Lakers up to task: Three big wins put girls at #1

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

DEFENSE SEPARATES LAKERS FROM THE REST — The Laker girls improved to 9-0 following Tuesday’s win over York. Here, LR’s Sydney Hancock gives York’s Addison LaBonte little operating room. (Rivet Photo)

Knowing the talent level in Class B West is somewhat down this year, Lake Region varsity girls’ basketball Coach Paul True wanted to push his team and put them to the test.

So, the Lakers went south over the Christmas break. Taking part in a tournament held in Fort Meyers, Fla., the Lakers went up against some high powered clubs and also saw some of the premiere high school teams in the country square off.

“Our kids turned in a great effort. The speed of play was like times 10 what you see here in our state. Each game, it took a few minutes for our kids to adjust,” Coach True said. “We did a great job adjusting to the speed of play.”

The Florida experience gave the Lakers a new perspective on the remainder of their season.

“We made a commitment as a team that when we came back, that’s the way (speed of play) we were going to practice and play all the time,” True said. “Jan. 2, our first practice back, was our best practice, without question. I think that is starting to show — getting up and down the floor. We want to do what we do well. That’s what we need to concentrate on, not night in and night out who we are playing. We need to play the best basketball that we can.”

So far, so good.

Coming out of the holiday break, Lake Region faced three major tests, and they aced their exams.

Using a stifling defense, the Lakers held Greely scoreless for nearly 12 minutes to beat the Rangers 40-27 at Nutting Gym last week. Sophomore Tiana-Jo Carter was dominant in the lane, scoring 11 points, collecting 14 rebounds and blocking four shots.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the way we play defense. I thought for 28 minutes, we were as good defensively as we have been all year,” Coach True said.

Test 2 was a trip to Wells to face an up-and-coming Warriors team. Down 19-18 at the half, the Lakers turned to their inside game as Carter (16 points) and Kelsey Winslow (game high 19 points) led a 18-10 charge for a 52-44 victory.

“Wells is an extremely good team with strong guards and post players. In the first half, we were not in the best frame of mind to compete. We were coming off an emotional win against Greely, and our focus wasn’t what it should have been. I think our kids were feeling a little too good about themselves. Mentally, we were not engaged,” Coach True said. “In the second half, our kids did a good job refocusing.”

Sydney Hancock hit two 3-pointers and sank six foul shots en route to a 14-point night. Other LR scorers were Shannon VanLoan 2 and Jordan Turner 1 point. LR outscored Wells 18-10 and 16-15 in the second half.

Forward Allison Furness paced the Warriors with 17 points, while Jeni Wallingford connected for three 3-pointers for 11 points.

And Tuesday night, the Lakers ended York’s two-year rule, beating the Wildcats (7-2) at home 51-37 behind a 20 point, 17 rebound performance by Carter.

At 9-0, the Lakers sit atop of Class B West.

“We addressed the issue of mental preparation. When I walked into the locker room tonight, there was a totally different atmosphere and mentality. The kids really responded to the challenge, and we played a complete 32 minutes tonight,” Coach True said. “We talked a little bit that once upon a time, the Lakers were the team that everyone was striving to beat. The last two years, it’s been York. We felt perhaps it was time we took back the reigns.”

York’s Nicole Taylor dominated the league during that Wildcat run, but now it appears Carter will be the major force in the middle teams will have to contend with over the next three seasons.

Carter started quick, scoring 10 of the Lakers’ first 12 points. She was dominant in the low post match-up against York’s 6-foot-1 Emily Campbell, who picked up two fouls in the opening quarter.

Up 12-7, the Lakers slowly extended the lead to 11 as Shannon VanLoan sank a baseline jumper, Rachel Wandishin swished a shot from the outside, and Allison Clark drained a 3-pointer to give LR a 26-17 halftime lead.

Giving away a few inches, forward Kelsey Winslow played a strong half against York’s center Campbell, who managed just 7 points.

“My thought process was that (Marquis) MacGlashing is not a perimeter-type player. She’s a banger and bull inside. I thought by having Tiana guarding her, I could keep her close to the basket, while Kelsey could get out on Campbell who has good shooting range,” Coach True said. “In the second half, we went away from that and Ti being a little longer, gave (Emily) Campbell trouble in the second half.”

York found itself in trouble when MacGlashing was forced to the bench because of an ankle injury. With York having no real back-up height off the bench, the Lakers pounded the ball inside to build a 38-22 lead after three quarters.

“One of the aspects of our team that I am really coming to appreciate is that our players understand match-ups. Why we do the things that we do. I felt we did a great job of whoever Campbell was guarding went to the high post, leaving a mismatch inside. We did a great job executing that, and got the ball inside,” Coach True said.

Depth again was a major game changer. LR got quality minutes from freshman Sarah Hancock, who stole the ball and found Jordan Turner for an open lay-up to start the final quarter. She also made a nifty spin move and drained a foul line jumper earlier in the game.

“It’s a game of 32 minutes and part of our arsenal is to wear people down. I thought our bench was prepared and did a great job coming in and playing tonight,” Coach True said.

