Lakers erase early 10-point deficit to beat Raiders on Senior Night

BEN DARLING of Fryeburg Academy knocks down a three-point shot during the first quarter, despite a block attempt by Laker Nate Smith. (Rivet Photos)

BEN DARLING of Fryeburg Academy knocks down a three-point shot during the first quarter, despite a block attempt by Laker Nate Smith. (Rivet Photos)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

With the final seconds ticking off the clock, Ben Darling pulled the trigger on a three-point shot from the left corner.

The ball just sailed over the outstretched hand of Lake Region defender Marcus DeVoe.



For a few seconds, Darling thought he had spoiled Lake Region’s Senior Night, until a Laker tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to the scoreboard.

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Once again, records mattered very little Saturday night when the two high school basketball rivals squared off in Naples. Although Fryeburg Academy had just five wins and will miss the playoffs, the Raiders gave the Lakers all they could handle, including taking a 10-point first quarter lead.

The Lakers had a tough time getting into a rhythm as Coach John Mayo shuffled players in and out so all 11 seniors had early floor time before the packed house.

FA's NICHOLIS L'HEUREUX-CARLAND scores over Lake Region defender Alex Langadas.

FA's NICHOLIS L'HEUREUX-CARLAND scores over Lake Region defender Alex Langadas.

“As a team, we talked about how we wanted to approach the game. Many of the starters were fine with their teammates starting. Some of the non-starters did not care if they started, they just wanted to play in the game. So, I decided to look at what was the best way to get 11 guys in. I came up with a rotation and shared it with them and everyone was good with it,” Coach Mayo said. “Everyone played hard at the beginning, but I think the moment got to them a little as we missed some easy shots and had a few turnovers. I was proud of all of them.”

Fryeburg shooters had the hot hand early as Oscar Saunders (18 points) canned a 3-pointer and Darling (9 points) nailed two treys to put the Raiders up 12-2.

The Lakers, however, found their stride late in the period as Marcus DeVoe scored at the buzzer to trim the deficit to 14-10.

“It took us awhile to adjust. Even when we got to a regular rotation, that group still had the emotions of the night and it took them awhile to relax and play like any other night,” Coach Mayo said. “The Fryeburg-Lake Region rivalry has gone on forever. It does not matter the year or the records of the teams, both teams are going to come ready to battle.  There was a great crowd for both teams, and the game had a playoff atmosphere.”

The Lakers came close several times to tying the contest, but the Raiders answered including a nifty tip in by center Isaac Wakefield to make it 22-18. Saunders drained another trey from the right wing to push the lead to five, but the Lakers went on a 6-0 run over the final 1:48 — keyed by a threaded pass by Jack Lesure to Nick Wandishin for an easy bucket, and Lesure swishing a straightaway trey — to take a 26-25 lead into the break.

“I thought we started to get things rolling in the last couple of minutes of the half. At halftime, I told the guys that we needed to continue to run our stuff and relax,” Coach Mayo said. “We needed to reverse  the basketball from side-to-side versus their zone. At times, we shared the ball well, sometimes we just needed to make the extra pass that gets us an even better shot.”

MARCUS DEVOE of Lake Region takes the ball strong to the basket and scores.

MARCUS DEVOE of Lake Region takes the ball strong to the basket and scores.

Fryeburg Academy Coach Sedge Saunders liked how his team battled in the first half.

“Our game plan was to take away the Lakers inside game. We had to take away dribble penetration, we had to take away direct passes into the post, and we had to limit second chance points. Overall, we did an excellent job executing the game plan. We wanted to force the contested three and think we did a good job with that as well,” Coach Saunders said. “We also knew we had to take away easy baskets in transition...for the most part we did this but we had a couple bad turnovers and breakdowns that led to some key hoops for the Lakers.”

He added, “I felt good at halftime but would have felt better with the lead. We knew they would make a run, their too good not to, so it wasn’t a shock to be down at the half. I felt we got burned a few times when we let (Jack) Lesure get into the paint and then dump to the big man on the block. We made it a point at the half to do a better job keeping him on the perimeter, but also making sure our wings rotated down quicker to protect the blocks. We also weren’t going to let Jack get the ball at the high post so we had a guy shadow him when he drove into the mid-post and high post area.”

