PORTLAND—Ethan Murphy was home sick the last time his Cape Elizabeth boys’ basketball team faced Lake Region.
And the Capers lost.
Saturday afternoon at the Cross Insurance Arena, Murphy had an opportunity to make up for lost time and the senior captain made sure Cape Elizabeth completed its regional tournament journey holding the trophy at the end.
The second-ranked Capers had their hands full for 32 minutes against No. 4 Lake Region, a squad coming off a semifinal round upset of top-ranked Yarmouth, but playing like the champions they hope to become, they answered every challenge.
Murphy scored six quick points to help build an early 7-1 lead, but the Lakers didn’t panic and rallied to go ahead before Cape Elizabeth took a 13-11 advantage after one quarter on a pair of late free throws from freshman Finn Bowe.
Lake Region then rattled off seven straight points to take a 23-17 lead with just over two minutes to play in the first half, but the Capers answered with eight straight, capped by a Bowe 3 at the horn, to take a 25-23 advantage to the break.
Cape Elizabeth then appeared primed to seize control of the game in the third quarter, as sophomore Quinn Hewitt sparked a 10-2 run with a 3-point shot and an old-fashioned three-point play, helping the Capers go up, 38-30, but the Lakers got the final six points of the frame, then scored two quick hoops to start the fourth quarter for a 40-38 lead.
And that’s when Murphy said enough’s enough.
Out of a game-changing timeout, Murphy drove for a layup, was fouled and added a free throw to put Cape Elizabeth on top to stay. The next time down, Murphy somehow got a left-handed shot to bank home. Junior Justin Guerette added a jumper, Hewitt hit two free throws and a driving layup from junior Jack O’Rourke capped an 11-0 run which gave the Capers some breathing room.
Lake Region twice drew within five down the stretch, but two Murphy free throws iced and Cape Elizabeth won its fourth regional title in eight seasons and its first since 2011, 51-46.
Murphy had 20 points as the Capers improved to 18-3, ended the Lakers’ season at 15-6 and advanced to meet Medomak Valley (19-2) in the Class B state final Friday at 9:05 p.m., at CIA.
“It’s nice to come out here and get some revenge,” Murphy said. “(Lake Region’s) a really, really good team. We were very confident. I wouldn’t say anyone thought we were going to lose. We have five returning starters. We knew what we needed to do. We’d been in that situation before.”
This Cape Elizabeth team isn’t flashy, but the sum of its parts is tremendous. The Capers were viewed as a favorite entering the season, but a couple early losses brought the team down to earth. Cape Elizabeth then soared in January and wound up 15-3, good for the No. 2 seed in Western B. The Capers weren’t seriously tested in either playoff test, a 68-51 quarterfinal round victory over Greely and a 57-39 semifinal round win over Lincoln Academy.
Lake Region quietly put together a strong 13-5 regular season and as the No. 4 seed, knocked off fifth-ranked Spruce Mountain (41-37) in the quarterfinals before shocking top-ranked Yarmouth in semifinals (52-50).
Lake Region beat visiting Cape Elizabeth, 51-46, back on Dec. 30, the game which Murphy missed, and holds a 4-2 all-time edge in the postseason. The Capers won the most recent meeting, 53-37, in the 2010 quarterfinals.
Saturday, Cape Elizabeth had to scratch and claw, but managed to advance.
The Lakers broke the ice on a free throw from junior Nate Smith, but the Capers got a foul shot from Hewitt, then Murphy got going, making a layup after a steal, scoring on a putback, then sinking two free throws for a 7-1 lead.
“I was getting updates in my bed (the last time),” Murphy said. “When I saw we were tied at halftime, I was nervous, but I thought we’d pull through. When I saw we lost, I was upset, but there was nothing I could really do. Tonight, I was looking to penetrate and looking for my shot, but I wasn’t trying to force anything. It paid off.”
Lake Region answered with a layup from senior Quinn Piland and a jumper from Thursday’s hero, junior Marcus DeVoe, but Galvin made two free throws.
DeVoe then made a jumper and junior Jackson Lesure drove for consecutive layups to put the Lakers up, 11-9.
Cape Elizabeth then got a driving layup from Murphy and two foul shots from Bowe to take a 13-11 lead after one period. It was almost 15-11, but Guerette’s layup at the horn was waved off after he was whistled for charging.
Things remained tight in the second quarter as well, as the Lakers took a lead, but the Capers roared back to go up at halftime.
After senior Nick Hall tied the game with a putback, Bowe drove for a layup to put Cape Elizabeth back on top. A 3 from junior Nate Smith was countered by two Galvin foul shots, but Lake Region ran off seven straight to take the lead.
A layup by Piland, a bank shot from Hall, a Piland free throw and a layup after a steal by DeVoe made it 23-17 Lakers.
Cape Elizabeth would close the half in style, with an 8-0 run of its own.
First, Galvin drained a 3. Galvin then made two free throws and as time expired, Bowe buried a 3 from the corner for a 25-23 advantage at the break.
