BANGOR, Maine — The quest for perfection continues for the Southern Aroostook girls basketball team.

The Warriors (21-0 overall) captured the Class D North championship Saturday morning with a 59-26 victory over No. 2 Wisdom of St. Agatha.

Southern Aroostook advances to the state championship, 1 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Augusta Civic Center against Class D South champion Seacoast Christian (13-6).

Southern Aroostook’s Madison Shields (right) dribbles past Wisdom’s Alexis Silva during Saturday’s Class D North championship at the Cross Insurance Center. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Madison Russell led the Warriors with 16 points, including nine in the third quarter. Emmalee Landry added 13 points, including three 3-pointers, while Cami Shields added 12; Callie Russell had six; Ally Shields and Madison Shields, both five; and Libby Anderson, two.

The defending three-time Class D North champion Southern Aroostook Community School girls basketball team from Dyer Brook had a tougher go in the first half of Saturday’s championship for the first time thus far in the tourney.

It was Wisdom who kept the game close early on as the Warriors had a slower start than usual. Midway through the first quarter, the Warriors were up just 12-6, but managed to grow that lead to 19-8 lead by the end of the first quarter.

In that first frame, it was Cami Shields who paced the team as she tallied nine of her 12 points for the game.

Madison Russell (left) of Southern Aroostook collides with Wisdom’s Abbie Lerman on her way to the basket during Saturday’s Class D North championship at the Cross Insurance Center. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times
Reaching for the ball are Southern Aroostook’s Madison Shields (left) and Wisdom’s Abbie Lerman during Saturday’s Class D North championship at the Cross Insurance Center. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Southern Aroostook managed to maintain its lead throughout the second quarter, taking a 28-16 advantage into the halftime break.

The turning point, however, came in the third quarter as the Warriors cranked up their defensive pressure, limiting Wisdom to just two points (52-18). The deficit became too large for the Pioneers to climb out of and Southern Aroostook cruised to the 33-point victory.

“Our shots didn’t fall early,” Southern Aroostook coach Cliff Urquhart said. “We had a good early burst, but then started missing some shots we normally make. But the girls kept grinding defensively. That is what won this game. We have said it all year, ‘Defense travels.’ If you can limit the other team, you are going to be in most games.”

Coming down with the rebound is Wisdom’s Kamryn Clavette as teammate Olivia Ouellette looks on during Saturday’s Class D North championship at the Cross Insurance Center. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Appearing in state championship games is nothing new for the Warriors as the team has contended for the gold ball for the past four years (not including 2021 when there was no postseason).

Southern Aroostook won state titles in 2019 and 2018 and finished as state runners-up in 2020.

“It’s super exciting going back to states,” junior Madison Russell said. “It’s good to be back and winning. We went into the locker room and came out in the second half playing as if it was 0-0.”

“I am really excited and proud of my team,” Southern Aroostook sophomore Madison Shields said. “We picked up the defensive intensity and played our game.”

Falling down as she goes for the ball is Wisdom’s Abbie Lerman (left) while guarded by Southern Aroostook’s Cami Shields during Saturday’s Class D North championship at the Cross Insurance Center. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times
Southern Aroostook’s Cami Shields (right) is guarded closely by Wisdom’s Abbie Lerman during Saturday’s Class D North championship at the Cross Insurance Center. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

For Wisdom, Abbie Lerman led the team with eight points, while Lilly Roy and Olivia Ouellette both had five points; Kamryn Clavette added four; and Ava Lerman and Alexis Silva both had two.

“I am very proud of our girls,” Wisdom coach Scott Pelletier said. “I think we did a pretty good job in the first half. We defended well, but they had some big threes and then we were working from behind. They [Southern Aroostook] are well deserving. They are that mountain that we are trying to climb to knock off.”

Wisdom finished with a 16-2 overall record.

Brianne Daggett of Southern Aroostook swings the net after the Warriors beat Wisdom 59-26 for the Class D North championship at the Cross Insurance Center Saturday. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times
Members of the Southern Aroostook girls basketball team hoist the Class D North championship plaque after a 59-26 victory over Wisdom at the Cross Insurance Center Saturday. It marks the fourth straight regional championship for the Warriors. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Scott Pelletier’s name. It has been corrected.