There are no measurable statistics to truly demonstrate Paige Plissey’s effectiveness as a defender and as a floor general on Saturday afternoon.
But her play was impactful.
The Hermon High School senior limited Waterville senior standout Sadie Garling to a single point and quarterbacked a patient and resilient offense to help the Hawks claim the Class B North girls basketball title with a 36-31 victory at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
Top-seeded Hermon (20-1) advances to play South champ Wells (15-6), a 41-37 winner over Yarmouth on Friday night, in next Friday’s 7 p.m. state championship contest in Bangor.
Second-seeded Waterville finishes the season at 19-2.
“I knew this team could do this,” Hermon senior Grace Page said. “We’re young, but we have so much talent and I 100 percent believe in this team.”
Coach Chris Cameron’s ballclub won the program’s first regional title since 1994.
Plissey was an important piece of a well-rounded effort by the Hawks. She shut down Garling and made sure the offense maintained a patient pace.
“She’s one of the best, if not the best, defenders in all of Class B,” Cameron said. “She had to do double duty today with that pressure and settle us down, get us into our offense, and then defend one of the best scorers in Class B in the Garling girl, who is an amazing player.”
Hermon finished the game with 27 turnovers, including 14 in the second half. Even so, the Hawks were able to minimize the damage by dictating a half-court game and forcing several of Waterville’s 18 turnovers.
“You try to impose your pace, your tempo,” Cameron said. “It’s almost impossible to do against Waterville teams because of their pressure.
“We wanted to slow it down, be deliberate and take good shots,” he added.
The Hawks’ greatest advantage in the contest came at the foul line, where they converted 20 of 25 attempts (80 percent), including 13 of 16 in the pivotal fourth quarter.
Rob Rodrigue’s Waterville team struggled at the line, making only seven of 19 (37 percent).
“It’s one-and-one and it’s anybody’s ballgame if you don’t make those baskets,” Page said. “Foul shots win ballgames.”
However, it may have been the Hawks’ ability to restrict 3-pointers that prevented Waterville from generating any momentum. The Purple Panthers went 2-for-14 from the arc.
“We knew they had all shooters out there, so we had to run them off the [3-point] line and get them into the bucket,” Plissey said.
Hermon demonstrated tremendous offensive balance, led by nine points and four rebounds from sophomore Megan Tracy. Maddie Lebel posted eight points and Page contributed six points and eight rebounds, while Plissey chipped in with six points and seven rebounds.
The Panthers had a long day offensively, shooting 11-for-41 overall. Kali Thompson led the way with eight points and eight rebounds and Lindsay Given netted seven points, while Jayda Murray and Paige St. Pierre posted six and five points, respectively.
The first half, which included a combined 27 turnovers, ended with Hermon leading 9-4.
The Purple Panthers, unable to generate the steals that fuel their trademark transition offense, found some life in the third quarter.
Thompson scored four points during a 9-0 burst that tied the game 13-13 midway through the period. It didn’t last as Lebel made a 3-pointer and Tracy provided a conventional three-point play from down low to keep Hermon in front.
Waterville twice led briefly, including 23-21 three minutes into the fourth quarter, but that run also was answered by the Hawks. Page’s three-point play and two Charlotte Caron foul shots restored a 26-23 edge and Hermon never trailed again.
Hermon made its free throws to maintain the upper hand.