AUGUSTA, Maine — Rangeley High School senior center Blayke Morin said she and her teammates were like “a deer in headlights” in last year’s state Class D schoolgirl basketball championship game loss to Washburn. It was Rangeley’s first appearance in a state final since it won it in 2004.
But the Lakers used the composure they gained from last year’s game, Morin’s 20 rebounds and 10 points and a stifling player-to-player defense to beat Shead of Eastport 28-22 at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday afternoon.
It was Rangeley’s 21st straight win and capped a 21-1 season. Shead wound up 15-7.
“We had already won three games here (Augusta Civic Center),” explained Morin, whose basket with 3:19 left in regulation snapped a 7-0 Shead run that had cut the lead to 23-20.
Rangeley had gone over eight minutes without a basket.
Morin rebounded a Celia Philbrick miss and banked in a left-handed shot.
“I just got it and went up with it,” said Morin.
Two Holly Preston free throws cut it to 25-22 with 2:20 left but senior guard Maddison Egan’s two free throws with 55.7 seconds remaining all but sewed up the win.
“[Coach Heidi Deery] tells us in every practice that free throws win games,” said Egan. “She told me I needed to make those so I just put my head into it, blocked out everything else and made them.”
Shead went 0-for-10 from the floor in the fourth quarter.
Morin had two blocked shots to go with her 10 points and 20 rebounds. Egan finished with seven points and three rebounds; Sydney Royce contributed six points, three rebounds and three steals; Natasha Haley had five points and three assists and Celia Philbrick had four rebounds.
Junior guard Preston’s 10 points, six rebounds and two steals paced Shead and Cierra Seeley had eight points and three rebounds. Cassidy Wilder chipped in with four points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Rangeley outrebounded Shead 34-24.
The game was a real defensive struggle involving Rangeley’s player-to-player and full-court pressure and Shead’s well-orchestrated 3-2 zone.
“Their defense was good. Our defense was good. So it was up to the offenses and their offense was a little bit better than ours today,” said Preston.
“They played a really intense man-to-man. I’ve never played against anything like that,” added Preston.
“We had always played against zones. They played a tough man-to-man,” said senior guard Seeley.
Morin was also the catalyst on defense as she altered shots with her presence in the paint.
“They haven’t seen pressure like ours. They’ve seen zones,” said Morin. “We denied every pass as much as we could and we denied penetration as much as we could. They didn’t want to pass to their 5-11 players. They wanted to stay out of the inside.”
The athletic Morin was surprised by the fact she had 20 rebounds, 14 of which came in the second half.
“I was happy with that stat. Being 6-foot-2 helps a lot,” grinned Morin. “They have height so we worked on boxing out and getting rebounds. We knew rebounding was their game. They had outrebounded every team in the (Class D North) tournament.
Morin praised Shead, saying, “They were a very, very good aggressive team.”
The 28 points were a season-low for Rangeley.
“Blayke’s 20 rebounds were the difference. That enabled us to get putbacks and prevented them from getting putbacks,” said Deery, who also felt their state game experience from a year ago was vital.
The Lakers never trailed.
Royce’s short jumper and two Morin baskets staked them to a 6-0 lead. Seeley and Preston hit runners to make it 6-4 but a 10-2 run featuring four points apiece by Morin and Haley made it 16-6 before Preston closed out the half with a traditional three-point play.
Egan’s five straight points built the lead to 21-11 in the third quarter before Shead rallied to within three early in the fourth.
“We missed a few more layups than I would have liked. Our game was a little sloppy but they’re a good team,” said Shead coach Corey Sullivan.