PORTLAND – Friday’s Class B state championship started out just the way they wanted for the Lake Region Lakers, who took a 29-21 lead into locker room at halftime.

But then Chandler Guerrette and the Presque Isle Wildcats caught fire.

Presque Isle outscored the Lakers 30-15 in the second half, and Guerrette finished with a game-high 33 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, as the Wildcats won their 44th straight game and the title, 51-44

In a game that wasn’t decided until the very end, the turning point came early in the last quarter, when the Wildcats wrenched the lead away from the Lakers on a Guerrette basket The momentum had balanced, and proceeded to slowly shift in Presque Isle’s favor, allowing them to force the Lakers into fouling as the clock ticked downward.

“They obviously went to a zone,” Laker coach Paul True said of Presque Isle’s second-half strategy, “and I thought it did a number on tempo.”

Lake Region began the scoring early when Tiana-Jo Carter got fouled and drained her first two free throws of the evening. Presque Isle soon matched, however, and for the next 2:30, the score seemed stuck at 2-2, with neither team able to convert another shot. Finally, Carter sank a two, also drawing the foul and adding the extra point. She quickly sank a second two, putting her team suddenly only top, 7-2.

The teams traded buckets, with Carter and Kelsey Winslow, both forces for the Lakers in the early going, racking up points and Guerrette and teammate Karlee Bernier voicing the Wildcats’ objections. However, Lake Region slipped into a run late that allowed them to pull ahead. A Carter steal inside and a defensive rebound by senior Sydney Hancock gave the Lakers more ball-time than their opponents, ensuring they led at the buzzer, 13-6.

Presque Isle got on the board first in the second, shrinking the seven-point gap to five, but Lake Region immediately rebutted, with Winslow going 1 for 2 at the line and Carter rebounding the missed second shot and turning it into two more. Guerrette caught fire for the Wildcats, spreading out five baskets for 10 points total over the course of eight minutes, but Winslow was good for six Laker points, Sarah Hancock was good for three, Sierra Hancock for two, and Carter for four not to mention another steal and a stuff, both inside.

“You can’t stop her!” the Lake Region student fan contingent chanted as the clock wound down, though Wildcat Megan Ireland begged to differ, dropping in a long 3-pointer in the final second to bring her team within eight and give them a morale boost heading to the locker room.

“It was great. We were really confident in everything we were doing,” Sydney Hancock said. “We were following our game plan exactly. We knew what we had to do. And you always feed off positive energy, like, good things that happen. We were hitting our shots, we were poised which is the whole key, staying poised.”

A minute into the third, Hancock hashed a 3-pointer, recouping the damage Ireland had done, but then things began to go wrong for the Western Maine representatives. Carter stuffed and stole inside once more, only to have the two she then posted waved off for traveling. Shortly thereafter, she went down hard to the floor, grimacing in obvious pain upon impact. She fought to her feet, and her teammates could be heard saying “she’s fine” when their trainer rushed onto the court, but she was visibly shaken and left the game for 15 seconds anyway. Next, the Lakers’ 11-point lead rapidly ebbed, as Guerrette sank a two, Ireland a two after stealing, and Guerrette another two that brought an extra point from the line with it.

“To be perfectly honest with you, I thought their coach did a great job making adjustments and I didn’t,” True said. “So that was the bottom line.”

“They changed up a few things,” Carter said. “They caught us on their screening up top. It ended up getting us every time and we just weren’t sure what to do about it, and they took advantage of that.”

The score now stood 32-28, and though Carter and Winslow then teamed up for a two, Guerrette immediately added another two of her own, keeping the Wildcats in the hunt. Carter went 2 for 2 from the line, but Presque Isle then deftly managed the dwindling clock, stalling the ball outside while seconds evaporated until, in the final seconds, Ireland dashed along the baseline to get open, received the ball and drained another three, slashing her team’s deficit to 36-33.

Guerrette began the fourth with a bucket. The Wildcats had stalked within one, and at 6:22, Guerrette roared again, snatching a rebound she immediately converted to two more, giving her team their first lead of the game, 37-36.

“It all comes down to poise,” Sydney Hancock said. “And how you control yourself. And when you start feeling anxiety, you start making silly passes, or you start feeling like you need to break the pressure yourself and just the atmosphere, I just think it broke down.”

The teams tussled over the lead for five hard minutes, but with fewer than 60 seconds to play, Presque Isle threw a long inbounds pass cross-court that led to a layup and two points, giving them a 47-44 edge. Lake Region had no choice but to foul, and they did so twice, but each time, the Wildcats took advantage of the line to pull further ahead. When the final buzzer sounded, they’d put seven points between themselves and the Lakers, 51-44.

Guerrette’s 33 were almost three times as many points as Ireland, the team’s second-highest scorer.

“[Guerrette] was a handful,” True said. “I thought we did a great job taking away threes, and it was kind of pick-your-poison … She’s a great player; she played a great second half.”

True, whose Lakers lost to the Wildcats in the title game last year 49-47, was proud of his team for making it to the state championship game two years in a row, regardless of the outcome.

“These are great kids. I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he said. “They came in determined in the first half and played great, and you know, things just didn’t go our way in the second half, but their effort and attitude is just A-plus. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Carter posted 17 points in the Lakers’ loss, while Winslow had 14 and Sydney Hancock had eight.

“We worked so hard this year,” Carter said. “We’ve had a few ups and downs, but we were ready for this game, and we couldn’t have gotten to where we were without each other, and [my teammates] played awesome.”

Lake Region junior Tiana-Jo Carter wins the opening tip-off in the Class B State Championship matchup versus Presque Isle Friday night. Staff photos by Adam Birt
Lake Region senior Kelsey Winslow pursues a Presque Isle defender Friday night.
Lake Region seniors Kelsey Winslow (41) and Sarah Hancock (12) show their disappointment after their 51-44 loss in the Class B state championship game Friday night. In the background, winners Presque Isle celebrate.
The Lake Region Lakers show off their runner-up plaque.
The Presque Isle Wildcats hoist the Class B Girls’ gold ball Friday night.
Lake Region senior Sarah Hancock emerges from a crowd of her team’s cheerleaders to high-five fellow senior Kayleigh Lepage prior to the Class B state championship game Friday night.
The Lake Region Lakers unite prior to their Class B state championship matchup versus Presque Isle Friday night.
Presque Isle’s Chandler Guerrette had 33 points against Lake Region Friday night.
Presque Isle’s Chandler Guerrette leaps for the net, while on either side of her, Lake Region’s Savannah Devoe (14) and Sarah Hancock (12) do what they can to stop her.
Lake Region junior Tiana-Jo Carter defends against a Presque Isle attacker in Friday night’s Girls Class B state championship game.
Lake Region senior Sarah Hancock charges up court, fending off a Presque Isle defender.

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