GRAY–The Patriots scorched the visiting Lakers on opening night – Friday night, Dec. 7, that is. Unsurprisingly, G-NGers Jordan Grant and Bri Jordan led the scoring, the former piling up 14 and the latter amassing 10. Lake Region never got on the board until late in the second quarter, and the Patriots led 24-1 at the break: 44-15 the final as G-NG opens the winter 1-0 and LRHS 0-1.

“I actually thought we did a pretty decent job defensively in the first half – other than, they had seven offensive rebounds,” Lake Region head coach Paul True said. “If you just look at their first-chance points, I thought we really did a good job.”

True continued: “At halftime, the message was, ‘I’m going to learn a lot about them in the second half, and we can either lay down and quit, or we can fight until the final buzzer, and we still have an opportunity to get better.’ And I thought [we] answered that call.”

The Patriots opened the action in thorough control: Grant kicked off the scoring with an inside two, and she and her teammates then hashed the next 20 unanswered. Grant had the first several, but Jordan soon ratcheted up her attack, knocking down a two and two free-throws.

Jordan added two more at the outset of the second, during which stretch Grant, Mikaela Ryan and Abbey Michaud all contributed as well. The Lakers finally got on the board when Liz Smith hit one from the line. Still, G-NG retained a commanding – to put it mildly – lead come halftime: 24-1.

“I think their defense did a great job of pushing us out, 24, 25 feet away from the basket,” True said of his girls’ inability to hit shots – because they did take plenty of shots – in the first half. “We’re just learning, but we can’t settle for three-point bombs all the time. It’s got to be a balance. We’ve got to be able to attack the basket, and I thought we did that better in the second half.”

Lake Region, of course, were last year’s B South Champs and State Runners-Up; the team shed a lot of senior talent though, meaning they’re faced with the tall task of rebuilding as quickly as possible this winter.

“It was a huge factor,” True said of his girls’ youth. “You start the season and you’re playing against a team who lost nobody, and we’re essentially playing with a whole new group and trying to get familiar and to know each other…Gray’s a great team, and we played timid and tentative at the beginning in the game. And if you’re going to do that against a senior-laden team, then you’re going to find yourself in a big hole, which, obviously, we did.”

“The timing we kind of lucked out on,” said Andreasen. “Their team, obviously, Regional champs, lost a bulk of their leadership, especially, but also their scoring, and teams like that need the season to gel and find roles. So to play them in the opener was to our advantage, because when we play them again in Naples, it’s going to be a different story…We’re a team that, we get the team back, so I call a play tonight that we haven’t worked on in the preseason yet – but we had it last year. That’s such a nice luxury.”

LRHS have an outstanding reputation, and they don’t have it because they’re slouches. With True at the helm, they’re perfectly capable of turning even around a stumbling start. Andreasen knows as much only too well:

“Last year we were up 18-7 after one quarter…We were up big; I think it was 26-11 at one point. And I think at halftime we were up three. And then the second half was a dogfight. On the one hand, I don’t want to appear like we’re running the score up; on the other hand – that’s Paul True over there.”

And in fact, Lake Region barreled onto the court after the break and scored the first five points of the third: Brooke Harriman nailed a quick three and Elle Hall shortly followed her with a two. Across the third, the young Lakers – the squad features as many freshmen, five, as it does juniors and seniors combined – kept very close to the Patriots, scoring nine to their hosts’ 10. And even though G-NG doubled up on LRHS in the fourth, 10 points to five, the latter were able to walk away with their heads held high. They’d fought hard, and shown they could hang with a more experienced opponent.

“I almost burned a timeout,” Andreasen said of the Lakers’ push at the start of the third. “Had we not scored, the next possession, I probably would’ve used one.”

“Our goal was to win the third quarter,” True said. “Regardless of the score, just to keep competing and try to win the small battles.”

“In the second half, we let up a little bit with our intensity,” Andreasen said. “We weren’t going to necessarily make the score something unreasonable, but you still need to play hard. And the Lake Region kids didn’t quit. They were getting offensive rebounds, they were battling on the floor.”

“And our offensive efficiency needs to be a little bit better,” Andreasen went on. “You’ve got to be able to knock shots down. Even though we were confident shooters tonight, we weren’t necessarily better shooters than what we’ve done. And teams will scheme you: They’ll say, Okay, let’s take Bri Jordan away, let’s double team Jordan Grant in the post, make the other kids beat you. And the kids have got to be able to step up and do that.”

The two schools have a friendly rivalry; whereas Lake Region knocked G-NG out of last year’s tournament, en route to their second-place finish, the Patriots eliminated LRHS the winter before. In fact, the two sides have met in the B South semis for several years running now, alternating victories.

True applauded his girls, beginning with one of his up-and-comers: “I thought Elle Hall did a really nice job inside particularly in the second half. Again, freshman, brand new player for us,” He said. “Overall I’m really proud of our group, because we competed for 32 minutes. Kids on the bench were vocal in supporting their teammates.”

G-NG welcomes York on Tuesday, Dec. 11 and Freeport two days later. They travel to NYA on Tuesday the 18th.

Andreasen hesitated to wax optimistic. “I know a lot of people are saying, ‘Oh, they’ve got everybody back, and they were a pretty successful team a year ago…’ I know many will say, ‘They might be a favorite, even’ – I hate to use that term. But [last year], mentally, we were kind of finding ourselves.”

Lake Region traveled to NYA on Monday the 10th for their second stab at an early-season W; the succubmed to the Panthers, though, 51-17. Yhe Lakers visit Wells on the 13th and host York on the 18th.

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

Laker Brooke Harriman contends with Patriot Gabriella Sernyk.

Shauna Hancock drives toward the net for the Lakers.

Laker Bella Russo and Patriot Mikaela Ryan do battle.

Liz Smith defends for the Lakers.

Jordan Grant finished with 14 for G-NG.

Bri Jordan added 10 in the Patriots’ win.

Sam Fortin fights toward the basket for the Patriots.

Mady West drives in from the sideline.