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PORTLAND—For 26 minutes, the improbable seemed possible.
Greely’s girls’ basketball team wasn’t just going toe-to-toe with recent nemesis Lake Region in a Western Class B semifinal round game at the Cumberland County Civic Center, the Rangers’ staunch defense and opportunistic offense produced a 27-23 lead.
If only the game had ended there.
Unfortunately for fourth-seeded Greely, six minutes remained and the top-ranked, two-time defending regional champion Lakers weren’t about to be denied.
Lake Region got back-to-back 3-pointers to take the lead and after the Rangers pulled even on a runner from freshman Molly Chapin, the Lakers went on a 9-0 run to seize control.
While Greely fought hard until the final buzzer, it couldn’t put the ball in the basket and Lake Region, which closed on a 20-5 run, went on to a 43-32 victory.
The Rangers got 10 points from junior standout Ashley Storey, eight from Chapin and held Lakers senior star Tiana-Jo Carter in check, but their season ended at 15-5 as Lake Region improved to 19-1 and advanced to face No. 2 Wells (18-2) in the Western B Final Saturday at 2 p.m., in Portland.
“I’m proud of the kids,” said Greely coach Joel Rogers. “They did a good job. Every year our goal is to get to the semifinals, because eventually we’ll push through.”
Greely produced its 18th straight winning record and made the playoffs for the 19th year in a row after another solid campaign.
Greely lost to Lake Region in the 2012 regional final (49-30), last year’s semifinal, 42-27, and fell again at Naples on Jan. 24, 52-34 (that game was close until Rogers pulled his starters late).
The teams also met in the 2001 quarterfinals (44-33 Greely), 2005 semifinals (45-42 Lake Region), 2007 semifinals (44-32 Lake Region) and the 2009 quarterfinals (39-27 Greely).
Thursday, the Rangers really made the Lakers work to advance.
Greely had to get off to a good start and the Rangers did so. You could argue that Lake Region gave them a chance to start even stronger.
Senior Blais Tardif set the tone with a 3-ball and Storey added another 3-pointer for a quick 6-0 advantage.
It took 4 minutes, 20 seconds for the Lakers to score and they finally did so when Carter scored on a putback.
After Rangers junior Haley Felkel put home a miss, Lake Region senior Jordan Turner made a jumper, but Felkel drove for a layup. Then, as time wound down in the first, Carter scored on a putback to cut Greely’s lead to 10-6.
The Rangers really should have had a larger lead.
“We had good looks and we just didn’t knock down as many shots as we hoped,” Rogers said.
In the second period, Lakers freshman Kristen Huntress got things started with a 3, but Greely freshman Moira Train answered with a 3 and Chapin hit another for a 16-9 lead, forcing Lake Region coach Paul True to call timeout with 4:02 to go in the half.
The Lakers finished the half strong, however, getting a bank shot from Carter and after senior Jordynne Copp made a contested bank shot for Greely, junior Sarah Hancock made her first 3 and sophomore Sierra Hancock added a 3 to make it an 18-17 game at halftime.
“We missed two box-outs on Tiana in the first half, otherwise it was a perfect half,” Rogers said.
The Rangers didn’t score the final 3 minutes, 10 seconds of the first half and remained cold to start the second half as Lake Region took its first lead 42 seconds in on a baseline jumper from Turner. Turner, fouled after a steal, added a free throw to make it 20-18 Lakers.
With 6:18 to go in the frame, Carter received her third foul and would sit for the balance of the period, but Greely couldn’t capitalize.
Finally, with 3:58 to go in the third quarter, Copp took a pass from Storey and made a layup to end a 7:12 drought and Lake Region’s 9-0 run, tying the score, 20-20,
Fourteen seconds later, junior Meghan VanLoan, Carter’s replacement, took a pass from Sierra Hancock, made a layup while being fouled, then hit the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play giving the Lakers a three-point lead.
“That stretch where Meg came in for Tiana was absolutely huge for us,” said True.
The Rangers would finish the quarter strong, however, as Train set up Storey for a layup and with 40.8 seconds remaining, Chapin knocked down a 3 which gave Greely a 25-23 advantage with eight minutes to go.
Early in the fourth, it looked like the Rangers might just spring the upset, but Lake Region controlled the final moments.
Carter was back on the floor to start the final stanza, but 55 seconds in, Felkel kept possession with an offensive rebound and fed Storey for a jumper in the lane which made it 27-23 Rangers.
