Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Lake Region has been the favorite among Western Class B girls since the first day of practice back in November. The Lakers survived an injury-plagued middle of the regular season, then shifted into their take-no-prisoners mind-set on defense in the playoffs and cruised to a second consecutive regional title.
Coach Paul True said his team has handled the pressure well all season.
"I've said all year I'd rather have the target on my back than being an underdog,'' said True. "I'd rather be the favorite and have a program that everyone else is looking to knock off. I think that says a lot about our program. And our kids handle that pretty well.
"I think our kids are very self-motivated and I don't think they need to be the underdog in order for them to get up for big games.''
Lake Region, in the state championship game for the fifth time in eight years, will play Presque Isle at 7 p.m. Friday at the Cumberland County Civic Center in a rematch of last year's title game, won by the Wildcats, 49-47.
True is looking forward to the rematch, no matter what happens.
"One game is not going to define us or our season,'' he said. "At the end of the year, if you're playing your last game where, whether you win or lose, you know it's your last game, then you've had a great year. I couldn't be more proud of the kids. We're just very fortunate and excited to be here.''
MOLLY MACK, a McAuley senior forward, is more known for her rebounding and defense.
So when she hit a 3-pointer to open the scoring of the Western Class A final against Cheverus, she opened some eyes.
"Coach told me before the game if I was wide open, shoot the ball,'' she said.
It was a perfect shot, jump-starting the Lions to their 47-36 win.
Mack has been part of all three consecutive regional titles won by the Lions.
"This one is the best, though," said Mack. "I feel like I contributed more to our team. We've been working really hard.''
Victoria Lux, the sophomore forward who had four huge points down the stretch for the Lions, said this was a victory for everyone.
"I think this is great for our school, for our basketball program,'' she said. "We are a family. It's a great basketball community. Our coaches love us, we love them.''
CHEVERUS EARNED a great deal of praise for its efforts in the regional final against McAuley. And with good reason.
After a grueling first half, the Stags pushed McAuley like no other team this year. Twice in the final two minutes, Cheverus pulled within four points. But McAuley's foul shooting down the stretch held off the Stags.
"McAuley is one of the best teams in the state, perhaps the best,'' said Coach Richie Ashley. "They knew they were in a game.''
He credited seniors Mikayla Mayberry, Brooke Flahery, Victoria Nappi and Kylie Libby with bringing Cheverus back.
"They bought into what we sold,'' he said. "Everything we talked about being a Chevarian, they bought into that. They put the team first. They brought us back. It's a real tribute to them.''Tweet
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Paul Betit is an Augusta native and graduate of the University of Maine. He has covered Maine high school sports for more than 30 years and is entering his seventh season as a beat writer covering the Portland Pirates. In his spare time, Betit writes mystery-suspense novels. Occasionally, he tries to sink his second career hole-in-one.
Glenn Jordan came to Maine in 1994 to cover the nascent Portland Sea Dogs. After eight baseball seasons and three children – the last two within 18 minutes of each other – he became a part-time writer. Among the sports he covers are now are tennis, skiing, swimming and running. He has a degree in philosophy from Dartmouth, a decent forehand and a penchant for checkers.
Mike Lowe is a Massachusetts native who feels he's lived long enough in Maine (since 1982) to have roots here. He graduated from Boston University and has worked in New Hampshire and Maine, covering everything from the Little League World Series to the Summer Olympics. When he has free time – Ha! – he likes to read, collect comic books and watch the grass grow from his hammock.