Lakers send league loud message with convincing win over York

GOOD SIGN — Junior center Tiana-Jo Carter put forth a dominating effort at both ends of the court as the Lakers throttled York, 61-39. Carter blocks a shot by York guard Ruby Cribby. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Lake Region players saw comments on a popular basketball website forum which touted York as the team to beat in Class B West.

“I think some people were starting to underestimate us. We’ve had people hurt and out of some games, and some teams have taken advantage of it,” said junior center Tiana-Jo Carter. “We want to come back and show we mean business.”

Carter and her Laker teammates let their play do all the talking Saturday night. Although Carter and some teammates continue to make their way back from various injuries, the Lakers sent a very loud message that when healthy the defending West champs will be tough to beat when the playoffs open next month.

Carter dominated at both ends of the floor, scoring 15 points, hauling down 19 rebounds and blocking five shots to lead the Lakers to a convincing 61-39 victory over York.

The win propelled the Lakers (12-2) back atop of the Heal Ratings, ahead of undefeated Spruce Mountain.

“I felt really good. I was a little nervous before the game because my back has been bothering me. I knew I needed to be back, for this game in particular. I forgot about all the pain and played the way I should be,” Carter said. “We’ve worked hard all week getting ready to play York. I think we showed them tonight we were ready for them.”

Senior Sydney Hancock, who set the tone early with two 3-pointers and finished with 11 points, felt the win showed the West competition that when the Lakers are at their best, they are difficult to contend against.

“It was definitely a statement game for us. We wanted to send a message to Class B that this is who Lake Region is and everybody better take us seriously — watch out,” she said. “This was a huge win for us. I couldn’t be happier.”

CECE HANCOCK of Lake Region dribbles past York's Shannon Todd during a big second half run as the Lakers allowed just 4 Wildcat points in the decisive fourth quarter in a 61-39 victory at Nutting Gym. (Rivet Photo)

A stumble against Freeport and a struggle against Poland seemed to give the impression that the Lakers had slipped and were vulnerable without Carter in the line-up.

However, some valuable lessons were learned in Carter’s absence. One, other players had to elevate their games. Senior Kelsey Winslow certainly has worked her way into opposing coaches’ conversations as to who their team must stop to beat the Lakers.

Winslow was dynamic at both ends of the floor Saturday, scoring a team-high 16 points, while playing outstanding defense against York’s 6-foot-1 center Emily Campbell, who was limited to just 4 points and 4 rebounds.

With Winslow able to clamp down on Campbell, LR Coach Paul True was able to leave Carter to guard Marquis MacGlashing and patrol the paint. MacGlashing had just 4 points and 4 rebounds as Carter owned the lane.

Another lesson was the importance of “sharing” the basketball. The Lakers crisply passed the ball in the opening quarter, moving York’s zone defense and creating open looks. Winslow netted two jumpers from the baseline to help give the Lakers a 13-8 lead after one quarter.

After winning the turnover battle (9-4) in the first quarter, the Lakers turned the ball over six times and saw York take a 17-16 lead halfway through the second as freshman Shannon Todd scored 7 straight points, including a 3-pointer.

Carter, who had nine rebounds in the quarter, scored the Lakers’ last 3 points to tie the game 19-19. But, MacGlashing buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Wildcats a 22-19 halftime lead.

LR Coach Paul True emphasized to his club at the break to continue moving the ball to seek out good scoring opportunities — looking more often inside the lane rather than settling for 3-pointers.

After falling behind by six after Todd connected on a 3-pointer, the Lakers attacked the inside with Carter scoring six points and CeCe Hancock driving the middle for a lay-up and a foul shot to take a 30-25 lead.

“My coach keeps telling me to stop drifting away from the basket. He tells me to get inside, we’ll get you the ball and you make a strong move to the basket. I’ve been tentative at times, but I’ll keep working at it,” Carter said.

When the Lakers fell behind, they kept their cool.

“You can’t panic in those situations. You have to stay calm, collect yourself and just go back to your original game plan,” Sydney Hancock said. “One of the biggest things we talk about is sharing the basketball. If we all play as a unit, we can be very good. I think the biggest reason we pulled away in this game was that we weren’t playing as one, we were playing as five.”

York lost momentum when Todd was whistled for her fourth personal foul with 6:49 left in the third quarter, which forced Coach Rick Clark to sit his leading scorer.

Lake Region capitalized and took a 39-34 lead as Sarah Hancock netted a 3-pointer with 1:24 left.

Everything clicked for the Lakers over the final eight minutes as they thoroughly dominated York.

Defensively, the Lakers held York to just 3 foul shots and a field goal, which was scored by Todd, who finished with a game-high 17 points, with 58.2 seconds left in the game. Carter blocked three shots during the quarter.

Offensively, the Lakers seemingly couldn’t be stopped inside. If they didn’t score at close range, they went to the foul line, where LR shooters were 10-of-14.

Playing back-to-back games, York had little zip left as CeCe Hancock and Sydney Hancock consistently had quicker first steps and were able to get into the lane.

“I don’t know where that energy came from. We just wanted to increase the lead so I just took the ball to the hoop,” CeCe Hancock said. “I just try to give my all every moment I am out there.”

When the LR lead reached 13 with 4:41 left in the game, York called timeout. Coach True told his players, “Way to play together.”

“Our analogy before the game was Coach K (Kohtala) talks about the five finger approach. If you do something with each individual finger it’s not going to be nearly as effective as when five fingers come together — a fist packs more punch,” Coach True said. “I couldn’t be more pleased with that last half of basketball.”

Sensing they were in full control of the game, the Lakers never let off the gas pedal and pushed the lead to 22.

The victory resulted in a regular season sweep of the Wildcats (12-2).

“This is a huge win for us. People were saying on MBR that York is the best team in the conference and they were going to win at Lake Region tonight. I guess we just proved them wrong,” CeCe Hancock said. “I was nervous before the game. I just had to take a breath and just play smart. My dad talked to me before the game about playing smart defense — moving my feet and not reaching in. That’s what I did. It really helped.”

With every passing day, Coach True is seeing his team getting healthier and healthier, which after Saturday’s performance, could spell bad news for Class B West.

“I am feeling better. I turned a page over the last week. My leg has better range of motion. It’s exciting for me to be able to do the things I am capable of — drive to the basket and run around crazy like I usually can,” Sydney Hancock said. “Hitting those two 3s, I felt this game was ours. I got a huge boost of confidence making those shots.”

Hancock spoke glowingly about Carter’s night.

“Tiana played outstanding tonight. She commanded the floor and demanded the ball. She was talking all night, getting people to be where they needed to be — a real leader out there,” she said.

Coach True agreed.

“Today you can see what the possibilities are for Tiana. She can change the game at both ends of the floor immensely,” he said. “I am proud of her and proud of all the kids because this one was a total team effort.”

For the Lakers, CeCe Hancock finished with 11 points, Sarah Hancock chipped in 6, Kayleigh Lepage 2 and Savannah Devoe 1.

For York, Ruby Cribby scored 8 points, Anne Graziano 2, Paige McElwain 2 and Chloe Smedley had 2 points.

LR was 13-of-19 from the line, while York was 4-of-8.

Turnovers: LR 17, York 22.

Rebounds: LR 34, York 16.

Games remaining: Winners of six of their last seven games, the Lakers host Greely this Friday at 7 p.m. The Rangers beat the Lakers 38-33 in their first meeting.

The Lakers close out the regular season with home games against Fryeburg Academy on Monday, Feb. 4 and Gray-New Gloucester next Friday, Feb. 8 — both games are at 7 p.m.

 

 

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