Then, the Lakers came to life.
With 6:38 to play, Sierra Hancock buried a long 3 and that sparked the closing run.
“She was just deep,” Rogers said. “She wasn’t at the high school 3-point line, she was at the college line.”
Thirty-six seconds later, Sarah Hancock made a 3 and Lake Region was back on top, 29-27.
A runner from Chapin tied the score with 5:34 remaining, but 17 seconds later, Sierra Hancock drove for a layup which put the Lakers on top for good, 31-29.
With 4:29 left, Huntress buried a 3 and after Storey missed two free throws, Turner scored on a putback to make it 36-29 with 2:44 to play.
Huntress then stole the ball and Sarah Hancock was fouled. With 2:07 to go, Hancock made both free throws and just like that, the lead was up to nine points, 38-29.
With 1:57 left, Storey got a point back at the free throw line, ending a 9-0 Lake Region run and Greely stole the ball back, but it couldn’t draw closer as Chapin missed a shot.
Carter was fouled and went to the line and missed both attempts, but Sarah Hancock managed to snare the offensive rebound and was fouled.
With 1:03 remaining, Hancock pushed the lead to 10 with a pair of foul shots.
Storey countered with two free throws, but those would prove to be the Rangers’ final points.
After Sierra Hancock sank a free throw, Greely turned the ball over and Sierra Hancock hit a foul shot.
With 29.8 seconds to go, Sierra Hancock added one final free throw to cap the 20-5 game-ending surge and the Lakers went on to the 43-32 victory.
“We got behind, then we came back and took a lead and I still felt good,” Rogers said. “In the end, they didn’t go 17-1 because they’re a bad team. They executed their offense better than we did. We didn’t execute at all on the offensive end in the fourth quarter. That was the difference. I thought we were a 50-point team offensively, but a little bit of inexperience showed.”
The Rangers held Carter, a Miss Maine Basketball semifinalist, to six points, nine rebounds and four blocks,
“If you were going to tell me we were going to hold Tiana to under 10 points and 10 rebounds, I’d have liked our chances,” said Rogers. “She’s a great kid, a great ambassador for the conference.”
It proved to be the Hancocks who proved fatal to Greely’s upset hopes.
Sierra Hancock had 11 points, while Sarah Hancock added 10 (to go with three assists, three rebounds and a steal).
Turner (five rebounds and four steals) added seven points, Huntress finished with six and VanLoan had three.
The Lakers made just 9 of 17 free throws, but turned the ball over only 11 times (just five after the first period).
“(Greely was) a familiar foe,” said True. “York, Greely, Wells, we all know each other pretty well. Greely’s a great team. I felt if we started to play with confidence and believed in ourselves and our abilities, I thought we’d be fine. Their size concerned me. Their ability to penetrate into bigs was a concern. Shot selection and rebounding was also a major concern.”
Lake Region will have its hands full against Wells Saturday. Way back on Dec. 18, the Lakers fell at the Warriors, 44-36, in the teams’ lone regular season meeting.
“I’m very excited about it and I know the kids are as well,” True said. “It’s two teams that know each other and will give it all they’ve got. Wells is a great team, senior laden. I have a lot of respect for Coach (Don) Abbott. We’ll be here and we’ll give it our best shot.”
“The two best teams in the regular season are playing in the championship and I’m proud of them,” Rogers said.
Storey led the Rangers with 10 points and nine rebounds. Chapin impressed in her first game at the Civic Center, scoring eight points. Copp and Felkel (five rebounds and a steal) both had four points, while Tardif and Train added three apiece.
Greely had a 31-28 rebounding advantage, turned the ball over 15 times and made 3 of 8 free throws.
“We’ll keep knocking on the door,” Rogers said. “I have a lot of talent coming back. We’ll be back next year and the whole conference will take a breath with Tiana gone. I really look forward to next year. I have two tremendous freshman and we have Ashley, Sarah and Haley coming back.”
G- 10 8 7 7- 32
LR-6 11 6 20- 43
G- Storey 3-3-10, Chapin 3-0-8, Copp 2-0-4, Felkel 2-0-4, Tardif 1-0-3, Train 1-0-3
LR- Si. Hancock 3-3-11, Sa. Hancock 2-4-10, Turner 3-1-7, Carter 3-0-6, Huntress 2-0-6, VanLoan 1-1-3
G (5) Chapin 2, Storey, Tardif, Train 1
LR (6) Sa. Hancock, Si. Hancock, Huntress 2