AUGUSTA — The Nokomis boys basketball team wasted little time in securing its first playoff win in 15 years.

The second-seeded Warriors made eight of their first 11 shots from the floor to begin the game, part of a torrid first-half output, and rolled to a 70-45 win over Erskine Academy in the Class A North quarterfinals Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. The win was the first in the tournament for Nokomis since 2003.

“These kids hadn’t experienced that feeling yet,” Nokomis coach Ryan Martin said. “They just did, and that kind of emotion is contagious.”

Senior Zach Hartsgrove led all scorers with a game-high 23 points, one of four Warriors (13-6) in double figures. Josh Smestad and Josh Perry each added 15 points, while Brock Graves added 12.

“It’s a good feeling to get that first win here,” Hartsgrove said. “It gets a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, and now I can just go out and play basketball.”

Erskine (8-11) was overmatched from the outset, falling behind early and trailing by as many as 29 in the second quarter. The Eagles rallied to pull within 46-30 at halftime, but a 15-0 run to begin the second half secured Nokomis’ pass to the regional semifinals against No. 6 Medomak Valley on Wednesday.

Chandler Moore led Erskine with nine points, while Jack Jowett and Austin Dunn each added eight points.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Though he was held scoreless in the second half, no player was more significant in the opening 16 minutes than Nokomis senior guard Perry.

Perry scored all 15 of his points before halftime, shooting 5 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc over the first two quarters. His second consecutive 3-pointer from the left corner with 2:02 remaining in the opening period built Nokomis a 21-9 lead.

“Usually, we start pretty well,” Martin said. “I think that’s a sign of maturity — being ready. You set your mind to the task at hand and you go out and do it.”

Perry’s touch from deep helped ease Hartsgrove’s workload with Erskine intent on shutting down the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s leading scorer this season.

“Josh Perry came up big for us today,” Hartsgrove said. “We came out gunning.”

KEY TO THE WIN: Without question, Nokomis’ ability to shoot the basketball was all the Warriors needed Saturday.

“Good offense always beats good defense,” Erskine coach Tim Bonsant said. “Anybody who says good defense wins, no way, they’ve never played basketball before. We ran into a buzzsaw.”

“It’s working together, good ball movement,” Smestad added. “It’s something coaches always emphasize, and we executed it well out there.”

The ability to drain shots from all over the floor in both the first and third quarters gave Nokomis plenty of breathing room, particularly after Erskine switched to full-court press in the second half. The Warriors shot the ball at a 72.7 percent clip in the first quarter and 64.2 percent for the first half.

“NBA teams don’t shoot like that,” Bonsant said. “It was all kinds of different people. It wasn’t like it was only one guy.”

“They just went out and played,” Martin said. “They shot the ball extremely well… It was fun to watch.”

DEFENSE MATTERS: With the Warriors pouring in 70 points, it was easy to overlook their defensive effort.

“It’s something we emphasize,” Smestad said of the team’s defense. “That’s what hurt us last year. Last year we had a 16-point lead (in the quarterfinals against Oceanside) and we ended up losing. Ever since last year, we’ve pushed for (better) defense.”

Erskine turnovers in the midst of both Nokomis’ 10-2 stretch to begin the game and its 15-0 run right after halftime allowed the Warriors easy baskets in transition as their lead grew on both occasions. In all, the Eagles committed 18 turnovers in the game while making just one shot from the field in the third quarter.

UP NEXT: Nokomis will meet No. 6 Medomak in the regional semifinals on Wednesday. The two teams met once during the regular season, with the Warriors snaring a 49-45 road win on Dec. 21.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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