NEWPORT — After three winters of taking their lumps together, including narrowly missing out on a postseason berth in each of the last two, the Mt. Blue girls basketball team has grown up.

Rallying back from an early deficit with full-court defense and closing down Nokomis’ dominant inside post presence after halftime, the Cougars pulled away for a 53-41 win over the Warriors in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A game Friday night. It was Mt. Blue’s second win in three tries this season, while Nokomis dropped to 0-3.

Senior Mackenzie Libby scored 13 points, one of three Cougars in double figures in an option-filled offense, and pulled down six rebounds. Lexi Mittelstadt led Mt. Blue with 14 points, while Jacelyn Daggett added 10.

“This group has been with us for three years and they’re a little hungry,” Mt. Blue coach Fred Conlogue said. “It’s just a matter of getting there. We’ve got two big wins now, and that’s important.

“It was a great overall effort by everybody.”

“We didn’t have that aspect of our team last year,” Libby said of the balanced scoring. “We’ve been working hard in practice, making sure everyone’s getting touches, everyone’s getting to the paint, and everyone’s getting a shot.”

Nokomis controlled the paint early on, thanks to a double-double from senior center Gabby Lord, who finished with a game-high 17 points and 13 rebounds, but the rub came in the fact that she had very little support.

Tied 37-37 after three quarters, Nokomis managed only four points in the final period — all from Lord, and all from the foul line, as the Warriors went without a field goal for the game’s final 10 minutes.

Lord also registered the only five second-half rebounds for Nokomis, as the home team was neutralized by Libby, Aislynn Provencher (six rebounds) and Eva Stevens (four rebounds).

“We’ve never seen a player like (Lord) that dominates in the post like that. We struggled at first,” Libby said. “I got a lot of help from the post players. They drove the defenders back so I could get in there and get those rebounds.”

Maci Leali and Maya Cooney each finished with 10 points for Nokomis, but both were in foul trouble during the second half.

Nokomis built a 20-10 second-quarter lead, its largest of the night, and took a 29-23 advantage into the halftime break. But that’s when the Cougars turned up the wick on defense, forcing the Warriors into poor choices and poor execution against its full-court press.

Nokomis committed 10 turnovers in the second half, allowing Mt. Blue to claw back and tie the game at 37-37 with a pair of Daggett free throws in the final minute of the third period.

The Cougars had the momentum and closed the game out on a 20-4 run. The biggest sequence came when Mittelstadt rattled home a 3-pointer and Libby did the same on the next trip down the floor, giving Mt. Blue a 47-39 lead with 6:11 remaining.

“It looked like it was slipping away from us in the second quarter,” Conlogue said. “We made a few adjustments to try and move the ball a little bit more. We’re still in the process of learning how to win the big game a little bit… There’s seven seniors on this team, and they’ve logged a lot of miles for us and a lot of effort. It’s a special group, and they’re focused.

“They’re starting to realize what it takes.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5648

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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