A big reason for the Capers’ lead was foul shooting. They made 11 of 12 attempts, while Lake Region only converted 2 of 9.
Cape Elizabeth looked primed to pull away in the third quarter, but couldn’t put the Lakers away.
After Hall tied the score with a layup, Murphy buried a 3, but Smith answered with one to make it 28-28.
Hewitt then had a huge 35 seconds, putting the Capers on top with a 3, then making a layup while being fouled and adding the free throw for a three-point play. Hall hit two foul shots, but Murphy drove for a layup and Guerette did the same, forcing Lake Region coach J.P. Yorkey to call timeout.
it worked, as the Lakers closed the quarter strong.
First, Lesure hit a jumper to end the 10-2 Cape Elizabeth run. Hall then made two free throws and added a layup to pull Lake Region within two, 38-36, heading for the fourth period.
A minute into the final stanza, Galvin was called for a charge, his fourth foul, and he had to sit.
“It was very frustrating,” Galvin said. “I knew as soon as (the official) blew the whistle that it was going to be a foul on me. I’ve had maybe two charges on me all year, but I had three today. I tried to stay positive on the bench and cheer my teammates.”
“I felt badly for Eddie,” Capers coach Jim Ray said. “I said, ‘Make sure you don’t get a fourth,’ but he went right where he wasn’t supposed to.”
The Lakers pounced, as Lesure scored on a leaner and with 5:13 to play, Lesure set up Smith for a transition layup, capping a 10-0 run and giving Lake Region a 40-38 lead.
Ray then called timeout and Cape Elizabeth dug deep and answered the bell.
With 4:47 remaining, Murphy drove for a layup, was fouled and made the free throw for a three-point play which put the Capers on top to stay.
“I was just looking to penetrate and get a good shot and was able to get one in,” Murphy said.
“(In the timeout) I said, ‘Relax. There’s all kinds of time,'” Ray said. “We had to disrupt what they were doing with the ball. Good teams keep their poise and move on to the next play. Our guys did a good job of that tonight. We didn’t panic. Even the young guys.”
The next time down, Murphy drove and despite being blanketed by a defender, kissed a left-handed shot high off the glass and in for a 43-40 lead.
“When I was younger, I would just take layups in my driveway all the time because I couldn’t make jumpers,” Murphy said. “It paid off.”
Guerette then hit an elbow jumper, Hewitt added two foul shots and with 2:06 left, O’Rourke drove for a layup and a 49-40 advantage.
Yorkey called timeout and the Lakers got a leaner from Smith and a layup from Lesure, but that only cut the deficit to 49-44 with 48.6 seconds remaining.
Thirteen seconds later, Murphy missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Smith missed a 3 which could have made it a one-possession game and Murphy got the rebound with 19.5 seconds to go.
This time, Murphy was true on both ends of a 1-and-1 and that effectively sealed it.
“I was not about to let the team down and miss those,” Murphy said.
Sophomore Tyler Walker drove for a layup for Lake Region, but after O’Rourke missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Galvin stole a pass and time ran out on Cape Elizabeth’s 51-46 triumph.
“They’re more a bigger, stronger team and I thought they’d slow it down and play halfcourt, but for the most part, we did a good job dictating the pace,” Murphy said. “We like to run. They had tough pressure at the end. It definitely got a little sketchy, but our leadership factor allowed us to pull it out.”
“It feels amazing, unbelievable, I’m on Cloud Nine right now,” Galvin said. “Coach told us to stick with what got us here and that’s exactly what happened. Lake Region’s a tough team. I’m glad we pulled it out. We had a ton of pressure. We have a chip on our shoulder anyway, because everyone wants to beat Cape Elizabeth. We overcame the pressure.”
“It was a battle,” Ray added. “They’re tough. They’ll be tough next year too. They’re young and strong.”
Murphy posted a game-high 20 points and also had five rebounds and a couple steals. His performance garnered the Pierre Harnois Award, as the regional tournament’s outstanding player/sportsman.
“(Ethan’s) unbelievable,” Galvin said. “He’s a rebounding guard, so I knew this game he’d make a huge difference.”
“It was the Ethan Murphy factor tonight,” Ray said. “He played a great game. It typifies how our team has performed all year. I don’t even know how many times Murph has scored in double figures, but he picked a good time to do it tonight. He made some tough shots. He’s one of the guys who doesn’t average double figures, but I’ve got to have him on the floor for his poise and leadership. He makes mistakes like anybody else, but he’s always on the same page as me. He had the eye of the tiger tonight. I’m so proud.”
Galvin had nine points, four rebounds and two steals, despite being foul trouble.
Hewitt also had nine points.
Bowe added seven (to go with eight boards).
“You talk about awareness, for a freshman, he singlehandedly gave Lesure fits and made his life so difficult,” Ray said. “We had to keep the ball out of (Lesure’s) hands. He can pass or put it in the basket. He can’t do that if he doesn’t have the ball.”
Guerette finished with four points and O’Rourke (four assists) had two.
