PORTLAND—With the season nearing its midway point, the Cape Elizabeth girls’ basketball team finds itself in dire need of victories.
Thursday evening, the Capers went out and got a huge one.
Visiting once-beaten Waynflete, the Class C favorites in the minds of many, Cape Elizabeth handled the vaunted Flyers press, hung tough throughout, then stepped up its defense in the fourth quarter.
The Capers held Waynflete to just two points in the final eight minutes and erased an eight-point deficit and tied the score when senior Marlo Dell’Aquila hit a foul shot with 1:37 to play. Neither squad managed to score from there and it was on to overtime.
After the Flyers struck first, Cape Elizabeth answered on a pullup jumper from junior Kate Miklavic, then went ahead to stay on two foul shots from junior Emma O’Rourke. Freshman Montana Braxton, who held Waynflete senior standout Martha Veroneau largely in check over 36 minutes, added two free throws and senior Kisa Tabery hit one more and the Capers held on for a shocking 49-45 victory, giving Cape Elizabeth a record of 2-5, while dropping the Flyers to 5-2 in the process.
“We’ve been so close all season, but we only had one win coming into today,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Casterella. “I’ve been preaching to them that we’re a third of the way through the season and we need to get some wins. This is a great one to get. We were focused. We knew what we were doing. Hats off the kids. I’m very impressed. I think it’s big because we have been so close. This is a win we got under pressure against one of the best teams we’ll see all year. It wasn’t a blowout. We were behind almost the whole game long. We need to get wins wherever they come. I think we nabbed a big one. Waynflete’s a very, very good team.”
Cape Elizabeth went 4-14 last winter and fell short of the postseason. This season, the Capers have been competitive, but hadn’t been able to close games, with one exception. After a 54-42 loss at Falmouth in the opener, Cape Elizabeth sprung an upset at Freeport, 45-33. The Capers were then frustrated by visiting Gray-New Gloucester (45-42), host Greely (37-31), visiting Lake Region (46-23) and visiting Fryeburg (56-48).
Waynflete was a regional finalist last year and cruised in its first two outings, 59-32 over visiting Old Orchard Beach and 65-33 at home over Traip, in a game which saw Veroneau break the 1,000-point threshold for her career. After a hard fought 60-55 loss at defending Western B champion Lake Region, the Flyers handled host Sacopee (48-17), visiting North Yarmouth Academy (76-22) and Greenville (71-25), in a game played at the Augusta Civic Center.
Waynflete returned to Augusta last week for a series of non-countable tournament games, in which the Flyers played very well and reinforced their reputation as a top contender.
Waynflete had beaten Cape Elizabeth five years running, including close games each of the past three years. The Flyers won at Cape Elizabeth (48-44, in overtime) in 2010, beat the Capers at home two years ago, 43-37, and won at Cape Elizabeth last winter, 41-35.
Thursday, the Capers turned the tide.
Early on, Waynflete hoped to run and gun Cape Elizabeth out of the gym, but for almost the entire first period, the Flyers weren’t having their usual luck forcing turnovers (the Capers only had two in the first eight minutes) and weren’t taking advantage of open looks.
Waynflete did strike first when junior Leigh Fernandez set up sophomore Helen Gray-Bauer for a layup, but Tabery made a foul shot, Miklavic banked home a shot and Tabery made two more free throws for a 5-2 Cape Elizabeth lead.
A bank shot from Flyers freshman Anne Veroneau and a Martha Veroneau 3 put the hosts back on top, but with 1:24 to play in the first quarter, Miklavic knocked down a 3 to put the Capers ahead.
Twenty-two seconds later, Martha Veroneau took an inbounds pass from senior Rhiannan Jackson and made a layup. Jackson followed with a 3 and as time wound down in the opening stanza, Martha Veroneau stole the ball and fed Anne Veroneau for a layup and a 14-8 lead.
While Waynflete had momentum, it didn’t last.
Ten seconds into the second quarter, Dell’Aquila knocked down a jumper. A couple minutes later, Tabery banked home a shot and junior Anna Goldstein followed with a baseline jumper to tie the score, 14-14.
A putback by Gray-Bauer gave the lead back to the Flyers and Fernandez canned a long 3, but Dell’Aquila countered with a 3 to cut the deficit to two, 19-17.
Late in the half, Gray-Bauer made a 3, but a jumper from Tabery and a Dell’Aquila layup made it a one-point game, 22-21.
