Blayke Morin has grown since she began a five-year stint on the Rangeley girls basketball team as a 5-foot-10 eighth grader.

The senior center stands 6-2 these days and will be the focal point for the Shead defense when it meets Rangeley for the Class D state championship Saturday.

Morin’s more significant growth has taken place in practice and on the court. Until this season she was one of several talented players who helped the Lakers reach five straight regional championship games. Gone are 6-1 Taylor Esty, guard Seve Deery-DeRaps and several of their talented teammates. Morin this year is the leader of a roster that includes three eighth graders, five freshmen, two sophomores, a junior and another senior.

Six-footers at the Class D level are uncommon and two on the same team even more so.

“Having (Blayke) and Taylor was a huge advantage,” Rangeley coach Heidi Deery said. “Blayke has really become her own player this year. It was a struggle at first to become a go-to person. It’s been a growing process for her.”

Morin has put up solid numbers this season — 18 points per game, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals — that work for both herself and her teammates. In a semifinal tournament win against Temple, Morin scored just nine points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists. Sophomore Sydney Royce led the Lakers in scoring with 21 points and Deery said it was the ideal scenario leading into the title game against Vinalhaven because the Vikings had more to worry about besides Morin.

Morin turned it on in the regional championship game, scoring a career-high 34 points while hauling in eight rebounds. She scored 13 points in the first quarter, including a pair of 16-foot jumpers.

“My role has changed probably just as a leader,” Morin said. “Not as much as a team player. Our team develops around what we need to develop around.”

This year, the development has been around Morin and everyone has been a beneficiary. She’s a particularly versatile player for her size. Deery brings her up to the high post to take advantage of her vision and passing ability or puts her in the low post to exploit mismatches.

“She’s an excellent passer and she is a great defender as well,” Deery said. “Her physical strength is a huge asset for her.”

Morin grew up playing with Esty and Deery-DeRaps — two of her closest friends — and the transition from complementary player to go-to player was helped by her maturity and attitude.

“The three of us always had such a close bond,” said Deery-DeRaps, who is playing for Central Maine Community College this year. “She’s taken on this team as a leader. She knows it’s not the Blayke Morin show, that’s what makes her so dangerous.”

It was Deery who got her daughter Seve, Morin and Esty involved in the game at a young age and said there are advantages to coaching at a small school (Rangeley’s enrollment is 65 students).

“In a small school kids are accepted as individuals,” Deery said. “There just aren’t cliques like there are at bigger schools.”

Perhaps because she began with Deery as a coach at such a young age, Morin has always bought into what she’s been taught.

“You don’t have to convince Blayke of anything,” Deery said. “She believes me and our game plan. She’s just been a lot of fun to coach.”

Morin’s outgoing personality is manifested on the court and in the community. An accomplished artist, she’s president of the school Rotary Interactive Club. She has yet to decide on a college for next year but knows she wants to study nursing and would like to play basketball.

“We’re not sure yet,” said Morin who has been contacted by a number of school. “We’re still in talks. I’m staying in the state for sure.”

The Lakers reached the state championship game last season but haven’t won a Gold Ball since 2004.

“We’re a tight-knit group,” Morin said. “Now we just want to get one more. That will be a whole different ballgame.”

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