February 23

Wetern Class D girls’ basketball: Forest Hills wins thriller

The top-seeded Tigers get a last-second 3-pointer to be Rangeley in the regional final.

By Matt DiFilippo
Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA — On Friday, members of the Forest Hills girls’ basketball team were talking about their most memorable moments. They brought up the time Kori Coro hit a 3-pointer from the left corner, which somehow led to Coach Mike LeBlanc ripping his pants.

click image to enlarge

Forest Hills players celebrate after their 53-52 win over Rangeley in the Western Class D girls’ basketball championship game Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday.

Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

One day later, Coro nailed another 3-pointer from the corner, and this one will be remembered by everyone who saw it. With Forest Hills trailing Rangeley by two in the Western Class D final, Coro swished a 3-pointer just before the final buzzer, giving the Tigers a heart-stopping 53-52 victory at the Augusta Civic Center.

“Let’s just say I was very scared,” Coro said with a smile. “If it wasn’t for that assist by Dana McNally, I wouldn’t have got that shot off, and we would have been done for the season.”

Instead, No. 1 Forest Hills remains undefeated at 21-0 and will face Washburn for the state title at 1:05 p.m. Saturday in Augusta. It’ll be the first trip to the state final for the Tigers since they won the Gold Ball in 1997.

No. 2 Rangeley finishes at 19-2. Both losses were to Forest Hills, by a combined seven points.

Rangeley’s Taylor Esty (16 points, 13 rebounds) scored 12 points in the third quarter, and the Lakers led 48-38 early in the fourth. Forest Hills scratched back with a 7-0 run and trailed 50-47 with 2:30 to go after McNally followed up her own missed 3-pointer with a basket.

The Tigers tied it at 50 when Haley Cuddy threw in a 3-pointer – her only points of the game and her only shot of the second half – with 1:57 left. Rangeley immediately answered with a driving bank shot by Tori Letarte (14 points) for a 52-50 lead.

The teams traded turnovers, including a great defensive play by Rangeley’s Blayke Morin (10 points, 12 rebounds) to take a charge under the basket. Forest Hills had the ball with 23.1 seconds left when LeBlanc called a timeout.

“They wondered why I was smiling,” LeBlanc said. “I said, ‘Here is where we want to be. We’re known for our 3-point shooting. We’re going to end up winning it at the buzzer.’ And I named off one of the five girls that was going to do it.”

McNally missed a 3, but Rangeley failed to convert a 1-and-1 at the free-throw line. Forest Hills then threw the ball away, but the Lakers missed another free throw with nine seconds to play.

After going 9 for 10 from the line in the first half, the Lakers missed the front end of three 1-and-1 in the final 30 seconds. When Anna Carrier grabbed the rebound for Forest Hills after the third miss, LeBlanc didn’t call a timeout.

“I didn’t want to allow them to set up with one of the big girls taking the ball on the inbounder,” LeBlanc said. “So I just said, ‘Let it roll.’ I’m not a genius, so I’m not going to do any spectacular play.”

McNally found Coro in the left corner, and her contested shot went in. Time expired before Rangeley could get the ball inbounds, and the Tigers celebrated.

“We’re trained to turn and look at the basket,” Coro said. “That’s exactly what I did. When I took that shot, midway up, I knew it was going in. I was just hoping and praying that it would do something, and it did.”

It was a wild scene of unrestrained jubilation on the court – except for Carrier, who had already grabbed six rebounds in the fourth quarter.

“I was trying to box out Taylor (Esty),” Carrier said. “When the shot went up, I was like, ‘Oh gosh.’ She made it, so I stopped boxing her out. The ball hit the floor, and everyone was screaming. I was like, ‘The game’s not over!’ So I dove on the ground to get the ball. I thought it was a loose ball. Everyone was jumping over me.”

(Continued on page 2)

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