Then, with 5.9 seconds remaining, the Flyers stretched their lead to three on a leaner from sophomore Julianna Harwood, who was a huge inside presence, dominating on the glass from start to finish.
Waynflete couldn’t shake the Capers in the third period either.
After O’Rourke started the second half scoring with a jumper, Martha Veroneau made two free throws, but Braxton answered with a 3 and the game was tied, 26-26.
Veroneau put the Flyers back on top with a 3, but Dell’Aquila countered with a layup.
Waynflete then went on a 6-0 run as Veroneau made a free throw, Harwood was fouled after one of her five offensive rebounds and hit both foul shots and Gray-Bauer banked home a 3 for a 35-28 advantage.
Again, Cape Elizabeth bounced back as Dell’Aquila converted an old-fashioned three-point play, hitting a leaner while being fouled and adding the free throw. After Harwood added two more free throws, Goldstein knocked down a 3 to cut the deficit to three, but inside the final half minute, Fernandez hit a 3-ball of her own and the Flyers appeared in good shape heading for the fourth quarter, up, 40-34.
Instead, Waynflete’s offense disappeared and the Flyers would turn the ball over several times down the stretch, leaving the door open for the Capers to rally.
First, Veroneau stole the ball under Cape Elizabeth’s basket and made layup with 5:24 remaining for a 42-34 lead.
The Capers wouldn’t surrender another point in regulation and began to claw their way back.
Tabery got the rally started with a three-point play with 5:12 to go.
With 3:26 left, Dell’Aquila made a layup.
With 2:14 remaining, Tabery made a driving layup and the deficit was only one, 42-41.
Then, with 1:37 to play, Dell’Aquila was fouled after a steal and went to the line with a chance to put Cape Elizabeth on top.
She tied the game with her first attempt, but the second missed.
With 57.3 seconds left, Dell’Aquila went back to the line, but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Waynflete then had a couple chances to win it, but Fernandez missed a 3 and after a Veroneau rebound kept possession for the Flyers, senior Catherine Veroneau’s desperation 3 at the horn was off target and it was on to overtime.
In Maine girls’ high school basketball, teams play a four-minute extra session.
Waynflete got off to a good start when Harwood scored on a putback 14 seconds in, but with 3:20 to go, Miklavic hit a pullup jumper and the game was tied, 44-44.
Seventeen seconds later, O’Rourke got the rebound of a Martha Veroneau miss, was fouled and went to the line. She made the first free throw, then hit the second to put the Capers on top for good, 46-44.
After Veroneau missed on a baseline drive, O’Rourke got the rebound. Dell’Aquila fired a 3 that was off target, but Braxton got the rebound. Dell’Aquila then missed a layup giving the hosts another chance.
At the other end, Veroneau had a look at a 3 that was no good and Harwood grabbed the rebound, but her putback was off target and Miklavic gained possession.
Again, Cape Elizabeth couldn’t extend the lead as Dell’Aquila missed a shot and Harwood got the rebound, but Catherine Veroneau’s bid for a go-ahead 3 was no good and Braxton got the rebound and was fouled with 1:40 left in overtime.
Braxton went to the line and coolly hit both shots.
“We usually struggle with free throws,” said Dell’Aquila. “We had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Free throws were huge. We finally made a couple.”
After Martha Veroneau missed a 3, Tabery added a foul shot with 1:05 remaining to make it 49-44.
With 32.8 seconds to play, Martha Veroneau made one of two free throws, but that’s as close as the Flyers would draw.
The Capers managed to hold on and run out the clock and celebrate their 49-45 victory.
“This is huge for us,” said Dell’Aquila. “It feels so great to be in the locker room after a win. We’ve collapsed in the fourth quarter, but tonight, we fought through the whole game.”
“I’m really proud of the team,” said Tabery. “We pulled it out in the end. Defensively, we were really strong. Especially in the fourth quarter. We didn’t want to let them get anything on the inside.”
“We had an opportunity to stretch the lead with layups and foul shots and we didn’t do it, but we still won,” Casterella added. “Going into overtime, I just said, ‘We have to be the better team for the next four minutes. Do the same thing on defense and don’t force it on offense.’ We did. We got some easy looks and broke pressure and got to the hoop. We finally made some clutch foul shots. The senior leadership is so important. It’s really set the tone for the other kids. They’re not the pampered ones. They’re running the show. The younger kids have bought in. “
Cape Elizabeth got a game-high 15 points from Dell’Aquila. Tabery added 13 points, Miklavic had seven, Braxton and Goldstein five apiece and O’Rourke four.
