AUGUSTA — It’s no secret the offense for the Lawrence girls basketball team runs through senior captains Nia Irving and Dominique Lewis.

Defense, though, is everyone’s responsibility and the Bulldogs take it seriously.

Wednesday night, top-seeded Lawrence held No. 5 Hampden Academy to 27 percent shooting from the floor en route to a 55-26 victory in a Class A North semifinal game at the Augusta Civic Center.

The defending state champion Bulldogs (20-0) advance to Friday’s regional final against No. 2 Messalonskee. Hampden finishes at 11-9.

Irving finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds while Lewis connected on four 3-pointers and scored 15 points. This one was more about defense than offense, though.

“We had to play strong man-to-man and we did,” Lawrence coach John Donato said. “Every basket they made they had to work for and that’s what our goal was.”

The Bulldogs forced 14 turnovers in the first half while holding the Broncos to eight points. By that time they led 26-8 behind Irving, who scored 13 points and hauled in nine rebounds.

“I thought we played really well tonight,” Irving said. “I think we connected as a team well. Everybody crashes for the rebounds which was something we wanted to improve from the Skowhegan game “And I was glad I shot my foul shots well tonight.”

Irving made 11 of 13 free throws while completing a trio of three-point plays. When the Hampden defense collapsed on the 6-foot-1 center, her teammates hit the necessary shots. Hunter Mercier finished with eight points while fellow sophomore Molly Folsom scored five.

“If they want to double Nia, we’ve got some outside shooters,” Donato said. “Last game it was Camryn Caldwell. We’ve got to do that because Nia’s picking up a lot of junk defenses.”

Lewis, who recently topped the 1,000-point mark, took over where Irving left off in the third quarter, hitting three 3-pointers, the third from 23 feet, to run the Bulldogs’ lead to 44-17. For good measure she opened the fourth quarter with her fourth 3 of the game.

“Even when (Nia’s) out, we can find open shots and get shots up,” Lewis said. “It’s just a matter of taking the best shots we can.”

Hampden, which lost twice to Lawrence in the regular season, knew what it was up against in Irving and the Bulldogs.

“My kids played hard,” Hampden coach Tim Scott said. “We tried to double her and that didn’t really work then the other kids starting making shots.”

Sophomore Marissa Gilpin led the Broncos with seven points. Hampden, which knocked off Nokomis in the quarterfinal round, returns 11 players next season, including 6-foot-3 freshman Bailey Donovan.

“To make it to the semis I think is a huge accomplishment for our team,” Scott said.

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