BANGOR, Maine — The undefeated Presque Isle High School girls basketball found themselves in a battle against a John Bapst team it had beaten by 50 points on Dec. 19.
On Saturday night, the Crusaders had scored five straight points to pull within two with 2:53 left in the third quarter.
But the Wildcats showed why they have now won 61 straight games by answering the John Bapst surge with 13 unanswered points during a 20-1 spurt en route to a 54-35 triumph at the Cross Insurance Center.
The two-time defending state Class B champs are 17-0 with one game remaining at Caribou on Thursday night while John Bapst of Bangor fell to 9-7.
Junior forward Krystal Kingsbury led the way for Presque Isle with a game-high 16 points to go with six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Freshman guard Emily Lagerstrom came off the bench to pour in 14 points, including four 3-pointers, and she also had two steals.
Junior guard Hannah Graham chipped in with 11 points, three assists and two rebounds and 5-foot-11 sophomore center Regan Nelson had eight points, six rebounds and four blocked shots off the bench.
Junior forward Maegan True’s 13 points and game-high seven rebounds paced the Crusaders. Sophomore forward Hannah Philippon had eight points, six rebounds and two assists; Karrie O’Donnell had five points and four rebounds; Courtney Benson had three assists and Lexi Campbell grabbed five rebounds off the bench.
Presque Isle coach Jeff Hudson said his team “turned up its effort a little bit” during the decisive 13-point run.
“We got a couple of big offensive rebounds. We forced a couple of turnovers and when you make some threes here and there, it makes a difference,” said Hudson, whose team effectively ran a full-court zone press.
“We didn’t break the press as well as were were supposed to. And they can hit their shots pretty well,” said John Bapst senior guard O’Donnell.
“We were a little tired,” said John Bapst coach Mike Webb. “We didn’t play as many people so we wound up turning the ball over and they converted those turnovers into 3’s. When they get going, they’re a very good basketball team.
“But I’m very proud of our kids. They played their best game of the year,” added Webb.
A Lagerstrom steal and her 3-pointer off a Taylor Williams pass triggered the 13-0 run before Nelson followed by converting an offensive rebound.
Kingsbury hit three free throws, Lagerstrom nailed a 3 from the right corner off another Williams feed and Nelson popped in an offensive rebound to cap the spurt.
Campbell’s free throw with 5:56 remaining in the game snapped a scoreless drought that lasted 4:57 but the Wildcats scored the next seven points.
Nelson and Lagerstrom came off the bench and gave the Wildcats an important lift in the first half.
Nelson blocked three shots and pulled down four rebounds before picking up her second foul and exiting. Lagerstrom’s two 3-pointers sandwiched one by Graham in a nine-point first-quarter run that erased a 5-4 deficit and gave the Wildcats a lead they would never relinquish.
“When we don’t come out strong, I know I have to step it up,” said Nelson. “I try to get open inside but if I can’t, I know we have shooters and I can get offensive rebounds if I work hard.”
John Bapst used an 8-2 run at the end of the first half to pull within 22-17 at the break.
True was immense in the third period, scoring nine points thanks to hard work and a series of strong and creative moves in and around the paint.
Her free throw made it 30-28 with 2:53 left before the Wildcats went on their 20-1 spree.
“They play real well together,” said Philippon.