BANGOR, Maine — The Presque Isle and Gardiner girls basketball teams both featured fast, quick guards, pressure defense and depth in Eastern Maine Class B quarterfinal victories Saturday at the Bangor Auditorium.
Those similar characteristics will clash when the top-seeded Wildcats and the fourth-seeded Tigers battle in an 8:35 p.m Wednesday semifinal.
“They’re very good, very deep and very athletic,” Presque Isle coach Jeff Hudson said of the Tigers.
“They’re a team that I’ve watched throughout the year,” he said. “They were kind of underrated going through the season, but I thought they were good right from day one.”
The Tigers (17-3) scored 15 unanswered points early in the fourth quarter and pulled away from the No. 5 Mount Desert Island Trojans (15-5) for a 63-38 victory and the Wildcats (19-0) later showed why they are unbeaten and top-ranked with a dominating 86-31 win over the No. 9 John Bapst Crusaders (9-9).
In the first game, the Tigers closed the second and third quarters strong with an 8-0 scoring surge at the end of the second to post a 29-21 halftime lead, and then outscored the Trojans 8-2 at the end of the third to take a 45-31 lead.
MDI’s Abby Jewett and Hannah Shaw scored back-to-back baskets to open the fourth quarter, but the Tigers then responded with their 15-0 scoring run to secure the victory.
Gardiner’s precision passing and outside shooting propelled its offense in the first half and a stronger rebounding game sparked transition baskets in the second half.
“We talked at halftime about rebounding better. I thought, in the first half, a lot of their points were in transition and second chances,” Gardiner coach Mike Gray said.
“I came in and said we played great first-shot defense, but we weren’t getting the rebounds and they were beating us up and down the court a bit,” he said. “In the first minute of the third quarter, we settled it right down. I thought we outrebounded them by a lot in the second half and I thought we wore them out.”
Senior guard Jenna Moore paced Gardiner with 17 points, including a 3-for-5 effort on 3-pointers. Senior guard Paige Pilsbury chipped in with 10 points while junior guard Kylee Granholm and senior forward Katie McAllister each added eight.
Sophomore forward Hannah Shaw turned in a strong inside game for MDI and finished with 18 points.
In the second game, the Wildcats showed off a pressure defense in the first half along with a finely tuned offense equally adept at nailing outside shots, driving to the basket and scoring off transition. The result was an 18-2 first-quarter lead and 46-7 margin at halftime.
“In the first half, like I told them, we were just about perfect,” Hudson said. “Our defense was good, we played defense without reaching, we boxed out and we made shots. We looked good in the first half, the second half not so much.”
Presque Isle was propelled by the strong guard play of junior Chandler Guerrette and Megan Ireland, who led the balanced offense with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Smooth-shooting freshman Hannah Graham added 11 points while classmate Krystal Kingsbury and junior Karlee Bernier each added 10. Junior Meredith Stewart provided inside punch with nine points.
PI was better from 3-point range (8 of 16) than it was from the foul line (14-22).
With the exception of the free-throw effort, the Wildcats clicked in all facets of their game entering the semifinal matchup against a talented Gardiner club.
“That’s our potential right there [in today’s game],” Hudson said. “We knew what we had to work on to come to the tournament. We got beat the last couple of years because we didn’t rebound well. We rebounded very well today and with our quickness, our press was really good in the second quarter, too.”
Senior Paige Martin scored 12 points to lead the Crusaders and senior Emily Tilton added 11. Bapst was without one of its top players, sophomore center Abby Pyne, who was competing in a soccer tourney in Spain.
Presque Isle beat Bapst in their two previous matchups this season 71-15 and 42-24.