WATERVILLE — The Rangeley boys basketball team hasn’t won 15 games in a season in 17 years. With Tuesday’s 65-57 win at Temple Academy, the Lakers accomplished that goal, but it wasn’t easy.

Down by 10 points in the second quarter and by three at the half. Rangeley rallied to pull away late and earn the East/West Conference win. The Lakers close the regular season at 15-3, and will be the two seed in the Class D South tournament. Temple ends the regular season at 8-10 and will likely be the four seed in D South.

“This year we just got lucky, having a lot of quick kids at the same time. Our team’s really fast, which gives us the advantage on most teams,” Rangeley junior guard Kenny Thompson, who scored a game-high 30 points, said.

For Rangeley, the win caps the best regular season since the 2002-03 season, in which the Lakers also went 15-3. That season, Rangeley advanced to the Class D West semifinals, where they fell to an undefeated Valley team on its way to a state record sixth straight championship. Tuesday night’s win also snapped a brief two game losing streak for the Lakers, who dropped a pair of games to Class C opponents Buckfield and Richmond.

“I heard it’s been a while,” Rangeley coach Jeff Larochelle said of his team’s winning record. “You saw when we execute, we’re pretty good.”

The Lakers took the lead for good with 59 seconds left in the third quarter when Thompson made a pair of free throws for a 46-45 cushion. In the fourth, Rangeley led by as many as eight points, but Temple pulled within four, 61-57, on a Dragan Jovanovic three with 48 seconds left.

“We did a lot of good things. I’m awfully critical, and I need not be. This is the best we’ve competed in the last four games, without question,” Temple coach Scott Corey said.

Nolan Boone and Thompson each made a pair of free throws in the final minute to seal the win for Rangeley.

Down seven points late in the first quarter, Temple went on a 19-2 run, turning the deficit into a 26-16 lead on a Jovanovic basket with 5:13 left in the first half.

“I think we just lacked on our defense and didn’t get into passing lanes and just let them catch the ball a lot,” Thompson said.

Larochelle thought his team’s offensive decision-making was questionable early in the second quarter, allowing the Bereans to go on their run.

“When they were in that 2-3 zone a while, we were content with one pass, let it fly. We’ve got to work it around. When you come down and make them play defense for seven seconds, you’re not wearing anybody out,” Larochelle said.

The Lakers cut their deficit to three points at the half, 32-29. After the Bereans pushed their lead back to eight points, 39-31, in the third, the Lakers went on a 10-0 run to regain the lead, 41-39, on an Ian Lillis basket. The entire 10-point run took a minute and 20 seconds, and the Lakers scored six points in the span of 14 seconds. After Boone sank a pair of foul shots to cut Temple’s lead to 39-35, Lillis scored on a layup off a steal seven seconds later. Seven seconds after that, Thompson tied the game off another steal.

“My favorite way to score is transition. I tell my guys all the time that if you want to get more points, the easiest way to do it is offensive rebounds and transition points,” Thompson said.

Added Larochelle: “That’s our game, get the ball out and go. We were a lot better at making their guys play the whole court and not just walk it down.”

For a stretch in the third quarter, the teams engaged in a transition battle, trying to beat each other up and down the court as if there was a shot clock, and it was set to five seconds. It led to exciting basketball, but sloppy basketball at times, too. The teams combined for 52 turnovers.

“I just wish we’d defend with more urgency. We haven’t all year. We rely too much on our athleticism sometimes, and that can be a curse. We do a lot of standing on defense,” Corey said.

Boone added 16 points for the Lakers, while Lillis chipped in 12. Jovanovic led Temple with 24 points. Marko Ajvaz had 15 points for the Bereans.

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