AUGUSTA – Things were going pretty well Saturday afternoon for the Rangeley Lakers – almost too well.

Rangeley had struggled in the first half of its first two playoff games before rallying in the second half. This time, the Lakers led early and held a six-point lead in the third quarter.

“I almost felt a little funny when we got the lead,” said Rangeley coach Heidi Deery, who is accustomed to her club’s typical shaky starts. “I was like, ‘can’t we just stay behind by six?’ I wondered how long we could keep that tide going.”

The foreboding feeling Deery felt came to fruition late in the third quarter.

Hyde’s outside shooting, which had been cold all game, warmed up faster than a spring day. Rangeley’s penchant for turnovers that had disappeared in the first half, suddenly re-emerged. It enabled Hyde to rally for a 53-40 victory in the Western D championship game. It is the second regional crown for the Phoenix in three years.

Second-ranked Rangeley (15-6) built a 25-19 lead early in the third quarter. The Lakers had handled Hyde’s press effectively and was exploiting the Phoenix defense, especially inside. Angela White had a superb outing for the Lakers with 22 points.

Top-seeded Hyde (17-1) struggled offensively. Rangeley forced the Phoenix to shoot from outside, and the usual sharp-shooters struggled. Hyde coach Tom Bragg issued the challenge at halftime, hoping to get a response.

“I told them that ‘If you want to give up on yourself, we’ll put you on the bench and you’re done,'” said Bragg, whose team split with Rangeley in the regular season. “The girls knew I was serious about it, and they came out in the second half with a lot of fire. Rangeley really took it to us in the first half. The second half, our girls got playing with intensity and kept moving and made plays on the ball.”

The Phoenix scored 10 straight points to take a 31-27 lead. The Lakers got within two late in the quarter, but the Phoenix increased the margin to 36-31 entering the fourth.

Eight straight points to start the fourth made it a double-digit lead.

Hyde set a new Western D record with eight 3-pointers, five after halftime. Chelsea Malen sank four, Frances Moreau had three and Gauld added one. Malen finished with 14 points while Moreau added 11. Mahalia Gauld, Stephanie Urzua and Eliza Skakel, who went down with an ankle injury late in the third but returned, each finished with eight.

Mahalia was voted the tournament’s most outstanding player.

“Chelsea, Frances and Stephanie Urzua were feeling more confident in their shot, and they started to fall for us,” said Bragg. “When Eliza went down, they needed to pull together and regroup because Eliza wasn’t going to be in the middle. They really did regroup and pull themselves together and came out with a lot of intensity after that injury.”

Rangeley was plagued by missed shots, missed rebounds and turnovers. When Hyde began to roll, the Lakers could not halt the momentum. Rangeley had 15 turnovers in the second half and shot just 9-for-25. The Phoenix hit five of its first six shots in the fourth.

“They’re the type of team that can go on an eight-point run in a matter of a minute,” said Deery. “We’re not the type of explosive team that can bring it back like that.”

It was a Skakel rebound that chipped into the Rangeley lead in the third. Gauld followed with a three-point play on a fast break. Malen followed with a 3-pointer and Urzua scored on a drive to put Hyde ahead by four.

A Hayley White basket made it 31-29, but a 3-pointer by Gauld and free throws by Moreau made it 36-31 entering the fourth. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Moreau and a drive by Urzua increased the lead to 13 points.

“We got away a little from what our game plan was, and it hurt us,” said Deery. “We played hard, and we battled. I’d like to have some minutes back and change some things, but that’s the way it goes.”

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