AUGUSTA — The wake-up call for the Rangeley Lakers came about midway through the third quarter Monday morning.
The second-seeded Lakers had yet to be able to shake seventh-ranked Vinalhaven. When the Vikings cut the lead to just three points in the third, Rangeley finally awoke and responded.
"That's what it took," said Rangeley coach Heidi Deery. "Like most teams, our offense is often sparked by our defense. Usually, when we play good defense, good things happen for us offensively."
Rangeley buckled down defensively and got its offense going. The Lakers used a run to open the lead late in the third and then broke the game open in the fourth for a 52-37 win in their Western D quarterfinal.
The Lakers advance to Thursday's semifinal round to play Valley.
"I think (our defense) definitely helped spark us," junior forward Chantal Carrier said. "Everybody was talking. Everybody was playing defense together. It definitely helped."
Carrier led the Lakers with 27 points. She had nine in the first quarter and 10 in the fourth. Emily Carrier added 10 while Jenney Abbott chipped in seven.
"She's been the force for us all year," said Deery of Chantal Carrier. "She always come to play. Often in games like that when everyone is a little tight, you need someone that is willing to go to the hoop."
Vinalhaven got 13 from Ashley Hamilton off the bench. Alex Slivinsky chipped in eight.
"I told the girls when we drew Vinalhaven that regular season is regular season," said Deery, whose team swept the Vikings 54-24 and 59-30 in the regular season. "If it didn't matter, we wouldn't be playing. I knew they'd make adjustments. They're well-coached, and they're a hard working team. I really take my hat off to Vinalhaven. They came and played hard."
The Vikings didn't play the zone that Rangeley faced in the regular season, and the Lakers weren't able to utilize its press to great benefit. Vinalhaven didn't shoot the ball well at times and had 25 turnovers, but Rangeley struggled just as much. The Lakers had the same number of turnovers and struggled at times offensively after starting the game 5-for-9 from the floor.
"I think we were just a little jittery at first and working independently, which is not going to work for us," said Deery. "We have to work together. Once we got into it a little bit defensively, then things started to turn around for us."
Chantal Carrier had nine of her team's 11 points in the first quarter and helped stake the Lakers out to the 11-6 lead. Vinalhaven shot just 3-for-14 in the first. The Vikings also shot just 3-for-11 in the second and had 10 turnovers, but Rangeley missed its first five shots and finished 2-for-11. It wasn't until a pair of free throws by Chantal Carrier, a corner jumper by Sierra Machacos and a basket by Emily Carrier that Rangeley finished the half with a 6-2 run and a 21-14 lead. Machacos' field goal was Rangeley's first in the quarter with 3:45 left in the half.
"I think it was a lot of nerves at first," said Carrier. "Then we just settled down and just played."
The Vikings (8-8) trimmed the lead in the third. Rangeley (16-3) was still struggling to score from the floor. A 6-2 run for the Vikings made it 23-20. Then after two Chantal Carrier free throws, Hamilton hit a jumper with 3:28 left to make it 25-22.
Rangeley answered with its first field goal of the quarter, a Chantal Carrier rebound. Then she followed that with a steal and basket, and Machacos hit a jumper. Emily Carrier added a late hoop for a 33-24 lead after three.
"We knew it was going to happen," said Carrier of the Vinalhaven run. "We just had to be prepared for it."
Both teams started the fourth by hitting five of their first six shots. The Vikings, however, shot just 1-for-9 the rest of the way. The Lakers shot 6-for-10 in the fourth and added seven free throws. Chantal Carrier led the charge with 10 of her teams first 12 points in the quarter.