In girls basketball: Lake Region loses hard fought championship game

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Molly Horton drives to the hoop in the face of the resolute Mill River defense.   Photos by Joseph Gresser
Molly Horton drives to the hoop in the face of the resolute Mill River defense. Photos by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle March 4, 2015

by Joseph Gresser

BARRE — It’s a sad truth that no matter how well they play, only one team will come off the basketball court with a victory. Saturday the girls of Lake Region Union High School played magnificently in the Division II finals at the Barre Auditorium, but fell just short of their goal — the state championship.

The Rangers bowed to the Mill River Union High School Minutemen in a game that was even tighter than the 50-46 final score might suggest. With less than a minute to go, its outcome was still very much in doubt.

Both teams had proved themselves during the regular season and came into the tournament as the first and second seeds. Lake Region, with an 18-2 record in the season, was rated first and Mill River, at 15-5, was just behind them. The Rangers and Minutemen did not meet during the season.

The game got off to a rough start for Lake Region as Mill River put eight unanswered points on the board before Tyrah Urie scored more than halfway into the first period. That basket, a pair of successful free throws by Urie, and a three-point shot from Molly Horton, were the Rangers’ total offensive production in the first quarter.

Mill River was more productive and the first frame ended with the Minutemen ahead 12-5.

The second period was the best stretch of the game for Lake Region. With the assistance of six points from Urie — one field goal, a three-point shot, and a free throw — four points on penalty conversions from Emily Lawson, Olivia King, and Megan Menard, and a field goal each from Karamae Hayman-Jones and Kiana Royer, the Rangers put 18 points up.

Meanwhile, the Rangers defense held Mill River to only 11 points. At the half, Lake Region had scratched out a two-point lead. The teams left the court with the scoreboard reading 25-23.

Emily Lawson at the line during the waning moments of the game.  Her shot was good.
Emily Lawson at the line during the waning moments of the game. Her shot was good.

When they returned, the battle was on again. Lake Region put a quick two points on the board, putting it ahead by four points at 27-23. That was the largest lead enjoyed by either team at any point in the game.

The Minutemen and the Rangers battled throughout the quarter, each team answering the other’s baskets.

A bad outlet pass about five minutes into the quarter was snagged by Mill River, resulting in an easy layup at their undefended goal and a score tied at 29 all.

The Rangers responded by working the ball inside to Menard, who hit her shot, drawing a foul in the process. After she failed to make the free throw, the score stood at 31-29.

When the Lake Region girls stripped the ball from Mill River and ran it down court for a quick basket, the Rangers fans shook the auditorium with their cheers.

Mill Rivers’ partisans had their opportunity to yell approval a moment later when a Minuteman basket put the tally at 33-31.

Despite a strong Rangers defense, Mill River continued to press, ending the third period just one point behind Lake Region at 35-34.

A Rangers goal at the start of the fourth quarter lifted Lake Region to a 37-34 lead, but they quickly gave that up to a field goal and foul.

Emily Lawson put the Rangers back in front when she hit both of her free throws after being fouled on an attempted shot.

The Minutemen hit a field goal to even things up again at 39 all.

Emily Lawson rises for a shot as Megan Menard (left) arrives in search of a possible offensive rebound.
Emily Lawson rises for a shot as Megan Menard (left) arrives in search of a possible offensive rebound.

As Lake Region headed back down court they suffered a costly turnover, followed by a Mill River field goal.

The Minutemen led by 41-39.

Urie got possession and was headed for the hoop, but she was stopped by a hard foul. She hit one of her free throws, bringing the Rangers back to within one point at 41-40.

As time slipped away, Lake Region was behind the eight ball and in foul trouble. A Minuteman field goal earned Mill River three points after a Lake Region foul.

The Rangers responded with a field goal, bringing them back to within two points of their opponents at 44-42.

With 2:20 left on the clock, Mill River scored again, regaining a four-point lead.

As their fans screamed approval, the Rangers hit two baskets in a row, again tying the score at 46 each.

With less than a minute left to play, the Minutemen opened up a one-point lead on a free throw. Mill River tried to run out the clock by dribbling aimlessly, forcing Lake Region to reach in and risk the foul.

The referees, who were keeping a close eye on things throughout the contest, did not miss the contact and sent Mill River’s Ella Bankert to the line. Her two points, scored with less than half a minute to go in the game, increased the pressure on Lake Region.

Lawson responded by grabbing and hanging on to a ball that momentarily escaped Mill River’s control, forcing a jump ball that went in Lake Region’s favor.

Ranger Coach Joe Houston quickly called a time out and outlined a three-point play. The attempt to send the game into overtime failed, and a final Mill River foul shot put the game out of reach just before the buzzer.

After his team graciously accepted medals they clearly were unhappy to receive, Mr. Houston reflected on the game.

His team, he said, “played a consistent game start to finish.”

Tyrah Urie brings the ball down court Saturday afternoon during the Division II finals in Barre.  Emily Lawson follows with an eye to a possible play.
Tyrah Urie brings the ball down court Saturday afternoon during the Division II finals in Barre. Emily Lawson follows with an eye to a possible play.

Mill River, “got on us and didn’t let us get over the hump,” Mr. Houston said.

Looking back at the game and the season that led to the finals, he said, “I couldn’t be prouder of my kids and what they did this season. They played their hearts out.”

Lake Region’s offense was well balanced in the season finale. Lawson led in scoring with 12 points, closely followed by Urie with 11, and Menard with 9.

Mill River’s Bankert was the game’s high scorer with 16 points.

Taking into account the regular season and the playoffs, “21 and three is a heck of a record,” Mr. Houston said.

contact Joseph Gresser at [email protected]

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