Credit: Pete Warner

BANGOR, Maine — Schenck’s 2-3 half-court zone defense stymied the high-scoring Southern Aroostook Warriors throughout most of Thursday’s Class D North girls basketball semifinal at the Cross Insurance Center.

The Warriors were taken to the limit by the pesky Wolverines for three quarters, but a huge sequence beginning at the end of the period swung things in favor of the defending state champions and led to a 49-32 victory.

Top-seeded Southern Aroostook is 18-2 entering Saturday’s regional title game against undefeated Deer Isle-Stonington (19-0), which begins at 9:05 a.m. Schenck, the No. 4 seed, finished with a 13-7 record.

Schenck went on an 11-0 flurry over a six-minute stretch in the third quarter to cut SA’s lead to one (24-23), but the Warriors’ Makaelyn Porter drained a pull-up jumper with time winding down in the third and Kylie Vining connected on a conventional 3-point play eight seconds into the fourth. That initiated a 13-0 spurt that allowed Southern Aroostook to take control.

“We wanted to speed the game up,” Porter said of the game-deciding spurt. “We got some turnovers and got out in transition to score some easy points.”

Reserve guard Madison Russell made a huge impact by collecting back-to-back steals that led to ensuing fast-break layups.

“Maddie played great on the top of our 1-3-1 zone trap and caused a lot of havoc,” said Warrior coach Cliff Urquhart. “It’s something special for an eighth-grader to come in and perform that well and I’m proud of her.”

The Warriors started fast, hitting four of their first five shots to grab a 9-0 lead two minutes in, but Schenck’s zone was effective in keeping SA out on the perimeter and the Warriors struggled to hit shots.

The Warriors went scoreless for nearly four minutes of the second quarter and the usually high-powered offense, which scored 84 points in the Feb. 18 quarterfinal against Washburn, was limited to 19 heading into intermission.

SA instead relied on its relentless player-to-player defense, mixed in with the occasional zone trap, keeping the Wolverines’ offense in check and holding them without a field goal for the entire opening quarter. Laura Cote kept Schenck close by hitting three shots from the perimeter in the second period as the Wolverines went into the half down by eight.

Kylie Vining scored 16 points and Makaelyn Porter had 13 for SA.

Olivia Gallant tallied 15 for Schenck.

“I think a game like this is good for our mental toughness,” Porter said. “The championship game isn’t going to be easy so I think this helped prepare us.”