AUGUSTA — The Lawrence girls’ basketball team was ahead at halftime of its Class A North quarterfinal Friday afternoon against Medomak Valley, but the score was close. Too close.

And Coach Greg Chesley let his team know it.

“That’s what the halftime speech was about,” he said. “‘Girls, we’re too athletic. We’ve played too long to let those nerves to get to you. Rip through the ball, go get it, own it. Beat them with our intensity and athletic ability.'”

Message received. Fueled by the return of senior forward and captain Brooklynn Lambert, the third-seeded Bulldogs went on a second-half run to take command and then pulled away with another surge, eventually earning a 57-33 win over the sixth-seeded Panthers at the Augusta Civic Center.

“We got out and ran in the second half,” Chesley said, “and that’s what really put it away.”

Lambert, playing in her first game since rolling her ankle during a Feb. 1 loss to Gardiner, led the Bulldogs (14-5) with 18 points. Keegan Alley added 13 points while battling illness, and Sarah Poli scored 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

“We definitely started a little bit slow,” Lambert said. “We started picking up on offense in the second half.”

Lawrence will play No. 2 Hampden Academy at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

It was 20-17 at halftime, and the Panthers (11-8) quickly cut the gap to one on a Sadie Cohen jumper. Then Lambert scored back-to-back baskets, and after a Megan Curtis free throw, Poli and Alley made baskets, Lambert hit a free throw and Savannah Weston sank a jumper to finish a 12-0 run that put Lawrence ahead 32-19 with just over three minutes to go in the third quarter.

“We just tried to keep each other up,” Lambert said. “Work on defense first, then go to offense. We’re a young team, and we just try to stay together and stay positive.”

Aubrey Schaeffer was fouled while making a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and her four-point play cut the deficit to 37-29 and gave Medomak an opening to get back into the game in the fourth. But Lawrence quickly shut the door. Lambert, who had 15 points in the second half, hit a 3-pointer and scored eight of the Bulldogs’ first 10 points of the fourth, kickstarting an 18-2 run.

Lawrence hit eight of its first 10 shots in the fourth quarter.

“(Lambert) really put us on her back for the latter part of that second half and kind of took over,” Chesley said. “She does a ton more than just make shots. If you noticed in the end, the girls that aren’t used to handling the ball as much, great players like Savannah Weston, when she gets the ball in the area, she’s looking for Brooklynn, somebody that she knows is going to be there and can take care of it.”

Poli, a sophomore, said Lambert’s return had a calming effect on the junior- and sophomore-heavy Bulldogs.

“Brooklynn definitely helps a lot,” Poli said. “She’s had the most experience playing up here. If we’re ever in a struggle, she pulls it out, tells us to set up on offense, and it always works.”

There was definitely a need for that veteran poise early, as Lawrence fell behind in the opening minutes and struggled to find its regular-season gear.

“Our nerves showed a little bit in the first half,” Chesley said. “We came out a little tentative, we were short-arming everything rather than ripping through it.”

Medomak Coach Ryan McNelly was pleased with what he saw from his team early, especially after guard Abby Lash was scratched from the starting lineup just minutes before tipoff because of illness. Lash eventually was subbed in, but had to return to the locker room moments later.

“I’m proud of how we played,” said McNelly, whose team was led by Schaeffer, Cohen, Lydia Simmons and Mackenzie Bickmore with six points apiece. “Abby’s a huge part of our team. … But they came out, didn’t have a great rhythm, but they battled back. Being down three at halftime was amazing.”

Medomak couldn’t keep up as Lawrence upped the pace in the second half.

“We were gassed,” McNelly added. “And Brooklynn Lambert’s amazing. They just fed off her, and when you have a game like this, it doesn’t have to be much, just that half a step. And they were half a step quicker.”


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