Turning up their defensive pressure, the Lakers opened the third with an 8-2 run with DeVoe (10 points) scoring on a baseline drive and Nate Smith (10 points) dropping a 3-pointer.

The LR lead swelled to 10 as Nick Wandishin came up with a steal, scored and added a foul shot with 3:55 left.

FA was 4-of-7 from the foul line down the stretch, and trailed 43-35 after three quarters.

What Coach Saunders has liked about his club all season is the group’s resiliency and gritty play.

After a Damon Knight 3-pointer put LR up 49-37, the Raiders went to work. FA answered each LR hoop, but then turned up the heat defensively with 2:18 left. With the Lakers missing a couple of deep perimeter shots and turning the ball over twice in the final 30 seconds, the Raiders scratched back into the game as Saunders sank a 3-pointer, Cody Gullikson (11 points) converted on an reverse lay-up and Herras nailed a 3-pointer with 10.9 seconds left to close the gap to 55-53.

Unable to come up with a steal, the Raiders fouled Nate Smith with 6.3 seconds left. Smith coolly put the game on ice by sinking both shots for a 57-53 lead. When the ball went to the corner, DeVoe approached shooter Ben Darling, but made no attempt to block the shot, thus avoiding the possibility of a 4-point play.

Darling did his part, sinking the long-range jumper.

But, time ran out on the Raiders.

“We talk about when we have a lead in the last couple of minutes about getting a lay-up. I think the emotion of the night got to them some and them wanting to make a great pass, or hit a shot that would put us up even more,” Coach Mayo said. “I told them that they (Fryeburg) had no more time outs and if we were up 4 to stay away because even if they hit a shot we did not have to inbound the ball because it would be under 5 seconds.”

After the game, Coach Mayo told his players, “Tonight was a great night for the seniors to remember. Despite not playing great at times, we got the win. I also told them that I thought we forced some shot tonight and that we have many great players on this team, so we do not have to force shots. When someone is being great, let’s get them the ball and there will be a time when it will be your turn to be great and we will get the ball to you.  I told them to enjoy the win and remember the night and be ready to go on Monday, to get ready for Yarmouth.”

Coach Saunders had nothing but praise for the valiant effort his Raiders put forth.

“I was worried about getting beat on the boards, but I thought we held our own (LR held a 27-21 advantage). We went with a bigger lineup at times and I thought it worked well for us,” he said. “Our guys play great on the road, and we seem to shoot better as well, so I think they felt like they were always in this thing even when they got down double digits. Our guys are tough and they love to compete, so I knew they had a couple runs left in them in the fourth.”

Coach Saunders felt the “turning point” was probably Lake Region’s experience, and knowing how to persevere and close out a tough, closely fought game.

“These guys have been to the Western Maine finals. They’ve been through a lot and they obviously are a good team because of it. Two years ago, they were in a similar situation to us — a young team trying to find their identity — and now they are one of the top teams in the state,” Coach Saunders said. “That’s where we’re going to be, and hopefully it’s sooner rather than later. If we keep this nucleus of kids together and they’re willing to work, which I know they are, the sky is the limit for these guys. I’m looking forward to helping them reach their goals, both individually and collectively.”

LR scorers: Damon Knight 3, Brandon Palmer 6, Nick Wandishin 8, Jack Lesure 12, Ryan Hodgdon 2, Nate Smith 10, Alex Langadas 6.

FA scorers: Oscar Saunders 18, Cody Gullikson 11, Scott Parker 2, Ben Darling 9, Oscar Herras 7, Tucker Buzzell 2, Nicholis L’Heureux-Carland 3, Jace McKenney 4.

Turnovers: LR 14, FA 18

Free Throws: LR 12-22, FA 11-21

Field Goals: LR 21-46, FA 18-43

Rebounds: LR 27, FA 21

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