On paper, Presque Isle and defending two-time champ Nokomis of Newport should square off for the Eastern Maine Class B schoolgirl basketball championship at the Bangor Auditorium.
In addition to both teams going 18-0, top seed Presque Isle’s average winning margin was 39.7 points per game and second seed Nokomis’ was 28.6.
But Presque Isle coach Jeff Hudson and Nokomis coach Kori Dionne know getting to the final won’t be easy.
“You never know what’s going to happen. It’s anybody’s ballgame,” said Dionne.
“I hope our kids don’t get caught up in that trap,” said Hudson. “KVAC schools have won seven of the last eight [EM] championships. Their schools are a little bit bigger and their league is tougher.”
Hudson’s weak schedule is worrisome.
“It’s a true concern,” admitted Hudson. “We knew our league wasn’t going to be as strong this year as last year, so we played a strong preseason schedule and a lot of good teams in the summer.”
“You can’t control how good other teams are. You just have to keep working hard,” said Hudson.
“I would hate to be in Presque Isle’s shoes,” said Dionne. “Our league is pretty competitive.”
Nokomis had three games that were decided by six points or less.
But Presque Isle has plenty of incentive.
Nokomis ousted Presque Isle in the semis the past two years.
“We’ve got them in our sights,” admitted Presque Isle senior guard and co-captain Kayla Richards. “We lost to them because of foul shooting and rebounding and we’ve really worked hard [on both].”
“We know they’re gunning for us,” said Nokomis standout forward and tri-captain Marissa Shaw. “But we definitely can’t look ahead. We have to take it one game at a time.”
Both teams have plenty of quality and depth.
“We have shooters and post players. You can’t focus on just one player,” said Shaw. “We’re clicking better this year because we’re more experienced. Everyone is comfortable on the court.” Shaw, who averaged 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, and sophomore center Anna Mackenzie (10.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg) are the marquee players, but sophomore twin guards Kelsie Richards (8.1 ppg, 2.1 assists per game) and Kylie Richards (2.5 apg, 2.1 steals per game) have also played important roles, as has senior forward Emilee Reynolds (6 ppg).
Guards Megan Perry and Lindsay Whitney, forward Taylor Shaw, Marissa’s sister, and center Traci Carson have also been productive contributors for the Warriors, who have allowed just 32.7 points per game.
Presque Isle is the epitome of balance.
Juniors Chandler Guerrette (12.6 ppg, 3.7 spg, 2.9 apg) and Meghan Ireland (9.8 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.7 spg) and Kayla Richards (5.6 rpg, 3.4 apg) man the guard spots, senior forward Chelsea Nickerson (5.6 ppg, 3.2 apg) is the team’s top defender and 5-11 junior Meredith Stewart (8.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg) is the center. A deep bench is highlighted by forward-center Krystal Kingsbury (8 ppg), versatile Hannah Graham (7.9 ppg) and 3-point specialist Karlee Bernier.
“This is the deepest team I’ve been on,” said Richards.
The two teams that loom as primary challengers to Presque Isle and Nokomis are Camden Hills and Gardiner, the third and fourth seeds with 15-3 marks.
“We’ve exceeded expectations and we’re hoping to go deep into the playoffs,” said Camden Hills coach Marty Messer, whose Windjammers missed the tourney a year ago. “We lost our senior center [Laura Johanson] two-thirds of the way through the season [for personal reasons], but the girls have rallied and played a lot better. They’ve adapted to it.”
Junior phenom Jordan Knowlton (22.9 ppg, 14.4 rpg, 3.3 apg, 3.1 spg) has had a monster year and a strong supporting cast includes senior guard Taylor Porter (11.1 ppg) and senior forward Sarah Steele (6.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.5 spg) along with Megan LeGage, Kristina Alex, Jacquelyn Richards, Caroline Matteo and Marina French.
“Knowlton’s the best player in the tournament,” said Hudson.
Gardiner has been led by senior guard Jenna Moore (9.9 ppg), junior guard Kylee Granholm (7.5 ppg, 3.7 apg) and 6-1 shot-blocking center Kelly Macomber (2.7 bpg).
“Gardiner has an inside and an outside game, they’re athletic and they’re quick,” said Dionne.
Mount Desert Island’s 14-4 Trojans have been paced by Hannah Shaw, Emily Lewis and Delenn Colson, and 12-6 Old Town features seniors Ashley England, Samantha McLaughlin and Ashley Abbott. The return from knee injury of 6-footer Abby Pyne makes John Bapst of Bangor significantly more formidable, and Alanna Vose (21.3 ppg, 3.6 apg) has shined for Medomak Valley of Waldoboro.