The Lake Region girls’ basketball team is going back to the Class B state championship.

The No. 1 Lakers (20-1) won their third straight Western Maine title and sixth in nine years Saturday afternoon by avenging their only loss of the season, beating senior-laden Wells 59-51 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Lake Region has not won a state title since 1975. The previous two years, the Lakers lost to Presque Isle in the state final. This time they’ll meet Mt. Desert Island, which snapped Presque Isle’s 64-game winning streak Saturday in the Eastern Maine final.

“It’s so awesome we’re going back for the third time in my high school career,” senior center Tiana-Jo Carter said. “We’re going to be ready to take on whoever we’re playing. It is time. We’re ready to get there and leave everything out there on the court.”

The state final is 7:05 p.m. Friday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

Carter was named the region’s outstanding player after a 24-point, 15-rebound effort.

In a 44-36 loss at Wells (18-3) on Dec. 18, Carter was hampered by foul trouble and was held to 12 points.

“They beat us in the regular season. We knew it was going to be a fight,” Carter said. “We wanted to show everyone we are the best team.”

Sarah Hancock was also pivotal, finishing with 13 points and eight assists while repeatedly creating opportunities – often for Carter, who was 10 of 14 from the floor – with dribble penetration.

“Sarah Hancock is a junior, and she’s one of the best leaders I’ve coached in over 20 years,” Lake Region Coach Paul True said. “I trust her completely.”

The first half was played at a fast pace, with both teams’ stars and role players contributing. There were eight lead changes and three ties before Hancock banked in an NBA-distance 3-pointer at the end of the half for a 27-24 lead.

“There was a lot energy in the locker room,” Hancock said. “People were screaming and excited. That definitely pumped us up.”

Lake Region stretched its lead to 45-36 lead after three quarters, with key contributions from Jordan Turner (two baskets) and Lucy Fowler (late 3-pointer).

No. 3 Wells (18-3) had five senior starters and nine seniors on its roster. The Warriors nearly erased their deficit, getting six points from Nicole Moody (13 points) and two free throws from Alison Furness (18 points) to cut the lead to 51-48 with under two minutes to play.

“We just thought, we’re down by nine, we can easily come back from this,” Moody said. Wells had one chance to tie, but Stephanie Woods’ 3-point attempt was just off with about 1:30 remaining.

The pivotal play happened a few seconds later when Hancock rebounded a rare Carter miss and hit a floating 8-footer for a 54-48 lead.

“Our main focus was to box out, especially Carter, and to let someone a lot smaller than Carter get (the rebound) sort of kills you a little,” Moody said.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at:

scraig@pressherald.com

Twitter: SteveCCraig