BANGOR, Maine — The frustration is over.
The Mount Desert Island High School girls basketball team, which hadn’t advanced past the Class B North quarterfinals since 2014, capped a memorable Class B North playoff run with an impressive 44-35 victory over previously undefeated Waterville at the Cross Insurance Center on Saturday afternoon.
Top seed MDI, 19-2, will now play Gray-New Gloucester (19-2) in Saturday’s Class B state championship game at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland at 1 p.m.
Youthful third seed Waterville, which started only one senior compared to MDI’s four, wound up 20-1.
Guard Julia Watras’ 17 points, 10 rebounds and two assists paced the Trojans, whose win was its 10th straight.
It’s MDI’s first regional title since 2014.
Fellow seniors Hannah Chamberlain contributed nine points and five rebounds and set a Class B North record for most 3-pointers in the tournament with 11; Maddy Candage had nine points and five second-half assists and Alexis Clarito produced eight points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals. Rachelle Swanson had six rebounds.
Kali Thompson’s 12 points and 10 rebounds led Waterville.
Sophomore Thompson, who came off the bench, finished the tourney with 38 rebounds in three games.
Maddy Martin had six points, six rebounds and two steals, and Abby Saucier chipped in five points and four rebounds. Paige St. Pierre had four points, six rebounds and two assists.
The Trojans played an effective 2-3 zone and primarily focused on Waterville sharpshooter Sadie Garling, who had 35 points in quarterfinal and semifinal wins over John Bapst of Bangor and Hermon.
The Trojans held her to three points.
MDI limited Waterville to a 25 percent shooting performance from the floor including a 3-for-22 showing from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We made sure we knew where the shooters were,” Clarito said. “Sometimes we lost them but we did a better job closing them out in the second half. We left the middle open and sometimes they beat us [to the basket] but a two is better than a three.”
“We’ve worked on the zone a lot so we all know where we’re supposed to be,” Candage said.
“I was open so many times and I kept shooting but none of them fell in,” said talented junior Garling, who went 1-for-15 from the floor.
“They did a nice job in their defensive scheme,” Waterville coach Robert Rodrigue said. “Sadie didn’t get a lot of open looks. They limited our transition chances and we didn’t make as many shots as we normally do. When we hit our outside shots, that opens it up for Maddy, Kali and Lindsey [Given] to do their their work inside.”
He also noted that having St. Pierre and Jayda Murray in early foul trouble was problematic because they are his primary ballhandlers and they fuel the transition game.
MDI turned the ball over 16 times in the first half but still took a 22-17 lead into the intermission.
“We had a lot of unforced turnovers but when we would turn the ball over, we ran back on defense and didn’t allow them to get any easy points. We worked hard the whole time,” said Watras, who had 12 of her points in the second half including eight off nifty passes from Candage leading to layups.
“Maddy made some excellent passes to me,” Watras said.
“We practice together outside of school,” Candage said. “We’re best friends. We know each other pretty well.”
MDI coach Brent Barker toyed with the idea of playing a man-to-man defense or using a 1-3-1 because Winslow hurt them with their outside shooting against the 2-3 zone in the semifinals.
“But we stuck with it because we wanted to slow them down and force them to make a couple of extra passes,” Barker said. “We didn’t want them to get the drives they wanted or the transition baskets they wanted.”
He added that his team did a real nice job “cleaning up the turnovers’” in the second half.
The Trojans used Watras’ layup to close out the first half and a 6-0 run to open the second half to build a 28-17 lead.
Chamberlain hit a 3-pointer, Candage sank a free throw and Candage fed Watras underneath during the run.
The Purple Panthers never quit and were able to pull within seven with 3:36 left in the game.
But a Watras free throw and another Candage-to-Watras basket triggered a game-clinching 6-0 run.
“We’ve been waiting for this since eighth grade,” Clarito said, beaming.