PORTLAND — Lake Region’s girls’ basketball team has a simple formula for success:
“Our motto,” said senior guard Sydney Hancock, “is that nobody works harder than we do for 32 minutes.”
Then she added, “I think we proved that tonight.”
That they did. Top-ranked Lake Region broke open a tight game in the fourth quarter Thursday afternoon to defeat Greely 42-27 in a Western Class B semifinal at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The Lakers led by only four points heading into the final eight minutes.
“We were both working hard,” said Hancock. “But we always pride ourselves in working our hardest for the whole span. And in the end, we were able to push away and finish the game.”
Lake Region (18-2) will play second-seeded York in the regional final at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Lakers beat the Wildcats twice in the regular season.
Defense ruled this one. Both teams concentrated on taking away the inside, and the strategy worked to perfection. The problem for Greely (15-6) in the fourth quarter was that the Lakers adjusted offensively against Greely’s man-to-man defense.
Lake Region moved center Tiana-Jo Carter to the high post, at the foul line, and had guards CeCe Hancock and Sydney Hancock look to attack the defense on drives to the basket. They would either score or find Kelsey Winslow uncovered for a layup. Sydney Hancock scored seven points, Winslow had six and CeCe Hancock, a freshman, added four in the fourth quarter.
Several of the baskets by the Hancocks were eye-opening flips against taller defenders.
“Those were nice finishes,” said Greely Coach Joel Rogers. “I mean, what can you do? It isn’t like those were uncontested layups. They were falling out of bounds and flipped the ball up and it’s going off the glass.”
Sydney Hancock chuckled when asked about the shots.
“I just try to keep my eyes on the target, and hope to finish,” she said. “And not focus on the girl plowing me to the ground.”
But more than any offensive highlights, Rogers knew exactly why the Lakers were advancing.
“Give credit to Paul (True, the Lakers’ coach), he was terrific,” said Rogers. “Our game plan was, if we can keep Carter from getting a double-double, we could win the game. That part worked out.
“But their defense was just better than ours. I ran everything. I tried adjustments. At times they looked like man-to-man, at others it looked like a match-up zone. I tried our man-to-man (offense), I tried our zone offenses. In the end, we just couldn’t put enough baskets in the hoop.”
The Rangers made a couple runs early, but Lake Region took the lead for good with 3:04 left in the second quarter on a drive by CeCe Hancock.
Greely trailed by one late in the third quarter before Winslow scored on a nice low-post move and Sarah Hancock drilled her only basket, a 3-pointer with 57 seconds remaining for a 23-17 lead.
“That was a huge shot,” said True, who credited Greely’s defense with keeping Lake Region off balance for most of the game. “Sarah’s a great shooter. For her it’s all about preparing to shoot before she gets the ball.”
Winslow and CeCe Hancock each scored 11 points for the Lakers. Carter had eight points and 11 rebounds.
Margaret Hatch, a freshman, led Greely with 10 points.