With the lead reaching double digits, the Lakers never took their foot off the pedal. Carter’s hustle underneath the basket resulted in her coming up with a loose ball, and a quick pass to Winslow resulted in a lay-up. Later, Winslow showed how her offensive game has evolved when she made a strong spin, shot the ball over Campbell’s block attempt and scored off the glass. Clark added an exclamation point, connecting on a 3-pointer with 3 minutes left to put LR up 50-31.

After two away games (Falmouth and Freeport), the Lakers will get nearly a week off. Coach True says the break will do his team wonders.

“We’re 9-0 and seeing us improving every day. We realize there is a long way to go, but I couldn’t be happier with our effort and what I see right now,” Coach True said. “For us, having some time off is a very good thing. We’re dealing with the flu bug. We’ve gone very hard over the first half of the season, and this will allow us to take a day or two off. I think some down time will be really good for us.”

Stat Lines

Turnovers: LR 15, Y 14

Free Throws: LR 5-13, Y 15-20

Rebounds: LR 38, Y 28

LR rebounds: Carter 17, Wandishin 5, Winslow 4, Abby Craffey 4, Turner 2, Sy. Hancock 2, Clark 1, Sa. Hancock 1, Savannah DeVoe 1.

Y rebounds: Campbell 9, Andrea Mountford 7, Courtney Cole 4, MacGlashing 3.

LR scorers: Carter 20, Winslow 9, Clark 6, Wandishin 4, Sa. Hancock 3, Turner 2, Sy. Hancock 2, Craffey 1.

Y scorers: Campbell 15, Ruby Cribby 8, Mountford 4, Cole 4, MacGlashing 3, Madeline Leroux 2, Addison LaBonte 1.

Workmanlike night

Greely (6-1) gave the Lakers the type of game Coach True feels will help his club in the long run.

“I thought it was a great effort defensively for our kids. We were very fundamental. We talked about no easy baskets. No back cuts. Keep players in front. I thought the kids did an unbelievable job executing what we talked about in practice,” Coach True said. “Offensively, as I told the kids at halftime, I thought the tempo favored us. I didn’t think we took advantage in transition and get the ball to the rim, which I thought we had many opportunities to do that. I thought eventually that was going to happen for us — and it did.”

The game was a defensive struggle early as Greely matched the Lakers’ intensity and size in the paint. The Lakers led 7-6 after one quarter as guard Sydney Hancock drained a 3-pointer, made some nifty inside passes after beating her defender off the dribble, and sank a foul shot despite losing a contact lens.

Forcing the Rangers into eight turnovers, the Lakers built a 14-6 halftime lead as the Rangers went scoreless. Senior Allison Clark gave LR an offensive lift by connecting on a 3-pointer with 2:39 left to push the lead to 8 points.

With Carter and Winslow controlling boards and giving Greely few second shot chances, the Lakers seemingly blew the game open, building a 15 point lead after three quarters. LR had a nice mix with Rachel Wandishin knocking down a straight-away 3-pointer, Jordan Turner swishing a baseline shot and Savannah DeVoe scoring off an offensive rebound.

Coach True liked the efforts turned in by his reserves, especially Turner and DeVoe.

“I don’t normally like to single players out, but as I told the kids after the game, Jordan and Savannah played unbelievable minutes tonight. I think they are both feeling more comfortable with what we are doing, and they played with great confidence. They attacked against a good team. They are both athletic and can really help us,” Coach True said. “We’re deep. I think entering the second half of the year we have solid rotations, which we didn’t have early on. Kids are playing with more confidence. When we shoot the ball well from the perimeter, we are very difficult to defend.”

The Lakers were really clicking as Clark hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter, giving her club a 37-16 lead.

“Allison’s strength is she is a great shooter. She has the green light every time she steps on the floor. She definitely hit some big shots for us,” Coach True said.

Then, the Lakers hit a pothole. Over the final four minutes, the Lakers managed just 3 points — all foul shots, one by Winslow and two by Hancock. Greely rallied to cut the lead by eight as forward Jaclyn Storey scored 9 of her team-high 15 points.

“(Closing out a game). That’s an area we need to get better at. Right now, we’re like racehorses that don’t like to pull up at all. It was an opportunity for us to work the clock a little bit, and try to utilize our inside game. We just didn’t take care of it at the end,” Coach True said.

Another less learned for the Lakers was how to attack the basket against a team with size. Sometimes, LR guards found a seam, other times they found themselves surrounded by maroon jerseys and made bad passes.

“Greely is very big and athletic. For most of our kids, it is about change in direction. We put the ball on the floor and seem to go in a straight line. We don’t cross over or make a dribble move, which we work on all the time in practice. Once we get a hang of that, we’ll be in better shape,” Coach True said.

Stat lines

Turnovers: LR 26, G 26

Free Throws: LR 5-9, G 2-5

Rebounds: LR 36, G 23

LR scorers: Carter 11, Clark 9, Hancock 8, Winslow 5, Wandishin 3, DeVoe 2, Turner 2.

LR rebounders: Carter 14, Winslow 7, Turner 44, DeVoe 3, Hancock 3, Clark 2, Abby Craffey 2, Wandishin 1.

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