inside play of 5-foot-10 sophomore center Anna Mackenzie (20 points, 14 rebounds) and 5-9 senior forward Marissa Shaw (19 points, 16 rebounds), the team’s leader on and off the court.
“Marissa is always someone who’s led by example,” said Dionne. “But this year I think it’s sunk in that this is her final year, that this is it. She already knows what she’s going to do next year, she’s going to the University of Maine to play field hockey. But she’s really dedicated herself to basketball this winter.”
And while Shaw may be a leader among team leaders for the Warriors, she is just one more cog in a balanced lineup that has averaged 62 points per game this winter while yielding just 32.4 points an outing.
“At one point this year everyone in the starting five, and even one or two people coming off the bench, has been our leading scorer,” said Dionne, whose team hosts 9-4 Oceanside of Rockland on Thursday night. “There are a lot of people who can look to score, but this is a very unselfish team.”