Lions sweep Warriors to move up regional standingsEastern Class B playoff berths a real possibility for both BAHS clubs
If the teams' play on the court was any indication, the Belfast boys and girls basketball squads had a dream on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as both Waldo County programs took on Nokomis of Newport.
That dream, of course, being to knock off the Warriors and move up the the Eastern Class B standings.
Both dreams were realized for the Lions as the teams emerged victorious in highly-competitive contests, with the Belfast girls dealing Nokomis its second loss of the season 56-53 in Newport, while the Belfast boys held on for a 63-61 win in Belfast.
At Newport, Nokomis held a slim 13-11 lead after the first quarter and led 24-19 at halftime, while Belfast went on an 18-7 third-quarter run to take a 41-37 edge heading into the final stanza.
Leading Belfast were Courtney Drinkwater (16 points, 2 rebounds, assist, steal, block), Katrina Lapham (14 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, steal), Lexi Nelligan (12 points, 5 rebounds, assist, steal, block), McKenzie Thibodeau (4 points, 2 rebounds, assist, block), Mariah Sturgis (7 points, assist, steal), Ashley Littlefield (3 points, 7 rebounds, assist) and Madison Cummings (2 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals).
For Nokomis, Taylor Shaw and Anna Mackenzie both scored 17 points, while Kelsie Richards added eight; Lindsey Whitney, five; Mckayla Charters, four; and Kylie Richards and Traci Carson, both two.
The Lions were 16-of-20 (80 percent) from the charity stripe, including 10-of-14 (71 percent) in the fourth quarter, to help distance themselves from the Warriors.
Nokomis netted 17-of-24 free throws (71 percent) in the game.
The Lions led by 10 points at one point in the second half before the Warriors whittled away at the lead, but could not complete the comeback.
Belfast coach Stan Sturgis said the Lions "played their worst game of the season" in a loss to Maranacook Jan. 17, while "we kind of got away with one" in a win over Medomak Valley Jan. 19 over the weekend.
In a nutshell, the Lions were thrilled to pick up the road win over the Warriors.
"Nokomis isn't going to help us beat them," said Sturgis. "They're too good, they're fundamentally sound and they're always well-coached.
"In the second half we started executing, we took care of the ball, Courtney hit a couple shots down the stretch [and] Katrina did and we hit our foul shots," he said. "They've worked so hard this year and I'm just so happy for them."
In the Maine Principals' Association Heal Point Standings for Eastern Class B, Belfast (9-3, 43.7654 points) is fourth, while Presque Isle (13-0, 77.8704 points) is first in the 19-team region. The top 13 teams qualify for the playoffs.
At Belfast, Nokomis held a 15-13 lead after the first eight minutes, while Belfast took a 29-22 advantage at halftime and a 43-37 lead after three quarters.
"We played well against Medomak [Valley, Jan. 19], we had the chance to watch these guys play on tape a couple times and the kids came out and did a pretty good job," said Belfast coach Scott Benzie. "The kids are playing together and they're playing very hard."
Ryan Rice netted 17 points to lead the Lions, while Stephen Paul added 13; Korey Doolan, eight; Yanni Rakis and Kaleb Benjamin, both seven; Zach Collier, six; and Levi Lapham, five.
For Nokomis, Spencer Hartsgrove poured in 27 points, while Will Cartwright and Andrew Cartwright each added 13; Chandler Foss, four; and Noah Kershner and Drew Wing, both two.
Doolan netted two free throws to break a 61-61 tie with four seconds remaining, while the Warriors had a heave from midcourt go out of bounds to seal the win for Belfast.
"It was back-and-forth," said Benzie. "The last four minutes it was just a great basketball game. If I was a fan I would have been going crazy."
The Lions were 12-of-20 (60 percent) from the foul line, while the Warriors were 18-of-21 (86 percent).
In the Maine Principals' Association Heal Point Standings for Eastern Class B, Belfast (6-6, 29.1667 points) is 13th, while Presque Isle (11-2, 71.1420 points) is first in the 19-team region. The top 13 teams qualify for the playoffs.
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.