AUGUSTA — Though it may not be good for his blood pressure, Rangeley coach Jeff Larochelle has a sense of humor about his Lakers’ new-found habit of keeping basketball fans on the edge of their seats.

“We can make games close. We’re a team that’s good at selling tickets. If you want entertainment, we’ll keep it close,” he said.

The Lakers played their third straight game decided by four points or less and got their first win in that stretch with an entertaining 58-54 triumph over Forest Hills on Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center.

Carl Trafton tallied 20 points and six rebounds despite being plagued with foul trouble and Kyle Larochelle added 17 points as the Lakers (3-4) picked up a crucial win for their hopes of returning to the Civic Center for February’s tournament.

Aaron Moffitt led Forest Hills (4-3) with a game-high 33 points and six rebounds.

Larochelle reluctantly sent Trafton and Ricky Thompson back into the game with four fouls apiece late in the third quarter after Moffitt, who scored 13 of the Tigers 15 points in the quarter, put his team up, 34-33. Jacob Rivas later extended that lead to 38-33.

“The last game we lost to Buckfield by two. The game before that we lost to Greater Portland Christian by three,” said Coach Larochelle, whose team had nine turnovers in the quarter and 27 overall. “Our problem is we turn the ball over. We’re always talking about reducing our turnovers. Some of us are very predictable in our passes. I thought for a second it was going to get away from us when they got up by five.”

Instead, the Lakers reclaimed the lead for good with six straight points to end the quarter capped by a Larochelle runner.

They weren’t out of the woods yet, though. Thompson fouled out early in the fourth quarter as the Lakers clinged to their one-point lead. Larochelle scored a pair of hoops and Trafton hit a 3-pointer to inflate the cushion to six, but the Tigers battled back to tie it, 52-52, on a Dalton Gregoire drive with 2:14 left.

Forest Hills returned the favor with nine turnovers of its own in the fourth quarter and Leo Perez scored with 1:30 remaining to put the Lakers back in front to stay. Trafton made four of four from the free throw line to ice it.

“It looked like a bad junior high game out there today, but that was, I thought, advantage us because they’ve got some older kids and bigger kids,” Forest Hills coach Anthony Amero said. “I thought if we get into a rag-tag game that might favor us down the stretch because we tried to run legs and tried to wear them out. But we couldn’t close the deal.”

After going scoreless in the first quarter, Moffitt went off for 10 points in the second quarter to help Forest Hills keep pace with 3-pointers by Trafton and Devon Clark. Brandon Gilboe (six points, seven rebounds) chipped in with five offensive rebounds and a hoop that, when followed by a Moffitt putback, pulled the Tigers within two, 23-21, at halftime.

The game was a makeup of what was scheduled to be a Wednesday morning boys/girls doubleheader as part of the Capital City Hoop Classic. Tuesday’s storm prevented the teams from traveling to make the early tip time, so both schools agreed to play on Thursday to get some invaluable experience in the tournament venue. The boys win gave the Lakers a sweep.

“It’s awesome because a lot of other kids never play here,” Coach Larochelle said. “This is my third year here and it’s a goal of ours to get here, so we try to schedule a game and get one under our belt. Hopefully, this will right our ship because we’ve got a game on Saturday (against Seacoast Christian) and GPC comes back to our place on Tuesday. Hopefully, we can put a few wins in a row together and get back in the thick of things.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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