PORTLAND—The Lady Lakers battled 42-34 past the Lady Falcons in Saturday afternoon, Feb. 24’s B South Final, held at the Cross Insurance Arena. Chandler True’s 15 points led Lake Region in the W, which proved tense throughout, with the Falcons trailing by just one at the break.
“I’m elated for – this is a great group of kids,” Lake Region head coach Paul True said. “They’ve really earned this opportunity, so I’m really proud of them.”
Freeport emerged victorious when the teams met in the regular season. Naturally, the Lakers entered the rematch bout with their earlier defeat in mind.
“We got into foul trouble in the regular season,” Chandler True said. “Brooke [Harriman] and Lauren [Jakobs] both fouled out, so that was a huge factor. So today we just stayed out of foul trouble as much as we could – and just did the little things.”
“We knew we had to make really good passes,” said Rachel Shanks, a senior alongside Chandler True. “We had to execute our out-of-bounds plays, and our under-the-basket-plays. If we just kept the energy up, kept playing as one, we’d win.”
“We played against Gray, and we had so much energy and so much enthusiasm,” Shanks said, “and we just needed to play the exact same way in order to win this one.”
Both teams, evidently, need a little time to settle in: The first point, a simple free-throw by Jakobs, only arrived around the 6:45 mark. Freeporter Alex Goodman shortly followed Jakobs, knocking down a three to give her girls the advantage, but then the action began a seesaw.
Jakobs hit a free and Shanks hit a two, thrusting LRHS out front again; True and opponent Taylor Rinaldi traded twos; Goodman and Shanks traded threes. Catriona Gould drained a Falcons two to close the first, putting her girls up 11-9, but – after a long, basketless stretch gobbled up the start of the second – True dropped in a three and Jakobs a two for another Lake Region lead.
“Obviously, today, we made some threes,” Chandler True said, “and that was good. But we stayed calm, drove to the basket when we could and broke the press by talking to each other and seeing each other down the court. That really helped.”
The Lakers built to a 21-16 upper-hand as the quarter unfolded and the break neared, but the final four points, the points that would carry the teams into intermission, all belonged to Freeport – specifically, to Caroline Smith.
“Going into halftime, we were really panicking,” Chandler True said. “They have a lot of pressure; they have great defense. So we sat down in the locker room and were like, ‘We can do this. We just need to be confident. We have each other’s backs, and we need to get each other through this.’ And that’s what we did.”
“When we went in the locker room, we talked about how we weren’t making very good passes,” Shanks said. “We were kind of panicking. And then we were like, ‘We have this game in our hands. We know we can win.’ We just had to slow it down, make good passes and trust one another.”
Lake Region kicked off the third in control, but found themselves unable to penetrate the Falcons’ defense. So True, lingering at the top of the arc, casually threw down a three – oh, and she followed it up with a two to boot. Jakobs hashed one from the line and suddenly the Lakers had snatched the biggest lead of the afternoon, 27-20.
Freeport battled to within three – on a pair of Goodman frees – at 27-24, but then LRHS scurried out front once more. True added another two, Shauna Hancock a free and a two, and ‘Shanks a three, swelling the Lakers’ advantage to 35-24.
“It’s just playing with confidence, and attacking,” Coach True said of his girls redoubled efforts following the break. “We were making some lazy passes, we were a little bit apprehensive with the basketball, and you can’t beat a pressing team by doing that. You’ve got to take it right at them, you’ve got to attack the basket. We had a great third quarter where kids did that.”
Freeport’s shots, through much of the downhill half, simply wouldn’t fall. All but two of their last 10 points, in fact, came on foul-shots. Of course, Lake Region’s closing seven were also all frees – but with time winding down, the desperate Falcons urgently needed to stop the clock and attempt to regain possession, and frequently sent the Lakers to the line on purpose.
The Falcons’ last-ditch efforts, however, availed them nothing in the end. Hancock, True and Shanks ended the game with a spat of four LRHS frees for the 42-34 result.
“It’s about knowing personnel,” Coach True said of his approach to defense. “And trying to figure out their strengths as best you can, and trying to take some of those away. I thought our kids really did that. We flip-flopped some matchups this time around, and I thought it worked in our favor. Again, with all that said, if your kids don’t believe in what you’re doing, and don’t execute, then it could be a different outcome.”
In particular, Coach True stuck Jakobs on Goodman and Hancock on Smith. “Shauna stepped up big for us, defensively, and that allowed Chandler, for example, to roam a little bit more and anticipate where passes were going, because she does a really good job at that.”
True’s 15 proved the game-high. Shanks finished with 11, Jakobs seven, Hancock six and Harriman three.
The win bumped Lake Region to 16-5 on the season. The Lakers entered the bracketing ranked fourth; they offed Oak Hill and Gray-New Gloucester to reach Freeport. LRHS ventures onward now, to Friday, March 2’s State Final, slated for 7:05 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. There, they will face North-reps Winslow.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” Shanks said of the coming shot at a gold ball. “Every year, we’re all like, ‘This is our year, we’re going to go gold, it’s going to happen’ and this year it’s finally happening. It’s mindblowing; I’m still in shock.”
“This means everything,” Chandler True said, asked about the Lakers’ upcoming trip to the big game. “Having my dad as the coach, it means especially much to me. The seniors – we have five seniors – have been working together for so long for this. This is our dream, and we’re going to do it – it’s not done yet.”
The Lakers appear to be playing their best basketball of the winter at just the right moment.
“In the beginning of the season, we were kind of slow,” Shanks said. “We had that one win against Gray, but then we kind of went downhill. And now, with all this energy and enthusiasm, we’re really getting it together.”
Lake Region last reached the State Final in 2014. They won, but none of the girls on the team now, of course, was in high school at the time. This coming Saturday, then, will be the first trip to States for the current lineup.
“They were all there,” Coach True said, “but a year away from putting on a uniform. So this will be a great experience for them.”
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
The Lakers, newly crowned Regional Champions, hoist their new hardware.
A trio of Lakers leaders – from left: Rachel Shanks, Aisley Sturk, Chandler True – celebrate with the traditional net-cutting.
Rachel Shanks ascends toward the net for Lake Region.
Lauren Jakobs volleys up a ball.
A pair of Falcons defenders loom over a determined Chandler True.
Laker Brooke Harriman vies with a pair of Falcons opponents.
Shauna Hancock battles toward the net for Lake Region.
Aisley Sturk pushes forward on the attack for Lake Region.