BANGOR – Heading into Saturday’s Eastern Class B girls’ basketball final, Nokomis knew it needed to limit Presque Isle’s penetration and kick-outs for 3-pointers.
On the game’s first possession, Chandler Guerrette drove along the right baseline and passed to Karlee Bernier, who hit a wide-open 3 from the left corner.
On Presque Isle’s second possession, Guerrette drove again and made a layup.
The top-seeded Wildcats continued to execute that kind of offense throughout the game and earned a 66-51 victory over No. 3 Nokomis at the Bangor Auditorium.
It was the 43rd straight win for Presque Isle (21-0), which will face Lake Region in the state final at 7 p.m. Friday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“Defensively, we sometimes were on our heels,” Nokomis Coach Michelle Paradis said. “We weren’t on our toes all the time. When we get on our heels, obviously they can dribble-penetrate and go by us, and they knocked down shots.”
Presque Isle made eight 3-pointers in 18 attempts. The Wildcats were also 12 of 12 from the foul line and committed only five turnovers in three quarters.
“We got a lot of fast-break 3s, too, which is what we do with the diagonal pass,” Presque Isle Coach Jeff Hudson said. “When we move the ball with extra passes, as we did the second quarter, it looked pretty good.”
Megan Ireland hit four of those 3-pointers and scored 18 points. Guerrette added 16, Hannah Graham scored 11 and Bernier hit three 3-pointers to end up with nine.
Anna Mackenzie (14 points, eight rebounds) and Kelsie Richards (13 points) were the top scorers for Nokomis (18-3).
Presque Isle jumped out to an early 14-7 lead, but Nokomis had it down to 16-15 by the end of the first quarter. Presque Isle center Meredith Stewart sat the last 4:27 of the first quarter after picking up her second foul.
As it became clear that Stewart wouldn’t return in the first half unless things got critical for her team, Nokomis tried to exploit its size advantage inside, but the Warriors lost their offensive flow. They took only five shots in the second quarter — none by MacKenzie, who scored nine points in the first quarter — and committed 10 turnovers.
“We forced a lot and I don’t know if that was just nerves, or we were anxious, or what it was,” Paradis said. “But we forced the ball to a lot of people who weren’t open. We had several turnovers that were unforced turnovers.”
Presque Isle led only 21-20 with 5:12 left in the half, then outscored the Warriors 14-1 the rest of the second quarter. With Stewart on the bench, the Wildcats used the 5-foot-8 Bernier on Nokomis 6-footer Traci Carson, and also went to their bench for some quality minutes from 5-11 freshman Regan Nelson.
“Our subs did a good job in the second quarter,” Hudson said. “We’re not just five players. We have 11 players who can play.”
Presque Isle’s lead bulged to 50-29 late in the third quarter before Nokomis scored the next 11 points, closing to within 50-40 on a baseline jumper by Lindsay Whitney with 5:22 left.
But the Wildcats quashed the rally with authority. Ireland drained a 3 from the right side, then hit a fast-break layup. Bernier followed with a 3, and Presque Isle was back in control at 58-40 with 4:11 remaining.
“We’re a team of runs,” Paradis said, “and we have to be more consistent and not be a team of runs, and just be a consistent, scoring team. We’re still a little young.”