With Rangeley giving Buckfield all it could handle, the Bucks had no choice but to try and outwit, outplay and outlast the Lakers in a thrilling 47-45 win.

“We learned to win a game tonight,” Buckfield coach Mark Thurlow said. “We didn’t down at Pine Tree. We lost down there. We were 38-38 going into the fourth quarter, and they outscored us 13-9. We held our lead tonight. We might have blown the lead. We were outscored 15-10 in the fourth quarter, but we won.”

The Bucks were up by as many as 12 points in the fourth, but the Lakers played with some urgency down the stretch. The Lakers used a 12-2 run to get within 44-42 in the final minute. The Bucks, having lost three regulars to fouls, still held on.

“The kids didn’t quit,” Rangeley coach Jeff LaRochelle said. “I’m proud of them for that. That’s happened in the past. Being young, it’s easy to say, ‘Here we go again.’ We’ve had games where we were down and we came back. So it was another example of that. I’m happy that we made a game of it. We were almost there.”

Alec Brough led the Bucks with 15 points. Ethan Jackson added 11, including a pair of key free throws in the final minute to extend the lead. Rangeley got 15 points from Ricky Thompson and 11 from Carl Trafton.

“I thought Alec did a good job getting us scores,” Thurlow said. “We did a good job of getting him the ball. He’s one of our most improved players.”

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The Bucks (4-3) took a 37-30 lead into the fourth quarter. A free throw from Zack Grover and a fast break basket by Jackson made it 42-30. It was the largest lead of the game for the Bucks, but the Lakers quickly turned the tide. 

A basket by Trafton sparked the fourth quarter surge. After a free throw by Noah Wiley, Trafton hit two from the line, and Thompson scored in the post to cut it to 43-36 with 1:48 left.

After a free throw by Jake Hackett, Devon Clark drilled a 3-pointer. Rangeley (2-4) kept charging and Thompson converted a three-point play with 45 seconds left to make it 44-42.

Buckfield, which has won three consecutive games, lost Aaron Rowe, Jake Kraske and Jackson to fouls in the final quarter.

Jackson hit a pair of free throws down the stretch to extend the lead to 46-42. Hunter Wiley added one from the line with 20 seconds left for a 47-42 lead.

Still, Rangeley wasn’t done. After a Clark free throw, Thompson got an offensive rebound and scored with one second left to make it 47-45. Buckfield successfully inbounded the ball to seal the victory.

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“I just told them to keep their heads,” Thurlow said. “They had to make free throws. I told them we had to be strong with the basketball. You don’t know how many fouls are going to be called. We knew we were going to be shooting two if we got fouled. So we had to hold onto the basketball.”

The Bucks built the lead in the second quarter, turning a 13-13 game into a 27-20 lead at the half. The Bucks opened the second with six straight points. Jackson, Brough and Hunter Wiley all scored to make it 19-13.

Rangeley got a basket by Thompson and free throws from Callahan Crosby, but Brough answered on a fast break. Then Jackson drove for a basket and produced a three-point play during a 7-2 run that made it 26-19.

“Our halfcourt offense is a work in progress,” Thurlow said. “I don’t think we did a good job with that tonight. We didn’t go back to Alec as much in the second half.”

Rangeley was down by as many as 11 in the third but were always a momentum turn away from changing up the game. It wasn’t until the fourth that the Lakers started to make some gains on the offensive end. It proved to be just a little too late for the Rangeley rally.

“Maybe we don’t get down by 12 points to begin with and we keep it a closer game,” said LaRochelle, who has just one senior and five underclassmen. “Sometimes we’re not playing basketball, we’re always on our heels. At a certain point, they have to get on their toes and understand that they’ve done this before. They settle down and play the game. It’s about a level of comfort.”

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