Cape boys start repeat title quest with win over York

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Cape Elizabeth senior Marcus Donnelly, left, junior Quinn Hewitt and senior Justin Guerette cheer on their teammates at the end of Saturday’s 59-43 win over York in a Class A South quarterfinal. The Capers advanced to meet Falmouth in the semifinals Wednesday night.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Cape Elizabeth 59 York 43

Y- 12 11 7 13- 43
CE- 10 24 12 13- 59

Y- LaBonte 5-1-11, Small 4-0-11, Hogan 2-0-4, Miller 1-2-4, Cribby 1-1-3, Shepherd 1-1-3, Leroux 1-0-2, Todd 1-0-2, Webb 1-0-2, Simpson 0-1-1

CE- Bowe 8-1-19, Donnelly 5-0-12, Q. Hewitt 3-3-9, Peterson 2-2-6, Guerette 2-1-5, Ingalls 0-3-3, B. Hewitt 1-0-2, Inhorn 0-2-2, Bottomley 0-1-1

3-pointers:
Y (3) Small 3
CE (4) Bowe, Donnelly 2

Turnovers:
Y- 25
CE- 16

Free throws
Y: 6-13
CE: 13-22

PORTLAND—Cape Elizabeth’s transition from champion to championship contender has been fraught with potholes this winter, but with the stakes at their highest, it appears the Capers are figuring it out.

Saturday evening at the Portland Exposition Building, Cape Elizabeth, the defending Class B state champion, now playing in Class A South, met York in a boys’ basketball quarterfinal that many thought might come down to the wire.

Instead, the third-ranked Capers, behind a balanced effort, held the sixth-seeded Wildcats in check most of the way and went on to a relatively easy victory.

York took a 12-6 lead midway through the first period, but Cape Elizabeth roared back and went ahead to stay on a 3 from senior captain Marcus Donnelly 28 seconds into the second quarter.

The Wildcats were still within three late in the first half, but Donnelly drove for a layup and sophomore sharpshooter Finn Bowe knocked down successive 3-pointers for a 34-23 advantage.

A basket from Bowe and a 3 from Donnelly sparked an 11-2 run to start the second half and the Capers never led by less than 13 the rest of the way en route to an impressive 59-43 victory.

Bowe led all scorers with 19 points, Donnelly added a dozen and Cape Elizabeth improved to 15-4, ended York’s season at 9-10 and advanced to meet No. 2 Falmouth (15-4) in a delicious semifinal Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena across town.

“The first game is always the toughest and can be a trap game, but we handled the pressure well as a team,” Donnelly said.

Road to repeat

Cape Elizabeth started the 2015-16 season with losses at Greely and Falmouth, but the Capers went 14-2 from there to wind up 14-4 and third in Class A South.

York was up-and-down and wound up 9-9 and sixth.

On Jan. 12, Cape Elizabeth won at York, 68-51, behind 22 points from Donnelly, 16 from Bowe and 13 from junior Quinn Hewitt.

Entering play Saturday, the teams had met nine previous times in the playoffs (dating to 1968) with the Capers prevailing on six occasions. The most recent encounter came in the 2013 Western B semifinals (a 58-35 York victory).

This time around, Cape Elizabeth was the better team.

Neither squad had nerves early and both got some easy baskets.

An old-fashioned three-point play (putback, foul, free throw) by Wildcats junior Trevor LaBonte opened the scoring 68 seconds in.

Cape Elizabeth got on the board on a putback from Hewitt, then took its first lead on a layup from Bowe.

York got a driving bank shot from junior Reid Hogan, but senior Justin Guerette made a layup to put the Capers on top, 6-5.

The Wildcats then erupted for seven points in just over a minute, as sophomore Jackson McCarty set up LaBonte for a layup, sophomore Payton Small knocked down a 3 and LaBonte put home his own miss for a 12-6 lead, forcing Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray to call timeout.

It helped, as Cape Elizabeth got a jumper from Donnelly and senior reserve Nate Ingalls sank two free throws to pull the Capers within 12-10 after one period.

