LR varsity girls’ basketball preview

CENTER OF ATTENTION — Sophomore Tiana-Jo Carter (#33) will look to raise her game to the next level after a spectacular rookie season as Lake Region hopes to go deeper in this year's Class B playoffs.

Head Coach: Paul True

Assistant Coaches: John Kohatala, Kate Callahan, Doug Banks

Junior Varsity Coach: Pauline Webb

The Roster: Seniors Rachel Wandishin (guard), Abby Craffey (guard), Allison Clark (guard) and Shannon VanLoan (forward); juniors Sydney Hancock (guard), Savannah Devoe (forward), Kasey Huntress (guard), Kayleigh Lepage (forward), Kelsey Winslow (forward) and Kate Cutting (guard/forward); sophomores Jordan Turner (guard) and Tiana-Jo Carter (center); freshman, Sarah Hancock (guard).

Top Returnees: Center Tiana-Jo Carter (6-foot-1) led the Lakers in scoring at 10.1 points per game and gave the team a major presence in the paint, something not seen in these parts for years. The Lakers return sharpshooters Sydney Hancock (8.9 ppg and the trigger for the LR attack), Abby Craffey (6.7 ppg, including 19 three-pointers) and Allison Clark (6.6 ppg, including 15 three-pointers). Forward Kelsey Winslow rebounded from an early ankle injury to score 7.4 points per game. Other key returnees include pesky defenders Kasey Huntress and Rachel Wandishin, along with back-up center Shannon VanLoan. Carter and Hancock were each selected to participate in the MBR 11th Annual Preseason All-Star Game played Nov. 13 at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. There were 10 players selected to play on the B West team to compete against B East.

What will it take for the team (16-2) to be better than a year ago? Losing just one starter from a team that won 16 games including a 54-45 victory in the Class B West quarterfinals against Oak Hill, Coach Paul True closely looked at the problems his Lakers experienced against eventual state champ, Leavitt (which lost only one starter), in the 62-35 semifinal loss. “We have three major factors that we are focusing on,” Coach True said. “First, we need to be able to handle pressure situations, which we didn’t do in the playoffs. We also need to improve our free throw percentage. Too many of our games were close because we didn’t shoot free throws well. We are going to go to the basket, so we want free throws to be a weapon. Finally, we want a greater focus on getting the ball inside.”

The Lakers want to certainly exploit the skills and presence of 6-foot-1 center Tiana-Jo Carter. However, Coach True says Carter should get plenty of inside help from Kelsey Winslow, who “started to come into her own” late in the season, after recovering from a high-ankle sprain. Another “presence” will be senior Shannon VanLoan, who True says is “light years ahead” of where she was a year ago in terms of offensive and defensive ability.

“Tiana is such a good passer that if teams double or triple her, she will get the ball to the open player,” Coach True said. “However, I’d like to see her be a little more selfish with the ball and make an athletic move to the basket, which she certainly is capable of doing. She played against two of the better post players in western Maine when we scrimmaged Deering and McAuley. Tiana was certainly up for the challenge.”

Based on what you have seen in the preseason, what do you feel are the team’s strengths and weaknesses? From a strength standpoint, Coach True feels his team is a well-balanced blend of speed and interior size. “I really like our unselfish play, our overall work ethic and our competitive nature — these girls really want to win,” Coach True said.

On the weakness front, the Lakers need to learn when to go full tilt and when to slowdown to run the offense effectively. “Yes, we want to play fast from baseline to baseline, but we also need the ability to slowdown, show patience and make good decisions,” Coach True said. “We want to be aggressive, but at times, we get over-aggressive and try too hard, which leads to mistakes.”

Three goals you have for the team? “One, to play as hard as we can every day to make ourselves better. Yes, expectations are high for this team. If we play hard, the wins and losses will take care of themselves. The only things that we can control are our effort and our attitude. Two, we want to create an atmosphere of family, collective responsibility and to treat everyone with respect,” Coach True said. “Finally, inclusion. We want everyone to be part of this program from our community, fans, staff members and our youth. We want to embrace everyone.”

To be competitive, what are the three key things your squad must do? Coach True’s list includes: 1.) Trust ourselves and our teammates; 2.) Focus on effort and attitude; 3.) Be disciplined in what we do.

What three things have you encouraged about this year’s team? “I love the enthusiasm the kids are showing. Our effort on a daily basis is unbelievable,” Coach True said. “I couldn’t be happier with the chemistry I am seeing between the players and the players and coaching staff.”

What Players Think

What do you see as the three keys for success?

Rachel Wandishin: I think the three keys for success this season are staying disciplined and leaving everything we have on the court each time we play; keeping a positive attitude no matter what adversity we experience; and consistently making each other better every opportunity we have to do so.

Allison Clark: I think the three keys for success for this season are work hard on defense, communicate with each other, and play as one.

What are you most excited about?

Rachel Wandishin: I am most excited about seeing where we will take ourselves this season. We have all the potential in the world and I cannot wait to see how we use that potential and see where we end up at the end of the season.

Allison Clark:  I am most excited about playing with everyone this year because it’s most of the same players as last year.

“We will have a good season if we…”

Rachel Wandishin: We will have a good season if we continue to show the kind of team chemistry and teamwork we have exemplified during our pre-season practices and games. As I said, our team has all the potential in the world if we decide to use it and to constantly work together. I am confident that we can and we will do that.

Allison Clark: We will have a good season if we communicate with each other on the court at all times because that’s one thing the we struggle with.

The Schedule

Fri., Dec. 9, 5:30, Poland

Tues., Dec. 13, 7:00, Yarmouth

Thu., Dec. 15, 5:30, at Waynflete

Sat., Dec. 17, 4:00, Freeport

Tues., Dec. 20, 5:30, at Gray-NG

Thu., Dec. 22, 7:00, Cape Elizabeth

Wed., Jan. 4, 7:00, Greely

Fri., Jan. 6, 6:00, at Wells

Tues., Jan. 10, 6:30, York

Thu., Jan. 12, 7:00, at Falmouth

Sat., Jan. 14, 7:00, at Freeport

Fri., Jan. 20, 5:30, at Poland

Mon., Jan. 23, 7:00, Fryeburg Academy

Thu., Jan. 26, 6:30, at York

Tues., Jan. 31, 7:00, Falmouth

Fri. Feb. 3, TBA, at Greely

Tues., Feb. 7, 6:30, at Fryeburg Academy

Fri., Feb. 10, 5:30, Gray-NG

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