PORTLAND, Maine — Any fear of the unknown was erased after just three defensive possessions.
The third-seeded Marshwood High School girls basketball team hadn’t seen its regional quarterfinal opponent, No. 6 Lincoln Academy, in person since the preseason. Now, it’s more probable that Lincoln doesn’t want to see the Hawks again.
Behind 14 points from junior guard Natalie Herbold and a pressing defense that forced 13 turnovers in the first quarter alone, the Hawks cruised into the Class A South semifinals with an emphatic 74-24 win at the Expo on Monday.
“I was nervous going in,” said Marshwood coach Steve Freeman. “That 3 vs. 6 game — it happened to me 20 years ago; we lost as a (No.) 3 seed by about 24 points. So I was nervous, not having seen them a lot.”
The Hawks (18-1) advanced to Wednesday’s regional semifinals (10 a.m.) at Cross Insurance Arena, where they will face No. 2 Greely (17-2). The two teams did not meet during the regular season but hooked up in the semis last year, with the Rangers winning, 46-35.
“I’m definitely excited to play there,” said senior center Miranda Montgomery, who chipped in 10 points. “Getting to play down there is definitely a different experience.”
The experience Monday wasn’t bad either.
Playing the first game of the day at the Expo, the Hawks forced turnovers on their first two defensive possessions. On the third, their press forced the Eagles (9-10) to spend a timeout in the backcourt.
The lead was 25-4 after one quarter and 44-12 at halftime. The biggest spurt was a 20-2 run that spanned both opening quarters, capped by a Kara Anderson jumper, and the Hawks embraced the outside shooting that hasn’t always been part of their arsenal this winter.
Lincoln finished the game with 35 turnovers and made just six field goals. It was led by senior captain Kortney McKenna and freshman guard Madison York, who each scored six points.
“We just talked about it in practice how we were going to run the floor and work on defense,” said Montgomery. “I thought we did a great job executing on defense, talking though screens and helping each other out. And getting the steals was great.”
Nerves? What nerves?
“Once you get out there and play a little, it goes away,” said Herbold.
And the Hawks sure played.
“We talked about jumping on them early and forcing the pace,” said Freeman. “We didn’t think they wanted to run with us and that turned out to be true.”
Thirteen players scored for the deep Hawks, who got nine points from guard Nathalie Clavette, seven from Anderson, six from forward Jordyn Beers and a pair of early 3-pointers from Angelina Bisson.
“We came ready to play,” said Herbold. “That was our goal all along, to come out early and give everything we’ve got to shut them down, and it was mostly on the defensive end.”
The competition level takes a major step up on Wednesday facing Greely and standout guard Anna DeWolfe, a Fordham-committed junior who’s on the short list of Maine’s best schoolgirl players.
DeWolfe put her stamp all over the Rangers’ rout of No. 7 Leavitt in Monday’s second quarterfinal. She may not have quite the supporting cast she had a year ago, but Greely will be the best team the Hawks have faced all season.
They left little doubt Monday that they deserved to advance and get their shot.
“Very, very happy with how they played,” said Freeman. “They did everything we asked them to. We’re going to enjoy it for a while and then get ready for Wednesday.”
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