As good as Nia Irving is, she can’t score without the ball. That’s usually where Dominique Lewis comes in.

While Irving is the star for the Lawrence girls, Lewis runs the show and has proven that she is also one of the top players in Class A. During the regular season, Lewis averaged 13.9 points per game, while leading all of Eastern A with 8.1 assists per night and 51 3-pointers. She made five threes on Saturday against Bangor, as the Bulldogs won the Eastern A final to advance to the state championship game against Thornton at 3:05 p.m., Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.

“Last year, she played good, but this year, she’s more of a leader,” Lawrence coach John Donato said. “She’s handling the ball a little bit better and making good decisions. When she does that, the team does pretty well on the floor.”

“I feel like I have developed a lot more,” said Lewis, a junior this season. “I have better ball-handling skills. I know what to look for. Me and Nia know each other really well. I’ve gotten to know every person individually and what they need. So I feel like we’re good. We’ve got it down. We know each other.”

Lewis scored a game-high 16 points against Bangor, including the game-winning three with 19.4 seconds left to break a 42-42 tie. Even a few days later, Lewis beamed and was full on movement and energy while reliving the moment.

“It was amazing,” she said. “They came down and they hit a nice three to tie against us. We came back the other end. I left it open the first time and didn’t shoot it, and then I came back and knew I had to shoot it. The time was ticking. We needed points. They obviously doubled Nia all game, so I felt like I should take it. It came my way.”

The shot came from about two or three steps behind the line — South Portland’s Maddie Hasson, an AAU teammate of Lewis, tweeted afterward, “Domi just drained that from halfcourt.”

“I know it was pretty far out, which gave Coach a stroke,” Lewis said. “But, I mean, I’ve shot those before. It kind of felt natural to me.”

“I was fine with that shot,” Donato said. “If she missed it, probably not fine with that shot. But at that time, that was the best shot we could get.

“She takes them all the time like that. As long as she’s set, she’s a good shooter. And, of course, she shot pretty well that day. If we kept on passing it around, we probably never would have got a shot off. She took the ball and said, ‘I want to win this game.’ And she did.”

That shot also symbolized the trust Donato has in his point guard — a trust Lewis has continued to build with her play this winter.

“I think she’s a little stronger, a little smarter, and she’s playing within herself,” Lewis said. “When she does that, she’s making a lot better decisions. We depend a lot on her, because she’s my point guard, and she’s a three-year starter. She’s one of my top players, and I have to depend on her to deliver the ball to my bigs.”

While some teams have a person tracking assists during games, other teams simply award assists when they review the game film. So there are times when Lewis may have 10 or 12 assists, but no one is aware of it right after the game.

“That’s what I like to do,” she said. “I don’t care how many points people score, as much as, I want to get us further as a team. I want to have people score. I want to get the ball up the court, and give other people the opportunity, if they’re going to work for it, to get the ball and get it in the hoop. All these kids deserve it. They work really hard, and I want to get the ball to them to the best of my ability.”

When Lewis was a freshman, Lawrence made it to the Eastern A semifinals before losing. Last season, the Bulldogs were stunned by an older Messalonskee team in the quarterfinals.

“Honestly, last year, it killed us,” Lewis said. “We were a really good team going in last year. We kind of got upset, and I think that motivated us to get us where we are now, and I wouldn’t take last year back. Even though we didn’t do well, I wouldn’t take it back for anything, because it’s given us this year. It’s given us the chance to go far and prove what we have.”

Lewis said she is playing with more confidence than she ever has, and the team is a close-knit one. Still, her greatest accomplishment this season might have been helping convince Donato — who is anything but flamboyant and has over 500 career wins — that he should have all of his hair sprayed blue before the upcoming Thornton game.

“We went as a team to get blue hair for playoffs,” Lewis said. “Last game, we gave Coach a streak, and next game, he’s getting his whole hair blue. He’s really worried about it, too. He’s like, ‘I’m really superstitious. I need just that one streak back from last game.’ We’re like, ‘No, Coach. You’re having your whole head blue.'”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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