NAPLES — There aren’t many times when Paul True stumbles with an answer. Last Saturday was one of those times for the Lake Region High girls’ basketball coach.

Asked to talk about the winner of the Mike DiRenzo award, presented to the outstanding player of the Class B South tournament, True choked up, his voice cracking. And with good reason – the winner was his daughter, senior guard Chandler True.

“That just hit me in a lot of different ways,” said True, a couple of days later. “Chandler is a very selfless person and (the award) is something she’s not really comfortable with. But I’m very proud of her. This is something she accomplished on her own, with a lot of help from her teammates, and a lot of love.”

The Lakers came from the fourth seed to the regional championship. And at the heart of that success is their father-daughter dynamic.

Paul True is in his 14th season as Lake Region’s head coach. Has won 234 games there (328 overall in his career) and has taken the Lakers to seven state title games.

Chandler True leads the team in points (13.3 per game), rebounds (7.7) and steals (3.0).

They’ll be together on the basketball court for the final time Friday night when the Lakers (16-5) play Winslow (17-5) for the Class B state title at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

It’s the one game Chandler True was hoping to play in after watching her older sister, Spencer, win a state title with their dad in 2014. Chandler was in the eighth grade at the time.

“Seeing my sister achieve that has been so inspirational,” she said. “I know when I saw her win that was something I wanted to do, too. We all want it.”

Paul True, who is also Lake Region’s athletic director, said it’s not easy separating being a father from a coach.

“I’m in coach mode 98 percent of the time,” he said.

The two try not to talk about basketball away from the court.

“It’s inevitable,” said Paul True, whose son, Jacoby, is in the fourth grade. “There have been some tearful times when she’s tried to talk to dad and the coach in dad surfaces. When (basketball) is what you do and how you live, it’s hard.”

Sometimes it’s really hard.

“If you ask anyone within our group, they’ll tell you I’m much more difficult on my kids,” he said. “I expect more from them and sometimes when I’m not happy with what’s going on, they take the brunt of it. There’s a little guilt that goes with that.”

Chandler True calls it “tough love.”

“At times it can get in my head,” she said. “Luckily my teammates know how to pick me up when he’s tough on me. But I also think it’s strengthened me as a player.”

Lauren Jakobs, a senior forward, said their relationship doesn’t always revolve around basketball.

“He definitely pushes her the hardest, always telling her what she can do better,” said Jakobs. “But there are other moments when I see how he gets emotional with her. She’s one of my best friends so I’ve known him for a long time. He’s definitely the hardest on her, but he’s nice to her, too.”

Senior guard Rachel Shanks said Chandler True is actually a lot like her father in that she’s like a coach on the floor. “She always pushes us to do better and teaches us the plays if we don’t know what we’re doing,” she said.

Maybe that’s because Chandler True has grown up in the gym. She was on the sidelines as an infant, attending practices before entering kindergarten.

“Both Spencer and Chandler,” said Paul True. “Our teams were their babysitters. When dad brought home dirty uniforms to wash, they were first to crawl into the bin and put on a jersey. (He and his wife, Billie Jean, would) pretend to call out the lineup and they’d come into the living room when they were called, wearing a jersey.”

Chandler True said growing up in the gym was special. “Just being here all the time and seeing those girls as my role models has made me the person I am today and made me want to win,” she said.

She hopes to play in college and is looking at Springfield College in Massachusetts or Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Both are Division III programs.

The Lakers are playing Friday night because they survived a very balanced Class B South. Chandler True said that wasn’t by accident.

“I think that we were really prepared,” she said. “I might be biased but I think we have a pretty good coach. We knew what they were going to do and we executed.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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