Deer Isle-Stonington had everything it could do on Thursday night to contend with Woodland sophomore Emily Curtis.
The 5-foot-11 post player was nearly unstoppable once she got the ball near the basket — as evidenced by her 30 points, 19 rebounds and two blocked shots.
The solution? Keep the ball out of Curtis’ capable hands.
The Mariners countered by mixing up their defenses, coming up with a handful of steals that led to fast-break opportunities and paved the way for a 51-44 Class D North girls basketball semifinal victory at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Coach Randy Shepard’s second-seeded Mariners (18-0) face the winner of Thursday’s late game between Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook and Schenck of East Millinocket in Saturday’s 9:05 a.m. regional title game in Bangor.
Third-seeded Woodland wound up 14-5.
“They love playing defense,” Shepard said. “They stepped up. I told them, you can step up now or you can wait another year.”
Deer Isle-Stonington again prevailed without its leading scorer, sophomore guard Rylee Eaton, who is recovering from abdominal surgery. She was at the game in uniform, cheering on her teammates, but is limited to non-contact activities.
“I didn’t think we were going to make it this far without her, but we shut all of that stuff out,” said sophomore Kaylee Morey.
Curtis proved to be a handful, but the Mariners pressured the ball elsewhere in addition to trying to double-team the poste.
“We kept having to help down low on 25 [Curtis], who is a terrific player,” Shepard said. “We weren’t going to stop her, but we tried to limit her and did the best we could. We picked up a couple steals, got some fast breaks, kept switching our defenses, made some shots.”
Deer Isle-Stonington hustled, scrapped and battled its way to victory behind the spunky guard trio of Morey, Brie Limeburner and Lily Gray, who sparked the defense that helped the Mariners outscore the Dragons 14-3 over the last 3 minutes, 31 seconds.
Limeburner tallied eight points in the quarter and Morey scored five while helping force some of Woodland’s seven turnovers in the final period.
Woodland led 41-37 with 4:18 left, but Deer Isle-Stonington wasn’t finished. Gray scored a fast-break layup to spark a 9-0 flurry, which included Katie Hutchinson’s putback, then a transition layup and foul shot by Limeburner off a Taylor Hardy steal. After another of Woodland’s 19 turnovers, Hutchinson capped it with a close-range bucket that gave the Mariners a 44-41 lead with 2:02 remaining.
The Dragons could muster only three free throws the rest of the way.
“They’re a tight group. They’re pretty much all like sisters,” Shepard said. “When one goes down, they just kind of galvanize.
Morey led the Mariners with 16 points and Gray netted 12, while Limeburner contributed eight points and six rebounds.
Brooke Russell complemented Curtis’ efforts with nine points and three rebounds.