AUGUSTA – Rangeley Lakes Regional School is probably the team of the decade in Western Class D girls’ basketball.

Why the Lakers didn’t win a fourth regional title since 2001 Saturday at Augusta Civic Center is simply a matter of mathematics, and not merely the digits on the scoreboard that proclaimed No. 1 Hyde a 53-40 winner over No. 2 Rangeley.

Let’s take inventory. Seventy-nine students attend the high school grades in Rangeley, and it’s essentially an even split between boys and girls.

Now consider that in the last two years, Rangeley coach Heidi Deery has watched 10 of her prized pupils walk out of the cozy gymnasium in which they made so many memories wearing a cap and gown instead of a green-and-gold uniform and carrying a diploma across the stage instead of driving a basketball to the hoop.

A handful of others scuttled off to college the year before that.

Anyone who doesn’t think reaching this year’s Western D title game was one of the greatest accomplishments in Rangeley’s proud hardwood history is out of their mind.

“Don’t get me wrong. I always want to win. I coach to win. But I was hoping to get to .500 this year,” said Deery, who hit the game-winning shot for Rangeley in the 1984 state final and coached the Lakers to the Gold Ball in 1993 and 2004.

“I hoped to get into a preliminary game, win that and maybe get a quarterfinal game here for the experience. For us to get here this year, with these kids, for those three sophomores that were out there today, it’s big.”

Until this week’s hard-fought run through Hebron and Richmond to a game against Hyde that the Lakers led at halftime, Rangeley was better known in casual circles for who wasn’t on the floor any longer as opposed to which players were.

Sarah Schrader, Krysteen Romero, Ashley Quimby, Justine Frost-Kolva, Rosie LaPointe and Nicole Crupi all established themselves as part of Rangeley post-season lore and moved on.

This week, the Lakers’ fate fell into new hands. They were unsteady hands, at times, but also proved capable ones. And they belong to players who are still growing and still learning the game.

Only one senior, Emily George, started Saturday’s final, and only junior Ali Godaire was among Rangeley’s first five last season.

Hyde started three seniors and two juniors, most of whom played at least a supporting role in the Phoenix winning a Western title in 2005. They also had the benefit of Thursday’s confidence-boosting overtime victory against Buckfield in the semifinals.

“I’ve played with most of these girls for at least three years. We never miss a practice,” said Hyde senior Chelsea Malen, who hit four 3-pointers Saturday on her way to 14 points. “I love every girl on this team, and I think that closeness shows on the court.”

Judging from the not-so-distant past, Rangeley will develop that sense of familiarity and trust. And the individual pieces are in place.

Sophomore Angela White (22 points against Hyde) and junior Krista Jamison (11) were two of the top offensive players in this year’s tourney. The backcourt of Godaire and Samantha Olivieri will remain intact.

All the trappings of the tournament atmosphere will become old hat, also.

“Some of these girls watched us win those games here the last two years, and now as juniors it’s them who have to do it,” Deery said. “I think at first they’re thinking, ‘Oh, shoot, now it’s me that has to step up.’ “

They didn’t get the trophy they wanted to show for it, but in hanging tough with a heavy favorite Saturday, those learning-on-the-fly Lakers didn’t merely step up. They made a giant leap.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.