AUGUSTA — Nia Irving and Dominique Lewis have received most of the attention lavished upon the Lawrence High School girls basketball team, and with good reason. Each is a 1,000 point scorer and each is a semifinalist for Miss Maine Basketball.

Irving and Lewis, Lewis and Irving. In Friday afternoon’s Class A North final against Messalonskee, the Bulldogs proved that they are far from a two-player show.

Sophomore Hunter Mercier came off the bench to hit five 3-pointers and score 15 points. Sophomore Molly Folsom had a block and grabbed six rebounds, and Lawrence took a 59-44 win over rival Messalonskee to claim its second straight regional title.

“For people who don’t understand, who say ‘It’s just Nia, Nia, Nia,’ that’s a complete team,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “It’s not about us, or what we did or didn’t do. They’re just good and they did the job.”

Lawrence, the defending Class A state champion and top seed in the North tournament, improved to 21-0 and will face either York (20-0) or Greely (17-3) in the state game on Feb. 27 at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. The Wildcats and Rangers play for the A South title Saturday in Portland.

No. 2 Messalonskee finished 17-4, with three of those losses coming to Lawrence.

“This team has played so well together, and I think if we play like we did tonight, with our outside shooters, I really think we can pull it off,” Irving said.

Irving drew most of the attention from the Eagles defense, and understandably so. The 6-foot-1 forward averaged more than 25 points and 20 rebounds per game in the regular season. That allowed the Bulldogs perimeter shooters to do their thing. Lawrence made 10 3-pointers, nine in the first half, and built a double digit lead in the first quarter.

“Nia was going to have a lot of traffic. We figured that, so we’ve been working hard to get the ball inside-out. Our shooters hit good shots and that made the difference,” Lawrence coach John Donato said. “Our outside shooting has been formidable all year, and it showed today.”

Lawrence’s barrage of 3-pointers began almost from the opening tip, when Lewis sank her first of three shots from behind the arc. A minute and a half into the game, Morgan Bourdreau sank a 3-pointer and the Bulldogs had an 8-0 lead.

“(Opponents) can double and triple me all they want. If they’re hitting the 3’s, I don’t care,” said Irving, who had 16 points and 15 rebounds.

“(Irving) does a good job of drawing everyone down so we get open shots. Today we were hot. It was a good day,” added Lewis, who scored 13 points.

The unexpected star for Lawrence was Mercier, who returned this season after missing most of her freshman year with a torn ACL. Mercier hit five 3-pointers, all in the first half. Her final long-range shot gave Lawrence a 39-18 lead with 1:30 to play in the second quarter.

“They were guarding me and they were guarding Nia, and (Mercier) was wide open. She hit them every time,” Lewis said.

Lawrence led 39-23 at the half, and while Messalonskee rallied to get as close as 11 points early in the fourth quarter it never really threatened the bullish Bulldogs. Irving scored 11 of her 16 points in the second half, as Lawrence went inside more.

Defensively, Lawrence focused on Messalonskee guard Sophie Holmes, who averaged 20 points per game. Holmes scored 19 points in Friday’s game, but nothing came easy for her.

“We played straight man. We just wanted to put a fresh body on Holmes. We wanted to make her earn every shot. She didn’t take any easy shots,” Donato said.

“She works. She gets rebounds. She’s crafty. She hits outside shots,” Derosby said of Holmes, who also had 11 boards. “I can’t really ask for more from the kid.”

For Donato, getting back to the state championship game is gratifying, considering the number of young players the Bulldogs counted on to play alongside Irving and Lewis.

“We lost three starters from last year. I lost a lot of my size. We have some sophomores and people with not much experience and they came through,” said Donato.

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

filed under: