PORTLAND — They’d heard it all week. Over and over again, it was the same sound advice.
The Lake Region girls’ basketball team was told not to run with the Leavitt Hornets. They were warned about trying to outshoot them. The Lakers were told to be patient, defensive and ready to play at a snail’s pace in their Western B semfinal with the defending state champions.
Paul True and his Lakers thought otherwise. Instead of listening to all the don’ts, his team wondered what might happen if they did.
“We heard that over the past couple of days,” said True, the Lake Region coach. “We were told, ‘You can’t run with Leavitt. You can’t play at their pace.’ We just believed differently.
“We knew if they were going to press, we needed to make them pay. We’ve got some quick kids and some inside presence. That all came together tonight.”
After leading most of the game, the Hornets tied the game late in regulation. Then in true heavyweight style, the two teams threw 3-point haymakers left and right, and it was the Lakers that emerged with the 59-54 overtime win.
The Lakers advance to Saturday’s regional final to meet Greely.
In fact, the Lakers had been wanting to run all season. When they’d engage their fellow Western Maine Conference teams, most declined and slowed it down. So Leavitt provided the ultimate opportunity for the Lakers to strut their run-and-gun stuff Thursday.
“It was amazing,” said Lake Region senior guard Abby Craffey. “It was so much fun to play. With this kind of atmosphere and the game going back and forth, it was really fun to play in it.”
Craffey led the Lakers with 19 points, including five 3’s, one shy of the Western B record. Craffey put her team ahead during regulation and then hit a pair of critical 3’s in overtime to put Lake Region ahead by four.
“She’s a great shooter,” said True. “She had a great year for us. I couldn’t be more proud of her tonight. She stepped up and made some big shots when we needed them.”
Kelsey Winslow added 18 points for the Lakers (18-2). Tiana-Jo Carter added eight and was immense inside, where the Hornets struggled against Lake Region’s size.
Kristen Anderson led Leavitt (17-3) with 27 while Adrie Newton had 21. Those two combined for all of their team’s points in the final quarter and overtime.
“We’ve been in the same shoes,” said Leavitt coach Tammy Anderson. “We did the same thing with York last year (in the overtime regional final win). It’s one of those things. I tell the kids that there’s more to life than basketball. I want them to leave here with class, and I thought they held their heads high. There was not one thing to be ashamed of. It was a great game.”
Leavitt was down by as many as eight points in the third but made a run in the fourth. Lake Region missed its first six shots in the final quarter and finished just 1-for-10 from the floor.
A Newton drive got Leavitt within two with 4:33 left. Then Anderson tied it with a steal with 3:02 left. Craffey took it to the basket with 2:41 remaining for the lead, but Newton scored on her own rebound with 2:25 left to tie it at 45-45.
“We knew they would go on a run, and we’d go on a run,” said Craffey. “We just had to stay patient and keep our poise.”
Both teams had a chance to score the game-winner. Leavitt was working the ball and the clock in the final minute but threw the ball away with 41 seconds left. Lake Region had Sydney Hancock drive to the basket but the ball slipped from her hands right to Newton with 10 seconds left. Leavitt got the last shot but Anderson’s bid was short.
Lake Region took the lead in overtime on a Winslow free throw with 3:12 left. Then the fireworks began. After a defensive final quarter, both teams let it rip in overtime. Lake Region and Leavitt combined for six 3’s in a span of about two minutes.
“The pace got a little frantic,” said True. “That wasn’t a bad thing as far as we were concerned. We wanted to continue to attack the basket. I thought we got a little bit passive on offense and allowed them to climb back into the ballgame.”
Craffey hit the first 3 to make it 49-45.
“It was a big shot,” said Craffey. “Everyone knew we still had a shot, and we had to go our hardest.”
After Anderson matched that, Sarah Hancock hit a 3. Anderson drilled one to make it 52-51 with 1:44 left, but Craffey answered 10 seconds later for a 55-51 lead.
“It was a really good feeling,” said Craffey. “I hadn’t been hitting them in the last game I played in. This game, I was hitting, and it felt really good.”
The Lakers struggled at the line, missing three of their first four from the line. But Winslow sank one with 51 seconds left to make it 56-51.
Anderson hit a 3 with 32 seconds left to get within 56-54, but Winslow sank a pair from the line, and Hancock capped it off with one foul shot in the closing seconds.
“We felt pretty confident,” said Anderson. “Kristen can hit 3’s. So we didn’t fear being behind. The big thing is we got caught in a couple of screens which left people wide open. Hats off to them. They put down the shots. It was meant to be for them today.”
Lake Region took the lead early, utilizing its inside game. Winslow had 12 points in the first half while Carter had six. Carter was playing on a gimpy knee and early foul trouble, but the Lakers post play still was a challenge.
“They came out to play, and we came out and gave it everything we had,” said Anderson. “We knew we’d have matchup trouble with their size inside. We battled that all day long.”
Clark’s first 3 of the game had Lake Region up 16-9 after one quarter. The Lakers did a nice job running with the Hornets while utilizing its advantage in the post. Leavitt hit just one of its first seven shots and went 3-for-15 in the first quarter.
After being down by as many as nine in the second quarter, Leavitt cut it to four points twice on free throws by Amanda Jordan and a leaner by Anderson. Lake Region had the lead up to 24-16 and 26-19 on Carter baskets late in the second, but an Anderson 3 at the buzzer made it 27-24 at the half.
Anderson finished with five 3’s also but was hassled by Sydney Hancock for much of the game.
“She did a great job on Anderson, but we said going in that it was going to take a team to get things done and not an individual,” said True. “We did a great job tonight.”
Anderson hit back-to-back short jumpers in the third to tie the game 30-30, but Craffey answered with a pair of 3’s to open the lead again. A Clark 3 made it 40-32 before a Newton basket cut it to 40-34 entering the fourth.
Lake Region had just one field goal in the fourth and turned the ball over six times.
“I couldn’t ask for any more from the kids,” said Anderson. “Our kids fought hard to get back to that (state championship). It just wasn’t meant to be.”