PORTLAND – Again.
For the second year in a row, Presque Isle High won the Class B girls’ basketball championship, again beating Lake Region in a game that wasn’t decided until the final seconds Friday night.
This time the Wildcats rode a brilliant individual game by senior guard Chandler Guerrette and a gritty second-half defensive effort to beat the Lakers 51-44 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Guerrette scored 33 points, 14 in the final quarter when Presque Isle completed its long comeback from an 11-point deficit. Fittingly, she dribbled out the final 10 seconds.
“Unbelievable, she put us on her back,” said Coach Jeff Hudson. “They were switching on screens but she just kept going past them. Obviously she’s one of the best players in the state. I think she is the best.”
The victory extended Presque Isle’s winning streak to 44. It’s the school’s fifth girls’ basketball championship, second in a row, and third since 2006 — all against the Lakers.
“This has never been done in Presque Isle history,” said Guerrette of the back-to-back titles. “This being my senior year, it’s a lot more special. Now I know that my last game, it ended up a win.”
The Wildcats (22-0) won by relying on strategies they seldom use: a 2-3 zone in the second half and a high-post offense, which put center Meredith Stewart at the foul line.
Lake Region, behind junior center Tiana-Jo Carter and senior forward Kelsey Winslow, controlled the first half. Carter had 13 points at the half, and Winslow had 11 as the Lakers continually broke Presque Isle’s pressure and scored easy baskets.
Only a long, swishing 3-pointer by Megan Ireland at the buzzer kept the Wildcats within 29-21.
Hudson switched to a 2-3 zone — something he had used only one other time this year — to start the third quarter, and Lake Region’s offense immediately began to sputter. The Wildcats collapsed inside, taking away Carter (17 points) and Winslow (14).
“Everything was too easy (in the first half),” said Hudson. “We made it a little tougher on them. And in the third quarter they made a couple of turnovers and you could see that look in their eyes. They were a little bit more nervous.”
Sydney Hancock, Lake Region’s senior guard, could also sense that.
“In games like this, it all comes down to poise,” she said. “And I think our emotions got the best of us.”
Lake Region Coach Paul True said the switch to the zone completely disrupted Lake Region’s offensive tempo.
“To be perfectly honest, I thought their coach did a great job making adjustments and I didn’t,” he said. “That was the bottom line.”
Still, the Lakers led 36-33 entering the fourth. Then Guerrette took over.
She had the first two baskets of the quarter, giving Presque Isle its first lead. Each basket came off a high screen by Stewart.
Hancock regained the lead eight seconds later with a drive, but Guerrette sped down the court and scored with 6:11 left, and it was 39-38 Presque Isle.
Winslow tied it with a foul shot before Guerrette drove right and banked in a shot to make it 41-39. She then came up with a steal, was fouled with 3:26 left and hit both for a 43-39 lead.
Hancock made a 3-pointer to pull the Lakers within a point, but Guerrette again responded with a basket.
Carter, who also had 13 rebounds, five steals and four blocked shots, scored inside to bring the Lakers within one.
Hudson called a timeout with 59.1 seconds left and assistant coach Ralph Michaud suggested a play: a long lob from Ireland in front of the Wildcats’ bench to Hannah Graham on the right. It led to Graham’s only basket of the night. “I just knew it was my time to help the team,” she said. “It was a perfect pass. All I had to do was put it in.”
Graham then stole the inbounds pass and was fouled. She hit both free throws to make it 49-44 with 49.7 seconds left.
It was a bitter loss for the Lakers (19-3).
“I really thought we were going to do it,” said Carter. “I thought we did everything we were asked to do. It just wasn’t all we needed to do.”
Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: