Quarterfinal: No-quit Lakers come up short in double overtime

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DEFENDING THE OUTSIDE — Lake Region senior guard Sam Smith (right) tries to block a shot during first half action at the Portland Expo against Morse during the Class B West quarterfinals. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — This one really hurt.

All season, the Lake Region varsity boys’ basketball team has played with a will to win for 32 minutes.

At times, they appeared on the verge of defeat, but their penchant to force a turnover without fouling and the emergence of new hero on different nights resulted in some miraculous finishes.

Twice Saturday, the Lakers left Morse players shaking their heads and sent Laker Nation into a delirious stupor as seniors Mark Williams and Sam Smith made clutch shots in the final seconds to force overtime and double overtime.

However, time finally ran out on the Lakers. With 1.4 ticks left on the game clock, senior guard Liam McDonough’s shot from the top of the key rolled around the iron, circled back and dropped through the netting, giving second-seeded Morse (15-4) a 63-61 victory Saturday in the Class B West quarterfinals at the Portland Expo.

A desperation heave by Williams sailed wide of the backboard enabling the Shipbuilders from being torpedoed by an upset-minded, spirited Lake Region club.

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SHIPBUILDERS CLOGGED THE LANE making it difficult at times for Laker guards, including Jack Lesure (left), to find operating room. (Rivet Photo)

For a few seconds, it appeared another top-seed from outside the Western Maine Conference was ready to crash and burn under the bright lights of the Expo.

Earlier, sixth-seeded Poland shocked third-seed Spruce Mountain (16-3) to advance to the semifinals.

Lake Region had similar ideas. With 17.1 seconds left in double overtime, Smith coolly drained a pair of foul shots to give the Lakers a 61-60 lead. Morse hustled the ball into the frontcourt and called timeout.

Most of the packed house expected the Shipbuilders to seek out their top scorer, junior forward Ethan Winglass (21 points), especially since both clubs were in the double bonus as an aggressive referee threesome had already sent several players to their benches with five personals (including Lakers Jack Lesure and Quinn Piland).

“We did exactly what we wanted. We played off the inbounder and doubled Winglass. Nick Wandishin and Marcus DeVoe played him perfectly,” Lake Region Coach J.P. Yorkey said. “We contested everything else. The game winner was contested, two hands up...he (McDonough) just made it...it almost rolled out.”

Winglass passed out of the double team to McDonough, who was able to pull the trigger as LR guard Sam Smith leaped high in an attempt to block or at least disrupt the shot.

As the horn later sounded, LR players left the floor stunned and heartbroken.

“I just did my best to comfort and console them...lots of tears. It was a very emotional experience. I told them I was very proud of them and our community was very proud, as well,” Coach Yorkey said. “I told them that it’s going to hurt real bad for a while, but at some point they will be able to appreciate what an amazing high school basketball game they were a part of.”

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TOP DEFENDER VS TOP SCORER — Lake Region's Quinn Piland (left) was matched against Morse's Ethan Winglass.
MORSE (63)
Jacob Freeman 1-6-8, Keegan McDonough 3-2-8, Liam McDonough 4-0-11, Chris Paulus 1-2-4, Casey Watson 4-2-11, Ethan Winglass 8-2-21.
3-Pointers: L. McDonough (3), Watson, Winglass.
Turnovers: 18
Free Throws: 14-of-25
Rebounds (38): L. McDonough 1, Paulus 5, Watson 6, K. McDonough 6, Freeman 8, Winglass 12.
Blocks: Winglass, Freeman, Paulus (3).
LAKERS (61)
Marcus DeVoe 1-0-2, Nick Hall 3-0-6, Jack Lesure 4-0-8, Quinn Piland 4-1-9, Nate Smith 4-0-10, Sam Smith 3-1-10, Mark Williams 6-4-16, Ben Chaine, Nick Wandishin.
3-Pointers: N. Smith (2), S. Smith (3).
Turnovers: 9
Free Throws: 7-of-20
Rebounds (34): Wandishin, S. Smith 2, DeVoe 2, Hall 2, Piland 4, Lesure 4, N. Smith 4, Williams 15.
Blocks: N. Smith, Williams (3).

Several times, writers on media row were set to file their stories only to see Lake Region storm back to force two overtimes and force the scribes to rewrite their articles.

“These kids play with incredible heart,” one Internet writer said.

“I thought they were done two or three times, but they never quit,” another said.

Even a Morse player commented during a post-game interview he didn’t realize how good this Laker team was, despite a 10-9 record entering the game. Their coach, Samuel Hayes, knew otherwise.

“Well, I can tell you that his coach knew. He was at our home game with Yarmouth and then I ended up sitting next to him at Poland-Wells the next night,” Coach Yorkey said. “He (Hayes) was very impressed with our team and clearly was not comfortable with the prospect of playing us.”

Lake Region controlled tempo early, taking the ball strong to the hoop as Jack Lesure and Nate Smith each scored 4 points to give LR a 12-8 lead. Jacob Freeman knocked down a 3-pointer with 28.6 seconds left in the first to narrow it to 12-11.

The game became a see-saw affair in the second with five lead changes. The Lakers showed good patience, balance (Sam Smith drained a 3-pointer, Williams scored on a floater in the lane, and Nick Hall converted a reverse lay-up) and a nice comfort level for a squad that hasn’t been to the quarterfinals in several years.

