AUGUSTA — For the better part of four quarters, Rangeley matched defending state champion Vinalhaven hoop for hoop Saturday in the Class D South regional championship at the Augusta Civic Center.

The second-seeded Lakers were giving away size and most of all experience to the top-seeded Vikings, who returned their team of a year ago intact. And while Vinalhaven relied on its group of seniors led by Gilleyanne Davis-Oakes, Rangeley rode Winnie LaRochelle and Emily Eastlack, a pair of eighth graders.

In the end, Davis-Oakes and the Vikings proved a bit too much as they pulled away in the final three minutes for a 59-49 victory.

Vinalhaven (21-0) advances to play Southern Aroostook for the Class D state championship Saturday in Augusta while Rangeley finishes at 18-3, with all three losses coming to the Vikings.

For the second year in a row Davis-Oakes received the Patricia Gallagher Award given to the tournament MVP. The 5-foot-10 senior finished with 28 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots. She scored 12 points in the final five minutes after the Lakers had taken a 44-43 lead.

“I’m just a second-half player,” Davis-Oakes said. “Me knowing that the shots weren’t falling for me in the first half, I knew my team had my back.”

The Lakers held Davis-Oakes scoreless in the first quarter with a collapsing zone that played her front and back.

“We just wanted to make her work and I felt like we did,” Rangeley coach Heidi Deery said. “She’s a great player and I give her a lot of credit and her team. They kept their composure and just kept playing.”

The Lakers maintained their composure as well. After jumping to a 13-11 first-quarter lead, they found themselves trailing 26-19 at the half. The attention given to Davis-Oakes hurt at times with Cheyenne Bickford (11 points) slipping behind the defense for layups.

The Vikings employed a triangle and two defense designed to stop senior Natasha Haley and junior Brooke Egan. It worked for the most part as Haley was held to four points and Egan six. But it opened shots up for their teammates. LaRochelle finished with a team-high 16 points while Eastlack added 13.

“Honest to God I didn’t know who was who and what was what,” Vinalhaven coach Sandy Nelson said. “I knew 24 (Haley) and I knew 10 (Egan). I knew we had to stop 24.”

Haley finished with 24 points in a semifinal against Temple but her touches were limited Saturday as she was shadowed by Deja Doughty. Haley did make contributions on defense and pulled down a team-high 15 rebounds.

The Vikings went ahead 38-27 late in the third quarter as Davis-Oakes converted a three-point play and followed that with a pair of free throws. The Lakers came right back when LaRochelle sandwiched a pair of jumpers around a 14-footer from Eastlack.

“They’ve had their time this year,” Deery said of the pair, ” but certainly not under this pressure situation. Both of them are very matter of fact and there’s not a lot of drama and emotion in them.”

Rangeley trailed 43-36 early in the fourth quarter before putting together an 8-0 run to take a 44-43 lead. Eastlack opened with a foul-line jumper then LaRochelle and Egan each hit 15-footers from the opposite sides of the court. LaRochelle capped it with a baseline shot.

“Rangeley’s a tough team,” Davis-Oakes said. “They’re very aggressive, but we’re aggressive too.”

Davis-Oakes erased the Lakers’ lead with a putback followed by a nice spinning move to her left hand that banked off the glass to make it 47-44. A steal and layup by Doughty and another hoop from Davis-Oakes gave the Vikings a lead that they padded from the foul line down the stretch.

Haley is the team’s lone senior while the Lakers return 10 players from a team that reached the final for the second time in three years.

“I’m excited,” Deery said. “I thought it was a huge team effort. We wanted to come down here and compete. Vinalhaven’s the No. 1 team. They’re defending state champs. They beat us twice handily during the regular season.”

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