Rangeley’s Winnie LaRochelle drives to the basket guarded by Buckfield’s Karen McNeil during a game in Buckfield on Saturday. Brewster Burns photo

BUCKFIELD — Rangeley embraced the “playoff atmosphere” on Saturday afternoon at Buckfield High School and used that to its advantage. 

The Lakers played a complete game, especially in the first half, and were able to take down the Bucks 42-26. 

“It’s loud. It’s not something we are used to, so it feels heavy at first but you just have to brush it off because they can’t do anything to you,” Rangeley’s Winnie LaRochelle said.

Buckfield’s gym was shaking early, but Rangeley’s offense was efficient in the first quarter as it jumped out to a 13-2 lead by the end of the period. 

The ball was swung around the offense as the Lakers (4-0) searched for the best possible shot, something they found often. Olivia Pye scored five of her game-high 12 points in the first quarter, while LaRochelle scored a bucket and also grabbed three rebounds and notched three steals. The senior’s ability to do the little things helped Rangeley get out in transition repeatedly. 

“(LaRochelle) played 32 minutes tough today,” Rangeley coach Brittany DiPompo said. “They were battling her inside and she knows teams are going to do that and play her tough. Mentally, she stays focused on doing the little things — steals, scoring, being active on defense. That’s what she does and that’s what we want everyone on this team to do but with Winnie, if she’s not always scoring she plays defensively and finds assists, as well.”

In the second quarter, Buckfield (0-4) was able to put some points on the board with Molly Bourget scoring four in the frame, but Rangeley’s offense never skipped a beat. 

Rangeley was on the fast break a bunch in the second quarter with the help of Pye and Lauren Eastlack, who grabbed rebounds and steals. LaRochelle also scored eight of her 10 points in the quarter.

“We were running our fast break and we were putting up shots, but a lot was created off our defense as well,” DiPompo said. “That’s what we like, is when we work hard defensively and are able to score easily from our defense. We track that and a lot of our offense came from our defense and that’s what Lady Laker basketball is all about. We love that.”

Buckfield trailed 32-10 heading into halftime, but coach Ryan Wilkins wasn’t negative in his talk with his team during the intermission. 

“We knew Rangely was going to come out and try to knock us out in the first four minutes of the third quarter and we clearly didn’t want that to happen,” Wilkins said. “We thought we had played OK in the first half, just didn’t make any shots.”

In the third, Rangeley took its foot off the gas a bit and allowed Buckfield to run more of its offense. 

Katy Henderson scored four points and had an assist in the quarter while Deja Bennett scored four of her team-high 10 points in the frame as well. 

Rangeley still had a 40-22 lead heading into the fourth, but the Lakers didn’t feel good about their performance in the third quarter. 

Because of that, the Lakers made it a point to find their stride again in the fourth. LaRochelle grabbed four rebounds, two on the offensive end, while Eastlack notched two steals and three boards as well. 

“I just basically try to crash the boards as much as possible because on offense that’s where I am,” LaRochelle said. “In the third quarter we kind of had a hard time going, but we snapped out of it and stayed as a team and didn’t yell at each other and break down.”

Rangeley and Buckfield totaled just six points in the fourth quarter, but both squads left the gym feeling optimistic about their teams. 

“A lot more positives to take out of this game than probably the first three games combined,” Wilkins said. “Tonight I thought I had the team I thought I’d have in the beginning of the season and they played for each other.”

For DiPompo, Saturday’s contest was a good test of her team’s mental strength, with the Buckfield crowd and bench never letting up through the entire 32 minutes.

“We love the atmosphere,” DiPompo said. “It’s like a playoff atmosphere, and this gym always provides that and we thank them for that because it will help us in February because it felt like a two-point game.”

Rangeley’s Emily Eastlack dives for a ball under the basket during a game in Buckfield on Saturday. Brewster Burns photo

Buckfield’s Molly Bourget wrestles the ball away from Rangley’s Isabelle Whittier during a game in Buckfield on Saturday. Brewster Burns photo

Rangeley’s Emily Eastlack tries to squeeze through a wall of Buckfield Bucks during a game in Buckfield on Saturday. Brewster Burns photo

Rangeley’s Winnie LaRochelle tries to get by Buckfield’s Karen McNeil during a game in Buckfield on Saturday. Brewster Burns photo

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