AUGUSTA, Maine — Effective fullcourt pressure can pay dividends both immediate and in the longer term, as the Skowhegan girls basketball team displayed Friday afternoon.
Coach Mike LeBlanc’s second-ranked Indians used their 2-2-1 pressure to build an early double-digit cushion and then wore down No. 7 Nokomis of Newport late to score a 66-38 victory over the Warriors in a Class A North quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center.
[Live blog: Maine high school basketball tournament 2018]
Skowhegan scored nine unanswered points midway through the first half as Nokomis standout Chelsea Crockett was sidelined with two fouls to take control, then blitzed the Warriors for 23 unanswered points midway through the second half to put the game away.
“We knew that if you let them set up that Crockett is too much of a player in the open space so if we wanted to keep the ball out of her hands we had to defend everybody else hard up with a lot of ball pressure,” said LeBlanc, whose team is now 15-4 on the season.
“When (Crockett) went out we knew we had to doubly apply the pressure and they didn’t handle it well.”
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Skowhegan, which lost to Nokomis in last year’s semifinals but had defeated the Warriors twice earlier this winter, will face No. 3 Messalonskee of Oakland in Wednesday’s semifinals. Messalonskee (13-6) topped No. 6 Medomak Valley of Waldoboro 63-49.
Much of Skowhegan’s offense was generated off the 21 Nokomis turnovers its defense induced, either via a transition game sparked by junior guard Sydney Ames or by working the ball inside for either close-range shots or to pass it back outside where the Indians made six of 11 3-point tries.
“We were fortunate enough to stick to our game plan and get the inside open and then the outside shots were easier to fall because we had time to set our feet,” said LeBlanc.
Ames led Skowhegan with 21 points while junior forward Annie Cooke added 18.
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Skowhegan led just 12-10 after a basket by Nokomis forward Gabby Lord midway through the opening period, but the Indians’ defense pitched a shutout for the next 5:37 and Cooke worked inside for five points and Alyssa Everett hit a 3-pointer as the lead grew to 21-10 2:23 into the second quarter.
Nokomis (9-10) was left to play catch-up the rest of the way and was still within 36-24 with 3:46 left in the third quarter before Skowhegan went on a 23-0 blitz over the next seven minutes.
Freshman guard Maya Cooney led Nokomis with 10 points while Crockett was limited to two points on 1-of-9 shooting.
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