AUGUSTA — The Western Class C girls semifinal game between No. 5 Mountain Valley and No. 1 Maranacook was basically decided in the first quarter, just like Maranacook hoped.

“I think it helped us a lot that we came out and really stepped on it right from the beginning,” Maranacook senior Christine Miller said. “We didn’t let them have a chance to think they were in the game.”

Playing a stiffling fullcourt press, the Black Bears forced a dozen Mountain Valley turnovers in the first quarter. That helped Maranacook take an early 13-point lead, and the Black Bears cruised to a 64-29 win.

Maranacook, now 17-3, will take on No. 3 Dirigo (18-2) in the regional final on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center. Mountain Valley ends the season at 15-6.

Maranacook will play in a regional final for the first time since 2003, when the Black Bears played in Eastern Class B.

“Last year was the first year we’d made it here in a really, really long time. It was all of our first time playing on this floor together, and I think there was a lot of nerves,” Miller, who scored a game-high 21 points, said. “This year, I think we’re more comfortable. We have a lot of seniors on the team, and we keep our composure.”

Ahead 6-3 midway through the first quarter, Maranacook used its tough fullcourt pressure to get easy baskets in transition. The Black Bears went on a 15-0 run and led 21-3 early in the second quarter. Maranacook coach Jeanine Paradis was thrilled with her team’s defensive effort.

“These kids have been (running the press) for several years, so I know when it comes down to get it done, they’re going to be all over the floor,” Paradis said. “Even if we make mistakes… it’s not hanging your head. It’s not sulking. It’s not trailing behind the ball.”

Maranacook led 29-11 at the half, and while Mountain Valley pulled to within 14 points, 36-22, in the third quarter, the Black Bears never lost control of the game. Maranacook went on a 22-1 run to seal the win.

The Falcons turned the ball over 33 times. Coming out in the press was key, Miller said, and a different look than the one the Black Bears used in their quarterfinal win over Carrabec.

“We didn’t start out in the press, and that let them stay with us for a while,” Miller said.

The Black Bears had plenty of offensive balance in the first half, with Sara Clough, Miller and Liz D’Angelo each with at least six points. Miller finished with 13 points, while Clough added 10, all in the first half.

“That’s what we talk out, getting pressure off Christine. Making it hard for teams to guard her and us. When we have more kids who are able to put those numbers up, it makes it tough,” Paradis said.

Karen Flaherty led Mountain Valley with eight points.

In Dirigo, Maranacook faces an opponent with a similar skill set to their own.

“They like to run, which is great, because we do too. They have some nice outside shooters and some good post players. I think we match up pretty evenly,” Paradis said.

Paradis coached against Dirigo coach Karen Magnusson when Magnusson was a player at Cony High School in the early 2000s.

“I remember Karen (Magnusson) when she was playing against me when I was coaching at Mt. Blue,” Paradis said. “I always loved her tenacity and her competitive spirit, and that has not changed on the sidelines.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM