BANGOR — It’s not much consolation to the Nokomis girls right now, but they’ve had one of the best three-year runs in the history of the program: Back-to-back regional titles, then a loss in the regional final.
The last part is why the Warriors aren’t ready to celebrate their achievements. Nokomis was undefeated going into Saturday, but lost 52-40 to top-ranked Presque Isle in the Eastern Class B final at the Bangor Auditorium.
“I think Presque Isle was a little bit better today,” Nokomis Coach Kori Dionne said. “They took care of the ball better. We didn’t dominate on the boards like we usually do, and they had shots falling for them that weren’t falling for us. That’s the whole ballgame right there.”
Presque Isle (21-0) moves on to the state final Friday at the Bangor Auditorium against Lake Region. Second-seeded Nokomis finishes at 20-1.
It was the closest game for Presque Isle since last year’s tournament, when the Wildcats lost to Nokomis for the second consecutive year.
Nokomis outrebounded Presque Isle by 20 and 22 in those two games, and this one followed that script in the first quarter.
Nokomis led 12-8 after one quarter, and senior forward Marissa Shaw had eight points. Shaw and Anna Mackenzie, who finished with eight points and 10 rebounds, were controlling the boards, as Nokomis had an 11-3 edge on the glass.
Just 31 seconds into the second quarter, the game turned when Shaw was called for her second foul while trying to block a shot. Shaw immediately protested that she had gotten the ball cleanly. Still, she went to the bench, and the Wildcats made their move.
“I think Marissa definitely is a big aspect to that team and leads that team really well,” said Presque Isle senior guard Chelsea Nickerson, who drew the assignment of guarding Shaw. “So we she went out with foul trouble, we knew that was our chance to gain the lead.”
Shaw sat for the rest of the half, and the real difference was on the boards. During the second quarter, Presque Isle outrebounded Nokomis 12-6. Over the other three quarters, Nokomis had a 26-12 edge.
The Wildcats went on a 12-2 run as soon as Shaw sat down. Nokomis kept throwing the ball away trying to get it inside to Shaw’s replacement, junior center Traci Carson, and she couldn’t get going offensively. By halftime, after Presque Isle’s Megan Ireland hit a layup in the final seconds of the half, the Wildcats led 25-17 and had outscored Nokomis 17-5 with Shaw on the bench.
“As aggressive as she plays, I really didn’t want her picking up her third foul in the first half,” Dionne said. “Offensively, obviously, we didn’t do much, but I thought we kind of weathered that storm. She was on the bench for quite a while. To go into halftime only down eight, I thought that’s something, with her back in the lineup, we could battle back from.”
Shaw was indeed a boost to the Warriors in the second half, but Nickerson kept her from taking over the game. Shaw finished with 14 points and eight rebounds before fouling out after the game had been decided.
“Chelsea Nickerson just did a fantastic job on Marissa Shaw,” Presque Isle Coach Jeff Hudson said. “She’s the whole key to that team. She never stops moving. She’s physical. She’s just a great player inside, and I thought Nicky did a great job on her.”
Behind Hannah Graham (13 points) and Chandler Guerrette (eight), Presque Isle moved out to a 32-21 lead. Nokomis rallied back, as Kelsie Richards (10 points, all in the second half) buried a jumper from the right corner and then a long 3-pointer from the left wing, helping the Warriors get as close as four points.
With Presque Isle leading 34-29 and a little under seven minutes left, Mackenzie worked herself free for a layup. The shot looked perfect, but it banked out of the basket and crawled off the rim. Mackenzie was called for a foul on the rebound, and at the other end, Meredith Stewart scored for the Wildcats. On Presque Isle’s next possession, Graham knocked down a 3-pointer, and suddenly the lead was 39-29.
“In a game like this, when you have two teams the caliber of Presque Isle and ourselves, I think sometimes a little bit of luck has to play on your side,” Dionne said. “The ball has to be bouncing your way, and I just don’t think the ball was bouncing our way today.”
It was that kind of day for Nokomis, but it wasn’t that kind of season. The Warriors are 56-9 since moving to Class B three seasons ago.
“Obviously, we wanted to be on the winning side of things, but you can’t always be,” Dionne said. “I thought it was a fantastic season, and the girls have nothing to hang their heads about.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243