Playoff Prelim: DeVoe sinks late free throws as Lakers edge Raiders

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EXCITED ABOUT THE WIN — Laker Quinn Piland reacts after Lake Region rallies late in the Class B West prelim tourney game to edge Fryeburg Academy. The Lakers (10-9) advance to the quarterfinals Saturday at the Portland Expo, where they will meet second-ranked Morse (14-4) at 12:300 p.m.
LAKERS 54
Marcus DeVoe 0-2-2, Nick Hall 1-0-2, Jack Lesure 2-2-6, Quinn Piland 4-0-8, Sam Smith 7-2-23, Mark Williams 5-3-13, Nicholas Wandishin, Ben Chaine, Nate Smith.
RAIDERS 52
Alex Blake 4-2-11, Jonathan Burk 3-0-6, Jaquan Causer 5-0-10, Ryan Gullikson 2-7-11, Ignacio Calleja 5-2-14, Greg Wesley, Chris Berquist.

 

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

As Marcus DeVoe approached the foul line, he faced a moment most youngsters fantasize about as they work on their shots and moves in the driveway.

3.4 seconds left in a playoff game.

Game tied.

The opposing crowd is going wild, hoping to make enough noise to break my concentration and force a miss.

Teammates flash looks of encouragement. I know they are saying to themselves, “You can do this!”

I make this shot, and we advance.

If I miss…

All eyes were on the Lake Region sophomore as he looked to break a 52–52 tie in the closing seconds of Tuesday night’s prelim playoff game against rival Fryeburg Academy.

DeVoe sank his first shot, but the point was negated when one of the three game officials signaled for a timeout as he shot the ball. The official was at the scorer’s table, asking a question while the ball was being handed off to DeVoe.

More pressure.

No problem.

DeVoe sank both foul shots, and the Raiders missed a desperation shot from the right corner at the buzzer as the seventh-ranked Lakers advanced to the Class B West quarterfinals with a 54–52 come-from-behind victory.

It was DeVoe’s only points of the game, but they came at the biggest moment.

“I was scared. I didn’t know what to think. With the Fryeburg fans yelling, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, focused and shot it. I couldn’t hear myself think, it was overwhelming,” said DeVoe, who had hauled in a rebound and was fouled on the play, earning the chance to put his club ahead. “When the official waved off the first shot, I was even more scared, knowing I needed to make two more.”

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JONATHAN BURK of Fryeburg Academy drives to the hoop against Lake Region's Nick Hall during second half action. (Rivet Photos)

Senior teammate Sam Smith was impressed with DeVoe’s coolness under fire.

“That was a heck of a shot by Marcus. That was the dream moment, knocking down those shots. I am really proud of him,” he said.

Laker Coach JP Yorkey had substituted defense for offense, bringing DeVoe into the game for Smith. The rotation worked.

“Marcus has been great all season. He has been a starter. He has been a reserve. He is one of our best defenders. That was why he was in the game at the end. It was a defensive possession, so I took Sam out and put Marcus in because he is such a good defender. He got the rebound and made his free throws. He improved his shot significantly over the summer. He improved his mechanics as much as any player I have seen over a summer,” Coach Yorkey said.

DeVoe said the game was “very physical” throughout as the teams battled for every rebound, including the last one — a game changer.

“We’ve had three or four games this season, in which we made comebacks but just didn’t win it. It was good to be able to finish this one and move on to the Expo, where we haven’t been for some time now,” he said. “It means a lot to get to the Expo, especially the seniors. We’re excited. We’ve really worked hard.”

Both teams lived up to their trademark — be scrappy and never quit.

After trailing the double digits in the first three quarters, Fryeburg (8–11) rallied in the fourth behind forwards Jaquan Causer (10 points, 13 rebounds) and Jonathan Burk (6 points, 6 rebounds).

Guard Ignacio Calleja started the comeback by draining a three-pointer from the right wing, while Causer continued to torch the LR interior defense with a soft hook shot. Burk found the seam in the defense twice, scoring two buckets to give the Raiders a 47–44 lead with 4:26 left. A steal by Calleja resulted in a foul, and he sank both foul shots. Off an LR inbounds play, Calleja picked off the pass and raced downcourt for a layup, sending the FA fan section into a frenzy.

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POINT GUARD RYAN GULLIKSON (left) slices past Lake Region's Jack Lesure during the Class B West prelim game Tuesday night in Naples.

Down 51–44 with 3:02 left, the Lakers regrouped during a timeout as Coach JP Yorkey reminded his players that there was plenty of time to mount their own comeback.

“The biggest thing we told them was that there was a lot of time left. Take a breath. The Yarmouth game was a really huge game for us because we were able to come back without fouling. We came back and gave ourselves a chance. We really felt that if we had a little more time — like another minute — we would have won that game. Tonight, we had more time. We did learn from that loss. Calm down, take a breath,” he said.

Guard Jack Lesure trimmed the deficit to 51–47 when he drove the lane, scored, was fouled and made his free throw. Following a Raider turnover, LR guard Mark Williams made one of two foul shots, to make it a one-score game with 2:27 left.

With 1:55 left, the Lakers were unable to secure a Raider miss, and Calleja alertly bounced the ball off Lesure out of bounds to give FA another possession. But, a three-point try was off the mark.

Williams, who was able to get to the basket all night with his quick burst, drove the lane and scored on a floater with 1:21 left to make it 51–50.

Raider sophomore guard Ryan Gullikson, who made seven straight foul shots despite nursing a right-arm stinger, made one of two free throws with 53.6 seconds remaining.

After Gullikson picked up his fifth personal, Williams coolly sank two foul shots with 51.6 seconds left to tie the game.

