BUCKFIELD — Blayke Morin knew her future.

The Rangeley senior forward was well aware of what the next stage of her basketball career might entail, but advance warning hasn’t completely smoothed the transition.

After winning a regional title last winter, Morin knew that veterans Taylor Esty and Seve Deery-DeRaps were graduating. Morin had never played for the Lakers without those two in the lineup regularly.

“It’s not like I didn’t expect it,” Morin said. “I always knew that I’d be by myself. I only have Maddie (Egan), but I knew Taylor and Seve wouldn’t be here. It’s not like it was a shocker. I knew it was coming.”

Morin and Egan are the only two seniors on the Lakers. Celia Philbrick is the only junior. The rest of the squad are underclassmen. Natasha Haley and Sidney Royce are the veterans of that group, while the rest still lack varsity seasoning. So adjusting without key components from last year has been a challenge for all.

“Even though everybody knew and we played all summer and we had a great summer, summer is summer,” Rangeley coach Heidi Deery said. “It’s like it doesn’t count. Everybody just played with wild abandon and it was awesome.”

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But when preseason practice came around, the Lakers felt the void. Esty was an inside presence who could also run the floor and create offense from various places on the court. Deery-DeRaps was a dangerous outside shooter. Both were great defenders and provided wonderful balance and worked well with Morin and the rest of the Lakers.

“We really came together as a team and realized that this wasn’t going to happen unless we counted on each other,” Deery said.

Morin said she prepared herself mentally. She knew she’d have to help pick up the slack and would be shouldering much more of the offense. Before, she could go with the flow of the game and let her opportunities come. Sometimes she spent more time feeding Esty or Deery-DeRaps than creating for herself. It was strange for her as the season began without them there.

“It was just different noticing that aspects of our game weren’t there anymore,” Morin said. “It was an okay transition.”

It has meant Morin is responsible not only for doing her share on the court but also helping those around her to elevate their game.

“It’s looking at the younger girls and seeing who you have chemistry with and who you can develop more chemistry with,” Morin said. “You want to communicate with them, and hopefully in the end, we’ll have 100 percent chemistry with the whole team.”

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Egan and Morin are the team captains. Egan has seen lesser playing time because of an injury, but Deery is counting on both to help bring this younger squad along.

“It’s been a transition for (Blayke) as well as Maddie,” Deery said. “They’ve never not played with the girls that graduated last year. You can say that every year, but I think those girls had been there and been such an integral part for so long.”

Part of the leadership process has been being patient and positive.

“Blayke and Maddie have really been leading the way as our captains being positive,” Deery said. “We have to be. We have so many younger players. We don’t want anybody getting down on themselves. That’s not going to help. You have to be accountable, but you also have to stay positive.”

Morin will have to play more of a post game than usual. She’ll be counted on to score from inside and be a force on the boards. She’s a tough matchup for a lot of smaller Class D South teams. It might mean a lesser role of being a passer on the outside, something she was able to do with the offensive balance of last year.

“I like feeding the ball,” Morin said. “Now the ball is fed to me. I still like sprinkling it around here and there because I like passing. Scoring, I had to work on my game with that, more inside than anything. I’m kind of a weaker link in there, surprisingly, because I’ve played on the outside feeding the ball inside to Taylor or outside to Seve or inside to Sidney. Now that they get the ball to me, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

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Morin just produced her most dominant game this season with a 32-point performance against Buckfield last week. It was a career-high for her. She also had 10 rebounds. The Lakers certainly would love that kind of production every night, but as the team evolves around her, Morin will be able to return to a multi-faceted role that creates just as much offense around her.

“The flow of the offense works better when that happens,” Morin said. “They have to get confident and I think they have.”

The Lakers are improving every day. Though Morin will likely be the focus of the opposition’s defensive efforts, the more the players develop around her, the more options the Lakers will have. Deery is confident that will happen. Egan, Haley and Royce are all kids that are taking on larger roles this season and showing great promise. With Morin able to play inside and outside, she can make it tough on the opposition to limit her effectiveness because she can do so many things.

“She’s fun to watch,” Deery said of Morin. “She has a ton of potential. I think there’s a lot out there for her. We’re taking on the challenge of seeing what different teams are going to do with her. Whatever they want to do, she’s up to the challenge and our team is up to the challenge.”

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