AUGUSTA — It was tough to tell the current players from the former players at Saturday’s Class D state championship game.

The moment the final horn sounded ending Rangeley’s win over Shead, coach Heidi Deery was surrounded by three court-stormers, all recently graduated players and all in full uniform.

The three — Taylor Esty, Seve Deery-DeRaps and Valerie Roy-Lessard — were on the other end of the celebration a year ago when they fell to a Washburn juggernaut that won its fifth Class D title in a row. Their tears, this time of joy, were as real as if they had just played the game themselves.

“When we went out on the court and gave Coach Deery a hug she turned around and said we were a huge part of this,” Esty said. “That really hit home to think we had grown up with these players and they finally did it. And they not only did it for Rangeley and the crowd, they did it for us.”

Esty worked the crowd throughout the game, exhorting them to cheer and she walked up and down in front of the stands. She wore her No. 15 uniform from a year ago, along with game shorts and sneakers. Deery-DeRaps wore her old No. 11 while Roy-Lessard sported her No. 23.

“We sent each other a message yesterday that we planned to put on our uniform then at the last minute get in our shorts,” Roy-Lessard said. “And possibly run onto the court and celebrate with them if they won.”

The title was the first for Rangeley since 2004 when the Lakers beat Lee Academy. They’ve been in the hunt every year since, but there was always someone in the way, if not Washburn, then Richmond. Even the most ardent of Rangeley fans would admit the teams of the past few seasons were as strong as this year’s squad, which included five freshmen and three eighth-graders. Esty and Deery-DeRaps have moved on and play for Central Maine Community College. Over Christmas break they returned to play with this year’s squad. The Lakers had just two seniors in Blayke Morin and Maddie Egan.

Morin, at 6-foot-2, was paired with the 6-1 Esty last year while Deery-DeRaps was a versatile perimeter player. They scored 54 points in their six-point loss to Washburn a year ago. This year, most of the pressure was on Morin, who carried much of the scoring and rebounding load.

“I’m very proud of her,” Esty said. “She’s worked so hard. Blayke has stepped it up huge this year. She’s taken her game to another level.”

Deery-DaRaps has been on the ground floor since Day 1, watching her mother coach.

“It was definitely a great feeling even though we’re not a part of the team,” she said. “We have this statement once a Lady Laker, always. I think that’s why we’re so emotional because we feel so much a part of it. I’ve been part of it since I was a little girl. I saw them win in ’04.”

Deery-DeRaps estimated at least 20 former players attended the game and were part of the huge Rangeley contingent filling most of one side of the Augusta Civic Center.

Deery, the coach, played for Rangeley’s first state title-winning team in 1985, then coached the Lakers to championships in 1993, 2004 and 2016.

“She’s helping me learn to become a coach,” Deery-DeRaps said. “We talk about the team all the time.”

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