AUGUSTA – The Gardiner girls basketball team is off to the Class A North regional final.

Paced by senior Lizzy Gruber’s 27 points and 11 rebounds, as well as some strong outside shooting, the No. 1 Tigers held off No. 5 Nokomis 60-48 in a regional semifinal Wednesday night at the Augusta Civic Center. It’s the first trip to the A North final for Gardiner since 2020, when the Tigers lost 43-37 to Hampden Academy.

“We were (in the regional final in 2020), it was exciting, but now as a senior, there’s a little more pressure on the line,” said Gruber, a 6-4 center. “But it’s pretty exciting. We’re stoked to be back here.”

Gardiner (20-0) will meet No. 2 Lawrence in the A North final on Friday at 7 p.m. in Augusta.

The Bulldogs knocked off the Tigers in the A North semifinals last season, 56-45.

Nokomis finished 11-9. Camryn King led the Warriors with 17 points, while Brianna Townsend added 14.


Thanks to an 8-0 run, the Warriors jumped out to a 16-12 lead in the first quarter. But a 6-0 run in the second quarter, as well as some timely 3-point shooting from Megan Gallagher, gave the Tigers a 31-26 halftime lead. Gallagher scored 12 points, all on 3-pointers, while Savannah Brown added nine points.

“I think people underestimate our guards,” Gruber said. “People see me and Taylor Takatsu (in the post), but if you watch our guards, they can shoot. We have great shooters behind us. That’s what opens up so much for us. If they can shoot shots, teams have to get out, and there’s no way you can guard all five of us.”

“Megan and (Brown) hit some big shots,” Gardiner head coach Mike Gray said. “We know what Lizzy is going to do. We take it for granted, and we shouldn’t, because what she does every night is ridiculous. But we kind of take it for granted and we know it. (If) someone else has a big game, we’re going to be okay. Mckenna (Johnson), (Brown) and (Takatsu) all did little things right at both ends, key baskets at key times. And (Gallagher), she nailed some big shots for us to not let them pull away or not gain too much momentum on us.”

Nokomis managed to hang with Gardiner thanks to its own long-distance shooting, with Brianna Townsend and Raegan King each knocking down two 3-pointers. The Warriors hit five 3-pointers in all.

“That’s how they played us both times (in the regular season),” Gray said. “Cam King and Bri Townsend are two of the best players in our league, they’re tough. And they’re not going to back down from anybody. They have seniors who have been through this before and they know it’s their last shot. We knew they weren’t going to back down. We had little stretches where we weren’t taking care of the ball.

“I thought we made every shot they took in the second half difficult for them. I didn’t love the way we defended in the first half,” Gray continued. “But I thought the second half, we made every shot difficult for them and that’s all I could ask (out of them).”

While Nokomis hung tough, Gardiner never relinquished the lead. Runs of 5-0 and 6-0 sealed the victory in the fourth quarter for the Tigers.

“Gardiner is a really good team,” Nokomis head coach Chelsea Crockett said. “We know that (Gray) plays nine, 10, 11 kids and he has all season. Gruber is hard to stop. She plays well and finishes really well. Their guards hit a bunch of shots. I thought we executed really well and held them to the fourth quarter.

“We knew (Gruber) was going to score, we tried to focus on the other girls,” Crockett continued. “(Gruber) scored 39 against us the first time we played. We we were hoping she wouldn’t have that many but we knew she was going to score about 25 points and have 10-20 rebounds.”

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