The Capers held a slim 24-23 rebounding advantage, only committed 12 turnovers and were a superb 17 of 20 from the free throw line.
Cape Elizabeth has come a long way since the challenging days of December, when it seemed as though the squad was buying into the hype and might not reach its potential.
“I’m pretty good at bringing guys back down,” Ray said. “You win a game, that’s great. The next day in practice, I don’t care how good it was, I don’t spend so much time on the good. All those kids know me well enough. Sometimes the lessons are hard. That’s just the way I operate.
“I sat back tonight and watched the reaction of the kids unfold knowing what they’ve been through to get here. I’ve had great kids every year who give it everything they’ve got. When those kids come back to our Alumni Game, that’s when it’s special for me. We take a picture and the one from this year is on my desk. The pictures of my teams, that’s what’s special to me because I know the time they put in.”
For Lake Region, Hall bowed out with 12 points and six rebounds. Smith had 11 points and five boards. Lesure added 10 points, to go with four rebounds and four assists. DeVoe was held to just six points, while Piland had five and Walker finished with two.
The Lakers gave the ball away 13 times and hurt themselves by making only 6 of 13 free throws.
Cape Elizabeth last won a Class B state title in 1988. The Capers have been in three state games since, but haven’t been able to get over the hump, losing to Maranacook in 2008 (56-46) and Camden Hills in 2009 (62-49) and 2011 (68-59).
This time, Cape Elizabeth will battle Medomak Valley. The teams have never met in a state game, but do have playoff history. The Capers beat the Panthers in the 1971 quarterfinals (69-65) and the 1983 quarterfinals (65-47) and lost to Medomak Valley in the 1980 regional final (80-66).
The Panthers went 16-2 in the regular season, then downed Maine Central Institute (60-39), Mt. Desert Island (59-47) and Winslow (48-45) to advance.
Cape Elizabeth is ready to end 27 years of waiting, but knows it won’t be easy.
“This win feels amazing, but we’re not done yet,” Murphy said. “We’ve got one more. We have to go out, play hard and play our game. Medomak’s a great team. They’ll go on runs, but we have to do the same. Playing here is huge. Our crowd’s been incredible. We love that.”
“We just have to execute and play defense,” Galvin said. “If we let our offense come to us, we’ll be fine. We’ve been working so hard to get back to the state game. We wanted to play Camden Hills. My older brother, Johnny Messina, played in two state championships and lost both games. I really want to bring one home for him and for Coach Ray.”
Ray is widely recognized as one of the area’s elite coaches, but the one thing that’s eluded him is a championship.
He’d love to win one, but not at any cost.
“Winning a state championship does not define me as a coach,” Ray said. “I’ll lose before I allow my guys to do things the wrong way. I’ve told the kids that I want things done a certain way and I need everyone to buy in and if they don’t buy in, they’re going to sit. We’re pretty close now. If we’re going to do it, we’ll do it the right way, with class and hard work. That’s what defines us. We’ll try and do our best Friday.”
Cape Elizabeth freshman Finn Bowe, who once again was huge off the bench, gets a step on a defender.
Cape Elizabeth senior Eddie Galvin goes up with the left hand.
Cape Elizabeth junior Justin Guerette skies for a shot.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Quinn Hewitt races up the floor. Hewitt had nine points in the win.
Cape Elizabeth senior Ethan Murphy throws up a shot. Murphy led all scorers with 20 points and was named the regional tournament’s outstanding player/sportsman.
Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray (far right) and several players applaud during the late stages of Saturday’s win.
Cape Elizabeth’s student section got in on the fun.
Cape Elizabeth senior Ethan Murphy beams as he waves the net in celebration following the game.
Cape Elizabeth captains (from left) senior Ethan Murphy, senior Eddie Galvin and junior Justin Guerette, with team manager Roman Medina getting in on the action, show off the championship plaque following the victory.
Cape Elizabeth’s players exult at the final horn of Saturday’s 51-46 win over Lake Region in the Western Class B Final. The Capers will battle Medomak Valley for the state championship Friday evening in Portland.
Jason Veilleux photos.
More photos below.
LR- 11 12 13 10- 46
CE- 13 12 13 13 51
LR- Hall 4-4-12, Smith 4-1-11, Lesure 5-0-10, DeVoe 3-0-6, Piland 2-1-5, Walker 1-0-2
CE- Murphy 7-5-20, Galvin 1-6-9, Hewitt 2-4-9, Bowe 2-2-7, Guerette 2-0-4, O’Rourke 1-0-2
LR (2) Smith 2
CE (4) Bowe, Galvin, Hewitt, Murphy 1
2010 Western B quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 53 Lake Region 37
2004 Western B semifinals
Lake Region 84 Cape Elizabeth 65
1985 Western B Final
Lake Region 64 Cape Elizabeth 50
1983 Western B semifinals
Lake Region 75 Cape Elizabeth 64
1981 Western B quarterfinals
Lake Region 62 Cape Elizabeth 60 (OT)
1980 Western B quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 83 Lake Region 60