“I think it helped a lot that we’ve played there the last three years at Portland High’s/Red Claws Holiday tournament,” Coach Yorkey said. “I felt like we were going to get some separation in the first quarter.  Looking at our shot chart, we didn’t shoot well overall, including the free throw line.  We’re a better shooting team than what we showed.  The good news is that our defense was good enough to keep us in it.”

Indeed, the Lakers had a chance to build a lead as Morse turned the ball over, but they trailed 22-21 at the half as Freeman made a pair of foul shots.

Missed free throws would come back to haunt the Lakers in this game. LR was just 7-of-20 from the stripe —including 1-of-5 in the first overtime.

Morse went to their 1-3-1 zone in the second half, and it took a little while for the Lakers to adjust.

“At halftime, mostly we made technical adjustments to try to correct some breakdowns.  Also, we anticipated that they would play the 1-3-1 zone in the second half.  I was surprised we didn’t see it in the first half.  We reminded them of our prep work for it,” Coach Yorkey said.

With the Lakers managing just 4 points over the first four minutes of the third quarter, Morse developed a shooting rhythm as Casey Watson nailed a 3-pointer and scored 5 points and Winglass converted lob passes into the low post for 5 points as the Shipbuilders jumped out to a 32-26 lead.

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SOPHOMORE GIVES LAKERS A BIG LIFT — Nate Smith got the start for the Lakers, and made some clutch shots, including a big 3-pointer to help spark a LR rally.

Lake Region would trail by 9 points midway through the fourth quarter, but refused to go quietly.

4:20 Sam Smith drove the lane, and dished to Quinn Piland for an uncontested lay-up. M 41, LR 34.

3:41 Smith connects for a 3-pointer from the left corner. M 41, LR 37.

3:02 Winglass scores inside the lane. M 43, LR 37.

2:25 Nate Smith finds Marcus DeVoe in the paint for a bucket. M 43, LR 39.

2:04 Nate Smith pulls the trigger on a 3-pointer from the left wing. M 43, LR 42.

1:52 Keegan McDonough sinks a baseline jumper. M 45, LR 42.

22.5 After a Laker turnover, Mark Williams steals the ball and was fouled. He sank 1-of-2 shots. M 45, LR 43.

16.1 Winglass missed the front end of a 1-and-1 foul shot chance.

3.6 Williams drove the lane, missed a shot, rebounded and scored. M 45, LR 45.

On to overtime!

“It has helped that we have had a lot of close games this season.  As coaches, we tell kids that games aren’t over until they are over. After they experienced it for themselves in several of our comebacks, they became believers,” Coach Yorkey said. “As I’ve said before, this team can comeback late in games without fouling. They can make things happen with deflections and steals.”

Thrills kept coming

Early in the first 4-minute overtime, the lead changed hands three times. The Lakers hurt themselves making just 1-of-5 foul shots as Morse took a 52-48 lead on a Liam McDonough 3-pointer with 57.2 left.

Just a sophomore, Nate Smith showed no hesitation to pull the trigger on a 3-pointer as Morse left him alone on the wing with 44.1 seconds left. Swish!

After the Lakers nearly came up with a steal, Morse seemingly put the final touches on the game when the Shipbuilders tossed an inbounds pass deep down the court to senior center Chris Paulus, who dunked the ball with 15.2 seconds left. Paulus was fouled on the play and could have iced the victory, but he missed the free throw.

LR had life.

2.8 seconds was all Sam Smith needed. He teed up a 3-pointer from the left corner and scored.

On to double overtime.

The foul line became a popular spot since both clubs had exceeded 10 team fouls. Morse capitalized, going to the stripe eight times over a two-minute span, connecting on six to build a 60-54 lead.

Lake Region finally scored with 1:12 left as Nick Hall ripped a rebound out of a Morse player’s hands and quickly put the ball back up for a score.

DeVoe, who delivered the key rebound and free throws in the closing second win over Fryeburg in the prelims, tipped the ball away from McDonough in front of the Morse bench and sent the ball to Williams, who scored on a lay-up, was fouled and sank the foul shot with 48 seconds left to cut the Morse lead to 60-59.

A Morse turnover and foul sent Sam Smith to the foul line with 17.1 seconds left. Shooting with confidence, Smith drained both shots.

Morse quickly pushed the ball into the front court, called timeout with 8 seconds left and diagramed the final shot options.

Although the Shipbuilders ended Lake Region’s season with their own comeback magic, the blue and gold can be very proud of their showing.

“I am proud of this team. They overcame significant challenges on and off the court. Everyone of them brought something special to the mix. The patience and maturity of our seniors was an impressive thing to watch up close this season. They are to be commended for their loyalty to their school and their perseverance,” Coach Yorkey said. “All the kids were great. They played their hearts out.”

The coach also tipped his hat to the support shown his Lakers by loyal and quite boisterous fans.

“The guys really appreciate the support. It means a lot and they don’t take it lightly,” Coach Yorkey said.

The coach pointed out that a special bond exists amongst all Lakers.

“The night before our prelim game, the guys were making plans to go support the hockey team at their game. I heard someone say, ‘You know they’re gonna be there for us tomorrow night, we should be there for them.’ That’s how it is here,” Coach Yorkey said. “The fans were awesome, and from what I understand many fans, players, and coaches from other schools (other than Morse) were cheering for us too.”

 

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