CUMBERLAND—The Capers curse lives on.
In a pivotal Western Class B showdown between two top boys’ basketball contenders, host Greely continued to be baffled by Cape Elizabeth Tuesday evening, committing 20 turnovers in the first three quarters and 24 overall.
The Rangers were also whistled for 24 second half fouls and had no answer for Capers senior standout Theo Bowe, who exploded for a career-high 34 points as Cape Elizabeth rolled to a 55-41 triumph.
It was Greely’s first loss in seven games this winter. The Capers improved to 5-1.
“This is a great win,” said Bowe. “It’s big for Heal Points. It’s a great feeling for the team as a whole. We like playing against the best. Greely’s a great team.”
Cape Elizabeth’s two-year reign as Western B champion ended last winter after a loss to eventual champion Falmouth in the regional final. This year’s group, led by seniors Bowe, Cam Brown and Joey Doane, got off to a hot start, downing host Wells (60-41), host Poland (56-52), visiting Lake Region (71-36) and host Fryeburg (55-41) before being humbled at home by Yarmouth (84-61), four days before Christmas.
“Yarmouth’s very athletic and they’re stronger and more athletic across the board,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray. “When they played us, they obviously shot tremendous. We had holes in the defense.”
“We hadn’t thought we were ‘all that,’ or that we were better than Yarmouth, they just played unbelievable,” Bowe added. “We played horrible in the first half. If anyone needed motivation, it motivated us.”
Last week, the Capers went 1-1 at the Portland holiday tournament, downing former tormentor Gorham, 56-52, then losing, 55-42, to Westbrook.
Greely, meanwhile, had lived up to its preseason billing. The Rangers, tired of falling in the semifinals (which they’ve done the past three years, more on that in a moment), won all six of the 2010 portion of their schedule contests, defeating host Traip (59-48), host Yarmouth (61-53), visiting Poland (65-40), visiting Falmouth (45-36), host Freeport (71-45 and visiting York (67-49).
At the Portland holiday tournament, Greely defeated Scarborough (46-41), then lost to South Portland (68-37) and Cheverus (50-40).
Last year, Cape Elizabeth won all three meetings between the ancient rivals, 66-55 at home, 57-46 on the road and 51-43 in the Western B semifinals. That marked the third year in a row the Capers eliminated the Rangers in that round.
Cape Elizabeth beat Greely, 48-39, in 2008 and 46-45 (on a buzzer-beater), in 2009.
Greely’s last win over the Capers came Feb. 6, 2009 (59-46, in Cape Elizabeth).
The drought extended to five Tuesday.
In the early going, the Rangers appeared as if they might run away with it, but Cape Elizabeth turned the game in its favor by the end of the first quarter.
Greely senior Sam Johnston opened the scoring with a 3-pointer one minute, 20 seconds in. After Bowe hit a leaner, Rangers freshman Michael McDevitt made a short baseline jumper and 6-foot-6 senior Tanner Storey scored on a putback for a 7-2 lead.
A Bowe layup was countered by a free throw from Greely junior Nick Clark, but Bowe converted an old-fashioned three-point play, then sank a 3-ball to put the visitors on top for the first time. Senior Joey Doane followed with a 3, giving the Capers nine points in 30 seconds. With 1:14 to go in the first, Storey made a layup to pull the hosts within three, 13-10.
The Rangers turned the ball over six times in the first period and would do the same in the second, but they remained right in it at the break.
After McDevitt made a layup to start the second period, Bowe sank a 3. Greely countered with a 7-0 run, getting a 3 from Johnston, a jumper from McDevitt and coast-to-coast layup from Johnston for a 19-16 lead.
That would prove to be the Rangers’ high-water mark.
After Doane tied the score with another 3, Greely took its final lead, 21-19, when Johnston scored on a putback. Cape Elizabeth then got the final six points of the half as Bowe hit a leaner, sophomore Henry Babcock made a baseline jumper and Bowe hit Brown with a gorgeous pass leading to a layup and a 25-21 advantage.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts in the third period.
First, Greely had a chance to take the lead when the Capers only scored two points in the first four-plus minutes of the quarter, but it failed to take advantage.
Thirty-seven seconds into the second half, Bowe hit a leaner off the glass, but Cape Elizabeth then couldn’t convert for several possessions. The Rangers could do nothing offensively, however, failing to score until junior Liam Maker made a 3-pointer with 4:07 left in the third to make it 27-24.
