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Caribou junior Isaac Marker shoots over Cape Elizabeth senior Andrew Hartel during the teams’ Class B state final Saturday afternoon. Hartel had 18 points, but fouled out in the second overtime and the Vikings went on to win their first title in 50 years, 49-47, in an instant classic.
Carl D. Walsh / Portland Press Herald photos.
More photos below.
C- 11 10 13 8 5 2- 49
CE- 13 9 12 8 5 0- 47
C- Findlen 4-3-13, P Deprey 5-1-12, Bouchard 2-5-9, Marker 3-1-8, S. Deprey 2-0-4, Brigman 1-0-3
CE- Hartel 7-4-18, Carpenter 4-0-11, Mullen 3-1-8, Morse 2-1-6, Conley 1-0-2, Hagos 1-0-2
C (5) Findlen 2, Brigman, P. Deprey, Marker 1
CE (5) Carpenter 3, Morse, Mullen 1
PORTLAND—After waiting 50 years to win an elusive Gold Ball, another eight minutes was just icing on the cake for the Caribou boys’ basketball team and its legion of fans Saturday afternoon at the Cross Insurance Arena.
Facing Cape Elizabeth in the Class B state final, a half-century after Mike Thurston’s fabled shot produced their only championship, the Vikings needed 32 minutes of regulation and eight more of overtime to bring home another crown.
And what a 40-minute passion play it was, as the Capers fought them tooth and nail for all 2,400 seconds and nearly stole it away at the horn.
It was an instant classic which featured plays made, shots missed, seven ties and seven lead changes and was one that was culminated by a shot which could have lived in lore, but instead was met with relief on one side of the building and agony on the other.
Cape Elizabeth shot to a quick 11-4 lead, as 6-foot-9 senior big man Andrew Hartel had his way early, but after Caribou scored seven straight points to tie it, a Hartel basket put the Capers on top, 13-11, after one period.
The Vikings twice took a three-point lead in the second quarter, but a shot from sophomore Nate Mullen gave Cape Elizabeth a 22-21 edge at the half.
The lead changed hands four times in the third period, as the Capers went up by five on a Hartel layup, but back came Caribou to tie it, 34-34, on a layup after a steal from junior Parker Deprey.
And the fun was just beginning.
Every possession was pressure-packed in a fourth quarter that saw the Vikings score seven of the first eight points, capped by a pair of foul shots from senior Austin Findlen, but Cape Elizabeth refused to go home.
Down, 42-37, with under a minute to play, the Capers got two free throws from Hartel and after a Hartel steal, senior Tanner Carpenter made a clutch 3 to tie it and after Deprey’s 30-foot bid for immortality at the horn just missed, the game went to overtime tied, 42-42.
Caribou twice took leads in overtime, but twice Cape Elizabeth answered and a driving layup from sophomore Quinn Morse with 5.6 seconds remaining forced a second OT.
Just 43 seconds into the second extra session, Hartel fouled out and after junior Alex Bouchard put the Vikings on top for good with a free throw, junior Isaac Marker added a foul shot, but the Capers had one last chance.
With time winding down, Carpenter got the ball up top and had an open look, but his game-winning bid fell short and for the first time since 1969, just months before man walked on the moon, Caribou had a state title, by a razor-thin 49-47 margin.
Findlen scored 13 points and Deprey added a dozen as the Vikings finished 19-3, won their second Gold Ball and ended Cape Elizabeth’s season in heartache at 14-8.
“At the end of the day, I’m so proud of what (my guys) did and I think the people sitting on the Cape Elizabeth side were very proud as well,” said longtime Capers coach Jim Ray.
For much of the season, Cape Elizabeth didn’t resemble a championship team, but when the calendar flipped to February, the Capers were their very best (see sidebar, below, for links to previous stories).
Cape Elizabeth’s season began inauspiciously with losses at two-time defending Class A champion Greely (74-62) and Fryeburg Academy (41-39). After downing visiting Old Orchard Beach (74-29) and host Gray-New Gloucester (62-55), the Capers lost late to visiting Waynflete (54-53), fell at home to Kennebunk (71-64) and lost to Falmouth (54-29), in a game played at the Portland Exposition Building as part of the Red Claws Christmas Showcase, which left them 2-5.
The turnaround began with wins at Westbrook (60-46) and Brunswick (60-54). After a 46-44 loss at Yarmouth, Cape Elizabeth beat visiting Lake Region (57-40), rallied for a stirring 46-43 win at Freeport, then downed visiting York (60-52) and Yarmouth (45-27). A 61-54 home loss to Greely served as a momentary hiccup, but the Capers closed strong with wins at Wells (54-46), at home over Gray-New Gloucester (47-46) and at Poland (56-32).
