In recent seasons, the Belfast girls basketball team has worked hard to win a handful of games here and there, but the Lions never really had the talent or depth to make a serious playoff push. That all changed this winter.

The Lions have been one of the most exciting and successful stories during the 2012-13 campaign and, after a 13-win regular season, Belfast has earned a spot in the Eastern Class B tournament at the coveted Bangor Auditorium.

No. 6 Belfast (14-5) did that with a convincing 50-40 victory over No. 11 Washington Academy of East Machias (8-11) Tuesday night, Feb. 12 in a prelim playoff game.

Click for more photos from this game.

The Lions now roar onto Bangor where they will face No. 3 Nokomis of Newport (16-2) on Friday, Feb. 15 at 5 p.m. in a quarterfinal playoff game.

And before anyone questions if Belfast has a chance against its next opponent, remember that the Lions defeated Nokomis 58-55 Jan. 21 in Newport in the teams' only regular-season meeting.

Belfast does not play Washington Academy during the regular season.

The last time the Lions qualified for the regional playoffs was the 2006-07 season when Belfast lost in a prelim game and never made it to Bangor. This year the Lions will make that trip up Route 1 to the city.

On Tuesday, Belfast used its always tough defense and strong all-around play to grab a comfortable 14-4 first-quarter lead. That cushion grew to 26-15 at halftime and 38-26 after three stanzas. Both teams scored 12 points over the final eight minutes.

However, the game was won in the first eight minutes as Katrina Lapham set the pace for Belfast with eight points, including netting two 3-pointers.

Seniors Lexi Nelligan, Courtney Drinkwater and Lapham again spearheaded the Lions' play, as they have all season, as Lapham tallied 17 points, Nelligan 16 and Drinkwater nine.

Also scoring for Belfast were Breann Cummings, Mariah Sturgis, McKenzie Thibodeau and Ashley Littlefield, all with two points.

Nelligan also had 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot, while Lapham finished with three rebounds, two assists and two steals and Drinkwater five rebounds, three steals and two assists. Sturgis chipped in with two steals; Thibodeau, five rebounds; Littlefield, two rebounds; Madison Cummings, three rebounds and two assists; and Brianna Flagg, two rebounds.

The Lions netted 9-of-15 free throws (60 percent). Lapham connected on all three 3-pointers for the hosts.

For Washington Academy, MacKenzie Foss tallied 11 points; Lauren Raye, nine; Tamera Kabuye, eight; Taylor Cushing, six; Kaitlyn Carl, two; and Nicole Mitchell, one. The Raiders netted two 3-pointers, both from Raye, and 12-of-25 free throws (48 percent).

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