BANGOR — After a lackluster performance by their standards on Saturday and an unsatisfactory first half Wednesday, the Nokomis girls basketball team decided enough was enough.
After Old Town had burned the second-ranked Warriors on some perimeter shots in the first half, coach Kori Dionne’s club put the clamps down, outscoring the No. 6 Coyotes 22-8 in the second half en route to a 52-31 Class B semifinal victory at the Bangor Auditorium.
The two-time defending Eastern Maine champions (20-0) will go for a three-peat on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. against top-seeded Presque Isle, also 20-0 after a 63-44 verdict over No. 4 Gardiner in the day’s last game.
In the first game of the session, it appeared early on the Warriors were going to run the Coyotes (14-7) out of the Auditorium, as Nokomis’ full-court pressure forced numerous turnovers which turned into layups, and the Warriors scored the game’s first eight points.
But Nokomis had some uncharacteristic defensive lapses of its own, as Old Town clawed back into the game thanks to its perimeter shooting, closing within 25-22 late in the second quarter.
“We were caught helping a little too much, we were falling flat against the baseline instead of falling back to a player,” said Dionne. “I just kind of stressed that at halftime.”
Dionne added that the Warriors were over-helping and were late to close-outs, resulting in Old Town’s guards having open looks on the perimeter.
The Warriors played like two-time defending regional champions after the break, shutting Old Town out in the third quarter while a jump shot and layup by Emilee Reynolds restored Nokomis’ lead to double-digits.
“These guys don’t know quit, we knew coming out of Saturday’s game we weren’t really happy with how we played,” Dionne said.
Nokomis’ guards did an effective job denying Old Town any open perimeter looks in the second half, and post player Courtney Treadwell was held scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting.
The Warriors featured balance offensively , with Traci Carson leading the way with 12 points, followed by Marissa Shaw with 11 and Emilee Reynolds, Lindsay Whitney and Kelsie Richards with six apiece.
“We couldn’t overcome their defense, we couldn’t get our shots off like we did the other night,” said Old Town coach Dana Maxim.
The Coyotes didn’t convert a second-half field goal until Suzie Outman’s follow-up basket with 3:36 left in regulation, but the game was long decided by then.
“You have to give Old Town credit, they were hitting some big shots there in that first half,” said Dionne. They played us tough.”
Kelsie Richards had four steals for Nokomis while sister Kylie had three, as did Shaw.
Ashley England, who led the Coyotes with nine points, sparked Old Town’s second-quarter comeback bid with six points.
In the second game, freshman guard Hannah Graham and junior forward Karlee Bernier provided sparks on the offensive and defensive ends for Presque Isle.
Bernier, an early substitution by coach Jeff Hudson, gave the Wildcats an immediate defensive lift as she knocked a Gardiner inbounds pass to Graham for a two-pointer and a 5-4 lead.
“She has long arms and seems like she gets her hands on everything,” said Hudson, “and Hannah is built the same way.”
That play also turned up the wick on a 21-4 run that closed out the first quarter with PI up 23-8.
“Defensively, it takes someone to get the momentum going,” said Bernier. “Once someone gets it going, the whole team gets going.”
The long run included a 3-pointer by Bernier, another basket by Graham and three hoops by freshman forward Krystal Kingsbury.
Graham and Kingsbury also came in as subs, but Hudson doesn’t consider them that.
“I feel like we have eight starters,” Hudson said. “We don’t lose anything when we bring those girls in.”
Presque Isle eventually pushed its lead to 20 points at 36-16 before the Tigers (17-4) made their last run, a 9-0 effort that cut the Wildcats’ lead to 11. Senior guard Jenna Moore hit a 3, senior forward Katie McAllister canned two free throws and sophomore forward Allyson Day hit two putbacks.
They never got any closer as Graham sandwiched two hoops around another Bernier 3 and PI took a 43-27 lead at halftime.
The pesky Tigers slowed the Wildcats’ charge after that, but couldn’t stop them.
Graham finished with a game-high 16 points, junior forward Meredith Stewart added 13, Bernier finished with eight and senior guard Kayla Richards had seven.
McAllister topped the Tigers with 10 points, junior guard Kylee Granholm posted nine and junior center Kelly MaComber and Day had six each.
“I get really excited each time I come out on the floor,” said Bernier. “It’s a big job and I have some big shoes to fill.
“It’s a great feeling to get the crowd cheering and hit big shots.”