BANGOR, Maine — Narraguagus didn’t want to get into a half-court game against 6-foot-1 Megan Peach and the Dexter Tigers.
The Knights’ relentless defensive pressure made sure that didn’t happen.
Narraguagus of Harrington employed a diamond-and-one press that forced many of Dexter’s 35 turnovers, paving the way for a 39-24 Class C North girls basketball semifinal victory at the Cross Insurance Center on Friday afternoon.
“We do pretty well at pressing because we have a lot of quick kids, ambitious players,” said Narraguagus senior Emily Reynolds.
Coach Heather Thompson’s No. 3 Knights’ (17-2) advance to Saturday’s 2:05 p.m. title game against No. 4 Penobscot Valley of Howland, which beat Fort Fairfield 47-34 on Friday.
It is Narraguagus’ first championship game since 1992, when Thompson was a player.
“It’s unreal. I don’t think we’re quite fathoming it right now because we’ve gone in so many years in a row and lost in the quarterfinal,” said senior Cassidy Osgood.
Second-seeded Dexter (15-5) struggled not only to get the ball past half-court, but to run offensive sets when it did so. Led by Reynolds, Osgood and sophomore Madison Leighton, along with freshman Lanie Perry, harassed Dexter’s ball-handlers.
“We didn’t want the ball in Peach’s hands and we figured the best way is to put a little pressure on the ball so maybe they couldn’t see Peach so much,” Thompson said. “It paid off.”
Coach Jody Grant’s Tigers also were hampered by early foul trouble for Peach, who finished with six points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots.
Narraguagus had its own turnover issues (23), but the Knights executed enough to get in front and stay there.
Senior forward Kelli Kennedy led ’Guagus with a game-high 16 points along with six rebounds, six steals and a blocked shot. Freshman Kylee Joyce posted nine points and four rebounds, while Osgood (3 steals), Leighton (3 steals) and Reynolds (2) steals scored four points apiece. Perry also made three steals.
“It’s something that we’ve been working for for a long time and it’s finally paying off my senior year,” Kennedy said.
Dexter, which had 20 fewer field-goal attempts, was led by junior Abby Webber (7 points) and senior Katie Batron (6 points, 7 rebounds).
Narraguagus took control in the third quarter, holding the Tigers scoreless for the last 6 minutes, 20 seconds. That came after a basket and two free throws by Batron had cut the Knights’ lead to 19-15.
Joyce’s rebound basket and three Kennedy foul shots pushed the Narraguagus advantage to 27-15 with 4:55 left in the third and Dexter never got closer than 11 after that.