Laker girls nail down top spot by declawing Wildcats

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CECE HANCOCK (right) attempts to knock the ball away from a York player during first half action at Nutting Gym in Naples. (Rivet Photo)

 

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

The Lakers have not lost a home game in three years.

When the public address announcer spilled those beans before player introductions on Senior Night last Friday, Coach Paul True had mixed thoughts.

“It’s a fine line between giving the seniors the credit that is due and providing motivation for the other team,” Coach True said. “Definitely, we walked that fine line but I was happy that the seniors and the team were able to keep that streak going.”

Seniors Tiana-Jo Carter and Jordan Turner played a big role in keep the streak intact. Turner chipped in 11 points, while Carter owned the paint, scoring a career best 41 points to power the Lakers to a 64–50 victory over York.

The Lakers won their 14th straight game, closing the regular season with a 17–1 mark and securing the Number 1 seed in the upcoming Class B West playoffs.

Quite possibly, the Lakers may just see the Wildcats once more. The winner of the Oak Hill vs. York prelim game moves on to the quarterfinals this coming Tuesday night at the Portland Expo against the Lakers.

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HOLDING HER GROUND — Lake Region's Meghan VanLoan (left) holds her ground in the lane against a York player driving to the hoop. Looking to help defensively are LR's Lucy Fowler (#2) and Jordan Turner (#10). (Rivet Photo)

If York prevails, the Cats will need to quickly find some answers for Carter, who scored 17 of the team’s 19 first quarter points as the Lakers opened up a nine-point lead.

LR guards Sarah and CeCe Hancock did a phenomenal job threading the needle with pinpoint passes to Carter, who established inside position against the Cats’ front line. The Lakers tallied six assists in the quarter, while holding a 9–6 edge on the glass.

York, hoping to improve their Heal Rating with an upset, clawed their way back into the game as sophomore Shannon Todd (5 points) and Paige McElwain (8 points) each netted a pair of buckets as the Lakers went nearly three minutes without a score, enabling the Cats to pull within 21–20.

Senior Miranda Chadbourne halted the Cat comeback with a pull-up jumper just inside the foul line and a put-back off a miss. Carter scored the Lakers’ final four points of the quarter to take a 33–27 lead into the break.

“I thought York did a nice job opening the game with a lot of intensity, which became a little frazzled at times,” Coach True said. “We did a good job of fighting through the adversity. I give our kids a lot of credit for sticking to their game.”

In the first half, Coach True thought his players looked too often to Carter (24 points) and didn’t look for their own shots.

“We have a lot of great players on this team and talked at halftime about having the confidence to shoot and score when the opportunity arises. They will make Tiana better by being scoring threats, as well,” he said. “I told them to ‘Look to score first, pass second.’ When we did that in the second half, we were a better team.”

True also felt turnovers opened the door for York to rally.

“Our turnovers in the first half were bad turnovers because they were leading to easy baskets for York,” Coach True said. “On our offensive possessions, they were releasing kids on our shots and we were just standing and watching them head down the court rather than defending our basket. That improved in the second half, and it became more difficult for them to score.”

True used multiple defenses throughout the game in preparation of the upcoming tournament, mainly to see “which combinations worked best” and “who can make adjustments on the fly and who can’t.”

“Ultimately, I thought those different looks confused York in the second half,” Coach True said.

The Lakers took command in the third quarter with a decisive 16–4 run behind six points from Turner and a solid effort by junior reserve center Meghan VanLoan, who anchored the middle when Carter left the floor after picking up her third foul with 4:39 left in the quarter.

York struggled offensively, turning the ball over eight times while netting one bucket — by Chloe Smedley (12 points) early in the period. The Cats were just 2-of-6 from the line.

The Lakers pushed their lead to 57–33 when Carter blocked a shot and triggered a fastbreak layup by CeCe Hancock.

York chipped away at the deficit as Mia Briggs scored 10 of her 12 points in the quarter.

Now, it’s time for the second season. While the Lakers will have a bit of a layoff before their quarterfinal game, Coach True says his club could use the breather.

“Emotionally and physically, the season is draining. This is a great conference that we play in. There are a lot of good teams. We know we carry that bulls-eye on our backs. Teams are bringing out the best in us,” Coach True said. “Now, it’s maintenance-like issues, getting some rest, and be sure we’re ready to go.”

Lakers (64): Tiana-Jo Carter 19-3-41, Sierra Hancock 1-2-4, Jordan Turner 5-1-11, Meghan VanLoan 1-2-4, Miranda Chadbourne 2-0-4.

Rebounds: Carter 18, Turner 5, Lucy Fowler 2, Chadbourne 4, Kristen Huntress 3, VanLoan 4, Sa. Hancock 1, Si. Hancock 2.

Turnovers: LR 11, York 19

Free Throws: LR 8-20, Y 7-14

 

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