ROCKLAND, Maine — Turning the tables defensively and a big night for senior forward Kennadi Grover led the Oceanside Mariners of Rockland/Thomaston to a 57-45 victory over Nokomis of Newport on Friday night in a matchup of two of the top teams in Eastern Maine Class B girls basketball.
Grover scored 23 points and grabbed 18 rebounds and surpassed 1,000 points in her career, but the first two may have been the most important.
Grover, who needed 15 points to reach 1,000, missed her first five shots, from close in and from 3-point range, before hitting a layup with 1:22 left in the first quarter.
“I felt like things were falling into place [for her and the Mariners] when I got that first layup,” said a relieved Grover afterward.
A strong second quarter put her, and the Mariners, well on their way, and she achieved the milestone with a basket with 3:23 left in the third quarter. She now has 1,008 for her career, which started at Georges Valley High School in Thomaston before that school merged with Rockland District High School to become Oceanside in 2011.
“I kept saying let it come in the flow of play,” said Oceanside coach Teel Foster. “She deserves everything she gets.”
The game was already significant as it matched the second-place Mariners and the third-place Warriors in the Eastern Maine Class B Heal points.
Foster had prepared her team for this game, especially, knowing that the Warriors would try to disrupt the Mariners’ ball movement.
“The last five practices we had were no dribble,” said Foster. The girls were not allowed to dribble to move the ball. They had to pass.
“We’ve averaged 25 turnovers a game,” said Foster. “Tonight, we had 12. I think it made a huge difference.”
And Oceanside also worked on disrupting Nokomis’ game, which creates turnovers.
“We practiced jumping into the passing lanes,” said Foster.
Both teams started slowly and the game remained close for most of the first half until Grover’s jumper in the lane with 2:59 remaining in the first half gave the Mariners (9-1) the lead for good at 22-20.
That hoop started Oceanside on a 9-0 run that continued into the third quarter, and the closest the Warriors (9-1) came after that was five points.
“Sometimes it’s hard for us to get our momentum going,” said Nokomis senior center Traci Carson.
Carson came off the bench to post 10 points for the Warriors. Eight of them came in the closing seconds of the third period and first three minutes of the last one as Nokomis made a final run to catch Oceanside.
The Warriors sometimes take a while to figure out a competitive opponent, said Carson.
“We usually hit at the end,” Carson added.
That didn’t happen Friday.
Two free throws by Anna MacKenzie closed the Warriors’ gap to five points (43-38) with 2:28 remaining, but Oceanside scored 14 points, including 12 of 16 free throws, in the final 2:15 to secure the win and take over the top spot in the Heal points.
The free throws more than offset a Nokomis field goal by Mikayla Charters, a 3-pointer by Taylor Shaw and a field goal by Shaw.
Foster likes the situation the Mariners are in now compared to last year when they lost a coin flip and had to host a tournament prelim game, which John Bapst won.
“This solidifies a top-three spot for us as long as we take care of business the rest of the way,” said Foster. “They remember the coin toss last year, and that has motivated them a bit this year.”
Emily Gould added 11 points for Oceanside, and Brooke Dugan had nine.
MacKenzie topped Nokomis with 13 points, and Carson and Shaw added 10 each.
Foster was relieved.
“I’m going to go home, have a glass of wine and relax,” she said.