AUGUSTA, Maine — Nia Irving and Dominique Lewis weren’t born when Cindy Blodgett revolutionized Maine schoolgirl basketball during her four years at Lawrence High School during the early 1990s.
But now they share something new in common with the phenom from Clinton — the title of state champion.
Irving and Lewis combined for 15 fourth-quarter points Saturday as Lawrence used a late 10-1 run to pull away from Thornton Academy of Saco 50-43 at the Augusta Civic Center and win the program’s first Class A state title since Blodgett graduated from the Fairfield school in 1994.
“We hear about her a lot, she was a great player,” said Lewis of Blodgett, who led Lawrence to four straight state crowns before embarking on an All-American career at the University of Maine and then playing in the professional ranks.
“Everyone always talks about her so it will be nice to actually hear someone talking about us winning and giving us some credit.”
The memories that linger from this resurgence of Lawrence girls basketball will begin with Irving, the 6-foot-1 junior center who scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds while battling against a formidable Thornton frontcourt that featured 6-foot-1 All-Maine senior forward Victoria Lux.
“Yes, I wanted it bad,” said Irving. “I like playing against challenges. Victoria’s a great challenge and a great player and I wanted to step up and play my game.”
And while the Bulldogs defeated Bangor in the Eastern Maine final with a barrage of 3-pointers, this game featured a physical battle that left both teams’ frontcourts in foul trouble.
“We had to play with their bigs,” said Lawrence coach John Donato, whose team trailed by as many as eight points late in the second quarter and 26-20 at intermission. “If we didn’t play with their bigs the game was over but we did, and we had to get the ball to our big scorer underneath and we did and they had a hard time guarding her.”
Thornton, which yielded just 27 points per game during the regular season and 30 points per tournament contest while winning its first Western Maine crown, couldn’t stop the three-time KVAC player of the year, who shot 8 of 11 from the field and 11 of 12 from the free-throw line.
“She uses her body better than any high school post player I’ve ever seen,” said Thornton coach Eric Marston. “She creates a lot of space. We tried fronting her a little bit early on and they were still able to get the ball inside to her.”
Lewis added 12 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, while senior forward Paige Belanger scored nine points.
Lawrence (21-1) also won the battle of the free-throw line, making 18 of 23 attempts for the game compared to just 9 of 20 for Thornton Academy.
“They made the shots down the stretch and made free throws,” said Marston, whose team finished with a 19-3 record. “And obviously the missed free throws caught up with us.”
Freshman guard Alex Hart, who led Thornton Academy with 14 points, scored on a drive with 3:23 left in the game to forge a 40-40 tie, but the Golden Trojans managed just one more field goal in the contest.
Lewis drove to the basket to give Lawrence the lead with 2:35 left, then Irving scored from the lane to make it a four-point game.
Hart made 1 of 2 from the line to narrow Thornton’s deficit to 44-41 with 1:25 left, but Irving scored on another drive before Lawrence extended its lead to 50-41 with 19.2 seconds remaining on two free throws apiece by Irving and Lewis and the celebration was in full percolation mode.
“Oh my gosh, it means the world,” said Lewis. “Half of us girls have been playing together since the first grade winning all those little championships, and to be able to have such an amazing team of girls, I’m like best friends with all of them so to be able to win and give these girls the happiness that this gave me is amazing. It’s the best day of my life honestly.”