Erskine Academy’s Sarah Praul and Skowhegan senior Jaycie Christopher chase a loose ball during a Class A North semifinal basketball game Wednesday in the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — The Class A North girls basketball final features a matchup of two teams with the same goals but whose paths to the pinnacle varied significantly.

Top-seeded Skowhegan (20-0) is chasing perfection. No. 3 Lawrence (17-3), meanwhile, has persevered through a challenging season of adversity, punctuated with the injuries to MaKenzie Nadeau and Hope Bouchard. The Bulldogs surprised No. 2 Gardiner in the semifinals, 56-45.

The River Hawks and Bulldogs are scheduled to play for the regional final Saturday night at 7 at the Augusta Civic Center.

Skowhegan remained perfect while not playing perfect basketball Wednesday in a 46-35 semifinal win over No. 4 Erskine. The River Hawks jumped out to a 35-24 lead at halftime, but then managed just 12 points in the second half.

“We didn’t play that well in that game,” Skowhegan guard Jaycie Christopher said. “But people always say you have one bad (game) throughout the tournament. We hope that’s the one.”

The River Hawks remained ahead thanks to the play of their two best players, Christopher — who will be playing for Division I Boston University next season — and forward Callaway LePage. Christopher scored a game-high 19 points, 17 coming in the first half. LePage took advantage of getting fouled constantly in the post, going 11 of 15 at the foul line, finishing with 17 points.

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Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher battles for the loose ball with Erskine’s Emma Stred, right, and Emily Clark during a Class A North semifinal game Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The Bulldogs — who’ve won nine of their last 10 games — enter the final as, well, an underdog. The teams have met twice this season, with Skowhegan winning 70-31 and then 50-35. Bouchard did not play in either game.

“The two times we saw (Skowhegan) in the regular season were both after the car accident, we didn’t have MaKenzie or Hope, either game,” Lawrence head coach Greg Chesley said. “The first one was the day after (the accident), and we just mentally weren’t ready to play and got blown out of the gym. The second one, even down a player or two, we still held strong and we lost by 15. Obviously, everything with Skowhegan starts and ends with Jaycie Christopher. When you stop her, she’s going to kick it down to LePage and LePage is good at finishing.”

Lawrence, with a healthy Bouchard, found a hot shooting hand in its win over Gardiner on Wednesday. She scored a game-high 24 points and Emily Hagerty added 19 points. The pair accounted for 37 of the Bulldogs’ final 39 points.

“We’re a better team when we push the ball,” Bouchard said. “When we play the half court game, it’s definitely a lot slower-paced. We have a harder time doing that. But when we push the ball, we look a lot better and we get open looks.”

Lawrence junior guard Hope Bouchard tries to dribble past Gardiner senior guard Piper LaVoie during a Class A North girls basketball semifinal game Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Added Skowhegan head coach Mike LeBlanc: “We expect that (Lawrence) will come out ready to go. They’re very tough kids. They’re athletic. Coming into the year, we always thought it was going to be Gardiner and them in the finals. We’re just happy to be there. We’ll be ready to go and expect that they’ll be ready to go.”

Christopher agreed.

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“We expect them to come out playing hard,” Christopher said. “They have a lot of kids that can show up at any point and hit big shots. We’re going to have to be ready defensively, that’s where it starts for us.”

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

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Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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