Rangeley’s Natasha Haley pressures Temple’s Sarah Derosiers during their Class D tournament game in Augusta on Thursday. Rangeley’s Ellah Smith is at right. (David Leaming/Kennebec Journal)
AUGUSTA — With a lineup that included a couple of eighth-graders and a sophomore on the floor at the same time, ,it’s understandable that the Rangeley girls basketball team hit the panic button a few times during its semifinal matchup against Temple on Thursday morning.
Natasha Haley, the team’s lone senior, helped calm some of those tourney jitters and turn the game in her team’s favor.
“If they make a mistake, just like making sure I go over to them and pat them on the back or give them a high-five ‘you got it, you’re fine,’” Haley said. “The most important thing is it’s my job to keep them focused.”
Haley did that and more, scoring a game-high 24 points — that included 14 of 16 free throws — to lead the Lakers to a 51-46 victory.
Second-seeded Rangeley (18-2) will face top-seed Vinalhaven (20-0) for the Class D South regional title at 1 p.m. Saturday, also at the Augusta Civic Center. No. 3 Temple finished 12-8.
Rangeley defeated Temple twice during the regular season, a midseason blowout but the other by just seven points.
“We play as a team,” Temple coach Joe Rossignol said. “Our bench is deep. Every girl that goes in, we don’t lose too much.”
Sophomore Deleyni Carr and senior Selam Heinrich led the Bereans with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Heinrich’s layup with 3:29 left to play gave Temple a 43-42 lead, its last of the game. Haley took over from there, scoring seven of her team’s final nine points, beginning with a pair of layups.
Olivia Baker scored a layup with just over two minutes left to play to cut the lead to two, 47-45, then Rangeley coach Heidi Deery elected to spread the floor.
“I really wanted to pull it out and see if they would over play, then we could go back door,” Deery said. “But I had two eighth-graders on the floor and sometimes things don’t go exactly the way you design them.”
One of those eighth-graders, Winnie LaRochelle, scored five points in the final quarter and helped seal the win with a free throw with 34 seconds left. Haley tied the Class D tournament record with 14 free throws, a skill she practices often.
“(I) usually (take) 40 to 50 a day,” she said.
Added Deery: “She’s confident. She’s a senior. She wants this to happen. She wants to get us as far as she possibly can. She’s a great kid to coach.”
The Bereans got off to a great start as Carr opened with a three-point play, and she and Heinrich followed with 3-pointers to give them a 9-2 lead. The Lakers answered with an 18-2 run fueled by Haley and eighth-grader Emily Eastlack.
Back and forth it went with the Bereans forcing turnovers with their full-court pressure — the Lakers committed 25 in all — but it came at a price in the form of fouls.
“They’re both aggressive teams so the fouls go up pretty quickly,” Rossignol said. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight because they play very similar to how we play.”
The Bereans led 36-31 entering the fourth quarter but tallied just two baskets over the next four minutes as the Lakers and Haley chipped away at the lead. Haley added eight rebounds while LaRochelle added six.
Temple’s Deleyni Carr dribbles past Rangeley’s Brooke Egan during their Class D tournament game in Augusta on Thursday. (David Leaming/Kennebec Journal)Rangeley’s Natasha Haley and Temple’s Daphne Labbe crash to floor during their Class D tournament game in Augusta on Thursday. (David Leaming/Kennebec Journal)Rangeley head coach Heidi Deery congratulates players after a win over Temple Academy during their Class D tournament game in Augusta on Thursday. (David Leaming/Kennebec Journal)Rangeley’s Brooke Egan looks to pass as Temple’s Selam Heinrich pressures during their Class D tournament game in Augusta on Thursday. (David Leaming/Kennebec Journal)