AUGUSTA, Maine — The Nokomis of Newport boys basketball team was clicking from long range early Saturday afternoon, and when that happens it’s not good news for the Warriors’ opponent.
Coach Ryan Martin’s club made its first five 3-point attempts against Erskine Academy in their Class A North boys basketball quarterfinal to build a big early lead, then stepped up the defense after intermission to score a 70-45 victory over the Eagles at the Augusta Civic Center.
Second-ranked Nokomis, which lost in the quarterfinals to Oceanside of Rockland last winter, won for the ninth time in its last 10 games overall this season to improve its record to 14-5.
The Warriors will face No. 6 Medomak Valley of Waldoboro in Wednesday night’s semifinals. Medomak Valley upended No. 3 Skowhegan 63-31 in the first quarterfinal.
“We talked a lot this week about building on that experience from last year and they did,” said Martin. “They knew what it was like to experience a tournament game but on the other side and that can be a pretty powerful motivator.
“The fast start we had was us responding to the situation.”
Seventh-seeded Erskine Academy of South China concluded its season at 8-11.
Nokomis made all five 3-point shots it took in the first quarter while building a 23-12 lead, with Josh Perry making three from beyond the arc and 1,000-point scorer Zach Hartsgrove adding two from long range.
By halftime the Warriors were shooting 59 percent (17 of 29) overall, and their lead was 46-30 — and only because Erskine scored the final 12 points of the second period.
“I really think it was about the extra pass we were making,” said Martin after directing Nokomis to its first quarterfinal victory since 2003. “There were some wide-open looks that we were getting and credit to the guys they were knocking them down.”
Nokomis then went out and applied the defensive clamps after intermission, limiting Erskine to five points in the third quarter and 10 over the game’s final eight minutes.
“Shooting is contagious on our team,” said Hartsgrove, who finished with a game-high 23 points. “We like to get out in transition and get easy baskets and see the ball go through the rim.
“We had a great first half and followed that up with a great second half. We stepped up on defense and got the job done.”
Perry and Josh Smestad each added 15 points and Brock Graves scored 12, but an unsung hero was junior guard Andrew Haining, who scored just two points but also contributed nine assists and eight rebounds.
Haining assisted directly on five of Nokomis’ six first-half 3-pointers.
“If you could make a highlight reel of being a great teammate, you could just take Andrew tonight and do that,” said Martin.
Chandler Moore led Erskine with nine points while Austin Dunn and Jack Jowett scored eight points each.