FREEPORT – A trio of double-digit contributions – from Taylor Rinaldi, Megan Cormier and Regan Lynch – girded a comeback W for the Falcons over Lake Region on Thursday night, Jan. 12. Freeport found their footing and sliced away a huge deficit in the second quarter, then never looked back as they gradually built to the 58-45 final.

Defeating the Lakers signified something of a new high-water mark for the Falcons. “It’s a big one,” Freeport head coach Mike Hart said. “To me, this team has done a lot of good things since I started off, but we haven’t really beat an elite program like Lake Region, and I think that’s a big one for us. To be able to do that, that’s huge. A good step for us.”

The Lakers jumped to an early lead, outpacing the Falcons 20-10 in the first. Kristen Huntress knocked down the game’s opening points on a three. Rinaldi then hit two frees to keep her girls close, but Lake Region’s Lauren Jakobs answered with two frees of her own. Huntress, Jakobs, Aisley Sturk, Brooke Harriman and Chandler True all contributed through the remainder of the quarter as the Lakers built that imposing advantage.

In the second, however, the Falcons soared back: Rinaldi began the stretch with a steal that ultimately resulted in two points for Megan Cormier. A Huntress offensive foul soon turned the ball over to Freeport again; it reached the capable hands of Johanna Bogue Marlowe, who capitalized by draining a three. A Lynch steal and then a Lynch d-reb resulted in two each for Bogue Marlowe and Rinaldi; in all, the Falcon racked up 15 more before the break arrived, while the Lakers managed just seven. At the half, then, Lake Region stood on top by a mere deuce, 27-25.

“I was so proud of them for not letting that be the theme for the game,” Hart said of his girls’ falling behind early. “And we talked about it. I said, ‘They got out to a run; they’re quick, they’re fast, they’re smart, they’re good passers. But we are too. So let’s continue to make a run and push back. This is a game of runs.’ So that’s what we wanted to do, put a run on ourselves. And the kids did not quit one ounce.”

Hart remarked on his girls’ much-improved defense in the second, and on their successfully holding formidable Lakers like Huntress and True in check. “They’re good; those kids, they were on our radar,” Hart said. “Even when you’re on them, they still have an opportunity to make shots. We talked about defending the three-point arc, you know. We switch on some of those screens, so we can get and defend those three-point arcs. Listen, they’re great shooters; we did a decent job getting out to them, and they still made some great shots. They can light it up from out there. We were aware of that and wanted to make it a point of emphasis.”

“I would just say that [Freeport] continued to play very physical,” said Lake Region head coach Paul True, asked what went wrong for his girls during the Falcons’ comeback. “We didn’t get to the free-throw line, and I felt, at times, we played very tentative…I didn’t think we were as aggressive, attacking the basket.”

The Falcons’ surprise surge seemed to rattle the Lakers a little. True observed as much: “I think we had a difficult time moving onto the next play,” he said. “So, again, instead of standing around a looking for a call to be made when there’s two or three bodies flying around on the floor, if we don’t move on quickly, it tends to linger, and I thought that got into our heads tonight. But again, that was a credit to Freeport. They…came after us, and we didn’t respond very well.”

Freeport continued to build a head of steam in the third, eventually seizing their first lead of the evening at 31-30 on a Lynch two. From there, they methodically pulled away. Cormier, Rinaldi and Taylor Dostie also contributed in the quarter. Meanwhile, the only Laker who could find the hoop in that time was Chandler True, who indeed looked sharp, sinking a pair of threes and a pair of frees.

“You want that to happen,” Hart said of his girls’ getting working the ball around into everyone’s hands, “because that forces the zone to expand and contract, and leaves gaps, and that’s what we’re trying to exploit.”

