BANGOR, Maine — Any way you want to break it down, free throws were the difference in Wednesday night’s Eastern Maine Class B girls basketball semifinal.
It was fourth-seeded Nokomis that best took advantage of the foul line.
The Warriors made seven of their 10 foul shots in the fourth quarter and held on for a 41-35 victory over top-seeded Presque Isle at the Bangor Auditorium.
Coach Kori Dionne’s Nokomis team (16-4) plays No. 2 Mount Desert Island, a 32-23 winner over No. 3 Winslow, in Saturday’s 2:05 p.m. regional championship game in Bangor.
“Wonderful,” sophomore forward Marissa Shaw said of Nokomis’ title-game berth, the program’s first since 2003. “I’ve been there in field hockey and it’s great. I’m so excited.”
The Warriors’ patience and inside-oriented offensive game plan proved too much for a quick, but undersized Presque Isle ballclub (18-2). The 5-foot-8 Shaw and 5-10 center Danielle Watson combined for 26 points, 30 rebounds and four blocks.
Shaw finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds, while Watson provided 10 points and 14 boards. Nokomis dominated the rebounding 49-22.
“Marissa is just an animal, for her size, on the boards anyway, but we had the size advantage going in and I told them that between her and Danielle Watson they needed to dominate on the boards tonight,” Dionne said.
The Warriors went 12-for-23 from the foul line, but made eight of their last 12.
The Wildcats posed some problems for the Warriors with their speed and dribble-penetration. Chandler Guerrette (15 points) and Kayla Richards (7 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) led that effort.
Presque Isle’s Achilles’ heel was its foul shooting. The Wildcats were a dismal 6-for-21 (29 percent) from the line, including 3-for-11 in the second half.
Those missed chances eventually caught up with them.
Nokomis took the lead for good with a 7-0 third-quarter run that included Watson’s foul shot and 3-pointers by Kara Batchelder (9 rebounds, 4 assists) and Mary Badeen (8 points).
The Warriors, who remained steadfast in their deliberate, half-court style, eventually pushed the lead to six on another Badeen 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve got two point guards out on the floor in Mary Badeen and Julie Smith and I trust my girls to take care of it,” Dionne said. “We ended up with some layups and when we didn’t they fouled and we made what we needed to make from the line.”
With the feisty Richards leading the charge, PI made a determined challenge in the fourth. Her driving layup got the Wildcats within one (35-34) with 3:19 to play, but Shaw answered with a close-range hoop that kept Nokomis on top.
PI had a handful of chances to tie or go ahead after that, but could not capitalize.
Smith and Badeen made two free throws each in the last 11 seconds to preserve the victory.