AUGUSTA — It’s all fun and games until the Leavitt post players get into foul trouble. Then Nokomis takes over.
That was the pattern when the two girls’ basketball giants met during the KVAC regular season, and it played out again Saturday in the conference championship game at Ryan Family Gym.
Suddenly unshackled in the paint thanks to the Hornets’ difficulty with the whistles, the undefeated Warriors went on a tear to end the third quarter and sped away to a 65-53 victory.
Nokomis (19-0) overcame a daunting early deficit to shake off Leavitt in overtime, 61-60, on Jan. 24 in Turner. In the rematch, the Warriors were down 39-34 midway through the third quarter before punctuating the period with a 14-2 run.
Six of those seven baskets were layups, including three putbacks.
“I can’t remember what the numbers came down to when we played them in the regular season, but we had a huge advantage on the boards,” Nokomis coach Kori Dionne said. “It’s tough when you throw Marissa Shaw and Anna MacKenzie in there together and then have Traci Carson coming off the bench. It’s tough for other teams to match up against.”
Tougher still with Adrianna Newton and Amanda Jordan either taking turns on the bench or being forced to play on their heels due to the mounting foul situation.
Leavitt (16-3) scored only one bucket in the final 4:41 of the third quarter. Emilee Reynolds erupted for six Nokomis points in that same stretch. Megan Perry, Taylor Quick and Shaw each added a bucket.
“The first half I thought we rebounded pretty well. The second half we had people in foul trouble from trying to be too aggressive,” Leavitt coach Tammy Anderson said. “And we knew the big thing this year was foul trouble. We can’t be as aggressive as what we want to be.”
Sophomore Kylie Richards led balanced Nokomis with 12 points. Marissa Shaw, Taylor Shaw and Rynolds each chipped in 10. Kelsie Richards racked up eight and MacKenzie seven.
Kristen Anderson poured in 28 points for Leavitt but was limited to nine in the second half.
Last year’s two regional champions were tied at 20 after one quarter.
The Hornets held a slim 32-30 edge at the break and soon went up by five on a jumper and a step-back 3-pointer from Anderson.
Newton picked up her third foul shortly thereafter and eventually fouled out with 1:08 left. She scored 11 of her 13 points in the first half.
“The key to this game for us was having the opportunity to play against two players the caliber of Kristen Anderson and Adrianna Newton. We had to focus on those two and get it done defensively against those two while keeping everybody else in check,” Dionne said. “That’s a big thing in terms of preparing for the tournament. To have that kind of a match-up is the type of game that we’ll see.”
Leavitt crept as close as five points early in the fourth on back-to-back baskets by Mariah Treadwell.
Taylor Shaw answered with another second-chance hoop to trigger a three-point play.
“When we get Adrie in foul trouble and Amanda in foul trouble, rebounding and denying the post players the ball becomes a lot of tougher,” Tammy Anderson said. “You could see in the first half when we didn’t have to worry about the fouls, we played with them. And we went a little bit cold with the shooting after we were hot in the first half.”
Nokomis enters the Eastern Class B tournament as the No. 2 seed to fellow unbeaten Presque Isle. Leavitt will try to defend its state title from the No. 4 hole in Western B.
The Hornets await the winner of a preliminary game between Spruce Mountain and Poland.
“I think it’s wide open this year. I don’t think No. 4 is indicative of anything really,” Coach Anderson said. “I think it’s anybody’s game. We’ve played in a tough league and played some tough teams, so we’ll be ready.”