Freeport sharpened up their half-court play as the game went on. “We wanted to keep pressure on the ball, but we chose to do it in the half-court,” Hart said. “We were running some double-teams, trying to force them to play a little fast. I felt like, in order for us to continue that pace, we needed to shrink the court a little bit, play in the half-court. But they did a good job mixing up their defenses; they’re playing some zone, playing some man, made us play a little bit slower than we’d like to. We didn’t move the ball tremendously well in the half-court in the first half. In the second half, we got some really good movement, and I was very proud of how they took apart the zone. We were patient, but we were quick thinkers, too, which is what you have to be against the zone.”

The Lakers most definitely took note of the Falcons’ amped-up defense. “They played tremendous pressure defense and took us everything we wanted to do…They took us out of our flow,” True said. 

True’s own defensive approach was not to focus on individual Falcons. “We didn’t concentrate on any one particular player,” he said. “A lot of times we don’t. It’s more or less of contesting every shot; we need five people to be in a stance and defending, and we were very inconsistent with that tonight.”

Even the leading Lady Lakers – the likes of Huntress and Chandler True, for instance – didn’t always produce on defense, although simply suggesting those girls had an off-night of some kind doesn’t capture the whole story. Paul True elaborated: “Unfortunately, we rely on them to play so many minutes,” he said. “I think they wore down a little bit, particularly in the second half. But yeah, we just didn’t execute, we didn’t meet [Freeport’s] aggressive nature.”

The Falcons also controlled the fourth, during which they outscored their guests 18-10. Rinaldi led the final charge with a pair of twos and a trio of frees as Freeport locked up the win. 

Rinaldi posted the game-high, with 14. Cormier followed with 12 and Lynch with 10, while Caroline Smith finished with nine, Jessie Driscoll with six, Bogue Marlowe with five, and Dostie with two.

“Boys, I tell you, there’s a lot of them,” Hart said, asked which of his girls proved the evening’s leaders. “Rinaldi had a wonderful game; Lynch had some great buckets down the stretch; our freshman, Caroline, point-guard, their pressure is great and she did a great job. That’s one thing that I think makes us strong, is that we don’t have one or two players you can key on. A lot of them can do well. That’s why we’re a team.”

Huntress and Jakobs led the Lakers’ offensive efforts with 11 apiece; Chandler True tallied 10, Harriman six, Melody Millett five and Stark two.

The W boosted No. 4 Freeport to 7-2 on the season; the Falcons picked up another victory – this one 43-40 over No. 5 Yarmouth (6-4) – two days later. The team travels to Old Orchard Beach (sixth in C South at 4-4) on Monday the 16th and welcomes Fryeburg (fifth in A South at 6-4) on Friday the 20th. 

Lake Region, meanwhile, slipprf to 5-4. The Lakers currently rank seventh in B South.  The team hosted Cape Elizabeth on Saturday the 14th. Next up on their docket: a trip to first-place, undefeated Gray-New Gloucester on Wednesday the 18th. 

Whereas the mighty G-NG, B South’s No. 1, stands ahead of its closest challenger, Mtn. Valley (8-2) by a whopping 26 Heal Points, Mtn. Valley themselves are separated from next eight teams – that’s right, eight – by roughly the same amount. That means there’s a lot of jostling to be done among the ranks, and Thursday’s contest was important for both squads.

Hart, though, doesn’t pay much attention to the Heal Points. “I think you have to be pretty bright to understand the Heal Points system,” he said. “I don’t get involved in that. For us, we’re going about it every game, and where we land is where we land, and how we go in – if we end up going in at all – is how we go in.”

Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME

Freeporter Taylor Rinaldi guards Lake Region’s Chandler True, on the attack.

Johanna Bogue Marlowe harangues Lauren Jakobs, charging up-court.

Laker Melody Millett shunts the ball ahead vs. Freeport, Thursday last.

Brooke Harriman lofts up a close-on jumper vs. Freeport.

Laker Kristen Huntress and Falcon Johanna Bogue Marlowe clash on Thursday.

Laker Aisley Sturk whips the ball inward on the attack at Freeport.

Laker Lauren Jakobs blocks Freeporter Jessie Driscoll. 

Laker Chandler True pushes into the paint, guarded by Freeporter Taylor Rinaldi.