In the second quarter, Cape Elizabeth went on top to stay.

Donnelly started the frame with a 3 from the corner. Ingalls then collected a loose ball and fed Bowe for a layup.

A McCarty layup snapped the 9-0 Cape Elizabeth run and a 4 minute, 35 second drought, but Capers junior reserve Marshal Peterson made two foul shots. After Small tied it with a 3, Hewitt slashed his way through the defense for a layup to put his team ahead for good, Peterson made a layup after a steal and Bowe scored on a putback for a 23-17 advantage.

York tried to rally behind a jumper from senior Spencer Cribby and a jumper from Small, but Bowe made a free throw and Hewitt hit a pair. LaBonte answered with a layup, but Donnelly drove for a layup and twice Guerette set up the sweet-shooting Bowe for 3s and a 34-23 halftime lead.

“I tried to just let it come to me,” Bowe said. “I hit the first one and once you hit the first one, it’s easier to get the next one to fall. That pushed some momentum our way going into the half and helped us pull away.”

Bowe led all scorers in the half with 13 points, while Donnelly added seven and Hewitt had six.

LaBonte had nine points and eight boards for the Wildcats, but they shot themselves in the foot with 13 turnovers.

Bowe picked right up where he left off when he drove for a leaner to start the second half scoring. Donnelly then sank a 3 to make it 39-23.

After a bank shot from LaBonte, senior J Bottomley made a free throw and after Donnelly went to the floor for a steal, the ball came to Guerette, who threw a home run pass to Bowe for a layup and a 42-25 lead with 5:06 to play in the quarter, forcing York coach Randy Small to call timeout.

It didn’t help, as Guerette stole the ball and fed Peterson for a layup and after a Peterson steal, Guerette was fouled and made a free throw to push the lead to 20, 45-25.

After the Wildcats got a three-point play from senior Andrew Miller, Ingalls countered with a free throw, but a scoop shot from junior Ryan Webb pulled York within 46-30 heading for the fourth quarter.

There, Cape Elizabeth salted it away.

After Small hit a 3 for the Wildcats, Bowe ended an 8-1 York run with a left-handed floater, Hewitt made a free throw, Bowe set up Guerette for a layup in transition, Hewitt slashed to the hoop for a layup and a Donnelly leaner put the finishing touches on the game’s competitive phase, making it 55-33 Capers with 3:59 to go.

Down the stretch, Hogan hit a bank shot, senior Colby Todd made a jump shot and senior Cullen McCarty hit a free throw to cut the deficit to 55-38, but Capers senior Vince Tarpo set up classmate Bryce Hewitt for a layup.

A three-point play from senior Tucker Shepherd and a Cribby free throw made it 57-42, but Capers senior Joe Inhorn banked home two foul shots for Cape Elizabeth’s final points and Miller’s late free throw accounted for the 59-43 final score.

“Once we settled our nerves down and got back to playing our basketball, we attacked the rim more and pulled away,” Bowe said.

“York always plays high pressure defense and sometimes it’s tough to adjust to their level, but we did a good job of that tonight,” Donnelly said. “Last year’s experience helped a lot. It’s been an adjustment. The big thing is we don’t have Ethan (Murphy) and Eddie (Galvin) from last year. Leadership as a whole has been our big thing. We have a lot of guys who have been in the program a long time. It’s everyone taking responsibility to do what we need to do to be a successful team.”

“The quarterfinal game is always extremely tough,” Ray added. “(York’s) scrappy and physical. We had to be ready. We’ve been struggling offensively at times. We’re not shooting the ball well. We’re a five-man crew all functioning together. If two of them have nerves, we tend to hold it longer than we should and we’re not crisp and that changes our rhythm.”

Bowe, who gained invaluable tournament experience last year as a freshman, led the way with 19 points and also had eight rebounds.

“It was easier (this year), but the first quarter was still nervewracking,” Bowe said. “I’m probably playing a bigger role on this year’s team.”

