Short of the goal: Lakers unable to convert in finals seconds, lose prelim to GNG
By Wayne E. Rivet
Short on the scoreboard, 57-54.
Short on just getting the ball over the rim in the final seconds.
Short of the team goal — getting a chance to play a tournament game at the Portland Expo.
One thing Lake Region wasn’t short on was heart.
As the game clock ticked under 40 seconds in Tuesday’s Class B South prelim playoff game, True Meyers and Tristen Chaine reached deep down to spring a little higher in hopes of netting a go-ahead basket.
When Meyer’s shot floated over Gray-New Gloucester’s big people Hunter Colby, Ryan Lachance and Jake Kackmeister and clanged off the front of the rim, Chaine battled and pulled away the rebound. He too fired up a short jumper, but he too came up short, dinging the front of the rim.
Three desperation 3-pointers in the final 14.2 seconds were just off the mark as the Patriots dumped the eighth-seeded Lakers 57-54.
G-NG advances to the quarterfinals against Yarmouth.
Lake Region ends their season 9-10.
“They beat us inside tonight. Their post players were bigger and stronger than our guys. That was the difference. They got extra shots because they out-muscled us for the rebound. They beat us to the 50-50 balls. We battled them, tipped it around, but it would go out of bounds on us because we couldn’t quite secure the ball. Those second or third chance points, that’s the difference,” Laker Coach John Mayo said.
Fans were treated to a hard-fought, fast-paced contest, which saw 14 lead changes and 11 treys.
The Patriots owned the largest lead of the first quarter when John Martin (11 points) sank a 3-pointer on the opening possession. The Lakers biggest lead was 8-6 on a Tyler Walker trey.
The lead bounced back-and-forth like a ping pong match. John Henry Villanueva (11 points) drained a 3-pointer for a 9-8 Patriot lead, but Meyers responded with a smooth pull-up jumper just inside the foul line to put LR back on top.
Mark Mayo (8 points, 7 rebounds) canned a pair of foul shots with 1:53 left and Walker (16 points, 11 rebounds) used his quickness to create an open space to fire a jumper in the final seconds to give the Lakers a 14-13 lead after one.
Both clubs played with precision in the second quarter, turning the ball over just twice each.
LR went up 23-20 as Douglas Mayo (9 points) swished a 3-pointer on a wide-open look created by good ball movement. The LR senior forward connected on a similar play a couple of minutes later to give the Lakers a five-point edge.
But, the lead vanished over the final 3:02 as center Hunter Colby (13 points) turned hustle on the offensive glass into points, and Villanueva drove, scored and was fouled, completing a 3-point play to tie the game. He then put the Patriots ahead 32-30 at the half on an aggressive drive to the rim.
At times in the first half, Coach Mayo was quite frustrated as the Patriots broke down the LR defense and netted uncontested 3-pointers.
“The game plan was not to let Villanueva, Martin and Rottari get open looks because they had seven of them (3-pointers) the last time we played them. That’s how they get back into games. They got some easy ones, which frustrated me,” Coach Mayo said.
Lake Region rattled off the first 7 points of the second half as Walker sank a pair of foul shots and Chaine (11 points, 7 rebounds) knocked down a trey. All season, the LR guard has snagged offensive rebounds on shear hustle amongst bigger players in the lane. He had seven rebounds for the game, five of which were off the offensive glass. His takeaway inside resulted in 2 points, and a 37-32 lead.
G-NG continued to sizzle from behind the arc as Josiah Rottari (12 points) connected from the corner to tie the game, and Martin netted a pair of treys at the midway point of the third quarter to put the Patriots on top 45-39.
Lake Region would not lead again in the game.
Like they did all season, the Lakers clawed back into the game behind aggressive defensive play. A steal by Chaine and layup with 32 seconds left closed the gap to 47-44. Mark Mayo had the gym rocking when he grabbed an offensive rebound and sank a baseline jumper at the buzzer.
The Lakers were down one, 47-46.
With both defenses tightening, the scoring slowed to a snail’s pace.
LR reserve Tyler Breton made a pair of foul shots, but Gray-NG answered with two buckets in the lane for a 53-48 lead.
Chaine answered with a layup with 2:58 left, LR down 53-50. Mayo found Meyers cutting to the hoop, and his layup made it a one-point game with 2:35 left. LR had a chance to take the lead as Walker found a seam and drove to the hoop, but his shot was blocked by Colby.
Junior guard Josiah Rottari became G-NG’s closer. With 2:01 left, he was fouled in the left corner attempting a 3-pointer. Rottari made 2-of-3 from the foul line, pushing the Pats’ lead to 55-52.
Mark Mayo answered with a pair of foul shots with 58.3 seconds left.
After Kackmeister missed the front end of a one-and-one chance, the Lakers were in prime position to take a lead, but came up short on shots in the lane. Meyers ran out of real estate tracking down the loose ball, which went out of bounds in the left corner.
The Patriots successfully put the ball in Rottari’s hands, forcing the Lakers to foul with 17.6 seconds left. Rottari made both foul shots, but LR still had life, only down 57-54.
Walker and Chaine — both players logged all 32 minutes — each gave their best shot at treys, but the rim proved unkind.
LR caught a break with 2.8 seconds left when Kackmeister was whistled for traveling after hauling down the rebound.
With one last chance, the Lakers went to Walker — who had delivered clutch shots as a contributing player on last year’s championship team.
“Tyler is the leader. He’s done it for us to get us here. He played his heart out. He’s defending everywhere. He’s going to the hoop and making shots. He’s doing everything,” Coach Mayo said. “He’s the one that deserved to take that shot.”
The shot was just off the mark.
While disappointed about failing to reach the Expo, Coach Mayo was so proud of how his club developed and proved a lot of people wrong.
“Lack of varsity experience hurt us, at times. A lot of our guys had to wait to get varsity experience because of the success and depth we had last year. The price of our success last year was that some of these guys didn’t get meaningful varsity experience, so when it came to the big moment, they weren’t quite ready for it,” Coach Mayo said. “Up five, we threw the ball off the door or across the gym. We bumped them a little bit on a layup, and they get a ‘and one.’ Those little things that make the difference.”
He added, “It was a great season. I think there were a lot of people out there who probably thought this was a 4-and-14 team (after graduating so many seniors). We played pretty darn good defense. We gave up a few more points tonight than we would have liked because they hit some threes. If you can keep it in the 50s, you have a shot to win. Hopefully, all the expectations that the seniors brought this year will carry forward with the guys that are coming back and the guys that were sitting waiting for their chance.”
Turnovers: LR 10, GNG 13
Free throws: LR 11-14, GNG 7-11
Other LR scorers: True Meyers 8, Tyler Breton 2.