Waterville celebrates its convincing victory Wednesday over Presque Isle in a Class B North semifinal game at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

BANGOR — A loss to Mt. Desert Island in last season’s Class B North final didn’t make the Waterville Senior High School girls basketball team change the way it plays the game, but it certainly prompted a tweak to its style.

“We talked about it the day after the loss,” Waterville coach Rob Rodrigue said. “It’s one of the reasons we’ve got the inside game going.”

That day against MDI, the Panthers struggled from the perimeter. Now, with the development of a post game, the Panthers are more balanced offensively, and that has been a key to the team’s success and return to the regional final. No. 2 Waterville (19-1) will face No. 1 Hermon (19-1) at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center on Saturday at 2 p.m. for the Class B North title and a trip to the Class B state game next Friday night, also at the Cross Center.

The winner will face South champ Wells, which defeated Yarmouth on Friday afternoon. Waterville is looking for its first trip to the Class B state game since 2009, when it won the last of three consecutive Gold Balls. A victory sends Hermon to the Class B state game for the first time since 1994.

Waterville and Hermon met in the regional semifinals last season. Down four at the half, Waterville scored the first 11 points of the third quarter and pulled away with a 49-38 win. Hermon coach Chris Cameron said not much has changed from that Waterville team to the one his team will face Saturday afternoon.

Waterville’s Kali Thompson dives to the floor for a loose ball as Presque Isle’s Maggie Castonguay (24) defends in a Class B North semifinal game Wednesday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“They’re the same time, minus one player, I believe. They come after you. That KVAC-style, that 2-2-1 pressure in the fullcourt and halfcourt. They’re constantly trying to speed you up and wear you down both physically and mentally,” Cameron said. “Last year, two of our starters were in foul trouble and didn’t play the whole second quarter, and we were up four. We thought we weathered the storm… They’ve got good athletes, they’ve got good shooters, and they’ve got good rebounders.”

Waterville made 17 3-pointers over the first two games of the tournament, and three players — Sadie Garling, Maddie Martin, and Jayda Murray — have scored at least 14 points in a playoff game, a testament to the Panthers’ depth. A come from behind overtime win at rival Winslow on Jan. 16 is when the Panthers really started to click, Rodrigue said.

“I don’t think we shot too well until we got about three-quarters into the season,” Rodrigue said.

Abigail Saucier and Kali Thompson give Waterville a pair of players coming off the bench that would start for most teams in Class B. Saucier has four threes and 15 points in two playoff games, while Thompson had seven points and 15 rebounds in Wednesday’s 54-38 semifinal win over No. 3 Presque Isle. Thompson’12 rebounds in last season’s  playoff win over Hermon helped Waterville outrebound the Hawks 34-17.

“It was the only game we were outrebounded all season, and it was our last game. (Thompson’s) a beast on the boards,” Cameron said. “That’s something we’re going to have to try to control. That’s always one of our goals, with our size and our length, is to control the boards.”

The Hawks have size, with 6-foot Megan Tracy and 5-10 Grace Page. Both can score, along with guard Paige Plissey, who scored 13 points in Wednesday’s 47-34 semifinal win over Old Town.

Cameron compared Waterville to Winslow, the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference team the Hawks played twice in the regular season as a crossover opponent.

“I know their personnel isn’t exactly alike, but it’s a similar style of play. High intensity and they battle,” Cameron said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

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