GARDINER — Anna MacKenzie was steaming. After dominating inside for much of the first half, she had to sit down with three fouls. Her Nokomis team lost only one point off its lead with MacKenzie on the bench, but she was still determined to make her presence felt at the beginning of the second half.
“That frustrates me,” MacKenzie said. “It frustrates all of us.”
MacKenzie was one piece of an aggressive Warriors team in the third quarter. Nokomis had an 11-0 run that keyed a 56-41 victory over Gardiner in Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B girls basketball action Monday night.
MacKenzie had 12 points and three rebounds in the first half, and two points but seven rebounds after the break. Her 14 points and 10 rebounds were both game highs. Abby Dunn scored 12 points and Ally Day pulled down 10 rebounds for Gardiner.
Nokomis (7-0) raced out to a 12-3 lead, and MacKenzie was doing most of the damage on putbacks and other close-range shots. Gardiner stayed cool and trimmed the lead to 20-15 early in the second quarter, when MacKenzie went to the bench with her second foul. She came back in shortly after, but sat back down almost immediately after picking up her third foul with 3:57 to play in the half while going for a rebound.
The score was 22-15 at that point and Gardiner got as close as 22-19 on a steal and layup by Rachel Quirion. But the Tigers couldn’t fully swing the momentum and trailed 28-22 at halftime.
“It kind of got into just a holding pattern,” Gardiner coach Mike Gray said. “Both teams just kind of played even for a while, when we really needed to use that time to really make a dent.”
That missed opening became bigger in the third quarter, as MacKenzie, Kylie Richards, Taylor Shaw and Lindsay Whitney kept grabbing loose rebounds. Nokomis led 44-27 after three, and once again, it looked like Gardiner (4-2) had too big a hill to overcome.
“We have been trying to work on all being on the same page,” Nokomis coach Michelle Paradis said. “When we get everybody on the same page, and on the same agenda on what we’re doing, then we really put it together well.”
Just as they had in the first quarter, the Tigers clawed back. Dunn hit back-to-back 3-pointers to get Gardiner within 11, and the Tigers were down only 47-38 with about five minutes left.
“Three minutes in, they jumped on us, and I thought we battled right back. And then again, at the end of the third, they stretched it out to 17,” Gray said. “We said, â€˜Look, this can go two ways. We can make them work and earn this, or we can roll over and just give it to them.’ I loved the effort.”
Nokomis used its stall well after that point and Kelsie Richards (10 points) hit a couple clutch baskets. One crucial sequence came with under three minutes to play. Mikayla Charters (nine points) made one free throw and missed the second, but MacKenzie sneaked in for the offensive rebound. That led to a three-point play by Kylie Richards and a 13-point Nokomis lead with 2:21 to go.
“We’ve been trying to put things away,” Paradis said. “Like when we’re ahead, we try to maintain that, and sustain the intensity that we have. We’ve been trying to put it in their heads that good intensity on the defensive end makes our offense flow better.”