After Storey made it a two-point game with a free throw, Bowe answered with a pair. With 2:05 remaining in the period, McDevitt took a pass from Johnston on the fastbreak and made a layup to pull Greely within two for the last time, 29-27.
The Rangers continued to turn the ball over (eight more in the period gave them 20 through 24 minutes) and worse, fouls started to add up as Greely was whistled nine times to just one for Cape Elizabeth in the stanza.
With 1:51 left, Doane made a free throw to make it a three-point game. Bowe then hit four in a 19-second span before Brown scored on a layup after a steal to put the Capers up 36-27 heading for the final quarter.
There, the visitors put it away at the charity stripe.
After McDevitt made a layup to pull the Rangers within seven, 36-29, 17 seconds into the fourth. Babcock made a free throw, Brown hit two and Babcock drained one more for a 40-29 advantage with 4:56 to play.
Greely got back within nine on a leader from Clark, but Doane made two foul shots, Bowe hit one and Doane made another to make it 44-31 with 3:46 left.
A 3-pointer from freshman Bailey Train allowed the Rangers to get within 10, 44-34, but Bowe made two foul shots to make it 46-34. After Johnston scored on a putback, Doane made a free throw, Bowe hit four in a row, then converted an old-fashioned three-point play as a dagger, making it 54-36 Capers with 1:53 left.
Clark got a point back at the line, but Bowe made one final free throw and both coaches cleared their benches. As time wound down, Greely got a runner from junior Jimmy Whitaker and two free throws from junior Cooper Allen to account for the 55-41 final score.
“We spread the ball around,” Bowe said. “Everyone hit open shots. That’s the best we’ve played this year, team wise. Especially on the defensive end. Our 1-3-1 (zone) was ugly against Yarmouth, but we’ve worked on it. We had great ballhandling presence of mind. We ran our offense and no one forced anything. We were patient and didn’t force it.”
“This is a huge confidence builder,” added Ray. “The kids know anything’s possible. It was very physical. We struggled with their strength. It’s tough to get in an offensive rhythm when you get banged around. It was to (Greely’s) advantage.
“We’ve learned a lot. We’ve made strides on improving. We got (tipped balls). Tips lead to good things. We got more as the game went along. That frustrated (Greely). My three seniors played with poise and leadership. They got the the other guys to rally around them. Babcock did a great job. (Sophomore forward) Harrison Clarke came off the bench and saw his first action. He did a great job for us over the holiday break. He has size and came up with some stuff inside. He clogged it up.”
Bowe, who has legitimately entered the stratosphere in which his brother, Alex, occupied a few years ago, posted a career high with 34 points. He said afterwards that he believed it was higher than any total his brother managed.
“Theo was phenomenal,” said Ray. “He relishes games like this. He rises to the occasion. He’ll go down swinging.”
Doane added 11 points, Brown had six and Babcock four.
For the game, the Capers were 25-of-32 on free throws. That’s after attempting just one foul shot in the first half.
“What I was happiest here was free throw shooting and poise,” said Bowe.
For Greely, Johnston led the way with 12 points. McDevitt had 10, Storey five, Clark four, Maker and Train three apiece and Allen and Whitaker two each.
“It’s January and we have to learn,” lamented longtime Rangers coach Ken Marks. “We have some kids who never played games like this. Against Cape. Against quickness. It’s a rival. The freshmen didn’t understand. We have to start taking care of the basketball. When we got the ball inside, but couldn’t score. We couldn’t score from the outside. Offensively, we weren’t the aggressor, that’s why the fouls were so lopsided.
“We’ll see them again, at least one more time. Cape Elizabeth works extremely hard. They get everything they can out of their talent. They outwork their opponent and make us do what they want us to do. That’s their game plan and it worked tonight.”
Long road ahead
Greely is in the midst of a three-game homestand. The Rangers welcome Fryeburg Friday and Wells next Tuesday.
Cape Elizabeth is back in action Friday when it hosts Gray-New Gloucester. The Capers have another tough test Tuesday of next week in Falmouth.
“We have to work on everything,” Bowe said. “We’re a young team. We have to continue to have patience and determine tempo. We have to keep working on defense.”
Cape Elizabeth sees Greely again on Jan. 25, when it hosts the Rangers.
“They’ll be loaded for bear next time,’ Ray said, of Greely. “The road won’t get any easier.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com