Laker girls deliver season’s best, beat Yarmouth in quarterfinals
By Wayne E. Rivet
PORTLAND — In Coach Paul True’s mind, the magic number Tuesday was 40.
In regular season losses to Yarmouth, the Lake Region girls failed to reach 30 points. Coach True figured that if his defense could hold the Clippers down as they did in those regular season games and continue their strong late season offensive surge, the Lakers had a chance to advance in the Class B playoffs.
“We talked about before the game that if we played solid defense, it was going to be a race to 40. Luckily, we got there before they did,” Coach True said.
Senior Kristen Huntress made good on a vow that she would bring her “A” game against the Clippers, and she delivered with a game-high 20 points as Lake Region rolled to a 45-30 victory in Tuesday’s quarterfinal game at the Portland Expo.
The Lakers (13-6) advance to today’s semifinals against top-ranked Gray-New Gloucester (18-1) at 2:30 p.m. at the Cross Center in Portland.
The Patriots advanced with a 57-24 thrashing of Freeport. G-NG beat the Lakers 41-23 in Game 11. However, the Lakers trailed just 17-16 at the half, but saw the Patriots take command with a 10-3 third quarter run.
“We need to shoot the ball well and spread them out. They are a very good team, very solid. We are going to need another great effort, but we look forward to the challenge,” Coach True said. “We need to worry more about what we’re doing at this point of the season than worry about what they’re doing. It’s going to come down to executing and playing with confidence.”
The Patriots beat the Lakers in the semis a year ago, and went on to the state title game.
Yarmouth (12-7) started quick behind captain Cory Langenbach (team-high 12 points), who netted two three-pointers in the first four minutes to give the Clippers a 9-2 lead.
The Lakers remained poised and turned up their defensive pressure, forcing five Clipper turnovers. Meanwhile, the offense started to click as the Lakers went on a 6-0 run with Lauren Jakobs (10 points) confidently swishing a jumpshot and Huntress earning a trip to the foul line after grabbing an offensive rebound. After making 1-of-2, Huntress connected on a three-pointer with 1:42 left to make it a 9-8 game.
“They put up three shots and they went in. It was just a matter of riding the tide. We told our girls before the game that there were going to be a lot of ups and downs, and for them not to get too high or too low,” Coach True said. “The kids stayed even keel, and we came right back to tie it up by the end of the first quarter.”
After going three minutes without a point, Yarmouth tallied on a strong inside move by senior captain Alison Clark. That would be her only points in the game as LR frontliners Jakobs and Brooke Harriman turned in a stalwart effort to keep Clark off the boards.
“Lauren and Brooke did a great job, not only on the offensive end. Lauren did an incredible job on Alison Clark, which was a big factor in the game,” Coach True said. “Defensively, as a team, we were really solid.”
Chandler True swished a three-pointer in the closing seconds to tie the game, 11-11.
“For the most part, ball movement was great. We really shared the ball. We were able to get it inside, and most of the threes that we hit came from the inside out,” Coach True said. “It was a tribute to the kids and their execution.”
Junior Melissa Bonenfant again delivered when the varsity lights were their brightest. With the Lakers moving the ball well against Yarmouth’s defense, Bonenfant connected on back-to-back three-pointers to put the Lakers up 17-13. Huntress netted another three-ball to make it 20-13.
With the Lakers heating up from the arc, the Clippers were forced to extend their defensive coverage. It opened up a little more operating room for sophomore Brooke Harriman, who made strong baseline drives to the rim. She sank a pair of foul shots to put LR up 22-13 with 3:30 left in the half.
Yarmouth struggled to find any offensive rhythm and rarely got second shot chances as the Lakers were in good position for defensive rebounds.
Up 22-15 at the half, Coach True reminded his club that it takes a full 32 minutes to get the job done.
“We made some slight adjustments if they were going to continue to run the pick-and-roll. They hurt us with that in the previous two games. We brought more help and we weren’t going to switch. We wanted Kristen to stay with the guard,” Coach True said. “We talked about staying in attack mode. We wanted to come out and continue to attack and get to the rim.”
If allowing just four points in the second quarter was impressive, the Lakers topped that feat by keeping the Clippers scoreless for nearly seven minutes in the third period.
Meanwhile, the LR lead swelled to 16 points. Using plenty of clock on each possession, the Lakers displayed great patience moving the ball, seeking out inside shot attempts.
That patience and attacking the Clippers in the lane paid off to the tune of 10 foul shot attempts. While LR made just five, Yarmouth’s intensity seemed to deflate. The Clippers finally scored with 1:17 left on a foul-line jumper by Clementine Blaschke (seven points).
Coach True stayed with the same formula in the fourth quarter — milk the clock, stay crisp with the passing attack, and seek out high percentage shots.
“It was basically nothing-but-a-layup type mode or a wide-open look. We have a lot of kids who can shoot free throws,” he said.
Jakobs pushed the lead to 37-20 with a quick move past two Clipper defenders to score the layup. She was also fouled on the play, which had Coach True pumping his fist in appreciation of the aggressive drive. Jakobs converted the foul shot.
In the double bonus with five minutes to play, the Lakers went to the line 13 times, converting 10. Huntress led the charge with a 9-of-12 showing.
With time running out on their season, Yarmouth ramped up their aggressive defensive pressure trying to generate turnovers. Huntress was up for the challenge.
“We dribbled with a purpose,” Coach True said. “Kristen was a bear tonight. She really handled the physical play. Several times when she picked her dribble up, she did a great job of not forcing a pass. She stayed patient, used her pivot foot. She did a great job protecting the ball.”
Now, a bigger challenge awaits, but Huntress and the Lakers are ready for it.
Scoring: Harriman 4, Bonenfant 8, True 3, Jakobs 10.