Wednesday, March 12, 2014
AUGUSTA — On Friday, the Forest Hills girls were talking about their most memorable moments as a team. They brought up the time Kori Coro hit a 3-pointer from the left corner, which somehow led to coach Mike LeBlanc ripping his pants.
One day later, Coro nailed another 3-pointer, and this one will be remembered by everyone who saw it. With Forest Hills trailing Rangeley by two in the Western D final, Coro swished a three with 0.8 seconds left, giving the Tigers a heart-stopping 53-52 victory at the Augusta Civic Center.
“Let’s just say I was very scared,” Coro said with a smile. “If it wasn’t for that assist by Dana McNally, I wouldn’t have got that shot off, and we would have been done for the season.”
Instead, No. 1 Forest Hills remains undefeated at 21-0 and will face Eastern D champion Washburn for the Class D title at 1:05 p.m., Saturday in Augusta. It’s the first trip to the state finals for the Tigers since they won the Gold Ball in 1997. No. 2 Rangeley finishes at 19-2. Both losses were to Forest Hills, by a combined seven points.
Rangeley’s Taylor Esty (16 points, 13 rebounds) scored 12 points in the third quarter, and the Lakers led 48-38 early in the fourth quarter. Forest Hills scratched back with a 7-0 run, and trailed 50-47 with 2:30 to go when McNally followed up her own missed three with a basket.
The Tigers tied it at 50 when Haley Cuddy threw in a three — her only points of the game, and her only shot of the second half — with 1:57 left. Rangeley immediately answered with a driving bank shot by Tori Letarte (14 points) for a 52-50 lead.
The teams traded turnovers, including a great defensive play by Rangeley’s Blayke Morin (10 points, 12 rebounds) to take a charge under the basket. Forest Hills had the ball with 23.1 seconds left when LeBlanc called timeout.
“They wondered why I was smiling,” LeBlanc said. “I said, ‘Here is where we want to be. We’re known for our 3-point shooting. We’re going to end up winning it at the buzzer.’ And I named off one of the five girls that was going to do it.”
McNally missed a three, but Rangeley missed a free throw. Forest Hills threw the ball away, but the Lakers missed another free throw with 9 seconds to play. After going 9 for 10 from the line in the first half, the Lakers missed the front end of three one-and-ones in the final 30 seconds. When Anna Carrier grabbed the rebound for Forest Hills on this one, LeBlanc didn’t call timeout.
“I didn’t want to allow them to set up with one of the big girls taking the ball on the inbounder,” LeBlanc said. “So I just said, ‘Let it roll.’ I’m not a genius, so I’m not going to do any spectacular play.”
McNally found Coro in the left corner, and her contested rainbow three went in with 0.8 seconds left. The Lakers had no time to inbound, and the Tigers celebrated.
“We’re trained to turn and look at the basket,” Coro said. “That’s exactly what I did. When I took that shot, midway up, I knew it was going in. I was just hoping and praying that it would do something, and it did.”
It was a wild scene of unrestrained jubilation on the court — except for Carrier, who had already grabbed six rebounds in the fourth quarter.
“I was trying to box out Taylor (Esty),” Carrier said. “When the shot went up, I was like, ‘Oh gosh.’ She made it, so I stopped boxing her out. The ball hit the floor, and everyone was screaming. I was like, ‘The game’s not over!’ So I dove on the ground to get the ball. I thought it was a loose ball. Everyone was jumping over me.”
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