As the No. 3 seed in Class B South, Cape Elizabeth eliminated No. 6 Freeport (56-49) in the quarterfinals, held off second-ranked Maranacook (64-61) in the semifinals, then eked out a dramatic 39-38 regional final round victory over No. 8 Wells to advance.
Caribou, meanwhile, started 3-3, losing at home to Hermon and at Maine Central Institute and Mt. Desert Island, but the Vikings won their final dozen regular season games to finish second in Class B North.
Caribou then ousted No. 10 Washington Academy (73-49) in the quarterfinals, edged sixth-ranked Ellsworth (65-58) in the semifinals, then upset top-ranked, unbeaten Hermon (43-40) in the regional final to advance to its first state final in 36 years.
The teams had no playoff history, but both have spent their share of time on the big stage over the years (see sidebar, below, for previous state game results).
The Vikings entered 1-3 all-time in the state final and their lone victory, a 65-63 win over Westbrook in 1969 was culminated by arguably the most memorable shot in the history of the tournament, Thurston’s buzzer-beater from midcourt at the old Bangor Auditorium which allowed Caribou to ascend to the top of the Class A mountain.
Cape Elizabeth won four of its nine prior state games, but its most recent was one for the ages, as Ethan Murphy’s layup at the horn produced a scintillating 44-42, come-from-behind win over Medomak Valley.
Saturday, in front of a huge crowd (seemingly all of Caribou was in the building), including Governor Janet Mills and Senator Susan Collins, a Caribou native, the teams produced a game that no one on hand will ever forget.
As has been the case all tournament, the Capers started strong and opened up a lead.
Just 29 seconds in, Morse’s 3 put Cape Elizabeth on top.
After a putback from senior Matt Conley made it 5-0, the Vikings scored their first points when Bouchard sank two free throws, but Capers’ super-sub Aman Hagos came off the bench and scored on a putback, then Hagos set up Hartel for a layup and a 9-2 lead, forcing Caribou coach Kyle Corrigan to call timeout.
It helped, as sophomore Sawyer Deprey drove for a layup and after a Hartel putback, Parker Deprey drained a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 11-7, forcing Ray to halt play.
It didn’t help, as Findlen scored on a putback, then Marker tied it with a pullup jumper in the lane.
The Capers got a little momentum back just before the horn, when Hartel took a pass from Hagos and made a contested jumper for a 13-11 lead after eight minutes.
Hartel had six points in the frame, while all five Vikings’ starters scored points.
The back-and-forth continued in the second quarter.
First, Parker Deprey hit a short jumper to tie it for Caribou and after Hartel sank two free throws, a 3-pointer from Marker gave the Vikings their first lead.
Parker Deprey capped the 14-4 surge with a putback, but Carpenter tied the score with a 3-ball.
With 3:04 remaining in the half, freshman Michael Brigman made a 3 for Caribou, but it proved to be the Vikings’ final points before the break and a coast-to-coast layup from Mullen and a contested baseline jumper from Mullen allowed Cape Elizabeth to cling to a 22-21 lead at halftime.
Hartel had eight points and seven rebounds to spark the Capers, but everyone who took the floor contributed. Parker Deprey’s seven points led Caribou.
In the third period, the lead changed hands four times before the teams ended the frame tied.
A driving layup by a stumbling Findlen opened the half, but Hartel countered with a putback.
After a 3-ball from Findlen, Carpenter drained a 3 to put the Capers up again and after grabbing a rebound, Hartel threw a long lead pass to Carpenter for a layup and a 29-26 advantage. Hartel then took a pass from Murphy and made a layup to stretch the lead to five, but back roared the Vikings.
First, Bouchard took a pass from Sawyer Deprey and made a layup.
Marker then stole the ball and made a layup to cut the deficit to a single point.
After Hartel scored on a putback, Sawyer Deprey drove for a layup.
Morse countered with a free throw but a layup after a steal from Parker Deprey tied it up, 34-34, heading for the fateful fourth quarter.
Where, as it turned out, nothing would be decided.
Bouchard started the frame with a runner off the glass, but after Mullen made one free for Cape Elizabeth, Hartel was called for his fourth foul.
With 3:26 remaining, Findlen buried a clutch 3 from the corner for a four-point lead.
Findlen had a chance to open it up even more with 2:43 left, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one.
After the teams traded turnovers, Findlen was fouled again with 1:26 to go and this time, he sank both attempts for a seemingly safe 41-35 lead.
But the Capers weren’t done.
Fourteen seconds later, Hartel drove for a reverse layup to cut the deficit to four.
