Driving to the basket is Southern Aroostook's Madison Shields, front, while guarded by Shead's Halle Sullivan during Thursday afternoon's Class D North semifinal. Credit: Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times

It’s hard enough for the rest of the Class D North girls basketball field to cope with Southern Aroostook’s relentless defensive pressure.

But when the top-ranked Warriors from Dyer Brook convert that effort into balanced scoring like they did during Thursday afternoon’s 68-39 semifinal victory over No. 4 Shead of Eastport, it’s no wonder coach Cliff Urquhart’s club remains undefeated.

Five different Southern Aroostook players scored in double figures as the two-time defending state champions improved their record to 20-0 and earned a date in Saturday’s 9 a.m. regional final against No. 2 Deer Isle-Stonington, a 48-34 semifinal winner over No. 3 Katahdin of Stacyville in Thursday’s first game at the Cross Insurance Center.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Southern Aroostook defeated Deer Isle-Stonington 62-49 in last year’s Class D North final.

“Something we pride ourselves in is not having just one key player,” said Southern Aroostook freshman guard Madison Russell, who scored a team-high 15 points against Shead. “We all can score and put the ball on the floor.”

Cami Shields added 12 points for the Warriors while Paige Vose, Kacy Daggett and Makaelyn Porter — the lone senior on the roster — scored 10 points apiece. Daggett also contributed 10 rebounds and six blocked shots.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

“I thought we had a good game, our transition game was excellent,” Southern Aroostook coach Cliff Urquhart said. “Kacy Daggett rebounded the heck out of the ball and we were able to get out in transition. Anytime she does that we look good.”

Southern Aroostook also ignited its transition game with a defense that induced 27 Shead turnovers.

“We also pride ourselves on our defense, getting lots of traps and steals and getting up and down the court pretty quick,” Russell said.

Junior forward Ryleigh Andrews led 13-7 Shead with a game-high 17 points, while senior guard Halle Sullivan added nine.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

This matchup featured the last four Class D North champions, with Shead winning the title in 2016 and 2017 before Southern Aroostook began its current run, during which it is now 60-4 since the start of the 2017-18 season.

Southern Aroostook defeated Shead twice during the regular season, 46-37 at Eastport on Dec. 21 and 67-30 at Dyer Brook on Jan. 17.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Little changed in the third meeting between the teams, particularly after Southern Aroostook scored the first 10 points of the second quarter to build a 28-9 cushion.

A Shields layup and a follow-up shot by Russell after a Shead turnover got the run started, then Paige Vose made a 3-pointer from the left of the key and Shields hit a fast-break jumper before Porter made 1 of 2 from the line to give Southern Aroostook its largest lead of the half with 5:25 left before intermission.

Shead answered with six straight points, with two press-breaking baskets by Kiesha Scott sandwiched around a follow-up shot by Andrews to cut the gap to 28-15 and prompt a Southern Aroostook timeout.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

The Warriors came out of that break with five straight points on a free throw and a follow-up shot by Emma Nadeau and a low-post move by Daggett to push their lead back to 33-15.

Southern Aroostook led 36-19 at the break behind eight points from Russell, seven from Vose and six each from Porter and Shields.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...