SKOWHEGAN — You can make a compelling argument that perfection is boring. In basketball, when two teams are playing a beautiful, exciting game, there are still missed assignments.
In Thursday night’s regular season finale, the Lawrence and Skowhegan girls played a crowd-pleasing shootout. Lawrence coach John Donato felt his team fouled too much in the second half, and Skowhegan coach Heath Cowan felt his team didn’t play enough defense.
In the end, Lawrence’s first-half offensive explosion was just enough for the Bulldogs to hang on. Lawrence scored 50 points in the first half and went home with a 71-67 victory.
“We fouled them right back into the game, but my bench came through and made some big plays at the end,” Donato said. “You’ve got to give the kids credit.”
Skowhegan (9-9) had beaten the Bulldogs earlier this season by outmuscling Lawrence. The Bulldogs defended their territory, and a few questionable calls got the crowd into the game on both sides.
Lawrence was also on fire offensively, leading 27-17 after one quarter and 50-32 at halftime. The Bulldogs made seven of their 11 3-point attempts in the first half.
Nia Irving (23 points, 12 rebounds), Dominique Lewis (18 points), and Paige Belanger (10 points) each hit for double figures in the first half, and Shelby Rudnicki (10 points) hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter. Fittingly, Rudnicki canned a 3 in the final seconds to give Lawrence 50 points at the half.
Skowhegan turned on its full-court pressure in the third quarter, and Belanger, Rudnicki, and Bri Soucy all ended up sitting with foul trouble. Morgan Buker (19 points), Cheyenne Malloy (12), and AJ Martineau and Taylor Johnson (11 apiece) all contributed as Skowhegan got within 55-49 at the end of the third quarter.
During that rally, things got even more intense. After a foul call on Rudnicki, one of the referees pointed to a Lawrence fan and had a police officer escort him from the gym. The Skowhegan fans gave that gesture a big cheer, and were about 10 times as loud moments later, when Martineau made both foul shots.
Lawrence’s lead was down to 68-65 with 1:30 to play when Johnson drained a 3-pointer from the right wing. Irving made two free throws and Alexis Chamberlain hit one, while little Taylor Reynolds helped preserve the lead by blocking a 3-point attempt.
“We were just kind of a little hectic,” Irving said. “We got everything back together, and we knew what we had to do.”
Lawrence and Mt. Blue will probably go 4-5 in the Eastern A tournament in some order, and as Donato pointed out, the big difference is what color uniform the players will wear. Skowhegan will probably go seventh and play Bangor in the first round.
“It’s not a new discussion: Whenever we play defense, we can compete with anybody,” Cowan said. “If we don’t play defense, then we can’t compete with anybody. (Bangor) beat us handily at their place. It was a great game here. We’ll see what happens.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243