AUGUSTA — For the first time this season, the Rangeley girls basketball team was in danger of losing a game and it could not have happened at a worse time.

The No. 2 Lakers — who won 18 of their games heading into Friday morning’s contest at the Augusta Civic Center by at least 17 points — trailed heading into the fourth quarter against No. 6 Searsport, but made enough plays down the stretch to pull off a 39-35 come-from-behind victory in the Western Class D semifinals.

Rangeley trailed by three points with 3 minutes, 19 seconds remaining but managed to close the game on a 7-0 run to secure the win. The Lakers will now play Richmond on Saturday at 10 a.m. for the Western D title.

“We’re used to getting up by 20, 15 or 10 points right away. We knew going into this that this wasn’t going to be one of those games,” Rangeley senior Seve Deery-DeRaps said. “We knew it was going to be a hard-fought battle until the last second on the clock and it definitely was. It was definitely a new feeling for us but we had some games like that last year and we just said we’ve got to keep playing.” Initially it appeared as if the Lakers were in store for another lopsided win, as five quick points from senior Taylor Esty gave Rangeley a 5-0 lead through the first 2 minutes of the game.

“Once I hit my first three and I got a layup right after that I settled in,” Esty, who finished with 16 points, said. “I was really, really relaxed and then we kind of fell behind a little bit.”

Melinda Ogden buried a trio of 3-pointers and Brittany Ward added seven points in the opening quarter as Searsport rebounded from the slow start to take a 17-14 lead after the first. Rangeley responded with six points to open the second quarter, but another 3-pointer from Ogden sparked a 10-0 run to give the Vikings a 27-20 lead at the break.

“She can shoot from anywhere,” Esty, who drew the defensive assignment of guarding Ogden in the first half, said. “You set a screen and she just grabs the ball and shoots.”

The Lakers wanted to put Esty on Ogden in hopes that her length would bother the Vikings’ sharpshooter, but Searsport effectively ran Ogden off screens to get her open looks. In the second half Rangeley put Natasha Haley on Ogden and the 5-foot-8 freshman’s quickness proved to be an asset in slowing her down.

“I was up for the challenge. I was really excited to guard her and no negative thoughts came into my head when I was guarding her,” Haley said. “A pick would be coming and we would just switch or communicate. The communication really helped.

“Taylor told me pretty much they go down, set a pick. She tries to shoot there and if not she’ll go back. She just said try to get in between the picks and don’t go around, because if you go around then she’ll get the shot off quicker.”

Haley held Ogden to just four points in the second half as the Lakers were much better defensive as a team. Searsport scored just eight points after halftime on 2-for-19 shooting and turned the ball over eight times, yet with 3:34 to play Rangeley still trailed 35-32 following a pair of free throws from Ogden.

Blayke Morin — who battled foul trouble throughout — got the Lakers to within a single point with a layup in the paint, and with 2:45 to play she found Esty on a back-door cut to give the Lakers the lead for good. A 3-point attempt from Ogden on the ensuing possession was off the mark and the Lakers took advantage, as Deery-DeRaps leaked out after the attempt and was rewarded with a layup at the other end.

Over the next 2 minutes Searsport took a number of 3-pointers that would have tied the game, but each one could not find the bottom of the net. It was not until Deery-DeRaps — who had nine points and eight rebounds — buried the first of two foul shots with 6.8 seconds to play that the Lakers’ victory was secure.

“I’m actually still kind of in shock,” Esty said. “I knew we could do it if we brought the intensity but they definitely gave us a run for our money.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

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Twitter: @Evan_Crawley