BANGOR, Maine — Presque Isle won the Class B regional championship last season, but the Wildcats lost seven seniors who scored 2,100 combined career points.
Thus, the Wildcats exhibited some nerves during Friday evening’s Class B North girls quarterfinal against John Bapst.
Third-seeded Presque Isle regained its composure at halftime and outscored No. 6 John Bapst 35-9 in the second half, turning a 12-point deficit into a 51-35 victory at the Cross Insurance Center.
“We played scared in the first half,” said coach Jeff Hudson, whose Wildcats (16-3) face the winner of Friday’s Mount Desert Island-Hermon contest in a semifinal at 2:05 p.m. Wednesday.
“We missed 13 layups, and they made a lot of shots in the first half. We just knew we had to play better, the way we were capable of playing,” he added.
Presque Isle did so, turning a 10-point halftime deficit into a 26-26 game with 4:34 left in the third quarter. The Wildcats established their post game with senior center Regan Nelson, who scored six points during the surge and finished with 12 points, a game-high 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.
“We are a different team when Regan scores,” Hudson said. “When she scores, it opens things up for everybody else.”
Presque Isle, which shot 21 percent in the first half, also rebounded well to initiate its transition attack. That’s where sophomore guard Emily Wheaton (15 points, five rebounds) excelled.
She connected for eight points in the third quarter, including three drives to the basket, as the Wildcats (who shot 11-for-20 after intermission) led 38-30 after three.
“We just got out our nerves, and second half we came and shot with confidence,” Wheaton said.
“We’ve got some strong wings, and they can run fast up the floor and get some nice layups,” she added.
John Bapst (12-8) struggled mightily on offense in the second half, shooting 6 percent (2-for-32) from the floor. The Crusaders’ only field goal in the third quarter was a 3-pointer by Crystal Bell (12 points, six rebounds) at the 1:38 mark.
“Even when it was 36-30, it felt like they’d scored a hundred points,” said John Bapst coach Mike Webb. “We just couldn’t get anything to go.”
Presque Isle pulled away with an 11-0 run to open the fourth quarter. Nelson and Emily Lagerstrom (nine points, nine rebounds) scored four points each as the Wildcats made it 49-32 with 4:09 left.
Hannah Philippon contributed five points and 10 rebounds for John Bapst, and Grace Philippon added seven rebounds and four points.