AUGUSTA — His team was one of the favorites coming in. But Skowhegan Area High School girls basketball coach Mike LeBlanc was nervous.

“The only emotion I had going in was probably fear,” he said, “because I know how tough it is to beat a team three times.”

The Indians made it look easy enough Friday. Second-seed Skowhegan used a big second quarter to pin down and a bigger third quarter to bury No. 7 Nokomis, coming away with a 66-38 win in the A North quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center.

It was Skowhegan’s third win over Nokomis, after a 51-38 win in December and a 53-32 win in January.

Sydney Ames led Skowhegan (15-4) with 21 points, while Annie Cooke added 18 and Lindsey Warren added eight.

Freshman guard Maya Cooney led Nokomis (9-10) with 10 points.

PULLING AWAY, PART I: Early on, it appeared Nokomis was up to the same tricks it was last year, when it beat a second-seeded Skowhegan team en route to the regional final. The Warriors were within range after a quarter, hanging around and down only 14-10.

Then the bottom fell out, as Skowhegan’s shots began to fall. Cooke made a pair of baskets and Alyssa Everett then buried a 3-pointer, making the score 21-10 with 6:21 to go in the second.

Cooney answered with a three for the Warriors, but Sydney Reed and Ames answered with back-to-back threes to complete a 15-3 run, and put the Indians up 27-13 to turn a close game into a runaway.

“We definitely needed that to boost our confidence, and know we could keep growing (the lead) and keep rolling with it,” Cooke said. “Just keep it up and keep pushing.”

PULLING AWAY, PART II: Skowhegan hurt the Warriors’ chances in the second quarter. The Indians gave them no chance in the third.

Nokomis narrowed the gap to 36-24 on a Gabby Lord basket with 3:46 left in the third, only for that basket to set the stage for Skowhegan’s most dominant stretch of the game. The Indians scored the next 23 points, a span that lasted through the opening minutes of the fourth until Chelsea Crockett stopped the skid with a layup — her only two points — with 5:37 to play in the game.

Ames said the run was another example of the Indians’ tendency to gain speed as the game goes on.

“Our first quarter is most of the time our warm-up. We kind of get the feel for it,” Ames said. “Second quarter, third, fourth, our (level of play) gets higher and higher each one.”

The Indians scored the last 16 points of the third quarter, getting five points from Cooke and seven from Ames in that span.

“Defensively, we just totally broke down all over the place,” Nokomis coach Michelle Paradis said. “We didn’t communicate, we couldn’t play man, couldn’t play zone. We tried everything.”

BRINGING THE HEAT: When Skowhegan wasn’t knocking down shots, it was creating points off turnovers, a product of full-court pressure that the Indians, despite a roster of only nine players, brought for most of the game.

“We knew that if you let them set up, Crockett is too much of a player that she will find the open space,” LeBlanc said. “If we wanted to keep the ball out of her hands, we had to defend everybody else with a lot of ball pressure.”

As the lead mounted, Nokomis got proved less and less capable of handling the defensive intensity. The Warriors turned the ball over eight times in the third quarter, including five times in the last two minutes.

“I didn’t expect that much trouble,” LeBlanc said. “We knew our conditioning would take over … and we’d get easier looks off our pressure and score easier baskets. That’s what we’ve done all year. We just attack and limit their possessions.”

CROCKETT HELD IN CHECK: Nokomis’ upset chances were further hindered by Crockett’s foul trouble. The star senior picked up her fourth foul with 3:01 to go in the third quarter and was held to only the two points, and Paradis said her reduced impact was felt on and away from the scoresheet.

“Chelsea’s one of our biggest leaders on the floor,” she said. “We missed her bringing the ball up the court, missed her defensively and missed her offensively. She was a really big part of what we needed to accomplish.”

Drew Bonifant – 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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