Friday, December 6, 2013
By Mike Lowe email@example.com
POLAND - Abby Craffey may not be the most recognizable member of the Lake Region High girls' basketball team. Other players jump out at you: sophomore center Tiana-Jo Carter, point guard Sydney Hancock, forward Kelsey Winslow.
Abby Craffey has the ability to deal with Presque Isle’s pressure defense and shoot from outside. If she’s on, Lake Region will have a good chance to win Class B.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
The Lake Region girls certainly had reason to celebrate last Saturday after beating Greely to capture the Western Class B championship. The Lakers are looking for one more celebration, but need to beat Presque Isle tonight at the Bangor Auditorium.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
CLASS B GIRLS' STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
WHO: Lake Region (19-2) vs. Presque Isle (21-0)
WHEN: 7 p.m. today
WHERE: Bangor Auditorium
LAKE REGION STARTERS
Rachel Wandishin, G (2.8 ppg, 1.8 apg, 2.0 spg)
Sydney Hancock, G (7.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 2.8 spg)
Abby Craffey, G (6.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.8 apg)
Tiana-Jo Carter, C (13.2 ppg, 18.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg)
Kelsey Winslow, F (9.2 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 1.0 spg).
KEYS FOR LAKE REGION
First off, the Lakers have to handle Presque Isle's 1-2-1-1 full-court pressure, which often provides a chunk of turnovers and points for the Wildcats. Lake Region's guards are very capable at breaking the press and if they can do that and beat the Wildcats down court, they can get easy baskets. Playing in Bangor, the Lakers also have to be patient, getting accustomed to a different court with different sights and sounds. If they remain patient and work the ball around -- a trademark thus far this year -- they'll have success. Carter and Winslow provide a big advantage inside and they need to control the boards. Defensively, they can't let the Wildcats go on some of their patented runs, using their own pressure defense to disrupt Presque Isle's rhythm.
PRESQUE ISLE STARTERS
Chandler Guerrette, G (13.0 ppg, 2.5 spg)
Megan Ireland, G (12.0 ppg, 3.0 apg, 3.0 spg)
Kayla Richards, G (6.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.0 apg)
Chelsea Nickerson, F (6.0 ppg, 4.0 spg)
Meredith Stewart, C (9.0 ppg, 6.0 rpb).
KEYS FOR PRESQUE ISLE
The Wildcats need to keep the tempo fast. They like to press and run, and try to force the opponent into errors. If they can rattle the Lakers with their press, the Wildcats will have a huge advantage. When they get into a half-court game, the Wildcats like to penetrate and then pitch the ball back out for an open 3-pointer. They're dangerous in many areas. Coach Jeff Hudson uses eight players regularly, including two freshmen off the bench. This way they keep the tempo hot. Defensively they need to contain Lake Region's rebounding. If the Lakers continually get more than one shot at the basket on each possession, Presque Isle will be in trouble.
- Mike Lowe
But then, as the game progresses, you get an appreciation for what Craffey brings to the Western Class B champion.
A senior guard, she provides a calming influence, often directing teammates where they should be in certain situations.
Then there's her shot. When Craffey gets into a groove, as she did in the semifinals and final of the regional tournament, there may not be a prettier 3-point shot in the state: high, arcing and accurate.
She swished five in Lake Region's 59-54 overtime semifinal win over defending state champ Leavitt (two in overtime), then had three in the 49-30 regional championship win over Greely.
That gave her eight in the tournament, tying the regional record.
"I could not be more proud of her or the way she is playing right now," said Coach Paul True. "Nothing fazes her on the court. She's very steady, very consistent. And she has that ability to knock down multiple 3s, which you saw in the tournament.
"She's confident. Even if she misses her first six or seven shots, if she's open, she's going to keep shooting. And that's all right because she's a difference maker and she has a green light."
Craffey is going to have to be on tonight when the Lakers (19-2) take on Presque Isle (21-0) in the Class B state championship game at the Bangor Auditorium.
Lake Region has the edge inside with Carter and Winslow, but if Craffey and her backcourt mates -- like Hancock and Allison Clark -- aren't hitting from outside, the Wildcats can make life hard for Lake Region's inside game.
Craffey isn't concerned. She feels no pressure because the Lakers don't rely on any one player.
"We all have different parts we bring to the team," she said. "And putting it all together, we have a great team. We have a deep bench and I really think we can count on anyone at any time."
But, said True, Craffey contributes "more than what the general observer can see. She has a quiet style of leadership and calms people's nerves. She doesn't get overly excited when things are going well and doesn't get down when things aren't. She's a leader."
As a team the Lakers play very much like Craffey. They don't get rattled when things aren't going well. Teams try to press them -- as Presque Isle undoubtedly will because that's what the Wildcats do really well -- and the Lakers handle it because they know how to handle pressure.
The Lakers practice against that type of pressure every day -- it's also what they do. When True feels his team is going to face a team that presses exceptionally well, he tweaks his practices, using anywhere from six to eight defensive players on the press to simulate quickness.
But more than anything, he said, this team doesn't lose its cool.
"I don't think they've been fazed by anything all year," he said. "It's a focused group. They know what the task is at hand and it won't matter where or when we play. They work their tails off and they enjoy being together and playing together."
And they enjoy each other's success. When Craffey is on -- she attempted 103 3-pointers in the regular season, hitting a quarter of them -- her teammates know it opens up all phases of the game.
"She's just a big-time player," said Winslow, the team's second-leading scorer (9.2 points) behind Carter (13.2). "When she's on I just say, 'Keep putting it up.' "
Actually, True gives all his players the green light. He was a shooter when he played at Fryeburg Academy and feels if the shots come in the flow of the offense, he's not going to tell his players not to take them.
"It just shows that he has a lot of confidence in us," said Hancock, who also hit 25 percent of her 3-pointers. "He's confident that we know it's a good shot to take."
And if the first one goes in?
"Well, then my confidence goes up, knowing I can make it," said Craffey.
And that's when Craffey -- and the Lakers -- are most dangerous.
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: