BANGOR, Maine — Penobscot Valley has had the ability to overwhelm opponents with its considerable overall height all season long.
On Saturday night, Narraguagus demonstrated that quickness and intensity can overcome length.
The Knights neutralized the Howlers’ post game with an active 1-3-1 zone and used their speed and grit to control the boards while earning a 45-18 victory over Penobscot Valley of Howland in the Class C North girls basketball championship game at the Cross Insurance Center.
Third-seeded Narraguagus of Harrington (18-2) claimed the program’s first regional title and will face South winner Boothbay Region in next Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. state title game at the Augusta Civic Center.
“I can’t even describe it, it’s incredible,” said Knights senior forward Cassidy Osgood. “It’s almost like a dream.”
Coach Heather Thompson’s team prevailed with stingy defense and tenacious rebounding. Narraguagus afforded the No. 4 Howlers (16-5) only 35 field-goal attempts and limited them to 20 percent (7-for-35) shooting.
Penobscot Valley went 0-for-13 from the 3-point arc and was plagued by 20 turnovers, seven of which came during the third quarter as the Knights pulled away.
“We have a lot of speed, so we’re able to shift and cover everything in the 1-3-1, even though it’s a wide-spread one,” Osgood said. “We got to all the spots quick enough and that worked for us.”
Behind eight rebounds from freshman Kylee Joyce, the Knights outrebounded the Howlers 41-29 and afforded PVHS only eight offensive rebounds.
“We knew going into the game that we’d really have to box out,” said ’Guagus senior forward Kelli Kennedy, who scored a game-high 14 points and grabbed five rebounds.
“Sami Ireland’s a great rebounder and we had to focus on that,” she added.
Junior Kayla Toppin (4 rebounds) scored nine points and Osgood (4 rebounds) and sophomore Madison Leighton netted six points each for Narraguagus. Joyce added four points.
Ireland led the way for PVHS with 10 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots. Fellow senior Amy Hallett contributed three points, seven rebounds and three blocks. But the Howlers could not get anything going at the offensive end.
PVHS went scoreless for more than 13 minutes starting late in the first half and ’Guagus put up 19 unanswered points to put the game out of reach.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and I had this feeling that we were going to shipwreck today,” said PVHS coach Joe Cyr.
“We had trouble with matchups with our big people,” he added.
Narraguagus asserted itself early against PVHS’ 1-3-1 zone and built a 10-point halftime lead. The Knights then held the Howlers scoreless in the third quarter to push the advantage to 13 points.
“I couldn’t ask for them to play any better basketball for us,” Thompson said. “… They wanted it so bad. They never let up.”
Up 24-14 at halftime, the Knights scored six points to open the third quarter. Joyce scored off an inbounds pass from Reynolds, then Kennedy hit an eight-foot runner from the lane and scored from underneath off a Reynolds feed to make it 30-14.
Reynolds scored nine points in the period as the bulge grew to 37-14.
“The group of seniors, we’ve been playing ball together for a long time with travel teams and everything,” Osgood said. “We just knew it’s now or never.”
“We have really good chemistry on and off the court, we’re all great friends,” Kennedy said of the Knights’ success. “I think that makes a huge difference.”