AUGUSTA — Live in the moment.
That's how Heidi Deery wants her team to play in Saturday's Western D championship game at the Augusta Civic Center.
Her Rangeley Lakers have a rematch with the defending champions from Richmond. Though the teams split in the regular season, the Bobcats won the last regional final against Rangeley.
But Deery doesn't want her team dwelling on the past. Whether it is what happened last year, last quarter or just two seconds ago, she wants her team focused on the here and now.
"It's about mentally being in the game and not letting things like fouls and missed shots or other things effect you in the next few possessions," said Deery, whose team is in the regional final for the sixth time in the past eight years — with losses in the previous five. "You have to let it go and play in the present and be there."
If there's one thing that has plagued her Lakers in recent years, Deery said, is that mentally her team has struggled to deal with emotional highs and lows in the crucial situations. So it has become a focus for the team this year.
"We've been talking about the mental part of the game," Deery said. "Games when we have not played our game, I felt like it was more mental than anything else. And I'm talking about the last few years."
That will be critical against the Bobcats on Saturday. In Rangeley's only regular-season loss, the Lakers looked unprepared for a Richmond team on its home court. The Bobcats started strong, and Rangeley did not.
After 11 turnovers and a 2-for-8 shooting first quarter, the Lakers were behind 15-7. Rangeley came to life in the second half but the deficit was too great in a 50-37 loss.
"The second game, our intensity was lacking and that hurt us," sophomore guard Seve Deery-DeRaps said.
Richmond's Jaime Plummer led the Bobcats (16-3) with 25 points, while fellow senior Alyssa Pearson had 10. Rangeley (19-1) got 13 from Blayke Morin and 11 from Tori Letarte.
In the first meeting, Rangeley won in overtime, 56-54. Morin led the Lakers with 16 points and 14 rebounds while Taylor Esty had crucial free throws down the stretch to force overtime. Plummer had 29 for Richmond.
"The first one, it was our first game of the season," Deery-DeRaps said. "We were ready to go. We came out with intensity and had intensity the whole game."
The Lakers have won 12 in a row since the regular season loss to Richmond, and Rangeley is anxious to show the Bobcats they can play better than their last meeting.
"We're both evenly-matched," senior guard Abby Abbott said. "They have their big girls inside and we have our big girls. I think it comes down to which team wants it more and who's going to be more intense and motivated."
Richmond is a seasoned team with back-to-back regional titles. The Bobcats have a group of seven seniors that has gone 62-8 in the past four regular seasons. Rangeley, meanwhile, has just two seniors, Abby Abbott and her sister Jenney, who is out with a knee injury.
"I want to be out there so bad, but I'm proud of them," Jenney Abbott said. "They're doing awesome. They're really stepping up for me."
The Lakers have been playing some of their best ball of the season and they hope that growth shows Saturday.
"Communication is something we've been focusing on all year," Jenney Abbott said. "I think that's definitely going to be key."
Rangeley's last regional final win was in 2004, when the Lakers were ranked No. 1. Rangeley has three state titles and six regional crowns when being the top seed.
It very well could be a nail-biter kind of game, much like the overtime thriller to start the regular season. Deery said she thinks her team is better prepared for such a scenario.
"I think mentally we're going to be in a different place than we have been," she said. "I hope that's going to be really exciting for us."