HERMON, Maine — Because the Presque Isle girls’ basketball team did not like its performance in its previous game, the Wildcats decided to refocus their efforts in Saturday afternoon’s Big East Class B matchup with the Hermon Hawks.
Senior guard Chandler Guerrette set the tone for defending state champion Presque Isle by scoring twice in the first 15 seconds.
“We wanted to come out strong and not let ’em think they had a chance,” said Guerrette.
Guerrette drove in for a layup off the opening tip, then stole the inbounds pass for a second layup that started the undefeated Wildcats on their way to a 66-37 victory over the Hawks.
“We took the MDI game as a loss,” said Guerrette of her team’s 55-46 win over the previously undefeated Trojans of Bar Harbor on Dec. 29. “We wanted to come out strong and rebound from our last game.”
PI senior guard Megan Ireland scored 10 points in the first quarter and Guerrette eight as the Wildcats jumped out to a 22-11 margin and continued to build a lead that reached 31 points late in the third quarter.
“We needed to make sure our intensity was right there from the beginning,” said PI coach Jeff Hudson. “We wanted to play our game today instead of having it dictated by somebody else.”
Hermon tried to counter, but the girls had a difficult night against the 9-0 Wildcats’ press.
The Hawks were able to fire up 40 field goal attempts in the game, compared to Presque Isle’s 58. Hermon hit 11 (27.5 percent), while the ‘Cats made 25 (43.1 percent).
“They had a really tough press,” said Hawks junior Jenna Crouse. “We struggled to break it.”
That task generally fell to Hermon junior guard Raychel Alley.
The Wildcats’ plan was to hound Alley on offense.
“We wanted to make Alley [who drives the lane as well as shooting from outside] go to the basket,” said Hudson.
That would allow PI, which has five players listed at 5-foot-10 or taller, to get some long arms and extra bodies in the defensive scheme to hold down Alley’s scoring.
“Karlee Bernier did a real nice job on her,” said Hudson of his 5-10 senior guard.
Other Hawks — including Brittney Hamlin, the lone senior; Crouse, juniors Gretchen Spencer and Katie Kivler, and sophomore Shelby Caron — tried to take some of the pressure off Alley.
“[The shots] just didn’t fall,” said Hermon coach Phil Robinson. “We had a couple of shooters right at the edge [of a big game].”
Guerrette finished with a game-high 21 points; Ireland added 13, all in the first half, and sophomore forward Hannah Graham had 10.
“Ireland had a good first half,” said Hudson. “She made a lot of things happen.”
Alley led Hermon (3-3) with 15 points, and Hamlin posted 12.
After Guerrette opened the scoring, Alley put Hermon on the board with a layup after grabbing the rebound of her own missed shot.
Ireland followed with a 3-pointer and another hoop before Guerrette sandwiched two free throws and a field goal around a second Alley field goal.
The teams played the rest of the first quarter relatively evenly, then Presque Isle kicked it up again with a 10-0 start to the second quarter to take a 32-11 lead.
“We tried to slow ’em up a little bit, change up defenses,” said Robinson, but there was no stopping Presque Isle.
The Wildcats widened the margin to 51-23 after three quarters and sustained it through the fourth period. Presque Isle outscored Hermon in each quarter.
The game was a rematch of the season opener, won by Presque Isle 82-43.
“They’re just good,” said Robinson, emphasizing the word good. “Right down to the [number] eight and nine players.
“There’s no letup.”
Hudson tries to make sure of that.
“It doesn’t matter who we have in there, we expect them all to play the same way,” Hudson said.
“They have a very good team,” said Crouse. “Everyone can play.”
The mental strength that comes from that is what Hudson is looking for.
“When we play with confidence, we’re a tough matchup,” he said.