Since the seniors began playing on the Nokomis High School girls basketball team, the Warriors have gone 68-4 in regular-season play.
The Warriors enter the Eastern Maine Class B Tournament with an 18-0 record good for the No. 2 seed behind Presque Isle, which has won 62 straight games and the last two Class B state championships.
“We have extra motivation from the past two years,” said senior guard and co-captain Kelsie Richards.
Nokomis had ousted Presque Isle in the semifinals when the Warriors won regional crowns in 2010 and 2011.
The Warriors, behind their athleticism and thorough team defense, have limited their opponents to 28.6 points per game.
“We work hard on our team defense,” said senior co-captain and guard Taylor Shaw. “We try not to foul. We keep our feet moving.”
“And they’ve done a good job boxing out (on the defensive boards),” said second-year head coach Michelle Paradis.
Paradis said they have tried to control games with their discipline and patience with the ball.
The Warriors would love another shot at the Wildcats in the final, but they also know both they and the Wildcats need to win two games at the new Cross Insurance Center to reach the regional final.
No. 10 seed John Bapst High of Bangor, which upset No. 7 Medomak Valley of Waldoboro 33-32 in a preliminary game, will be Nokomis’ first test at 9:05 a.m. Saturday.
“Bapst will be playing on its home court, and that’s a major concern,” said Paradis. “This will be the first time our players will have stepped foot on that floor. It’s all new to them.”
“We’re going to take it game by game. But we’ve also had our eye on Presque Isle and what they’ve done because we know we could be playing them again,” said Shaw.
The 5-foot-5-inch Shaw is one of the team’s leading scorers, averaging 10-12 points per game, according to Paradis.
“But she will also go into the post and play like she’s 5-10 or 5-11,” said Paradis.
Mobile 5-11 senior center Anna MacKenzie leads the team in scoring (12-13 ppg) and rebounding (10-11 rpg).
Richards, who stands 5-5, has averaged 8-9 ppg and leads the team in assists with 4-5 per game.
Paradis said the speedy Richards is the floor general and often covers the other team’s top-scoring guard.
Lindsay Whitney, another 5-5 guard, dishes out 3-4 assists and is the team’s second-leading rebounder at 6-7 per game. She can also produce points, according to Paradis.
Junior forward Mikayla Charters (5-9) is an unsung hero who does a lot of little things well such as setting screens and guarding the opposing team’s top inside scorer.
Paradis also has a strong bench featuring energetic turnover-producer Kylie Richards, Kelsie’s twin sister.
“Our energy level goes up when Kylie comes in,” said Paradis.
Freshman guard Austin Taylor supplies important defensive intensity and 5-10 senior Taylor Quick is a reliable rebounder.
Paradis and the co-captains said the team has better team chemistry this season, and that has been beneficial.
Presque Isle, which has just one senior, has been led by Hannah Graham and Krystal Kingsbury along with impressive depth. Mount Desert Island, which has lost only to Presque Isle, features Hannah Shaw, Kelsey Shaw and Sierra Myrick.
Mount Desert Island has seven players 5-9 or taller and meets Ellsworth at 8 p.m. Friday.
In Class C, defending regional champ Calais, Orono and Narraguagus are the top three seeds and should be considered the favorites. Calais is 37-3 over the past two seasons but has a difficult quarterfinal matchup with ninth seeded rival Washington Academy of East Machias.
Calais topped Washington Academy 36-35 and 51-47 during the regular season.
Maddy McVicar and Paige Gillespie have been Calais’ catalysts. Elea Kass and Katie Sypher have been Orono’s top guns while Narraguagus features Anna Ramsay and Kelli Kennedy.
In Class D, Washburn has won three straight state titles and should be considered the team to beat again even though the Beavers are the No. 4 seed.
Mackenzie Worcester, a 1,000-point scorer in just two full seasons, has recovered from a broken bone in her hand and joins with Carmen Bragg, Nicole Olson, Carsyn Koch and Joan Overman in supplying the Beavers with talent and depth.
Morgan Thompson, Schenck High of East Millinocket’s 1,000-point scorer, and 2,000-point scorer Parise Rossignol of Van Buren have led their teams to the top two seeds, and well-balanced teams from Fort Fairfield and Limestone Community School/Maine School of Science and Mathematics will also be in the mix along with 16-1 Machias.
Defending Eastern Maine champ Bangor failed to qualify for the Class A tournament leaving a wide-open affair with No. 1 seed Edward Little of Auburn (17-1), No. 2 Lawrence of Fairfield (16-2) and No. 3 Oxford Hills of South Paris, 14-4, as the front-runners. Oxford Hills beat both Edward Little and Lawrence.