BANGOR — There were roughly seven minutes to go in the third quarter when the Lake Region girls basketball team brought the ball up the court. The Lakers were trailing Winslow 20-11 in the Class B state championship game. They needed a spark.

They tried to drive into the lane. The Black Raiders turned them away. They tried again, and again Winslow said no. A third try was denied, and finally, the Lakers cut their losses and tried for a 3-pointer. It missed, Maeghan Bernard grabbed the rebound, and with 5:55 to go Winslow started up the court, no worse for the wear on the scoreboard and over a minute closer to the ultimate prize.

It was a momentary highlight, but a game-long story. The Black Raiders are champions for the first time since 2005 after a 43-29 win, and make no mistake, Winslow won this one with defense.

“We knew defense wins championships,” junior forward Paige Trask said. “We had lock-down ‘D’ today. We knew they were good on offense, but defense was going to win this game.”

It was Winslow’s interior defense, specifically, that was the story Friday night. The Black Raiders forced Lake Region players, particularly scorers Chandler True and Lauren Jakobs, to fight their way through double teams, a line of bodies and a forest of arms in order to get to the basket, possession after possession after possession.

“We just tried to clog up that paint, be big and just have our hands up,” coach Lindsey Withee said. “The kids really executed and did a great job with that.”

It wasn’t the first display of stifling defense from the Black Raiders, who went into the tournament riding blistering-hot shooting but transitioned into more of a defense-first team as it marched closer and closer to a Gold Ball. Winslow took the B North title with such a defensive commitment; the Black Raiders were trailing 36-33 to Presque Isle entering the fourth quarter but didn’t allow a point in the fourth quarter, eventually winning 43-39 in overtime.

It was a tough act to follow. Friday night came close. Winslow was effective from the start, combating Lake Region’s preference to drive with numbers in the paint, and holding the Lakers to only six points in the first quarter and 11 points in the first half.

It was all in the gameplan. Withee stressed the importance of keeping defenders in the paint at all times, and players like Weslee Littlefield, Bodhi Littlefield, Haley Ward and Madison Roy took it to heart.

“We knew their game was driving to the hoop, specifically,” Withee said. “They could knock down shots as well, but most important was taking that lane away.”

Lake Region soon gave up on fighting its way through the thicket, and tried to climb back into the game by hitting the perimeter shots Winslow was conceding. That didn’t work either; the Lakers were 10-for-43 from the field for the game, and only 4-for-27 in the first three quarters while the game was still within reach.

“That was huge. We wanted them to take outside shots,” said Weslee Littlefield, a junior guard. “We just stuck a foot in the paint, we were as big as we could be and we played our butts off.”

They did, both before and after the shots. Winslow was led individually by only four rebounds from Weslee Littlefield and Bodhi Littlefield but got an excellent team-wide effort on the boards, outrebounding Lake Region 31-24 for the game.

“We had that challenge all year where teams were bigger than us, and we just really had to pack it inside and rely on helpside defense,” Withee said. “We showed a great team effort tonight by everybody.”

It’s not the prettiest style of game to play. But it’s one Winslow was ready for going in.

“We’ve had a few games like that,” Weslee Littlefield said. “It’s just how the game goes. We can adjust, we’re pretty good at adjusting.”

As good as it gets, in fact.

“The whole team worked so hard,” Weslee Littlefield said. “We all got into it. This is just an amazing feeling right now.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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