The Lakers were relatively young despite championship aspirations. They’d graduated experience, talent and leadership from a regional title team.

On Saturday, by necessity, Rangeley had to look within to win its fourth state championship.

“I think they knew that there was nobody else to look for,” Rangeley coach Heidi Deery said. “They had to look at themselves. We’ve talked about that the whole year. At the beginning of the season, we kept looking for Taylor (Esty) and Seve (Deery-DeRaps) and everybody. I think they made the adjustment to realize that this was their time.

“Their heads didn’t swell. They didn’t become somebody else. They stayed true to themselves and to our program, believing that as a team, we’ll get it done.”

With Shead chipping away at the lead and the Lakers struggling to hold the momentum, the Lakers went over eight minutes without a field goal in the second half. Rangeley watched Shead get within three points in the final quarter. But when the Lakers needed it most, Rangeley had two seniors — and only two seniors — to finish the job.

Blayke Morin scored on a crucial rebound and Maddison Egan drilled two clutch free throws to pad the lead and help the Lakers secure a 28-22 win over Shead at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday.

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Rangeley last won the state title in 2004. Seniors like Egan and Morin were in elementary school.

“We were in kindergarten and I remember getting T-shirts and the whole school celebrating,” Egan  said. “It was crazy. Today, having all our fans here, means so much for us.”

Morin doesn’t remember the last championship game but recalls the celebration and the atmosphere. She got to enjoy it first-handy, carrying the coveted Gold Ball to the locker room.

“This this is heavy” Morin said, holding a bouquet of flowers in her other hand. “I never realized how different it is from a plaque. I’ve got everything in my hands and people are trying to hug me.

“I’m speechless. It’s amazing to see everyone here and have it take 30 minutes to get back to the locker room. That’s probably the best part of it .”

Morin finished with a game-high 10 points and 20 rebounds. Egan added seven points, all in the second half, while Sydney Royce chipped in six for the Lakers (21-1). Shead, of Eastport, got 10 from Holly Preston and eight from Cierra Seeley.

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The Tigers (15-7) were down by double digits in the third quarter but slowly inched their way back to get within three in the fourth. Shead was able to turn the game into a halfcourt affair and the Lakers struggled late to get the offense going.

“As Shead made that run, we didn’t let them get over the hump” said Deery, who won a state title as a player and now has three as a coach.

Rangeley went over eight minutes without a field goal and the Lakers only had one field goal in the final quarter, but it was enough for the Lakers to fend off the Shead comeback.

“Our offense sputtered,” Deery said. “We prepared for them to pack it in on us, but the reality of being that patient was difficult at times. I felt that they stayed coachable. I didn’t see the fear in anybody’s eyes. They just wanted me to bring them along. I just think because of their attitude we were able to weather the storm.”

Rangeley got a drive by Royce with 3:58 left in the third that put them up 23-13. Shead closed out the quarter with six straight points. Seeley scored on a rebound. Preston took one to the hole and Cassidy Wilder scored on a rebound. That made it 23-19 entering the final quarter.

Shead opened the fourth with a free throw by Preston that cut the lead to 23-20. Rangeley was struggling to find the offense against the Tigers’ zone. The Lakers had shot 3-for-11 in the third and 1-for-7 in the fourth and had turned the ball over nearly a dozen times in the second half.

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With 3:19 left in the game, Morin grabbed a rebound and put it back in. That made it 25-20 and gave the Lakers a much-needed cushion.

“I think that was the only basket I had the whole second half,” Morin said. “I knew we hadn’t had a shot for a long time. We called timeout and tried something else when it wasn’t working. We knew our defense was solid. Once I got that rebound I knew we were OK. We knew that we still had this.”

Shead, which shot 0-for-10 in the final quarter from the floor, got two free throws from Preston with 2:20 left. That got the Tigers within 25-22. From there, Rangeley was going to try to secure it from the line, and Egan helped do just that. Egan was fouled with 55 seconds left and swished them both.

“I was really nervous” Egan said. “Heidi tells us every practice that free throws win games, and they did today.”

Rangeley added a Natasha Haley free throw at the end to seal it.

The Lakers were surrounded by Lakers fans and even had former players — in full uniform — there to support them.

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“All the kids in this program for 22 years that haven’t obtained a Gold Ball, this is for them,” Deery said. “So many kids helped us get there that didn’t realize this. They know the work that they’ve put in. They know how demanding being part of this program is. Some kids can’t do it. I’m just so proud of how these ladies have represented our program.”

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