NEWPORT — When told he’s been described by his basketball coach as “the perfect teammate,” Andrew Haining nods. To the Nokomis Regional High School junior, compliments don’t come much higher than that.

“The perfect teammate to me is, somebody who shows up every day for practice. Plays hard, and that carries over to the game,” Haining said before Tuesday’s practice. “To me, playing hard every day is more important than (anything). You’ve got to play hard.”

Nokomis (13-6), the No. 2 seed in the Class A North tournament, will face No. 6 Medomak Valley (12-7) in the semifinals 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. In the Warriors’ 70-45 quarterfinal win over Erskine Academy, Haining had nine assists and eight rebounds. He took a charge. Haining didn’t light up the box score, scoring just two points, but his work helped his teammates put up 46 first half points and earn Nokomis its first trip to the regional semifinals in 15 years.

“He’s just really aware of what he needs to do for us to be successful,” Nokomis coach Ryan Martin said of Haining.

A junior starting guard, Haining defers offensively to a trio of senior guards: Zach Hartsgrove, Josh Smestad and Josh Perry. They make the Warriors offensive go, and Haining knows his job is to get them into the flow of the offense. That certainly worked in Saturday’s win over Erskine, when Hartsgrove, Smestad and Perry combined for 53 points.

“I feel like I’ve got to get the ball to them. In the game we just played, I brought up the ball most of the time, and tried to get the ball to them. Zach had a hot hand. Perry really had a hot hand. He shot lights out. It was me getting them the ball, and grabbing a board here and there,” Haining said.

While Haining excels in his role with the Warriors, it took some getting used to. As a football player, Haining has started at quarterback since his freshman season. In the huddle, his is the voice of leadership. Hartsgrove and Smestad had started on the Nokomis basketball team since they were freshmen, and Perry was another veteran. The Warriors didn’t need Haining to be the voice in the huddle.

“This was the first time I was ever on a team I wasn’t the first go-to leader. It was finding out how to do it, because you don’t want to just take a back seat and not be a leader,” Haining said. “Our three best players are senior guards. I’m another guard. I’m a junior. I’m younger. It’s winning them over to listen and trust me in a game.”

Haining did that by playing strong defense, and getting his teammates the ball. It started with the opening game of the season, a 46-43 loss to Brewer. Early on, the Warriors struggled against Brewer’s triangle and two defense. While the game was a loss, Haining’s effort was key in keeping the game close, Martin said, and helped set the tone for the rest of the season. Haining’s greatest asset, Martin said, is his defensive consistency.

“He’s just really hard-nosed about it. When they catch it on the perimeter, he’s in their jersey. He’s willing to take charges. He’s smart off the ball,” Martin said.

As his role with the team evolves next season, Haining works to become a better shooter.

“I’ve had a struggling year offensively. I don’t have my range right now, and I don’t know why. But I shoot well in practice, and (Martin) says it will translate to games. He’s given me all the confidence I need to shoot the ball,” Haining said.

Added Martin: “Mechanically (Haining’s shot) looks fine. I just think it has to do with just seeing the ball go in a little more. But when you don’t take a lot of shots in the game, you only take four or five and miss three or four of those, it’s hard to build that confidence. He’s stuck with it, to his credit. He’s here early to get up extra shots. He’s just trying to get better for his teammates.”

Haining does not participate in a spring sport. He’ll focus his athletic time in the weight room getting ready for his senior football season. Last fall, Haining threw 12 touchdown passes, helping the Warriors win six games and make the playoffs for the first time in program history. Haining said he’d consider football in college if it was the right academic fit. Haining would like to study English, and maybe become a teacher. He’s also thought of a career in media. Last fall, he spent a day with WABI sports reporter Eric Gullickson, and one of his favorite courses in school is Sports and Literature, where they learn about sports writing.

Now, though, Haining is focused on Wednesday’s game against Medomak Valley.

“We don’t have captains or anything like that. We want everybody to have a voice and be a leader,” Martin said. “Andrew does exactly that. He’s vocal when he needs to be. He leads by example when he needs to.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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