Then, after Findlen made one of two foul shots with 51.6 seconds on the clock, Hartel was fouled with 33.3 seconds left and he hit both attempts to make it a one-possession contest.
Caribou tried to run down the clock, but Hartel stole the ball and the Capers worked it around to Carpenter in the corner.
Carpenter’s game-tying 3-point attempt found nothing but net and with 19.4 seconds left, the game was improbably tied, 42-42.
The Vikings tried to hold for a last shot, but after a timeout with 7.7 seconds remaining, Mullen stole the ball and suddenly, Cape Elizabeth had a chance to win it, but Parker Deprey stole the ball back, dribbled across midcourt, then attempted to join Thurston in legend when he threw up a 30-foot prayer at the horn.
The shot looked good off his hand, but it was just a little long and bounced off the back of the rim, sending the game to overtime tied, 42-42.
“I fell to my knees because it felt so good and I thought it was going in, but it hit back rim,” said Deprey.
“I thought Parker’s shot was going to go in and we’d have a new Mike Thurston in Caribou,” Corrigan said.
In Maine high school basketball, teams play four-minute overtime sessions until a winner is determined.
On this day, more than one would be necessary.
Not surprisingly, Hartel won the opening tip of OT, but Findlen stole the ball and with 2:37 left, Parker Deprey made a layup while being fouled and added the and-one free throw for a 45-42 lead.
That lead lasted just 16 seconds, as Mullen became the latest Caper to drain a clutch 3, tying the score anew.
Caribou ran the clock down to 55.5 seconds when Findlen was fouled, but he missed both attempts and Hagos got the rebound.
Cape Elizabeth then ran down the clock to 22.7 seconds before taking a timeout.
Out of the timeout, disaster struck for the Capers, as the inbounds pass was stolen by Bouchard, who was fouled.
With 18.5 seconds remaining, Bouchard sank both foul shots and again, the Vikings were on the brink of a title.
Again, Cape Elizabeth answered, this time with 5.6 seconds showing, as Morse drove for a layup.
Caribou wasn’t able to get a shot off before the horn and the contest went to overtime number two tied, 47-47.
“It almost looked like our guys came off the floor like we lost, but we didn’t,” Corrigan said. “I told them it was fine and I told them to keep battling.”
Again Hartel won the tip, but 43 seconds in, Hartel was whistled for an offensive foul, his fifth, and suddenly, the Vikings had the momentum.
“That’s bad on me as his coach for not finding time to give him a breather,” Ray said. “There’s wasn’t a lot of substitution going on on either side.”
With 2:36 left, Bouchard was fouled on a drive and made the second of two free throws for what proved ultimately to be the winning point.
But there was still a long way to go.
After Carpenter missed a 3, Bouchard got the rebound, but Findlen couldn’t get a layup to drop and Carpenter got the rebound.
At the other end, Cape Elizabeth looked for the lead, but Mullen was short on a 3-point attempt and Sawyer Deprey got the rebound.
Sawyer Deprey looked as if he’d stretched the lead to three with 1:12 on the clock, when he hit a runner, but it was waved off due to an offensive foul.
Again, the Capers couldn’t capitalize, as Morse missed a runner and Sawyer Deprey got the rebound.
With 50.3 seconds remaining, Bouchard had a chance to extend the lead, but he missed two free throws.
Cape Elizabeth again hoped to go on top, but Marker stole the ball and was fouled with 19.8 seconds to go.
Marker missed his first free throw, but hit his second to make it 49-47, giving the Capers a last opportunity to tie or win it.
Cape Elizabeth ran the clock down to 5.4 seconds, then Ray called timeout.
The Capers would get the look they hoped for, but not the result.
Mullen inbounded the ball to Hagos, who was swarmed by the Vikings’ defense, but Hagos spotted Carpenter open up top and just before the horn, Carpenter let fly his fateful final shot.
With thousands of people holding their breath simultaneously, Cape Elizabeth was hoping to see the ball go in to clinch the title, while the Caribou side of the building was praying for a miss.
The Vikings’ prayer was answered, as the shot fell just short, hit the rim and before anyone could grab the loose ball, the horn sounded and at 4:39 p.m., after 50 years of waiting, Caribou erupted in joy and celebrated its 49-47 victory.
“When Carpenter launched that 3, my heart just sunk,” Findlen said. “When it hit front rim, it felt just unbelievable.”
“I was standing directly under the rim and I was watching it when it traveled,” said Parker Deprey. “I was so nervous because it looked good. Then it hit front rim. We just lost our minds.”
“I thought it was in and it was going to be the end of our season,” Corrigan added. “It didn’t go in and we got to celebrate. There was a major knot in my stomach, but we get to go home with the Gold Ball.”