Donnelly had 12 points (and a pair of steals), Quinn Hewitt nine (to go with three steals and three rebounds), Peterson six (as well as three steals and two blocks), Guerette five (and five assists, four steals and four rebounds), Ingalls three, Bryce Hewitt and Inhorn two apiece and Bottomley one.

Nine different Capers got in the scoring column.

“We try to be balanced every year, not be centered around one or two people,” Bowe said.

“The guys off the bench, Marshal and Nate, provided great energy,” Donnelly said. “The energy they provided was the difference, then the offense came.”

“I was very pleased with the subs off the bench,” Ray said. “Nate was tremendous. Marshal came in and was very solid on both sides of the ball.”

Cape Elizabeth turned the ball over 16 times, but forced 25 York turnovers.  The Capers made 44 percent of their two-point shots, hit 4 of 14 3s and 13 of 22 foul shots.

York was paced by 11 points apiece from LaBonte (who also had a game-high 12 rebounds and two blocks) and Small. Hogan and Miller had four points each. Cribby and Shepherd both finished with three, Leroux, Todd and Webb had two points apiece and Simpson added one.

The Wildcats had a 23-20 rebounding advantage, shot 38 percent from two-point range, 30 percent on 3s and hit 6 of 13 foul shots.

Falmouth showdown

Falmouth dominated Westbrook, 61-33, in its quarterfinal to advance and will be favored after beating Cape Elizabeth twice this winter, 69-66 at home Dec. 8 and 44-42 on the road Feb. 2.

The Yachtsmen have won three of five prior playoff meetings. The most recent came in the 2010 Western B Final (a 53-40 Falmouth victory).

The Capers will have their hands full, but they think the third time can be the charm.

“We’ll prepare best we can,” said Donnelly. “We have to work out some kinks in practice. I’m excited to get to the Civic Center. It’s going to take the extra push with the little things, not missing layups, not turning the ball over.”

“I feel like if we just play our game and buckle down on defense and let the offense come to us, we can play with anyone,” Bowe said. “We have to play the same game we played last time. We lost by three and by two. It’s not like they’ve been killing us. They have two really good players (Colin Coyne and Thomas Coyne) we have to stop, but if we do what we can, we have a chance to win.”

“We’re still figuring it out,” Ray added. “We miss a couple kids from last year. I can’t quantify how important they were. We’ve been getting better. We’ll see if we can keep stepping up. Hopefully it keeps coming along.

“It wouldn’t be any fun if it was easy. (Falmouth’s) going to be a tough matchup. They’re very good and their role players are getting better. The Coynes are so good. At our place, we did as good a job as we’ve done all season defensively. We still need more poise on offense.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Cape Elizabeth sophomore Finn Bowe, who led all scorers with 19 points, goes up for a shot.

Cape Elizabeth senior J. Bottomley keeps a wary eye on York senior Spencer Cribby.

Cape Elizabeth senior Justin Guerette leans in for a shot as York sophomore Jackson McCarty defends.

With York coach Randy Small looking on, Cape Elizabeth senior Marcus Donnelly shoots over Wildcats junior Trevor LaBonte.

Cape Elizabeth senior Matt Graham goes up with the left hand.

Cape Elizabeth junior Quinn Hewitt drives to the basket as York junior Trevor LaBonte defends.

Previous Cape Elizabeth-York playoff results

2013 Western B semifinal
York 58 Cape Elizabeth 35

2011 Western B semifinal
Cape Elizabeth 55 York 42

2007 Western B quarterfinal
Cape Elizabeth 61 York 50

2001 Western B quarterfinal
Cape Elizabeth 60 York 44

2000 Western B semifinal
Cape Elizabeth 52 York 45

1999 Western B Final
York 48 Cape Elizabeth 45

1978 Western B quarterfinal
Cape Elizabeth 76 York 72

1969 Western L semifinal
York 74 Cape Elizabeth 66

1968 Western L quarterfinal
Cape Elizabeth 76 York 42

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.