Three local teams are in the Eastern B girls basketball tournament. They run the spectrum of playoff experiences.
No. 2 Nokomis is undefeated and will face No. 10 John Bapst at 9:05 a.m., Saturday. No. 9 Gardiner is playing two-time defending state champion Presque Isle at 4:35 p.m. And No. 13 Waterville didn’t even expect to get this far, but the Purple Panthers are headed to Bangor, and will face No. 5 Foxcroft at 1:35 p.m. All games will be at the Cross Insurance Center.
The Eastern B quarterfinals began Friday evening with the game between Mt. Desert Island and Ellsworth. Out of five preliminary round games, Foxcroft was the only home team to come away with a win.
Of course, Nokomis (18-0) didn’t need to play a prelim game. But while John Bapst plays its home games at the Cross Center (albeit in a less noisy atmosphere than the tournaments), the Warriors will be playing there for the first time. Unlike the Bangor Auditorium, where the walls were close to the baskets, there is lots of space behind each hoop at the Cross Center.
“My main thing, right when we get on the floor, we’re going to be dribbling and doing as much shooting as we can,” Nokomis coach Michelle Paradis said. “It’s the depth perception that I’m most concerned about.”
John Bapst (10-9) plays a more deliberate style than most teams. In five of their 10 wins, the Crusaders were held under 40 points, including a 33-32 prelim victory over Medomak Valley.
“They’re very disciplined,” Paradis said. “They try to control the game. They slow the game down a lot.”
Although Nokomis can and will run, and is loaded with scoring threats (Anna MacKenzie, Taylor Shaw, Kelsie Richards, Kylie Richards, Mikayla Charters, Lindsay Whitney), Paradis said the Warriors have also been slowing things down at times this season, so she’s optimistic they can handle playing that way.
Waterville (11-8) actually has a very similar record to Foxcroft (12-7), although the teams play in different conferences and thus don’t face any of the same opponents. With 6-foot-1 Brianna Skolfield and 5-9 Julia Annis, Foxcroft has two exceptional rebounders.
“If we don’t rebound, we’re in trouble,” Waterville coach Rob Rodrigue said. “Is it going to be our outside play or their inside play that determines who wins this game?”
Waterville is led by point guard Colleen O’Donnell, one of the state’s most underrated players. Jordan Jabar, Hannah Allen and Fotini Shanos can also score for the Purple Panthers.
“We talked about getting into the tournament,” Rodrigue said. “This is above and beyond what we’ve anticipated. But I look at our team — we’ve got some kids who can play the game.”
Gardiner (12-7) and No. 1 Presque Isle (18-0) also play in different conferences, but they’re somewhat familiar as opponents.
“We’ve seen them plenty over the past few years,” Gardiner coach Mike Gray said. “We always end up in their half of the bracket.”
The Tigers come to Bangor on a bit of a crest. They lost two close games to Nokomis and Maranacook — two of the top teams in the KVAC — then handled Medomak and beat Camden Hills on the road in the prelims. Ally Day and Lauren Chadwick are two of the top scorers for Gardiner, but the real strength of the Tigers is depth.
“I really feel like we keep getting better,” Gray said. “The girls seem like they’re more confident than they were early in the year. Obviously this is a huge test for us — but also a huge opportunity.”