From the beginning of the season, the Rangeley girls’ basketball team lived with the “team-to-beat” status.

With much of its team back from last year and plenty of talent and tourney experience, the Lakers were expected not only to be the top team in the East-West Conference, but the favorites to win it all in Western D.

Rangeley lived that life of the favorite — and lived up to it. The Lakers won the regional title and now face defending Class D state champion Washburn.

After being the heavy favorite all year, Rangeley is now an underdog against Washburn.

“We certainly don’t have the history that they have,” Rangeley coach Heidi Deery said. “In Western Maine, we certainly have been the team for a couple of years. We’re really excited about winning a championship and we don’t want it to stop with a regional championship. They have things that we have to contend with with us and we’re going to have things we need to contend with with them. It should make for a very exciting and interesting game.”

Washburn has the chance to make history. The Beavers are tied with several teams with four consecutive state titles. A fifth Gold Ball in a row would separate them from the rest. They’ve been a dominant force in Class D and have a talented and veteran group that beat most foes handily this season. They make for an intimidating opponent, especially in Bangor at the Cross Insurance Center.


“I think there’s a lot more pressure on them,” Deery said. “People expect them to win. In the state championship that I played in and the ones that I coached in and won, we were never picked to win. We were always the underdogs. I think when you talk Class D girls and you talk about Eastern and Western Maine, the Western Maine teams are never picked to win.

“I don’t think that’s anything we’re not aware of and that we’re not talking about. Eastern Maine Class D girls have dominated. All we want to do is be aware of that and be respectful of it. They’ve earned it, but it doesn’t have to influence Saturday. We have to influence Saturday with the way we’re going to play and the way we’re going to think on the court. That’s going to influence whether Eastern Maine continues to dominate or if they don’t.”

Washburn has won four consecutive state titles by an average of nearly 30 points, beating Richmond three years in a row and Forest Hills last year. Seniors Joan Overman and Mackenzie Worcester are the only starters back from last year’s team that featured a senior class that went 84-5 during their career.

Though not as experienced as past teams, the Beavers are still a strong team. Washburn plays a fast-paced game with a swarming defense. They like to run and take advantage of mistakes. The Beavers were down by 11 points in the second quarter against Fort Fairfield but took the game over to remain 21-0.

“They play both man and zone,” Deery said. “So we’ve prepared for both. They like to press. That’s where they like to have success and rattle teams with scoring bursts. We’ve talked about that. We know that is what they want to do. We have to be prepared for that to happen. We’ve got to stay mentally strong and persevere.”

Eastern Maine teams have also dominated the state games over the past decade. A Western Maine team hasn’t won the Class D state title since Rangeley did it in 2004, beating Lee. Since Buckfield won in 1990, only four other Western D teams have won the state game – Rangeley (1993, 2004), Forest Hills (1997) and Waynflete (2003).


Winning games by an average of 45 points has given the Lakers plenty of easy victories. It wasn’t until Searsport came with a defensive game in the Western D semifinal that the Lakers were truly challenged. Rangeley turned the ball over and sputtered offensively.

Deery says the team will have to have success on the boards with its size and avoid turning the ball over. 

“We both have things that we want to do to be successful,” Deery said. “The team that does that more often than not is going to be the team that ends up taking home the Gold Ball. We plan on executing our game plan. They’re the four-time defending state champs. In my opinion, the pressure’s all on them. Any team can be beaten on any given day and we plan on doing that.”

Rangeley practiced at the Cross Insurance Center on Tuesday for a two-hour session. It gave the Lakers the chance to check the place out and get comfortable with the court and surroundings.

“They had a great practice,” Deery said. “They had a lot of energy. They had some great shooting. I think it’s going to be a blast on Saturday. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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