BANGOR — Even though Kelsie Richards had never played in the Bangor Auditorium prior to Saturday afternoon, the Nokomis freshman played with the confidence of a seasoned veteran.
Richards led four Warriors in double figures with 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting as coach Kori Dionne’s fourth-ranked club kicked off its defense of its Eastern Maine Class B championship with a 69-33 basketball victory over No. 5 Mount Desert Island.
The 17-2 Warriors will face a familiar postseason foe in Wednesday’s 3:30 p.m. semifinal when they battle top-ranked Presque Isle, which rolled past No. 8 Gardiner 48-27 later Saturday.
MDI finishes the season 14-5.
MDI and Nokomis battled in the final last winter, with the Warriors coming away with the win.
Richards and her Warriors made sure this rematch of last year’s EM final was never in doubt, as she sparked a 13-0 first-quarter run with a pair of 3-point bombs.
“I haven’t been on as much as I was at the beginning of the season,” Richards admitted. “I just felt normal again.”
Nokomis, which is typically known for being a stout defensive team, pick an opportune time for one of its best offensive games of the season, as the Warriors shot 23-for-51 from the floor while Julie Smith scored 13 points, Emilee Reynolds 12 and Marissa Shaw 10.
“Our defense is always something we can count on,” Dionne said. “There have been times where we’ve struggled offensively (but) tonight the girls just went out with confidence.”
Particularly from the perimeter, as Nokomis was a robust 9-of-14 from beyond the arc, with Shaw, normally a solid presence inside, stepping back to hit a couple of bombs.
“It’s one of those nights where you’ve got to give them a lot of credit,” said MDI coach Brent Barker. “They beat us tonight.”
Nokomis’ nine 3-point field goals ironically tied the EM Class B tourney record set by the 2003 MDI squad that won a state championship.
The Warriors frustrated MDI senior Megan Phelps early and often, as she was held to 13 points on 3-of-14 shooting, while the Trojans were just 10-of-35 from the field as a whole.
“They’re a good basketball team, until somebody knocks them off they’re still one of the better teams in the tournament,” said Barker.
Later Saturday, Presque Isle used a similar format to race to its quarterfinal win, using its full-court press to stifle a Gardiner club making its first tourney appearance since 2004, when the Tigers competed in Class A.
Coach Jeff Hudson’s Wildcats (18-1) led 20-3 after the first quarter while the Tigers (12-8) turned the ball over on their first five possessions and committed 18 in the first half.
“I thought the whole first half we played awesome,” Hudson said. “I thought they were quick when I saw them in person, but we were very quick today and we attacked the basket like we needed to.”
Sophomore center Meredith Stewart certainly did that well, as she led all scorers with 12 points while Karlee Bernier had 11, Chandler Guerrette nine and Kayla Richards eight.
“I think we just did well bringing it inside and getting some easy buckets,” said Stewart.
Bernier scored eight of her points in the first quarter, including two 3-pointers, to help the ‘Cats build their lead, while Guerrette led the defense with four steals. Richards and Nickerson added three apiece.
“I thought Gardiner looked a little nervous early and we took advantage of that,” said Hudson.
PI led by as many as 31 early in the second half before the Tigers settled down somewhat, but Hudson wasn’t too happy with his team’s free-throw shooting.
“We can’t shoot for 11-of-29 and expect to beat Nokomis,” he said.
Jenna Moore’s eight points led the Tigers.