To get back to the state championship game, defending Class A girls basketball state champion Lawrence High School didn’t have to really change much of what it does, but the Bulldogs did have to tweak a few things.

Lawrence lost three starters from 2015’s state championship team to graduation. Coach John Donato knew his two returning starters — center Nia Irving and point guard Dominique Lewis — were among the best players in the state. Getting newcomers to gel with those stars was the concern in the offseason.

Throughout the regular season and Class A North tournament the Bulldogs showed the changes didn’t slow the team at all. With junior Morgan Boudreau and sophomores Camryn Caldwell and Molly Folsom joining the starting five — and sophomore Hunter Mercier typically the first player off the Lawrence bench — Lawrence is 21-0 heading into Saturday’s state championship game against York, also 21-0.

“All of them bring something to the table,” Donato said of the newcomers to the lineup.

Much of the getting to know you work on the court was done before practices began last November.

“We’ve been playing with Morgan for a long time,” Irving said. “During the summer Camryn and Molly were in the starting lineup. When the season started we had played with each other already, so it wasn’t a big deal.”

Last season, Lawrence’s offense was built around its size. Joining the 6-foot-1 Irving were 5-9 Paige Belanger and 6-1 Abby Weigang, giving the Bulldogs a deep and talented frontcourt. Belanger and Weigang graduated, along with guard Jordyn Towers. With this year’s group bringing different skill sets, Donato knew he couldn’t stick with the halfcourt sets in which the Bulldogs excelled last season.

“We had to change the way we approach things,” Donato said. “Now I think we’re more spread out. We really shoot the 3-ball well.”

Irving, a finalist for Miss Maine Basketball, and Lewis, a semifinalist for the award, are each career 1,000-point scorers. The newcomers haven’t been asked to carry a big offensive load, although they can score. Caldwell and Bourdreau were among the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference leaders in 3-pointers made this season, along with Lewis. Mercier came off the bench to hit five 3-pointers and score 15 points in Lawrence’s 59-44 win over Messalonskee in the Class A North championship game. Opponents are welcome to double and triple team Irving — who averages more than 20 points and 20 rebounds per game — but that’s going to leave open the Bulldogs deep threats.

“If everybody is playing Nia like that they have to give up something,” Donato said. “We’re better from the outside than we were last year.”

Folsom’s work inside has ensured that Irving isn’t Lawrence’s only presence in the low post. Although not as big as Belanger or Weigang, the 5-7 Folsom averages seven rebounds per game.

“(Folsom’s) just a hard-working, defensive kid,” Donato said.

Boudreau and Caldwell joined Lewis among the KVAC North leaders in assists. Caldwell is shooting over 70 percent from the free throw line and Boudreau, last season’s first player off the bench, is the team’s best defender.

“They’ve all been great,” Irving said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

filed under: