HARTFORD – 2 points is all that separated Lake Region from their 6th consecutive trip to the Barre Aud for the Final Four. With the Hartford Hurricanes on top 43-41 and under 10 seconds on the clock, Drew Neal’s 3-ball wouldn’t fall, sending the Hurricanes to the semi-finals.
Neal would be the offensive leader in the contest. She opened the game on a 5-0 run after draining a baseline leaner and a 3 from the right side. Lake Region’s lead would grow to 7-2 before Hartford stormed back to take a 13-7 lead. Tyrah Urie, LR’s other offensive leader, cut the lead to 3, but the ‘Canes Taylor Johnson drained a long 3 at the buzzer to send the game to the 2nd quarter with Hartford on top 16-10.
The road blue started to come alive in the 2nd, outscoring the home team 14-5. Urie started the scoring outburst, with a midfield steal and lay-in for 2. The Lady Ranger’s regained the lead at 19-18, with 3 minutes left in the first half, after a pair of Neal 3’s.
Caitlyn Bernier and Caylin Gallup each connected on their only 2 points of the night in the closing minutes of the first half. Bernier’s, a nice lay-in inside, and Gallup’s, a long 2 with her foot on the line. This would send the game to the half with Lake Region on top 24-21.
Using their pair of 5’10” forwards and their 6’1” center, the Hurricanes clawed back in the 3rd period. Katelyn Sheldrick, Stephanie Grobe, and Sarah Illingworth had their way with the Ranger D, outscoring their opponent 6-0 to retake the lead. Illingworth connected on a long 3 to push the lead to 30-26, but UVM-bound Kylie Atwood was having none of it, connecting on a long 3 of her own on the very next possession to cut the score to 1. Urie, added to 2 more, after another mid-court steal and lay-in, and it was 31 all heading into teh fourth.
Each side would trade the lead back and forth over the first 4 minutes of play, but after Allie Hall put the Rangers on top 35-34, Illingworth responded by knocking down 2 free throws to put the ‘Canes top. Sheldrick stretched the lead to 39-35, before Urie and Ashley Locke re-tied the game at 39. After a controversial call, Grobe was sent to the line for a double bonus, connecting on both shots to give Hartford a 41-39 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
After another Hartford free throw, Urie closed the gap to 1 point at 42-41 with 25 seconds on the clock. Being forced to foul, the Rangers sent Clara Leister to line who hit 1 of 2 shots, leaving Lake Region one more shot. Urie, appeared to be fouled at mid-court as she brought the ball up on the final possession, but after the no-call the ball squirted to Neal, who launched a 3-ball, only to be sent flying to the floor, for another no-call, ending the Rangers season 43-41.
The Lady Rangers were paced by Tyrah Urie and Drew Neal, who each reached double-figures with 13 points.
Hartford was led by Sarah Illington’s game-high 19 points and Katelyn Shledrick’s 8.
You could sense the emotion on coach Mark Tinker’s face after the game. “We came within 2 points of heading back to Barre,” he would say.
“Early on, this group was inexperienced, a lot of the kids suffered injuries or were returning from injuries. It was tough losing Emily [Comins] right before the start of the playoffs and there were other factors, but this group pulled it together down the stretch and they were playing some decent basketball. We hoped to make it back to Barre, but came up just short.”
As the season ends Lake Region loses 6 seniors to graduation. And when the team returns next winter they will be a very young team. But, if there has been one thing learned over the past 6 years, it is that it doesn’t matter who is on the court, Coach Tinker will pull them together and have them poised at making another Barre run.