BANGOR, Maine — The Winslow Black Raiders demonstrated again Friday night that their commitment to playing good defense is second only to their commitment to one another.
Coach Lindsey Withee’s ballclub smothered Lake Region with their aggressive player-to-player defense, limiting the Lakers to 10-for-47 shooting to build the foundation for a 43-29 victory in the Class B girls basketball state championship game at the Cross Insurance Arena.
“We talked about playing our ‘5’ which is one foot in the paint and really helping with no outside responsibilities on [Chandler] True,” Withee said. “We just tried to clog up the paint, being big and having our hands up, and the kids really executed and did a great job with that.”
The Black Raiders closed out their impressive season at 17-5, hoisting the gold ball for the first time since 2005 and only the second time in program history. Winslow’s chemistry and camaraderie were evident throughout its run to the title.
“We come into practice every day with one common goal in mind and it was this game,” said senior Haley Ward, who was Winslow’s only double-figure scorer with 12 points, including 7-for-8 free-throw shooting.
“When you have that type of mentality and that type of commitment from each one of us, I think success is only inevitable,” she added.
Winslow utilized its collectively quick feet and hands to throw a net over the paint, forcing Lake Region of Naples (16-6) to take what it could get from the perimeter. The shots simply were not falling.
The Lakers’ 21 percent floor shooting, amidst a 1-for-18 effort from the 3-point line, was in part a result of the Black Raiders’ commitment to defensive principles, which came from Withee’s emphasis on that end of the floor.
“She’s defense, defense, defense,” said junior Weslee Littlefield, who provided six points and six rebounds to go with gritty defense and reliable ball-handling. “That’s her strong suit as a coach and we respect her for that. We we wanted to win and we will do anything it takes to win, so we bought into it.”
Meanwhile, the Black Raiders played with poise and confidence at the offensive end, shooting 10-for-22 (45 percent) from the floor despite making only 18 of 31 free throws.
Winslow’s balance gave the Lakers not one or two but several offensive threats with which they had to deal.
“They’re very well balanced. We knew coming in they’ve got five kids on the floor at all times that can dribble, pass and shoot it,” said Lake Region coach Paul True. “They’re a difficult ballclub to defend because you can’t really key on that one person.”
Winslow received eight points from sophomore Silver Clukey and four from junior Maeghan Bernard while placing nine different players in the scoring column. Seniors Sarah Guimond, Maddie Roy and Broghan Gagnon, junior Paige Trask and sophomore Brodhi Littlefield all played roles in the victory.
“Everyone’s best friends with each other, we’re all tight,” Weslee Littlefield said. “We have a special bond and I really think that’s why we made it here tonight.”
Chandler True paced Lake Region with 12 points and Lauren Jakobs provided seven points and seven rebounds.
Winslow never led by fewer than eight points in the second half after holding a 20-11 edge at intermission. The lead grew to as many as 15 points and might have been considerably larger with better foul shooting.
The Black Raiders also had to overcome some occasional turnover issues and did so with defense and strong rebounding.
The Black Raiders made the Lakers work hard for any open shots in the first half, especially in the paint. Winslow’s sagging player-to-player defense created lots of traffic in the lane.
Lake Region tried its hand at breaking the ice from the perimeter, but shot 2-for-21 (10 percent) from the field, including 1-for-9 from the 3-point arc. Winslow also limited the Lakers’ second-chance opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Black Raiders appeared fairly comfortable running their offense against the Lakers, who played mostly player-to-player but mixed in a bit of 2-3 zone. Winslow was able to split the gaps and get some good shots while placing six players in the scoring column on its way to 7-for-16 shooting (44 percent).
Winslow grabbed a 16-14 rebounding edge and overcame five turnovers. Lake Region committed only two.
The Black Raiders pulled in front with a 9-0 run to open the second quarter. Silver Clukey ignited the burst with a 3-pointer and followed with a hoop on a baseline drive.
Later, after two missed foul shots by Lake Region, Haley Ward made two free throws and Paige Trask followed by banking in a 17-footer from up top that gave Winslow an 18-6 advantage with 4:19 left in the first half.