PORTLAND – Lake Region High School nearly pulled off one of the improbable comebacks in girls’ basketball state championship history Saturday afternoon.

Instead, the Lakers lost in the Class B final for the second straight year, this time to Waterville, 52-51, in overtime at Cumberland County Civic Center.

With Lake Region trailing by four points and only nine seconds remaining in regulation, senior Courtney McClean stole the ball, drew a foul in the act of shooting and sank the first of two free throws. McClean rebounded her own miss for a lay-up and a one-point deficit with 3.2 seconds remaining.

Lake Region quickly fouled Paige Gardiner, who missed both of her free throws, including an air ball to keep the clock from starting after the second. The Lakers rifled a long inbounds pass to Renee Nicholas in the half court and called time out with 1.7 seconds left to design the possible game-winner, but Christina Ricci’s 15-footer from the right wing missed long at the horn.

“Even when we were down by four, we were in the huddle saying we’re not going to stop fighting until the horn sounds,” said Lake Region coach Paul True. “The kids have done that all season long.”

Neither team led by more than seven points in a game of frequent turnover exchanges and momentum swings and plenty of late drama.

Waterville (22-0) had an obvious hero in Morgan Frame, a 5-foot-11 sophomore who erupted for 23 points, 22 rebounds and five steals. Freshman reserve Jennifer Nale hit the shot of the game, however, delivering her only basket with 43 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.

“That was a ton of pressure, but there was no doubt in my mind she could handle it,” sophomore Stephanie Whitten said of Nale. “We had all the faith in the world in her.”

Whitten added 12 points for the Purple Panthers, including six free throws in the fourth period and OT.

Nicholas led the Lakers (19-3) with 15 points, five steals and four assists. McClean battled a recurring ankle injury to finish with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Kim Rivet chipped in nine points, including the first seven of the game.

Waterville wouldn’t go away, answering with 10 straight points of its own. The Purple Panthers trailed by five at 30-25 in the third period and led by five at 39-34 with six minutes left in the fourth. It was that kind of afternoon, with the teams combining for 51 turnovers.

“I just told them at the start of the game that it was going to take more than seven points to beat us,” said Waterville coach Ted Rioux.

Lake Region last won the state title in the inaugural Maine Principals’ Association girls’ tournament of 1975. Presque Isle defeated Lake Region in last year’s final, 48-36. Waterville’s only previous appearance in the state game was a 1985 Class A loss to Portland.

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