Raider girls cement playoff spot with win over Lakers

HAND ON THE BALL — Fryeburg Academy guard Merys Carty blocks a shot by Lake Region's Liz Smith. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — During Coreen (Hennessey) Eccleston’s four-year basketball career, she and her Raider teammates beat rival Lake Region once.

Once in four years! It was at home in my senior year. It was a huge win and it meant a lot to us,” the second-year Raider coach said. “Just the words, Lake Region, gets in their heads. To get a win tonight, knowing how hard it has been to beat them because Coach True is a great coach, felt so good.”

In a game carrying major playoff implications, the Raiders used a swarming defense and balanced scoring to capture a 40-29 victory over the Lakers Tuesday night at Wadsworth Arena.

The win propelled the Raiders (4-13) past Brunswick into the #8 slot in the Class A South Heals, and a likely spot in the playoffs.

Fryeburg closes out the regular season against top-ranked Greely (17-0) today, Thursday, at 6:30 p.m.

The loss puts the Lakers (6-11) in a must-win situation tonight, Thursday, when they host fifth-ranked Yarmouth (10-6) at 7 p.m. in the regular season finale (Senior Night). The Lakers trail Maranacook by just under two tourney points for the final playoff seed in Class B South. Winslow helped the Lakers by blowing out the Black Bears Tuesday. The Bears close the season against Waterville, which they lost to by double-digits the last time the two met.

So, the door is still slightly open for the Lakers, but not by much, especially if they are unable to generate more offense than they did against the Raiders, who held Coach True’s club to just 8 total points in the middle quarters.

“We were really focusing on our defense, because that has been our strength. We knew we had to shut down 12 (Shauna Hancock) and 24 (Brooke Harriman). That was our game plan, and our girls followed through with it,” Coach Eccleston said. “We brought pressure full and half court because we didn’t want them to see the whole court. We wanted to double whenever we could, and I don’t think they (LR) liked that.”

The Lakers were unable to find a rhythm early on as the FA pressure caused nine turnovers. Yet, a Hancock 3-pointer and a strong move to the rim by Liz Smith put the Lakers up 7-2.

The Raiders rallied as Tina LeBlanc (8 points) converted on an aggressive take in the paint, and Kaylee Emery (8 points) had FA Nation rocking in the stands when she swished a 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 7-7.

“That’s the type of team we are, we need for everyone to contribute. We don’t have a star offensive player to carry us. We tell the players that they are all scorers, and they all need to look for shots. I think making some early shots really gave them confidence tonight,” Coach Eccleston said. “Kaylee’s (Emery) shot really got everyone fired up. It was huge.”

It proved to be a spark. Brooke Emery and Merys Carty each connected on open jumpers, and Kaylee Emery scored off a quick slash to the hoop to put the Raiders up 13-7. With the Lakers converting just 1-of-12 shots and 1-of-4 free throws, the Raiders built a 19-10 halftime lead with a 6-1 surge to close out the period. LeBlanc sank a pair of foul shots and split the LR defense for a hoop.

“At halftime, we talked about taking care of the ball even more and not rushing things on offense. We stressed about continuing to play the style of defense that we played in the first half for another 16 minutes. They did that,” Coach Eccleston said.

FA guard Kayrin Johnson kept the Raiders rolling knocking down a 3-pointer to open the third quarter, pushing the lead to 12.

Lake Region made a run as Liz Smith scored inside, Brooke Harriman made a foul shot, and Bella Russo connected on two more foul shots to trim the deficit to 22-15 with 3:15 left in the period.

There was no panic in the Raiders, who turned the ball over just twice in the third quarter. Instead, the Raiders relied on good ball movement to break LR pressure, resulting in Johnson scoring a layup on a quick pass by LeBlanc, Sierra Lyman netted a bucket out on a fastbreak, and Maddie Darling closed the quarter with a strong baseline drive to put the Raiders up 29-15.

“We have been stressing to make easier passes. They did that well today. They didn’t need to rush. We looked to wear them down, and not rush our shots. We wanted to make them work,” Coach Eccleston said. “We kept bringing people in and out of the game because what we want to do, you need for players to have fresh legs.”

The Lakers had trouble finding offense, shooting just 1-of-14 from the field, missing several inside shots and managing just three foul shots.

There would be no Laker rally in the fourth as FA forced eight turnovers while LR was 1-of-8 from the field. Lyman iced the victory with a nice pass in the middle of the paint to River Lusky, whose short flip shot scored, then Brooke Emery again found Lyman on a fastbreak layup with 3:40 to make it 36-17. Lyman (9 points) scored off her own miss as FA completed a 9-2 run.

The Lakers cut the final margin to 11 as Hancock scored six points, including a nice bank shot off the glass after splitting two defenders, and Harriman dropped two 3-pointers. 12 points in 2 minutes, 30 seconds — nearly the same offensive output the Lakers had over the first 24 minutes (15 points).

“Playing Freeport really well gave us confidence, plus we shot better today, better than we normally do,” Coach Eccleston added. “They’ve worked very hard and its coming together. We did a good job communicating, especially when we made switches. It’s brought us closer as a team because they need to rely upon each other to make it work.”

Coach Eccleston was very proud of how her club came through in the clutch against an old nemesis.

“They (the Raiders) knew this was a big one. There was a lot of pressure, but the girls were up to it. They knew what was on the line, and we had more experience than in past years,” Coach Eccleston said. “I think having more fans here helped.”

The win also showed how far the Raiders have come since their 19-point drubbing at the hands of the Lakers in late December.

“You want to see your team improve,” Coach Eccleston added. “We showed that tonight.”

Stat Lines

Turnovers: LR 27, FA 17

Free Throws: LR 6-14, FA 6-13

Field Goals: LR 10-45, FA 16-45

Rebounds: LR 33, FA 21

LR top rebounders: Elle Hall 7, Nevaeh Stewart 6, Brooke Harriman 5, Bella Russo 4.

FA top rebounders: Kaylee Emery 5, Sierra Lyman 4, Maddie Darling 4.

LR scorers: Shauna Hancock 11, Brooke Harriman 9, Liz Smith 4, Elle Hall 3, Bella Russo 2.

FA scorers: Sierra Lyman 9, Tina LeBlanc 8, Kaylee Emery 8, Kayrin Johnson 5, Merys Carty 4, Maddie Darling 2, Brooke Emery 2, River Lusky 2.

3-Pointers: LR, Hancock, Harriman (2); FA, K. Emery, Johnson.

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