Good starts have been an issue for the Kennebunk girls’ basketball team in the tournament the last couple of years.

Monday night the Rams didn’t have that problem.

Fourth-ranked Kennebunk scored the game’s first nine points to gain the early momentum in a 51-33 win over fifth-ranked Lincoln Academy in a Class A South quarterfinal at the Portland Expo.

“All we focused on was that we wanted to get up early, make them take the first timeout,” said Kennebunk Coach Rob Sullivan. “And just kind of assert ourselves. I thought the kids did a great job doing that.”

The Rams (13-6) will play Greely in the regional semifinals at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Cross Insurance Arena.

It will be Kennebunk’s first appearance in the semifinals since 2000.

The Eagles, playing without three players (Ellie Mathews and Schuyler Farrell were both out with concussions and Belle Sawyer has a knee injury), finished 9-10.

Emily Archibald, a 6-foot-2 sophomore forward, led the Rams with 17 points, while senior guard Jess Dupler had 15 and junior forward Alaina Schatzabel 11.

But it was Kennebunk’s 2-3 zone defense that dictated the pace early. With Archibald, Schatzabel (5-10) and Isabelle Okwuosa (5-11) underneath, the Rams guards were able to extend the zone way out and force the Eagles into early mistakes. Lincoln Academy had seven turnovers in the first quarter.

“We wanted to put a lot of pressure on them,” said Archibald, who had 14 rebounds and four blocked shots. “We wanted to make it hard for them to pass.”

Okwuosa helped the Rams start fast with two inside baskets. Emily Hogue had a 3-pointer and Dupler scored on an offensive rebound to make it 9-0 early. Kennebunk led 11-5 after one, then scored the first 11 points in the second, with Dupler scoring seven of them on a 3-pointer and two breakaway layups.

Lincoln Academy played much better in the third, outscoring Kennebunk 9-8. But the Rams regained the momentum in the fourth as Schatzabel scored six points and Archibald five.

“My kids really worked hard in that third period,” said Eagles Coach Kevin Feltis. “I thought we showed a lot of heart.”

Both Archibald and Dupler said this was a much better experience playing at the Expo this year.

“It felt good to win at the Expo,” said Dupler. “We’ve been here the past two years and we just wanted to make it count this year.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH