BANGOR, Maine — Washburn High School senior guard Mackenzie Worcester didn’t expect to reach the 2,000-point plateau for her career because she thought she entered Saturday’s State Class D championship game against Rangeley needing “40 or 50 points.”
But her father, Larry, informed her Saturday morning that she was just 36 away.
“That made me a little more nervous,” grinned Mackenzie, who promptly poured in a state D girls championship game-record 37 points to lead her Beavers to their fifth straight gold ball, 60-54, at the Cross Insurance Center.
Washburn needed all of her 37 points because the Lakers proved to be a formidable opponent.
The 22-0 Beavers, who don’t have a player over 5-foot-8, didn’t have an answer for the inside scoring of talented 6-1 senior forward Taylor Esty, who scored 30 points off 14-for-22 shooting. The athletic Estey also had a game-high 11 rebounds and five assists for the 20-1 Lakers.
“She’s an incredible player,” said Worcester.
The Lakers did a respectable job handling Washburn’s swarming full-court pressure, but the Lakers couldn’t contain the dynamic Worcester, who attacked the basket with her slender 5-5 frame and scored the majority of her points in the paint. She also drew a lot of fouls and dished out three assists.
In addition, Worcester grabbed seven rebounds en route to being named the Darling’s/BDN Player of the Game.
“It was her game. She did great. She’s a great basketball player all-around,” said Rangeley’s 6-2 junior forward Blayke Morin, who had 10 points, five rebounds and two assists, but sat out a healthy portion of the game with foul trouble.
“We were going back and forth with them but we just couldn’t stop Mackenzie Worcester,” said Esty. “We knew she was a great player and we tried to put our best defensive player on her but our help side wasn’t stepping up in time and we were picking up fouls.”
Worcester’s penetration was prompted by a rough start in which she missed five of her first six shots, mostly from the outside.
“I thought I was going to have a rough game,” she said. “But after I missed my first few shots, I knew I had to take it to the rim because I was able to make some easier shots and it helped my confidence. Then I was able to shoot outside. I settled in a lot better after I took it to the rim.”
She hit 12 of her last 21 shots and finished shooting 13-for-27 to go with an 8-for-11 showing from the foul line.
“It was an amazing day,” said Worcester. “This is definitely a sweeter feeling (than other state championships) because it was a tough battle throughout the game.”
Senior guard Joan Overman had 10 points, a game-high nine steals, four rebounds and three assists and junior guard Emmy Churchill had eight points, six rebounds and two steals.
Maddison Egan, who drew the assignment of guarding Worcester in Rangeley’s player-to-player defense, got into early foul trouble along with Morin.
With them on the bench over the final four minutes of the first half, Washburn went on a 15-7 run to close out the half and take a 31-25 lead into the half.
Worcester had 14 of the 15 points including a pair of 3-pointers.
“We dug ourselves a little hole with (Morin and Egan) on the bench,” said Rangeley coach Heidi Deery.
The lead stayed between six and 12 points and Washburn took a 48-39 lead into the fourth quarter.
Washburn went on a 6-1 run to open the final period and build their biggest lead of the game at 54-40. Worcester fed Natalie Doody along the base line for a pair of layups and capped the spurt with a foul line jumper.
“We talked about it at halftime. When I was able to penetrate, Natalie was open but she stayed out a little bit by the three-point line and that isn’t her shot,” explained Worcester. “So we talked about crashing into the blocks when I penetrated and there would be layups for them.”
But the Lakers weren’t going to go quietly and Esty had three baskets from the paint and passed to Morin for another to pull Rangeley within 56-48 with two minutes left.
That’s when Worcester found a wide open Overman under the basket for a layup with 1:52 left and Washburn survived some poor foul shooting and two Seve Deery-DeRaps three-pointers to post its 106th win in 111 games over the last five seasons.
DeRaps finished with 14 points.
“Our kids came to play and I was very proud of their effort,” said Deery. “We wanted to get the ball inside and I don’t feel they never stopped our inside game. But there were some times that we didn’t take care of the ball the way we could have. They’re a great team and you can’t take any breaks against them. That’s why they’ve won so many state championships. They can execute and they have some great players.”