BANGOR — Hermon High senior Grace Page wore the net she worked so hard to win and shook her head. Beating the Waterville girls’ basketball team is an accomplishment, and Page knew it.

“Their press is amazing, really,” Page said. “We just needed to slow it down (and) take care of the ball. We have 10 seconds to get over half court. (We) just focused on our passing. Turnovers are going to come. It’s going to happen. Just keep your head in the game and get the next one.”

Despite committing 31 turnovers, the Hawks held off Waterville, 36-31, to claim the Class B North championship Saturday afternoon at Cross Insurance Center.

It’s the first regional crown since 1994 for the top-seeded Hawks. Hermon (20-1) will face Wells in the state championship game Friday night in Bangor.

No. 2 Waterville ends the season at 19-2, having lost the North championship game for the second straight season.

Hermon Coach Chris Cameron knew staying poised in the face of Waterville’s tenacious full-court pressure would be the key for his team, and despite the number of turnovers, the Hawks did that.

“To win basketball games, you try to control the tempo and pace. You try to play your game, and it’s almost impossible against Waterville teams because of their pressure,” Cameron said.

When Hermon had the ball, it slowed the game down, taking its time to find a good shot.

“That’s the game we needed to play. We couldn’t get into a run-and-gun shootout. We couldn’t let them score in transition or hit 3s. That’s their style,” Cameron said. “We didn’t necessarily want to slow it down. We wanted to be deliberate. We wanted to break pressure and get into our half-court stuff.”

Hermon practiced against members of the school’s boys’ team to simulate the Panthers’ speed.

“Toughen us up and get long arms in their sometimes. It really helped, and it showed out there,” Page said.

When Waterville did force a turnover, more often than not, the Purple Panthers were unable to turn it into transition offense.

“We turned them over 31 times, but we just never got into the open court,” Waterville Coach Rob Rodrigue said. “I loved my kids’ effort, we just didn’t shoot the ball.”

The Panthers used a 9-0 run to take a 14-13 lead midway through the third quarter, but Hermon answered with a 3-pointer by Maddy Label. Waterville trailed 21-15 early in the fourth but took a brief lead with an 8-0 run. A pair of Kali Thompson free throws gave the Panthers a 23-21 lead with 4:54 to play.

Those made free throws were the exception for Waterville, which went 7 for 19 at the line.

Page answered with a layup and foul shot, giving the Hawks the lead for good.

Hermon made 6 of 8 free throws in the final 1:34. The Hawks finished 20 of 24 at the line.

“We knew they had a couple runs in them, and they did. We withstood them and punched back a little bit ourselves,” Cameron said.

Neither team shot well, particularly in the first half. Hermon led 2-1 after one quarter, with neither team scoring from the field, and 9-4 at halftime. Both teams shot a little better in the second half, but Waterville never found the shooting touch it showed all season. Part of that was due to Hermon’s defense, in particular the effort of Paige Plissey on Waterville guard Sadie Garling. One of Waterville’s top scorers, Garling was held to one point.

“The Plissey kid did a great job on Sadie. She didn’t give her much room at all. We have a couple sets where we run plays for her, and (Plissey) really worked hard at it, keeping her hands up. I thought she was probably the best player on the floor,” Rodrigue said.

Another key was preventing Waterville from dominating on the boards, Page said.

“We knew boxing out had to be key. They’re strong girls and physical. We had to do just the same and better. We had to get up there and fight for it,” Page said.

Page and Maddy Label each scored eight points for Hermon. Thompson led Waterville with nine points.

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