AUGUSTA — In the first half of its Eastern Class A semifinal Wednesday against Brunswick, the Lawrence girls’ basketball team played its worst half of defense of the season.

The good thing for the Bulldogs was, they knew it.

“After Coach (John Donato) gave us our chalk talk, we came out here and we told each other we hadn’t been playing like we usually do,” Lawrence junior forward Nia Irving said. “We needed to play our defense. I mean, we hold teams to 37 points a game, and we gave up that much in the first half.”

The second-seeded Bulldogs tightened their defense in the second half and went to their offensive strength – the inside game. Lawrence scored the first 19 points of the second half, turning a seven-point deficit into a 12-point lead, and held off a Brunswick rally to take a 62-52 win.

Lawrence (19-1) will face No. 1 Bangor (19-1) in the regional final at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. No. 6 Brunswick ends the season at 12-8.

With his team trailing 37-30 at halftime, Donato reminded the Bulldogs that they had to get back to doing what they do well.

“I didn’t have any magic words. I said we’ve got to stick to our game plan. We just played lousy defense in the first half. We were a little bit hesitant,” Donato said.

“We were shooting the ball from the outside, and we weren’t balanced at all shooting the ball. Then we started getting the ball inside, and that’s when we pulled away.”

Irving and Paige Belanger opened Lawrence’s second-half run with two free throws each to cut Brunswick’s lead to 37-34. Dominique Lewis tied the game with a 3-pointer, and an Irving putback gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.

“This is the first time we’ve been behind anybody all year at halftime,” Donato said.

At the other end of the court, Lawrence finally played the tight defense for which it’s known. The Dragons were scoreless until a Julia Champagne layup with 1:21 left in the third. By then, the Bulldogs had a double-digit lead.

“It all starts with defense. That’s what we work on the hardest in practice,” Irving said.

Down 53-42 entering the fourth quarter, the Dragons scored the first eight points to cut Lawrence’s lead to 53-50. While the Bulldogs did not make a field goal in the fourth quarter, they went 9 for 10 at the free-throw line to seal the win.

For the game, Lawrence was 30 for 34 at the line. Irving made 15 free throws, one short of Lawrence alum Cindy Blodgett’s Eastern Class A tournament record. Irving finished with 33 points and 12 rebounds.

“We have some pretty nice foul-shot drills. There’s a lot of running if we miss. That really inspires us to make them,” Irving said.

Belanger had 11 points and 11 boards for Lawrence. Julia Champagne led Brunswick with 16 points, while Sabrina Armstrong scored 14 points – all in the first half.