The Capers had a 39-38 edge on the glass, as Braxton collected a team-high 13 rebounds, O’Rourke had eight, Tabery seven, Miklavic six and Dell’Aquila five.
The most impressive aspect of Braxton’s game was her defensive effort. The former Waynflete student frustrated Martha Veroneau for much of the evening with her size and athleticism.
“It was pretty scary at times because (Martha’s) really quick,” said Braxton. “I had to keep an eye on her. I was playing against girls I played with before.”
“Montana did an awesome job on Martha and we helped out where we could,” Tabery said. “It was definitely a team effort.”
“(Montana’s) a former Waynflete student, but she’s always a Caper,” added Casterella. “She did her job. Martha’s one of the best players in the state. When she gets rid of the ball, you can’t let her get it back. I told her, ‘I don’t care if you don’t do one thing on offense. Don’t let her kill us.’ She’s got the length, speed and athleticism to match up with Martha. As a freshman, she matched up with one of the best players in the state and she got help from the other four players. The defensive effort of the kids was amazing. (Waynflete’s) tough to stop. We’ve never beaten them. We tried to take Martha out. In the past few years, we tried to do that, but other kids stepped up. We tried to make adjustments to not keep the same exactly game plan. My kids dug in.”
Cape Elizabeth ended up with 21 turnovers and made just 11-of-23 free throws, but found a way to not only survive, but prevail.
For Waynflete, Martha Veroneau led the way with 14 points. Gray-Bauer added 10, Harwood had eight, Fernandez six, Anne Veroneau four and Jackson three. Harwood had a game-high 17 rebounds, while Martha Veroneau came up with six steals. The Flyers grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and made 8-of-10 free throws, but gave the ball away 14 times.
Waynflete coach Brandon Salway was not pleased with his team’s performance.
“We had too many turnovers,” Salway lamented. “We didn’t shoot well. We just didn’t play very well. I credit Cape for working hard and hustling, but we just didn’t have it. It’s disappointing. It’s the worst we’ve played in over a year. I felt like we had control of the game, but they battled. I think they wanted it more. I credit them for outworking us in spots. I don’t think we did a good job in any area. We missed easy shots. I think we shot 17 percent. You won’t beat many teams shooting like that. They did a good job with our press. I thought we lacked energy.”
Waynflete (currently sixth in the Western Class C Heal Points standings) won’t have much time to dwell on the loss as the Flyers visit Fryeburg Saturday. With the possible exception of a trip to Western B contender Wells Jan. 26, Waynflete will be favored in the rest of its games, but now knows it can’t just go through the motions.
Expect the Flyers to learn from this setback and excel the rest of the way.
“You can’t just show up and win,” said Salway. “Everyone wants to beat us.”
Cape Elizabeth (eighth in Western B and rising) hosts Poland Saturday, visits Wells Tuesday and is home Friday of next week against Yarmouth.
The Capers have an opportunity to build on this win and be right in the middle of the playoff hunt, but there is still work to do.
“Everyone’s ready to go,” said Dell’Aquila.
“The schedule never lets up,” said Casterella. “It goes and goes and goes. It’s not where we start, it’s where we end.”
CE- 8 13 13 8 7- 49
W- 14 10 16 2 3- 45
CE- Dell’Aquila 6-2-15, Tabery 4-5-13, Miklavic 3-0-7, Braxton 1-2-5, Goldstein 2-0-5, O’Rourke 1-2-4
W- M. Veroneau 4-4-14, Gray-Bauer 4-0-10, Harwood 2-4-8, Fernandez 2-0-6, A. Veroneau 2-0-4, Jackson 1-0-3
CE (4) Braxton, Dell’Aquila, Goldstein, Miklavic 1
W (7) Fernandez, Gray-Bauer, M. Veroneau 2, Jackson 1
CE (39) Braxton 13, O’Rourke 8, Tabery 7, Miklavic 6, Dell’Aquila 5
W (38) Harwood 17, Gray-Bauer, C. Veroneau, M. Veroneau 5, Fernandez 3, Jackson 2, A. Veroneau 1
CE (11) Braxton 3, Dell’Aquila, Miklavic, Tabery 2, Goldstein, O’Rourke 1
W (13) M. Veroneau 6, Jackson 3, Fernandez 2, Harwood, A. Veroneau 1