Fryeburg Academy rises to the occasion, downs Lakers

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CHALLENGED IN THE LANE — Lake Region's Quinn Piland (left) and Jack Lesure attempt to block a shot by Fryeburg Academy's Jaquan Causer on opening night. (Rivet Photos)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Sedge Saunders is used to dealing with adversity at the start of most basketball seasons.

Usually, his Raiders face a brutal five- to six-game span to open the year, and Saunders is busy trying to meld several “dorm students” — translation, foreign players — with local hoopsters.

This year, the Raiders opened camp with optimism, coming off a previous campaign with a playoff appearance, and several returnees — including leading scorer, Walker Mallory.

How quickly things can change.

Mallory unexpectedly left the team and suddenly the Raiders were searching for a point guard and a scoring leader.

Coach Saunders couldn’t repeat often enough how proud he was of his Raiders after they downed rival Lake Region, 41-30 Saturday night in the season opener in Naples.

“The guys just really stepped up,” he said. “They were up for the challenge. I’m very proud of their effort.”

Sophomores Ryan Gullikson and Ignacio “Nacho” Calleja steadied the backcourt with steady ball--handling and tough pressure, which forced several Laker turnovers, while senior Jaquan Causer was a force inside, scoring 14 points and collecting eight rebounds.

Coach Saunders was impressed with how his team rallied amongst themselves, as well as how well they handled a raucous atmosphere.

“We have enough guys back from last year to be able to handle a hostile environment such as Lake Region. I felt confident the kids would be able to handle the intensity because many had been through similar scenarios last year,” Coach Saunders said. “It certainly helped to get off to a good start…gave the guys a little momentum, but what really impressed me was the composure they showed when our two guards were saddled with three fouls in the first half. Nicholis L’Heureux-Carland and Jonathan Burk did a great job filling the void and Alex Blake handled the point remarkably well considering he’s has rarely, if ever, played that position.”

The Raiders sprinted out to a 9-0 start as Gullikson (14 points) came up with a steal and easy layup to lead the charge.

The Lakers struggled offensively throughout the first half, scoring at 2:01 left in the first on a Nick Wandishin inside drive.

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IGNACIO CALLEJA of Fryeburg Academy takes the ball strong to the basket against Lake Region.

Senior guard Sam Smith sparked a second quarter LR rally, scoring six straight points, including a trey, to pull his team within 11-8.

At 6-foot-1, Causer played much bigger than his roster size, hauling down two big offensive rebounds to help stake the Raiders to a 15-10 halftime lead.

Forward Quinn Piland scored at the buzzer off a hustle rebound to prevent the Lakers from heading to the locker room without reaching double digits.

“We shot well in our four preseason games. We didn’t have a balanced attack — getting into the lane — as we like to,” Laker Coach J.P. Yorkey said. “Offensively, we were not aggressive enough, and we didn’t execute well. A few of them (LR players) looked nervous early and it took a while to get on the scoreboard.”

Inside hoops by Nick Hall (eight points, 11 rebounds) and Piland inched the Lakers to within three points at the start of the third quarter, but the Raiders responded with a 6-0 run as Alex Blake drained a baseline jumper and Causer scored twice, once off a fast break for a 23-14 FA lead.

The Lakers’ cool shooting continued in the third as the blue and gold went nearly five minutes without a point before Hall’s offensive rebound and put back at the buzzer broke the drought, leaving the Lakers down 11 points.

The closest the Lakers would get was down seven points with 5:06 left after Smith canned a pull up jumper in the lane. Gullikson pushed the Fryeburg lead to 14 in the closing minutes off a steal and two foul shots.

Both coaches liked the effort their players put forth on opening night, and both agreed there is plenty of work to do in the coming weeks.

“We defended well overall. Watching the video, we see some breakdowns, but it is solid for the most part. We held them to 41 points, which should be enough to win,” LR’s Coach Yorkey said. “(We had) two good defensive games in a row, as we held Leavitt to 39 on Tuesday. We need to be more focused and aggressive on offense, and execute.”

Meanwhile, Coach Saunders felt his Raiders played very good defense, which shut out two LR players who had averaged 10 points per game over four preseason scrimmages. But, Saunders saw areas his Raiders will work on.

“We shot well enough to win, but what concerned me was the lack of trips to the free throw line (5-of-7, and guard Ryan Gullikson was 4-for-4). We’re going to have to do a better job of not rushing our shots inside and going up strong,” Coach Saunders said. “I like the confidence and unselfishness shown by our team. We had three guys with four assists and that’s a testament to the good ball movement we displayed. As I said, we’ve got to get to the line more, we’ve got to be better at not picking up cheap fouls, and I think we can do a better job with weak-side rebounding.”

Saunders also believes the Lakers will be a club to contend with down the road.

“Lake Region is a dangerous team. We’re fortunate some of their early threes didn’t drop. I thought we did a decent job getting to their shooters, but they had some open looks that just missed,” he said. “I think Lake Region will be in the hunt. You can see this team is better than last year and they have good chemistry. They will be a tough team down the stretch.”

Stat lines: The Lakers committed 23 turnovers, while Fryeburg had 18…LR held a 36-28 rebounding advantage. Top rebounders were: LR, Hall 11, Piland 10, Jacki Lesure 5, Wandishin 4; FA, Causer 8, Jonathan Burk 5, Alex Lazic 4, Brake 4…Free throw, LR 5-of-10.

Up next

Lake Region hosts York on Saturday at 5 p.m. and Wells on Tuesday, Dec. 17, at 6 p.m.

Fryeburg Academy hosts Freeport this Friday at 6:30 p.m. and travels to Kennebunk on Tuesday for a 6:30 p.m. contest.

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