BANGOR — Nokomis fans put up a sign saying how they would always remember the Bangor Auditorium. Wednesday afternoon’s game was another reason why people who love watching basketball at the Auditorium will always remember the Nokomis girls.
Trailing No. 7 Camden Hills by seven with a little over three minutes to play, Nokomis scored the last 12 points in front of their delirious fans to take a dramatic 45-40 Eastern B girls semifinal victory.
“(Our fans) definitely help us out a lot,” said Taylor Shaw, whose putback off a missed free throw in the final seconds clinched the win for the Warriors. “I get goose bumps when I hear them scream for us.”
No. 3 Nokomis will now play in the Eastern B final at 2:05 p.m., Saturday at the Auditorium. Anna MacKenzie led the Warriors with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Knowlton scored 29 for Camden Hills, and took 24 of her team’s 37 field goal attempts.
Camden Hills led 40-33 with 4:19 left after two free throws by Knowlton. Nokomis missed its first eight shots of the fourth quarter — almost all of them from long range — but got within 40-35 when Shaw hit a follow-up basket at the three-minute mark.
With Nokomis employing a full-court press, the Windjammers turned the ball over, and Lindsay Whitney knocked down a 3-pointer from the left side. With 1:47 to go, MacKenzie hit a turnaround in the lane to tie the game at 40.
“Unfortunately, the shots that we were giving up weren’t going for three quarters, and then the last four minutes, they finally started dropping for Nokomis,” Camden Hills coach Marty Messer said. “I had some tired girls out there trying to get out and cover those, and it was tough at that time. We had some critical turnovers at the end, but I’m proud of the girls.”
After another Camden Hills turnover, Nokomis tried to get the ball in to MacKenzie. The ball bounced away, and Kelsie Richards saved the possession by diving for the loose ball and passing it to a teammate. The ball ended up in the hands of Richards’ twin sister, Kylie, who buried a 3 from the right wing to put Nokomis up 43-40 with 1:02 left.
“Oh God, it was crazy,” Kylie Richards said. “The fans were going crazy, and we knew we had to make a shot. We knew we had to get the momentum going our way, and it just happened.
“Coach said that someone needs to want the ball and make it,” Richards said. “And I know I can make a shot. It’s been a struggle throughout the year to finish 3s and everything, and I knew that it was my time to shoot and make it.”
According to Nokomis coach Michelle Paradis, it was imperative that Richards realized it was her time to shoot.
“If she hadn’t shot that shot, I would have yelled at her and been mad at her,” Paradis said with a smile. “My confidence is always there for them to take the shot, no matter who it is. If she hadn’t shot it, I would have come unleashed on her.”
After Richards’ 3-pointer, Camden Hills turned the ball over again. The Windjammers still had to commit two fouls before Nokomis would be in the bonus situation, and that took nearly 45 seconds. Whitney went to the line for a 1-and-1 with 10.7 seconds remaining, and missed the shot, but Shaw came from the left side to get the rebound and bank in the layup.
“I was hoping Lindsay would make it,” Shaw said. “But then nobody else was rebounding, so I said, ‘Ok, I’ll just take this.’ ”
Nokomis had a lot of trouble with Knowlton and 6-foot-1 Rachel Pease in the first half, so Paradis went to the bench for her own 6-footer, senior Traci Carson. Over the final six-plus minutes of the first half, Carson grabbed five rebounds, and Nokomis outscored Camden 10-1 to lead 22-21 at halftime.
“Traci’s a game-changer,” Paradis said. “Traci alters anybody’s shot who comes into the paint. And I have to give kudos to oour team, because we changed our defense, literally probably every other time down the court, just to try to mess Camden up.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243