The first quarter was all about getting ahead for the second-seeded Patriots (17-4), while the third quarter was for keeping it that way. Gray-NG played lockdown defense in the first eight minutes after halftime all tournament long, and the regional final was no exception. The Patriots’ man-to-man defense allowed just three points in the third, with two of those coming on an Avae Traina jumper in the first two minutes.

“I said the third quarter was really key, Gray-NG coach Mike Andreasen said. “If they come back to within three or four points it’s a dogfight. That third quarter defensively, that’s where I think we won the game.”

Andreasen called a timeout with 6:06 left in the period, and the Patriots responded on the defensive end.

The offense took a little longer to get going. The Patriots didn’t get their first shot until the fourth minute of the period, then got their first points almost a minute later from Grace Kariotis on a three-point play.

“We needed to settle down,” Andreasen said. “We needed to keep playing. There was still 15 minutes left in the game.”

Kariotis added a pair of free throws for the only other Gray-NG points in the third, but that was enough to create enough seperation heading into the fourth.

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Unlike the regional semifinal, where the Patriots lost a fourth-quarter lead before winning in overtime, they held on and pulled away in the fourth. Kariotis made five of her eight free throws, and Skye Conley made two of her own.

“It was kind of a lot of pressure,” Kariotis said. “But I just felt good about it. I just kept my composure.”

Kariotis didn’t score in the blazing-fast first quarter, but Conley made a pair of jumpers and Isabelle DeTroy made a layup and a jumper to boost Gray-NG from the start. The lead was 13-4 at the end of the first quarter, and didn’t get lower than six all game.

“They hit shots. They hit elbow jumpers. We talked about defending the 3, but it was really the elbow jumpers early that kind of hindered us,” Lincoln Academy coach Kevin Feltis said. “We came out, came out a little bit flatted. Not quite ready, a little starry-eyed I think. They hit shots, we didn’t early.”

Kariotis led the Patriots with 13 points. Conley had 10, Alicia Dumont eight, and DeTroy and Alanna Camerl six apiece.

Brie Wajer scored a game-high 18 points, half of which came in the fourth quarter. That gave Wajer 37 points across three games in the tournament — an effort that led to her being named the recipient of the Mike DiRenzo Award, given to the tournament’s most outstanding player-sportsman.

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“She’s just a tough, gritty kid,” Feltis said. “The comment out of her mouth … was, ‘I’ll trade this and any other award I’ve ever won for that other plaque and chance to go play in that state game.'”

“She was that good,” Andreasen said. “The book on her was make her beat us from the outside, well she beat us from the outside.”

The trip to the Class B state championship game will be the Patriots’ first since 2002, when they lost to Mt. Desert Island at the Bangor Auditorium. Gray-NG will face North champion and No. 1 seed Houlton (20-1) at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Friday.

“It feels awesome. It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Kariotis said. “I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s unreal.”

“This was all about them today,” Andreasen said. “I’d like to say that our game plan was great. I don’t think our game plan was anything other than any other game was. The kids went out, they executed, they made plays and that played with confidence.”

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