Lakers clamp down on fiesty Raiders

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Like a champion boxer, the Lake Region girls’ basketball team has fended off some spirited, early jabs by opponents, countered with patience and focus, and Coach True’s troops ultimately wears down their foe and deliver a knockout punch.

The formula worked to perfection in overwhelming victories against Fryeburg Academy and Poland as the top-ranked Lakers improved to 13-0.

Monday, the Raiders put together their strongest opening 10 minutes of the season as Maggie McConkey drained two jumpers and scored two more hoops on strong drives to the basket, while center Skye Dole connected on three jumpshots. The Raiders enjoyed two early leads, and then dropped back to trail the Lakers 22-19 with 3:12 left in the first half at Nutting Gymnasium.

Then, the roof caved in on the Raiders.

LR center Tiana-Jo Carter sparked a 14-0 run to close out the half with a strong drive to the rim off a zip pass from Abby Craffey and a foul shot to complete a 3-point play. Craffey and Allison Clark swished 3-pointers and Sydney Hancock’s steal resulted in a breakaway lay-up as the Lakers took a 36-19 lead into intermission.

With the Lakers turning up their defensive intensity, the Raiders would go 14 minutes and 9 seconds without scoring a basket as the Lakers rolled to a 60-33 victory.

“We gave it everything we had over those (early) minutes. Lake Region is so much deeper than we are. We lost our focus. We got away from what we were doing early on. We lost our patience. We knew we couldn’t run with them. We took poor shots, and didn’t get too many offensive rebounds in the first half. You need more second shots to beat a team like that,” FA Coach Dan Leland said. “I was real happy with the first 8 to 10 minutes. Those early minutes were as good as we’ve played all year. I knew they would go on a run, but you can’t let it go on for 10 minutes. That has been our Achilles heel. We’ve had games where we go 10 to 12 minutes without scoring. You’re not going to win games that way.”

The Lakers took Fryeburg’s early jabs, but did not panic. Carter scored the Lakers’ last five points of the first quarter to give her club a 15-10 lead and some momentum.

LR delivered its knockout blow in the third quarter with a good mix of inside drives and outside shooting. Kelsey Winslow scored twice after gaining inside position, once freed up on a pinpoint pass from freshman guard Sarah Hancock. With the Raiders collapsing their defense to stop the Lakers’ inside game, Craffey and Clark connected on wide-open look 3-pointers as the lead swelled to 49-19.

“It wasn’t like our effort wasn’t there. Our kids were playing hard, but Lake Region has the ability to score a lot of points in a short period of time,” Coach Leland said. “Lake Region’s defense made us work so darn hard that they wore us down. One little mistake and they get the ball back. No team that we have played stays in good defensive stance for as long as the Lake Region kids do. It’s difficult to make passes, and as I said, they make you work hard for everything. Nothing comes easy against them.”

The Lakers executed the same game plan to perfection at Poland Friday night as the team sank eight 3-pointers in a 59-23 win. The Knights tried to bottle up the paint in hopes of stopping Carter and Winslow, but the Laker post players did a nice job passing the ball out to the perimeter where Clark (3), the shooting Hancocks (Sydney and Sarah, each had 2) and Rachel Wandishin (2) buried 3-balls.

“We’re doing a much better job moving the basketball and taking open 3-point shots, rather than jacking shots up there after only one pass,” LR Coach Paul True said. “We’re showing better patience searching out shots, which has resulted in a good balance.”

Coach True has talked to his team about how opposing clubs will open games with a lot of intensity, knowing an upset could cement a playoff spot.

“We’re doing a good job of being focused, taking on early challenges and playing our game,” Coach True said.

With the starters on the bench for the final eight minutes, the Lakers’ reserves had a chance to work on their games against Fryeburg’s starting five. Forward Savannah DeVoe scored 5 points, while Kate Cutting sank a 3-pointer and Jordan Turner banked a shot off the glass.

The Raiders scored 13 points over the final five minutes behind aggressive inside play from Kendra Fox (5 points).

The loss snapped the Raiders’ three-game win streak, and saw FA drop just out of the final playoff spot with five games to go. Coach Leland is optimistic about his club’s chances of qualifying for the tournament. Leland figures his club has to win two or three out of their final five. The three big games come against Poland, Freeport and Gray-NG — clubs all fighting for that final playoff spot.

“We still control our own destiny,” Coach Leland said. “We need to look at what we did well tonight, and see if we can do those same things over 32 minutes.”

For the Lakers, Abby Craffey was high scorer with 13 points, including three 3-pointers and 5 rebounds. Carter and Winslow each scored 11 points. Carter had 9 rebounds and 3 blocks as the Lakers held a 38-32 advantage on the boards. Other scorers were: Clark 8, Sydney Hancock 5, DeVoe 4, Cutting 3, Sarah Hancock 3, Turner 2 (and 6 rebounds).

For the Raiders, McConkey paced the team with 12 points and 5 rebounds, while Dole scored 11 points and collected 12 rebounds. Fox chipped in 8 points and 12 rebounds, while Sarah Welch had 2 points.

Turnovers: LR 13, FA 18

Free Throws: LR 8-16, FA 4-8.

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