AUGUSTA — In a season of obstacles and transition, the Rangeley girls basketball team keeps pushing forward.

The Lakers began their quest for a state title with a 49-24 victory over Vinalhaven in a Class D South quarterfinal game Saturday morning at the Augusta Civic Center. The No. 2 Lakers (17-2) will meet No. 3 Valley in the semifinals Thursday in Augusta. The Cavaliers beat No. 6 Forest Hills 39-24 earlier Saturday morning. No. 7 Vinalhaven finished 4-15.

Rangeley has already tackled one transition, continuing success under a new head coach, as former assistant Brittany DiPompo took over this season from longtime coach Heidi Deery, who stepped aside for personal matters (Deery has been working with the team as an assistant and was on the bench Saturday).

Then, late in the season, senior forward Olivia Pye broke her wrist, forcing her to miss the rest of the year.

Four games after the injury, the Lakers find some moments of struggle, but overcome and find victories.

“It’s obviously been a year of transition, but she’s a senior leader,” DiPompo said. “It’s more than just the points that she puts up on the board and what she brought out on the court, we don’t have that anymore. We’re missing that senior leadership out on the court. Obviously we have Lauren Eastlack and Gabby White out there as well. But it’s just that we had three strong people out there, and now we’re down one with one being on the bench. It’s definitely changed (things) up. How we’re adjusting, as you saw today, we’re still adjusting to those new roles, but those girls are ready to step up and take the role, and Olivia has full confidence in them stepping up and taking that.”

The Vikings jumped out to an early 4-0 lead. But an 11-0 run in the middle of the quarter gave Rangeley a lead it would not relinquish.

“It’s kind of nice to see our team successfully get to the ball and our offense to do what we’ve been working on for a whole week,” sophomore guard Winnie LaRochelle said. “And to get through those bumps, we just come together as a team and that’s how we do that.”

“Any quarterfinal game, being the higher seed is tough,” DiPompo said. “Coming back to the ACC, one of the best places to play, obviously it brings nerves and it’s a bigger court than we’re used to playing at, bigger than any of the Class D schools that we play. I’m pretty impressed with what we’ve been working on this week, I saw a lot of good things. But we have more to show, that’s for sure.”

Once Rangeley’s offense got going, it was hard to stop. Rangeley put together a 10-0 run in the second quarter to take a 23-9 halftime lead, and outscored the Vikings 12-3 in the fourth quarter to put the game away. LaRochelle led the way with 16 points, while Lauren Eastlack scored 13 points and Emily Eastlack added 12.

Rangeley was nearly perfect at the foul line, making 9 of its 10 foul shots.

“Obviously 9 for 10 is awesome, but we want to get to there 20 or 30 times (per game),” DiPompo said. “We’re really going to be working on getting into the paint more, but obviously going 9 for 10 (at the line) means we put ourselves in that pressure situation. This whole week (at practice) that’s what we said, ‘Every time you go to the foul line, you have to think about being at the ACC, taking that shot there and how you’re going to deal with that pressure.’ I’m impressed with 9 for 10, but I want to get to the foul line more.”

“We take a lot of pride in our foul shots,” LaRochelle said. “We focus a lot on that in practice, so we can be successful (during) a game.”

Jordan Hoose led Vinalhaven with eight points.

The Lakers will need to continue their success — both offensively and at the foul line — moving forward in the tournament, starting with Valley, a team the Lakers met twice during the regular season, picking up wins in both contests. But Rangeley welcomes the challenge.

“They’re very scrappy, they’re a scrappy team,” LaRochelle said. “We just have to be intense.”

 

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