PORTLAND, Maine — Lake Region had most of the height on the floor in Friday night’s Class B girls basketball state championship game.
But Presque Isle had Chandler Guerrette.
Guerrette, a 5-foot-5-inch senior guard, scored 14 of her game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter as the undefeated Wildcats rallied to win their second straight state title with a 51-44 victory over the Lakers at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
“She put us on her back today,” said Presque Isle head coach Jeff Hudson. “They were switching on screens, switching every time we did a dribble drive and making it tough on us, but she just kept going to the basket.
“She’s so quick, and her hesitation dribble she was great today. She’s one of the best players in the state. I think she is the best.”
The win was the Wildcats’ second straight over Lake Region of Naples in the state final after a 49-47 victory last year, and extended their two-year winning streak to 44 games.
Guerrette made 14 of 24 field-goal attempts to tie the record for field goals in a Class B girls state final with Diane Nagle of Houlton, who set the original mark in 1985. Guerrette also finished just two points shy of Nagle’s Class B state final scoring record that year of 35 points.
“I think it was the end of the first quarter when [assistant] coach [Tim] McCue said to put them on your back right now,” said Guerrette. “So I kind of took that to heart.”
Megan Ireland added 12 points for Presque Isle, which trailed by 11 points early in the third quarter before using defensive adjustments to force Lake Region turnovers and take away the Lakers’ inside game.
Tiana-Jo Carter, a 6-2 center, led 19-3 Lake Region with 17 points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shots, while Kelsey Winslow scored 14 points and Sydney Hancock added eight.
Carter had 13 points, six rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals at halftime as Lake Region built a 29-21 lead.
The Lakers shot 11 of 21 from the field overall, with Presque Isle unable to check Carter and the 5-10 Winslow inside the lane.
Winslow added 11 first-half points, her last two field goals coming as Lake Region successfully attacked Presque Isle’s fullcourt pressure.
Guerrette kept Presque Isle within striking distance early with 12 first-half points, 10 during the second quarter as she fearlessly challenged the Lake Region front line with driving layups or mid-range jumpers.
Leading 13-6 after the first quarter thanks to seven early points by Carter, Lake Region extended its first-half margin to as much as 29-18 before Ireland beat the halftime buzzer with an NBA-range 3-pointer from the right wing.
A 3-pointer by CeCe Hancock gave Lake Region a 32-21 edge early in the third, but Presque Isle turned to its rarely used 2-3 zone and that combined with continued fullcourt defensive pressure began to take its toll on the Lakers.
“I thought they shot really well in the first half,” said Hudson. “They made about every shot they took, everything was too easy. But I think we made it a little tougher for them and I think the zone bothered them.
“I thought in the third quarter they started to turn the ball over, and you could see the look in their eyes that they were a little more nervous. And when we get turnovers and score off those turnovers, that’s how we play.”
Guerrette and Co. cashed in at the offensive end, with the Wildcats’ guard scoring seven more points to spark a 16-4 run, including back-to-back runners to open the fourth quarter that gave Presque Isle its first lead at 37-36 with 6:25 left in the game.
With the game tied at 39-39, Guerrette used the crossover dribble to spring herself for a go-ahead drive, then hit two free throws after stealing the ball at the other end to give PI a four-point lead with 3:26 left.
A deep 3-pointer by Sydney Hancock rallied Lake Region within 43-42, and an exchange of baskets by Guerrette and Carter left Presque Isle with the ball and a one-point lead entering the game’s final minute.
Presque Isle called time, and came out looking anything but a team seeking to use delay tactics.
Instead Ireland lofted a high inbounding pass from the left wing toward the basket that Hannah Graham converted into a layup for her first basket of the game, then Graham stole the ball in the backcourt and made two free throws to give the Wildcats a five-point lead with 49.7 seconds left.
Guerrette added two insurance free throws with 20.9 seconds remaining.