Fryeburg called timeout with 24.5 seconds, hoping to design a play for the final shot. However, DeVoe came up with a miss with time left on the clock.

“I feel bad for the kids because we have had some tough losses this year. All I can say right now, we have a lot of kids coming back next year, yes it hurts and now it’s time to put the work in to become better basketball players and be able to close out games down the stretch,” FA Coach Sedge Saunders said. “Lake Region had some guys who could make plays down the stretch, and they did. Williams is a good player, and his experience and confidence helped get Lake Region through this game.”

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BIG STEAL — Fryeburg Academy guard Ignacio Calleja (right) came up with a big steal, which led to points as the Raiders erased a third quarter deficit to build a seven-point lead midway through the fourth quarter Tuesday night.

Coach Saunders said one of his primary points of emphasis heading into the contest was to keep close tabs on LR guard Sam Smith because of his three-point shooting ability.

Smith was deadly early on, sinking three 3-pointers in the first quarter to spark the Lakers to a 19–9 lead. Smith would not cool off. He knocked down two 3-pointers to start the second quarter to push the LR lead to 25–9.

“Obviously, we didn’t do a good job getting out on Smith as a priority and he got some clean looks. That was a point of emphasis. Our zone, we were too spread out, so positionally, we needed to do a better job and we did,” Coach Saunders said. “We felt offensively, we were getting some good looks but they weren’t dropping. We needed to keep pounding the ball inside.”

Smith, in his final home game, nailed seven 3-pointers en route to a game-high 23 points.

“I figured this could be my last game ever. So I just came out shooting the ball and it felt good. Sometimes, I just feel it. It was an amazing feeling playing before that kind of crowd. I loved it. It was amazing to see shot after shot go in. I wasn’t listening to the crowd, I was just focused on the game,” he said. “I shoot every day. I used to shoot 500 threes every day. I have a little court at home and my dad would tell me I wasn’t done until I shoot my 500 threes. I kept shooting and shooting and it paid off this year.”

Laker Coach JP Yorkey attributed Smith’s success to his hard work, especially in the off-season.

“There is nobody who deserves a game like that than Sam Smith. That boy has worked and worked and worked every year (this is my fifth year with him). He puts the time in and this year he has played with a tremendous amount of confidence,” Coach Yorkey said. “He’s had games like this for us. He was ready tonight! He got us off to a great start.”

Calleja connected on a three-pointer and scored off an offensive put-back to cut the deficit to 25–20, but the Lakers responded by scoring the half’s final four points with Lesure drawing FA defenders and dishing inside to a wide open Quinn Piland along the baseline.

The third quarter was a roller-coaster ride.

Lake Region opened the period like they started the game, eight quick points to take a 37–23 lead.

Fryeburg countered with strong inside play, a three-pointer by Alex Blake, and better defense that held the Lakers scoreless over a five-minute span. A Gullikson drive and score with 1:24 left made it LR 37, FA 34.

“We got the ball inside, scored and started to get some confidence. Jaquan and Jonathan really played well,” Coach Saunders said. “Jaquan was playing on a bad ankle and he played with a lot of guts, competing at a high level in a game like this. One of the best games I have seen him play.”

LR was whistled for a flagrant foul with 3:13 left, and FA took advantage as Gullikson made both foul shots and Blake then hit his trey. With 2.2 left on the clock, the Lakers attempted a lob pass to Williams, but the ball sailed high. Williams was called for grabbing and holding onto the rim. Gullikson made both foul shots to make it 39–38, setting the stage for a wild fourth quarter.

Something coaches and players expected.

“Fryeburg is a good team. They always fight. If you look at their season, they lost a lot of close games. They never quit,” Smith said. “It was a rivalry game. The gym was packed. I was glad we were able to pull out the win.”

Coach Saunders knew his club faced some challenges down the stretch, especially when floor leader Gullikson fouled out.

“We had three sophomores on the floor who are somewhat inexperienced. We hoped that they understood what needed to be done in the final minutes of the game. Overall, we did, but when Ryan fouled out, it was huge. Ignacio had a big game, but he isn’t used to running the team down the stretch. We certainly would have the ball in Ryan’s hands,” Coach Saunders said. “We still thought we were going to have the last shot in the game, but it was unfortunate that we turned it over. It’s a bad way to lose the game.”

He added, “We certainly didn’t think we were going to run away with the game, so we wanted to remain aggressive. We didn’t want to pull the ball out and be hesitant. Overall, we just didn’t get the looks we wanted. It’s not always going to be perfect execution down the stretch, but we hung tough and had a chance to win. And, that’s what you want.”

Expo bound

The Lakers will make their first trip to the Expo in several years, which is a goal players had at the start of the season.

“Over my four years, we’ve been on the bottom and had to work really hard to get where we are right now. All the hard work I’ve put in now feels amazing, finally, finally getting a chance to play on,” Smith said.

Hoping to gain a little insight as to how to approach playing under the big lights, LR players have spoken with members of the girls’ basketball team.

“The girls have talked to us about it. Like tonight, we need to stay focused on the game — don’t worry about the crowd or the new atmosphere. Focus on the game. If we do that, we’ll be fine,” Smith said.

Coach Yorkey added, “The girls are great, they are our biggest fans. You saw them out here tonight with their t-shirts with our players’ faces on them and yelling for us. Along with Coach True, they are our biggest fans. Before we got into the last week, Coach True took a moment to talk with our team about his playoff experiences. He told them that in big games, usually the team that settles down first does well. When he talks, our kids listen, that’s for sure!”

Stat lines

Turnovers: LR15, FA 22

Free Throws: LR 9-17, FA 11-16

Rebounds: LR 13, FA 30

 

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