After the Lions endured 20 rounds of penalty corners in an intense, heartpumping 1-0 win over Foxcoft Academy earlier in the postseason, Saturday afternoon’s Eastern Class B semifinal playoff contest between No. 2 John Bapst of Bangor and No. 3 Belfast featured two of the top teams in the region and a pair of talented twin sisters.

Elise and Emily Tilton have been the backbone of the Crusaders all season, but the Lions have a skilled sibling duo of their own in Kari and Kristi Osgood, who have been an integral part of the team’s success this fall.

And with time winding down in the second half of Saturday’s semifinal game, it was a goal and an assist from the Osgoods that helped the Lions roar on to the regional final with a 2-1 win over No. 2 John Bapst (13-3) in a game played on the artificial surface at the University of Maine in Orono.

The win earned No. 3 Belfast (12-1-3) its first Eastern Maine finals berth since 2006 and set up the highly-anticipated regional championship between the No. 3 Lions and No. 1 Nokomis of Newport (15-0-1) on Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m. on the artificial surface at Hampden Academy.

The defending state Class B champion Warriors, who won this year’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B title against Belfast, beat No. 8 Oceanside 6-0 and No. 5 Winslow 2-1 earlier in the playoffs. Belfast has beaten No. 6 Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft 1-0 in overtime and following 20 penalty corners in the quarterfinals before edging John Bapst 2-1 in the semifinals.

It will be the third clash between the Lions and Warriors this season.

The two squads battled to a 1-1, double-overtime tie in the first game of the regular season, while the Warriors picked up a 3-0 win in the KVAC Class B championship game Oct. 13. Nokomis also knocked Belfast out of the postseason last year and the Warriors are the defending state champions.

Kendra Kirby and Kristi Osgood each scored for the visiting Lions Saturday, while Ally James, Kari Osgood and Maddy Cummings provided assists. Elise Tilton scored the lone goal for the Crusaders.

Julia Ward made five saves in the cage for Belfast, while John Bapst keeper Aubrey Stanislawski made eight saves. Belfast outshot John Bapst 12-8 and held an 8-4 edge in penalty corners.

The game also marked the first time this season the Crusaders had lost a game on their home turf. They were 7-0 at home prior to Saturday’s semifinal and had outscored opponents 41-2 on that field.

“We always try to improve as the season goes along,” said veteran Belfast coach Allen Holmes, who has well over 400 career victories and many regional and state titles to his credit. “And the Foxcroft game was a good hurdle for us because we hadn’t scored in the two previous games before that. So we were kind of wondering if the things we were doing that were making us successful all season, needed to be changed or anything. And I didn’t think they did. I felt we just needed to get our confidence back.”

The Lions also got a bit of experience on turf in recent weeks, playing the league championship game at Colby College in Waterville and holding a practice at Point Lookout in Northport Oct. 21. Holmes credited assistant coaches Brittany Tarbox and Marci Zaniboni, who each played collegiate field hockey, for being “instrumental” in helping the team prepare for their semifinal game on the turf.

Of course, Tuesday’s regional final also will be played on the artificial surface at Hampden Academy.

The Lions and Crusaders battled tooth-and-nail through much of the first half Saturday before the visiting Lions took a 1-0 lead after James found Kirby, who beat the John Bapst keeper for the game’s first score. It was the first regulation goal scored by Belfast in 212 minutes and 15 seconds, spanning back to the team’s second-to-last game of the regular season Oct. 8 against Maranacook of Readfield.

Ironically, it was Kirby who scored that goal as well.

Any Lion celebration was short-lived, however, as the Crusaders quickly responded 19 seconds later after Elise Tilton banged the back of the cage to tie the score at 1-1.

“The two Tilton girls have carried [John] Bapst’s team all season,” said Holmes. “They pass to each other, they score, they’re very, very skilled.”

The Lions’ plan was to move the ball to the left side of the field away from the Tilton sisters

The Lions were in the Crusader end for much of the second half and finally cashed in with 2:58 remaining when Belfast’s own pair of twin sisters — Kristi and Kari Osgood — collaborated on a goal of their own, with Kristi getting the goal and Kari, along with teammate Cummings, each credited with an assist.

Holmes credited defenders Britt Mellor, Brooklyn Curry and Emily Blood in helping the Lions keep the ball inside the Crusader circle after many John Bapst players made valiant attempts to clear the ball, but Belfast’s resiliency paid off.

In the ensuing Crusader timeout, Holmes quickly brought his exuberant squad back to earth.

“I just got in there quick and calmed them right down and told them, ‘We’ve still got some hockey left to play,’ ” he said. “When we scored the first goal they tied it 19 seconds later. We were celebrating after the first goal and 19 seconds later they tied it. I said, ‘Remember that? Let’s settle down.’ ”

The Lions did just that, and held on for their most important win of the season to date.

Now the Lions will move on to face the Warriors for the right to advance to the state Class B championship game, a position the 39-year Lion coach felt his team has been talented enough to be in all season.

“We’re very pleased to be in this position,” said Holmes. “When you start a season, we try to envision ourselves getting to the finals. That’s our long-range goal. And we know that you don’t always get there, although you try hard. But they’re ready.”

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.