The Waterville High School girls basketball team only knows one way to play.
The Purple Panthers press relentlessly in an effort to rattle its opponents, force turnovers and create quality scoring chances at the other end.
Waterville unveiled its hard-charging style for a Cross Insurance Center tournament audience Friday evening, cruising to a 65-32 Class B North quarterfinal victory over Ellsworth.
The No. 2 Panthers (18-1) earned a return to the semifinals where they will play No. 3 Presque Isle (15-3), a 53-46 winner over No. 6 Winslow in Friday’s early game, on Feb. 19 at 2 p.m. in Bangor.
Tenth-seeded Ellsworth, which upset No. 7 Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor in the preliminary round, ends its season at 11-9.
Waterville stormed to a 17-point, first-quarter lead, absorbed a short-lived response by the Eagles, then outscored Ellsworth 32-13 in the second half to pull away.
“That’s all we do in practice. We just run and run to make sure we’re in shape for the games. It’s been really helpful this season, the press,” said Waterville senior Sadie Garling, who finished with a game-high 19 points, including five of her team’s 10 3-pointers.
Senior Maddie Martin tossed in 15 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots for Waterville, which got seven points each from Kalie Thompson and Abigail Saucier.
Waterville shot 10-for-21 (48 percent) from the 3-point line to overcome an 11-for-23 effort from the foul line.
Ellsworth was forced to work hard to get the ball up the court every possession. It resulted in quick play that led to numerous turnovers.
Senior Trinity Montigny was the lone consistent scoring option for the Eagles with 15 points, and added four rebounds. Ellsworth committed 28 turnovers.
The Purple Panthers blitzed the Eagles early with their 2-2-1 trapping press, which they turned into a handful of Ellsworth turnovers and some easy transition baskets.
Already leading 10-4 midway through the first quarter, Waterville rattled off 11 points in the final 3:16 of the period. Abigail Martin ignited the run with a 3-pointer, then Paige St. Pierre scored a layup off a Thompson steal.
Thompson’s rebound hoop and a rebound basket by Maddie Martin made it 21-4 Waterville with 45.9 seconds remaining in the half.
“We just want to get it going up and down,” Panthers coach Rob Rodrigue said. “We’re looking to make tips on the ball, deflections.”