For the first time since the New York Jets were reigning Super Bowl champions, the Vikings were state champions.
“I thought upsetting Hermon was the best feeling ever, but I take that back,” said Parker Deprey. “This is. We were extremely nervous because a 50-year drought is huge. After the first half ended, we really got into it. Then the nerves kicked back in when we went to overtime.
“It’s a five-hour drive and we couldn’t really expect people to come, but it’s great to have this support.”
“I’m almost not able to put it into words,” Findlen said. “It’s unbelievable. There were some nerves. Cape’s an unbelievable team. As a captain, I knew I had to step up some, but every single player on the team contributed and this was a team win. It just feels so good. Every day this season, all of us were in the gym together and it feels so good right now.”
“This is like a story for us,” Corrigan added. “You look back at that Mike Thurston shot and they said, ‘Fifty years from now they’ll be marking that spot on the floor.’ It’s been 50 years and the boys got it done. They deserved to be state champs. They grinded all year. This group has been battling for many years together and they did it today. Our time was due. I’m super-excited. The guys bought in to grinding.
“This is a County thing. We all love each other. Whenever a (County) team gets this far, everyone roots for each other. Bringing a Gold Ball back to Caribou is just unbelievable.”
Findlen had a team-high 13 points for Caribou. He also had five rebounds and a pair of steals. Parker Deprey added a dozen points, four rebounds and three steals and Bouchard had nine points and nine boards.
“Austin’s done that all year for us,” said Corrigan. “He can score the basketball at a high rate and he does so many other things. I’m extremely proud of him. Seeing the tears of joy in his eyes is unbelievable.”
Marker finished with eight points, Sawyer Deprey had four (to go with six rebounds and four assists) and Brigman three.
The Vikings only made 10 of 19 free throws, but in 40 minutes of high-stakes play, they only committed 11 turnovers.
Cape Elizabeth got 18 points, 15 rebounds and two blocked shots from Hartel in his swan song.
Carpenter added 11 points and six boards, Mullen had eight points, five rebounds and three steals, Morse six points, Conley two and Hagos two (to go with eight boards and two assists).
The Capers enjoyed a 36-30 edge on the glass, hit 6 of 10 free throws and committed 12 turnovers, but seven of those came in the fourth quarter and the two overtimes.
“In the end, they were a little bit tougher than us and we weren’t able to execute,” Ray said. “I was really frustrated with our lack of execution of running whatever we were trying to run. They made it difficult for us to execute. Our level of determination broke down in those tough moments.
“We had some key turnovers, but we had a shot at the end. It wasn’t the exact play we wanted, but it came to the backside of the floor. Aman saw the play and the ball ended up in a shooter’s hands in the right spot wide open. There was a huge gasp when that shot went up. That would have been (amazing) if it went in and now we’re struggling with it.
“All the people sitting in the stands have a level of expectation of what they want to see. I told the guys, ‘There were a lot of little kids here who aspire to be like you, like you aspired to be like other players.’ I get goose-bumps and get emotional thinking about that. That’s good stuff.
“It’s tough for the kids, tough for the coaches, tough for the fans and exciting for the other side.”
Cape Elizabeth will lick its wounds, then try again in 2019-20.
“We’ve got some young kids back and some good young kids coming in. We’ll see what happens.”
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Nate Mullen ties up Caribou junior Alex Bouchard on a drive to the basket.
Cape Elizabeth senior Andrew Hartel looks for a shot as Caribou sophomore Sawyer Deprey defends.
Caribou celebrates its first state championship in 50 years.
Cape Elizabeth players look on in dismay after the loss.
Caribou’s captains show off the Gold Ball.
Class B South quarterfinal
Cape Elizabeth 56 Freeport 49
Class B South Final
Cape Elizabeth 39 Wells 38
2015 Class B
Cape Elizabeth 44 Medomak Valley 42
2011 Class B
Camden Hills 68 Cape Elizabeth 59
2009 Class B
Camden Hills 62 Cape Elizabeth 49
2008 Class B
Maranacook 56 Cape Elizabeth 46
1988 Class B
Cape Elizabeth 70 Ellsworth 54
1971 Class B
Schenck 69 Cape Elizabeth 60
1966 Class B
Ellsworth 72 Cape Elizabeth 53
1956 Class C
Cape Elizabeth 76 Lincoln Academy 54
1953 Class C
Cape Elizabeth defeated Mattanawcook (score unavailable)
1983 Class A
South Portland 66 Caribou 49
1975 Class A
Westbrook 69 Caribou 63
1969 Class A
Caribou 65 Westbrook 63
1958 Class A
South Portland 83 Caribou 70