by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 3-2-2014
ORLEANS — The Lake Region Rangers earned a berth in the final four with Friday night’s 59-42 win over the visiting Peoples Academy Wolves. It was difficult at times to tell who was more charged up by the match — the players or the fans.
“The crowd support was phenomenal,” Lake Region Coach James Ingalls said after the game.
If the game could be described in one word that word would surely be energetic. In a previous match-up against the Wolves Lake Region came out on top 57-53 so the stage was set for another tight game.
“The difference tonight was intensity,” Ranger Dakota McAlister said after the game. “We’re rolling.”
Though Lake Region had only played Peoples once during the regular season, the results of that game caused Coach Ingalls to review film footage. That review helped to tighten up Lake Region’s defensive efforts in Friday’s all-important quarterfinal game.
“It helped show us where some of the holes were in our play and we worked on closing them,” the coach said. “If anything changed it was our defensive intensity, knowing where we needed to be and executing. They have some skilled shooters that we needed to limit.”
The intensity that surrounded the Rangers stems from a very simple fact, McAlister said. In the regular season you work and win to secure a higher playoff seed. In the playoffs every win represents an opportunity to move forward.
“In the playoffs every game is like a whole season in one game,” McAlister said. “If you don’t win you go home. We aren’t ready to go home.”
Evidently the Wolves were not ready to go home either based on their fourth quarter surge. The Wolves entered the final frame trailing 50-27. Their never-say-die attitude, however, kept them in the contest, steadfastly refusing to concede the loss.
The comeback bid was spurred by Alex Gravel’s two three-pointers and Marcel Gravel’s one three-pointer. The fourth quarter would be the only time that Peoples would outscore the Rangers in the entire game. While the effort came too little, too late, it did prove that the Wolves had also earned their spot in the playoffs.
“They really brought it,” McAlister said of his opponents. “They play a physical style that really tests us. We had to move the ball well, kick it out to our shooters and get by their big guys.”
Friday’s contest was very much a battle of guards. McAlister’s number three jersey was frequently seen cutting through the Wolves defenders, advancing passes to the forwards, quarterbacking the play. McAlister would lead all scorers recording 18 points on the night. Other players hitting double-digits were Lake Region’s Dennis Newland (12) and Peoples Academy’s Matt Allen (12).
“He was finding the holes, exploiting the holes,” Coach Ingalls said of McAlister’s performance. “He ran the offense tonight.”
McAlister gave equal credit to his fellow guards Alex Beauregard, Trent Bathalon, Clint Provoncha and Josh Thibault.
“Together we played total team defense,” McAlister said. “We knew what was on the line. Now we’re going to Barre.”
The Rangers (18-4) next challenge will be significant. They are set to take on second-seeded Randolph (20-2) on Thursday, March 6, at the Barre Auditorium. Randolph’s only two losses of the season have come at the hands of number-one seed Williamstown (21-0).
Contact Richard creaser at email@example.com