Lake Region High won the first Class B girls’ basketball championship in 1975. In the 40th year of sanctioned girls’ basketball tournaments in Maine, the Lakers won their second – in the first state championship game played at the Cross Insurance Center.
Lake Region (21-1) defeated Mt. Desert Island 56-47 Friday night behind 21 powerful points from 6-foot-2 senior Tiana-Jo Carter.
The Lakers had lost six straight championship games, including the last two years to Presque Isle and five in the previous eight seasons.
“It’s just a really emotional moment, really emotional,” Lake Region Coach Paul True said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the kids. I’ve said all along one game during the season isn’t going to define us as a team or a program, but right now I’m just blessed.”
Carter scored 13 points in the game’s key segment as the Lakers expanded a 23-21 halftime lead to 46-33 midway through the fourth quarter.
“Our goal was to come back out the second half and be strong and stay strong and finish that way,” Carter said. “I feel like I was a little tentative in the first half, so coming out the second half I knew what needed to be done.”
Carter scored three straight baskets in the third quarter, each time rebounding her own miss. She added two more putbacks in a 9-2 run to open the fourth quarter.
“We’ve done a pretty good job of rebounding, but my two post players are both 5-9,” MDI Coach Brent Barker said. “You’re talking about a five-inch height advantage, and she’s got long arms and she’s athletic. It’s just a tough matchup.”
Shortly after recording her fifth block of the game, Carter had her own shot blocked from behind in transition and landed awkwardly, rolling her left ankle with 2:49 to play and the Lakers leading 48-37.
She was able to return to the game after about a minute on the bench.
Sarah Hancock and Jordan Turner combined to score the Lakers’ final nine points, making enough free throws to keep MDI at bay.
Lake Region sophomore CeCe Hancock finished with 12 points, including a layup and a 3-pointer early in the third quarter to give her team some breathing room.
“That boosted us a little bit,” she said.
Turner had 10 points and was key in helping Carter control an athletic MDI team in the rebounding department. She also drew the assignment of guarding MDI’s top player, Hannah Shaw.
The Trojans (19-3), who ended Presque Isle’s 64-game winning streak in the Eastern Maine final, were hurt when Shaw picked up three fouls in the first half in limited action. She finished with 13 points, six coming in the final two minutes as Lake Region was protecting its double-digit lead.
“That hurt us,” Barker said. “She’s our best offensive player and kind of our leader, and to have her sitting beside me didn’t help our team.”
Carter made her presence felt in the first quarter with a pair of high-post assists to Turner, along with two blocks and a steal.
When Carter took her first shot, making a lefty hook, Lake Region had an 11-6 lead after one quarter.
The Lakers appeared on the verge of breaking the game open when Carter scored six points early in the second quarter and MDI was stuck in a nine-minute scoreless drought.
Sierra Myrick canned a 3-pointer for MDI to cut the lead to 18-9.
Sophomore guard Sierra Tapley energized the previously subdued MDI crowd when she dribbled between two defenders, pulled up in front of a third and swished a 16-footer. Moments later, she slashed to the basket and converted a pass from Kelsey Shaw, and Lake Region was clinging to a 23-21 lead at halftime.
MDI’s defense was also a factor as it came out of its 2-3 zone with started double-teaming the ball, causing a flurry of Laker turnovers.
“I think what got us uncomposed was their pressure defense, their trap,” CeCe Hancock said. “We needed to take a breath and realize we know what to do.”
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: