CAPE ELIZABETH — A pair of highly anticipated showdowns with fierce rival Falmouth resulted in a split decision for the Cape Elizabeth basketball program Tuesday night.
In the first game, the girls continued their resurgence with their most impressive win to date, 39-32, thanks to 16 points from senior Gabe Donahue and 14 from classmate Morgan Pillsbury.
Next came a battle of unbeatens as the boys’ teams reprised their regional final of a year ago. This time around, Falmouth earned bragging rights, building an 18-point lead before holding off a furious Capers’ rally to win, 62-55.
Another step forward
After last year’s success, the Cape Elizabeth girls hoped to become a serious contender this winter. So far, so good. Entering Monday’s game, the Capers had defeated Wells, Poland, Fryeburg and Yarmouth and lost to Lake Region, Greely and Gray-New Gloucester. Hosting a 5-2 Falmouth squad that has been a top contender in recent years, Cape Elizabeth shot to a 10-0 lead and led 11-6 after one period. After building a 22-7 advantage, the Yachtsmen pulled within 22-13 at the break.
Things got scary in the third when Falmouth scored the first 10 points to complete a 16-0 run and take its first and only lead, 23-22. With 2:37 to go in the quarter, Donahue made a layup snapped an 8 minute, 20 second drought to put the Capers on top to stay. A 3-pointer from junior Emily Donovan made it 27-23 early in the fourth, but twice the visitors pulled within two. A Pillsbury layup with 3:58 to go was followed by a 3-pointer from Donahue to provide some breathing room. The Yachtsmen never got closer than four points the rest of the way and three late points from Donahue put the finishing touches on the 39-32 triumph.
“It comes down to consistency,” said coach Chris Roberts. “Right now, we’re struggling to put 32 minutes together. We had a lull in the third quarter, just two points. Our defense did enough to hold them. The kids fought through. They didn’t give up. Luckily, we came out on the right end. Falmouth can play. They’re a young team that’s only going to get better. There’s a lot of good things for us to take from this.”
Cape Elizabeth hosted Freeport Wednesday and welcomes undefeated, defending regional champion York Tuesday of next week.
Comeback falls short
A year ago, the Cape Elizabeth boys downed Falmouth 58-48 in the Western B Final before losing to Camden in the state game.
This winter, both teams won their first seven games with relative ease. Tuesday night, a large and raucous crowd witnessed a contest that started slowly, but evolved into the type of showdown everyone expected.
The Capers held an early 5-4 advantage, but never led again as the Yachtsmen went up 13-9 after one and extended their advantage to 25-15 late in the half before the hosts got four straight points to make it 25-19 at the break.
Falmouth looked to run away and hide in the third quarter when it raced to leads of 45-27 and 49-31, but Cape Elizabeth responded by closing the period with six straight points, then got the first nine of the fourth (capped by a 3 from senior Matt Donovan) to pull within 49-46 with 5:44 to go.
The Yachtsmen stayed calm and turned momentum back in their favor when they got a clutch offensive rebound and putback. When senior John Roberts sank a hook shot with 3:21 to go, Falmouth was up 58-46, but the Capers didn’t fold. After trading baskets, junior Theo Bowe sank a 3 and senior Andrew Dickey scored after an offensive board to make it 60-53 with 1:18 still to play. After senior Conor Moloney missed a 3-point opportunity to cut the deficit to four, Yachtsmen senior Sam Horning made two free throws with 22.2 seconds to go and a Moloney putback with 8.7 seconds left accounted for the 62-55 final score.
“(Falmouth’s) a very good team,” said Capers coach Jim Ray. “It’s the first time this season I think we showed a sign of tentativeness. That was in the first half. We weren’t as confident across the board as we’ve been. We talked about it at halftime and the second half was better. We were more patient with the offense. We had a couple runs. The kids never quit. I love them for their effort. It’s something to work on and build from.
“(Falmouth) made the plays. We had a couple opportunities too. We just didn’t get a couple breaks. We’re two very good teams working hard in a midseason game. We saw how we stack up. We’ll try to figure each other out.”
Dickey and Moloney both finished with 12 points and Bowe had 10.
Both teams will eagerly await the rematch in the regular season finale, Feb. 5 in Falmouth, but both have plenty to concern themselves with in the days to come.
The Capers go to Freeport Saturday and York Tuesday of next week.
“We want to get to the tournament and that’s when it’s win or go home,” Ray said.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Cape Elizabeth senior Will Pierce goes up for a shot during his team’s 62-55 home loss to Falmouth Tuesday night.
Cape Elizabeth senior Gabe Donahue does everything in her power to save the ball in the girls’ game versus Falmouth. The Capers held on for a 39-32 victory.