NEWPORT — With its entire starting lineup back from last year’s run to the Class A North semifinals, the Skowhegan Area High School girls basketball had reason to believe this season could be a special one.

Knocking off the team that had its number last winter is a good way for that belief to stick around.

The Indians took a halftime lead against Nokomis on Monday night and pulled away from there, earning a 51-38 victory in a matchup of two teams near the top of the A North standings a year ago.

“I think confidence-wise it does a lot for us, knowing that they beat us last year twice,” coach Mike LeBlanc said. “Coming up here, it’s a tough place to play. They’re well-coached, they play hard, and we were just fortunate enough to come out ahead.”

Fortunate, perhaps, but on Monday the Indians (3-0) were the better team as well. Sydney Reed scored a game-high 18 points, nine coming in the second to help fend off the Warriors (2-1), while Alyssa Everett added 12 points and Annie Cooke scored nine.

“We didn’t come with our ‘A’ game,” Nokomis coach Michelle Paradis said. “I was disappointed in the effort and how we played. My veteran people didn’t step up to the plate like they should have been. We needed some leadership, and we just didn’t have it out there.”

Nevertheless, Nokomis was hanging tough, down by only a point in the closing minutes of the first half, when Skowhegan put in the final six points to bump the halftime lead to a 26-19 cushion.

“Late in the second quarter, when we made that run, we felt that we could play with them,” LeBlanc said. “Defensively, we did a perfect job on them.”

Paradis said the flurry before the half was enough to take some of the energy from her team.

“We started to hang our heads quite a bit going into halftime,” she said.

Skowhegan stretched its lead to double digits at the start of the second half. Nokomis, led by Gabrielle Lord (11 points, including nine in the second half), narrowed the gap back to eight points, but the Indians regained control of the game at the end of the period and into the fourth to pull away.

“We just came out and we were cold to start the third, but we just made a run to end the third and we held on to it,” LeBlanc said. “We were very fortunate, they overplayed a lot of plays and we got some easy baskets in the fourth quarter.”

The Indians aced the defensive challenge as well, as Cooke and Everett limited Chelsea Crockett, one of the Warriors’ top scoring threats, to only three points.

“We knew we had to shut her down,” LeBlanc said. “That was the key going in.”

Despite the loss, Paradis said she was confident the team would use it as a step in the right direction.

“That was our third game,” she said. “If we’re going to lose, it’s a great time to lose now. I’d rather lose now and learn and build. I feel like that was a great team-building experience for us.”

According to LeBlanc, whose team is in the middle of a tough week that includes an upcoming game with Hampden, it remains to be seen just how many positives Monday’s win brought the Indians.

“We’ll find out (Tuesday) night,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough week for us. I said if we come out of it two (wins) of three, we’ll be all right.”

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