When John Mayo took over as the Lake Region High boys’ basketball coach this season, he told a team that had been to last year’s regional final that it needed to improve on three things: Rebounding, free-throw shooting and defense.

Saturday, the top-seeded Lakers outrebounded third-seeded Yarmouth 34-22, made 18 of 26 free throws – including 9 of 11 in the fourth quarter – and held the Clippers to 31 percent shooting.

It added up to a 53-43 victory in the Class B South final at the Cross Insurance Arena – Lake Region’s first regional title since the 1985 state championship team.

“Ever since the beginning of the season Coach Mayo stressed that if we didn’t rebound we weren’t going anywhere,” senior co-captain Nate Smith said.

Lake Region (19-2) will face Ellsworth (17-4) in the state final at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor at 8:45 p.m. on Friday. Ellsworth beat Orono 52-34 in the North final.

The Clippers (15-6) led at the half 22-21 and the score was 35-35 after three quarters. Brandon Palmer put Lake Region ahead to stay with a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter. After two free throws by Yarmouth’s leading scorer, Alek Medenica (15 points, 11 rebounds), Jack Lesure scored a three-point play after an offensive rebound for Lake Region.

It was the Lakers’ fourth shot of the possession, with Lesure getting the ball despite the presence of Yarmouth’s 6-foot-7 Medenica and 6-5 Nolan Hagerty.

Lesure, a left-hander, isn’t tall but is strong and crafty near the basket.

“The doctor said I was 5-11 but if someone asked me I’d say 6-1. Not too tall. A generous 6-1,” Lesure said.

“I’ve learned to use my toughness and aggressiveness to overcome my lack of height against bigger competition.”

Moments later Lesure also used his basketball acumen.

Lake Region went ahead 43-37 when Lesure drew the fifth foul on Medenica with 4:47 left in the game. Medenica’s fourth foul came 30 seconds earlier when he was whistled for a charge that also wiped out a basket.

“I had been keeping track all game (of Medenica’s fouls). That’s something in general that I like to know,” Lesure said. “As soon as I realized he had four I knew I had to go to work on him. Whatever I could do to get a foul and get him out of the game, I had to do it.”

“That was a conscious decision on our part and that was a big step in the game,” Mayo said. “It put a little fire in us and relaxed us a little bit.”

Lesure finished with 14 points and was named the Pierre “Pete” Harnois Award as the outstanding player in the tournament. Smith scored 17, including 10 in the third quarter. Smith and Alex Langadas each had seven rebounds.

Lake Region’s final 13 points came at the foul line as it continued to attack inside.

“We went to the hole and we hit our free throws,” Mayo said. “That made a big difference. We get up at 6:45 every morning during the school year and go shoot free throws. That’s something that we’ve talked about since the beginning.”

In addition to being outscored 14-2 in second-chance points, Yarmouth lost another basket due to a charging call on Bailey Darling at the third-quarter buzzer. Darling – the Clippers’ best 3-point shooter – fouled out about 90 seconds after Medenica.

“We didn’t lose our composure or anything,” Yarmouth Coach Adam Smith said. “We maintained what we were doing. It was just we seemed that we could not do as much.”