YARMOUTH-In a contest reminiscent of last year’s Western B quarterfinal, the Cape Elizabeth boys’ basketball team stayed perfect on the 2009-10 season by holding off a spirited effort from the host Yarmouth Clippers, 64-56, Thursday evening at Jack Stroud Memorial Gym.
The teams were tied at the break and the Capers led by just four entering the final period, but the two-time defending regional champions hit clutch shots down the stretch to improve to 5-0, dropping the plucky Clippers to 3-2 in the process.
“We were ready for them,” said Cape Elizabeth junior Theo Bowe. “In the first quarter, we had it going and let up in the second. We came out strong in the second half.”
Entering the season, Cape Elizabeth was perceived as being slightly weaker than in prior years after the departure of Alex Bowe and others, but so far, the Capers’ always-strong defense and balanced offensive attack has done the job.
Cape Elizabeth won its first four games: 62-26 over Wells, 68-46 over Poland, 60-41 at Lake Region and 81-38 against Fryeburg.
Yarmouth, meanwhile, after losing 1,000-point scorer Johnny Murphy, was also expected to take some time to hit its stride, but the Clippers opened with three wins in four games (beating Poland 53-37, Fryeburg 57-30 and Wells 77-43, while falling 57-49 at Greely).
Back in February, the Clippers gave Cape Elizabeth a scare in the quarterfinals, but fell, 66-58.
Thursday night, Yarmouth again went toe-to-toe with the Capers.
After Cape Elizabeth senior Will Pierce hit a 3-ball 22 seconds in, the hosts got a putback from junior captain Mike McCormack and a short jumper from McCormack for a 4-3 advantage. The Capers then ripped off six straight points behind a 3 from senior Conor Moloney, a floater from Moloney and a free throw from senior Andrew Dickey.
McCormack answered with a rainbow jumper, but Pierce hit a runner to make it 11-6. After McCormack hit a jump shot, junior Cam Brown sank a baseline jumper, senior Matt Donovan buried a 3 and Dickey made a layup to give the visitors an 18-8 lead. A floater from McCormack and an old-fashioned three-point play from junior Luke Pierce got the Clippers back within five, 18-13, after one.
Cape Elizabeth shot to a 22-13 advantage early in the second on a jumper from junior Joey Doane and a long jump shot from Theo Bowe, but the hosts then came to life, scoring 10 in a row.
Pierce got the fun started with a layup. Sophomore point guard Josh Britten followed with a short jumper, junior Matt Murphy made a layup, Pierce sank two foul shots and with 3:31 left in the half, McCormack scored on a putback for a 23-22 lead.
Bowe ended the run and a 3-minute, 48-second drought with a three-point play and Doane made a layup for a 27-23 advantage. After Pierce and McCormack each made one free throw, a Pierce putback tied the score with 2:12 left before halftime.
Moloney answered with a 3 for the Capers, but after Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray was called for a technical, Pierce made one free throw, then scored after an offensive rebound. With 38.9 seconds to go in the half, senior Evan Henry gave the home team the lead with a putback, but with 12.1 seconds left, Donovan’s layup forged a 32-32 tie at the break.
“We had some touch fouls and turnovers,” said Ray. “Me losing my cool didn’t help things, but the kids made a nice run in the second half.”
The teams stayed tight throughout the second half, but it wasn’t long before the Capers took the lead for good.
Bowe started the third quarter scoring with a turnaround jumper. Pierce answered with a layup. After Moloney hit a jump shot, McCormack drained a spinner to make it 36-36.
With 5:01 left in the period, Brown scored on a floater and the visitors were up to stay. Bowe and Dickey hit back-to-back 3-balls for a 44-36 lead. After Henry answered with a leaner, Cape Elizabeth senior Ben Brewster made a floater. A driving layup from Britten and a Pierce putback at the horn kept Yarmouth close, 46-42, after three.
Down the stretch, the Clippers just couldn’t get key defensive stops.
A long jumper from Doane made it 48-42 22 seconds into the fourth. After Pierce got a point back with a free throw, Bowe drained a pair for a 50-43 lead. Britten answered with a driving layup and Pierce hit a foul shot to make it 50-46 with 6:13 left, but Moloney calmly sank a 3 and after a Henry layup, Donovan buried a shot from beyond the arc for a 56-48 advantage with 4:29 to go.
A McCormack layup was answered by a three-point play from Brown. Henry hit a leaner, but Brewster made a free throw for a 60-52 lead with 2:11 left.
The Clippers had one last run, pulling within four after a layup from Henry and a leaner from McCormack, but that’s as close as they’d get.
With 34.9 seconds to play, Bowe made two foul shots and after a Yarmouth miss, Pierce (who started the scoring way back in the first minute of the game) brought the curtain down with a layup with 10.2 seconds to go, giving Cape Elizabeth the 64-56 triumph.
“Cape wore us down tonight,” said Clippers coach Adam Smith. “We’re not as deep as they are. We’re still having some growing pains. We had a chance in the fourth quarter to win. The two we’ve lost, we had opportunities and that’s all we can ask. Hopefully we’ll get better quick at finishing these. In the two games we lost, we went down big early. We got back into it, but it takes it toll.
“To be down four going into the fourth to that team as well as they shot and played, that was great. They shot the lights out.”
Bowe led the Capers with 14 points, but eight players scored in all. Moloney added 13, Donovan finished with eight, Brown and Pierce both had seven, Dickey and Doane both contributed six and Brewster wound up with three.
“I feel like our offensive weapons are really spread out this year,” Bowe said. Last year, it was my brother who was the guy. This year, we have so many guys who can go double digits easily. Last year, in practice, the guys who didn’t get in that much practiced against the best team in Western B. That was good for us.”
“What I really like about this group of kids is they all can put the ball in the basket,” Ray added. “We’re balanced. It’s hard to cover. Theo’s a gamer. He wants to be on the floor. He made some big plays.”
For Yarmouth, both McCormack and Pierce had 19 points. Henry added 10, Britten six and Murphy two.
“We had two juniors really step up,” Smith said. “Mike carried us in the first half unbelievably. Luke’s work ethic was huge all game. We really need five guys playing well to beat a top team.
“We seem to be an interior team so far. We’re still establishing and trying to find out who we are and where we’ll score night to night. When we put it all together, I think we’ll be really good.”
The Clippers go to undefeated powerhouse Falmouth Saturday and finish this calendar year with a home tilt versus York Tuesday.
“It’s going to be difficult to make the tournament,” Smith said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll be in every game with a chance to win. We have two big games coming up.”
Cape Elizabeth faces another huge test Saturday night when it hosts Greely. The Capers close the 2009 portion of their schedule Tuesday at Gray-New Gloucester.
“(Tonight) was another very good test for us,” Ray said. “(Yarmouth) handled the pressure better than anyone we’ve played so far. We gave up too many layups. The test will be upgraded Saturday. Greely’s a very good team. We’re a little undersized, but hopefully we have a little more heart.”
“Greely’s big and physical,” Bowe added. “We’re looking to go into the holidays 7-0.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Yarmouth junior Luke Pierce emoted and elevated while going up for two points over Cape Elizabeth juniors Cam Brown (3) and Theo Bowe during the Capers’ 64-56 victory Thursday night.