PORTLAND—Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ basketball team hasn’t always lived up to the hype this winter, but the Capers are now just three wins away from their ultimate goal.
Saturday afternoon in a Western Class B quarterfinal at the Portland Exposition Building, the second-ranked Capers dug an early 5-0 hole against No. 7 Greely, but they didn’t panic. Cape Elizabeth started producing offense from its defense and the steady play of seniors Eddie Galvin and Ethan Murphy and juniors Justin Guerette and Jack O’Rourke helped set the Capers on the right course.
A 10-4 run late in the first quarter put Cape Elizabeth ahead to stay and a 21-9 surge int he second period opened up a 40-25 advantage at halftime.
The Rangers got as close as nine points late in the third quarter, but a layup from junior James Bottomley sparked a 14-0 run to end all doubt and the Capers went on to a 68-51 triumph.
Galvin and O’Rourke both had 15 points as Cape Elizabeth improved to 16-3, ended Greely’s season at 10-10 and advanced to battle No. 6 Lincoln Academy (13-6) in the semifinals Thursday at 7:30 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena (formerly the Cumberland County Civic Center).
“Tonight, it was all five guys playing together,” said Capers coach Jim Ray. “There wasn’t a weak link. That’s key. I think we play consistently at our pace when we force the issue.”
After meeting every year in the postseason between 2008-10, the Capers and Rangers didn’t play in the playoffs the last four years.
This winter has been a challenge at times for both squads, as Greely has slowly put the pieces together, while Cape Elizabeth struggled early before hitting its stride.
The Rangers, who were hit hard by graduation after making it to the regional final a year ago, lost three of their first five this season, then won four straight. A stretch of five setbacks in six outings put Greely’s playoff hopes in jeopardy, but the Rangers showed their heart in the finale by taking a win-and-get-in contest at York, 62-51, to make it 24 consecutive postseason trips. As the No. 7 seed, Greely had no trouble with No. 10 Poland in Tuesday’s preliminary round, avenging last year’s agonizing playoff ouster with a 64-44 victory.
The Capers, preseason favorites in the eyes of many, lost at home to Yarmouth and at Lake Region in late December, then won nine straight, lost to Falmouth, then closed with two victories to lock up the second spot behind Yarmouth.
Cape Elizabeth beat Greely in both regular season encounters, 61-41, in Cumberland Jan. 31 and 61-39 at home five days later.
The Capers entered the game having won four of seven prior playoff meetings.
Saturday, Cape Elizabeth was just too strong.
Greely started quickly as senior Gabe Axelsen drove for a leaner and junior Caleb Normandeau buried a 3. Guerette then finished a feed from Galvin and made a layup to get Cape Elizabeth on the board. After Murphy tied the game with a 3, two Galvin foul shots gave the Capers their first lead and Galvin scored on a leaner to extend the run to 9-0.
“All three times we played them, we had a pretty slow start,” said Galvin. “I wasn’t too concerned at the beginning. It was our defense that got us going. It always does.’
“Those first five points, I wasn’t too rattled,” said O’Rourke. “We just had to run our offense and get everyone going. Once we got some looks and got some shots, we were fine.”
“They jumped on us quick, but it was early and we didn’t demonstrate any panic,” Ray added. “We created with our defense.”
A leaner from sophomore Ryan Twitchell stemmed the tide and a 3 from junior Calvin Soule put the Rangers back on top, but O’Rourke hit his first 3. Soule tied the game with a layup, but O’Rourke made another 3 to put Cape Elizabeth ahead for good.
“That’s just my game,” O’Rourke said. “I’m a shooter and I’m going to shoot.”
Guerette added a layup, but sophomore Matt McDevitt made two free throws. After O’Rourke made a layup after a steal, McDevitt ended the back-and-forth first period with a leaner, pulling Greely within 19-16.
The Capers opened it up in the second quarter.
After McDevitt made a layup 12 seconds in, Murphy started a 15-2 run with a driving leaner and a free throw to complete an old-fashioned three-point play. Junior Marcus Donnelly added a layup and Galvin finished a feed from Murphy with a layup to make it 26-18. The Rangers got a driving layup from Axelsen, but Galvin made a free throw, Galvin made a leaner while being fouled and Galvin drove for a layup. Freshman Finn Bowe then sank a 3 to make it 34-20, forcing Greely coach Travis Seaver to call timeout.
It helped momentarily, as McDevitt made a layup, but Galvin answered with one of his own. After Axelsen made a free throw, sophomore Jordan Bagshaw hit two foul shots, but Cape Elizabeth finished the half strong, as Guerette put home his own miss and Murphy fed Bowe, who eluded a defender with a great head-fake, then made a layup to put the Capers firmly in control at the break, 40-25.
Galvin led the way with 13 first half points, while O’Rourke had eight and Guerette and Murphy both added six. Cape Elizabeth only turned the ball over three times in the first 16 minutes and it forced 12 turnovers by the Rangers.
Greely hoped to make a run in the third period, but the Capers didn’t let it happen.
After Axelsen opened the second half the way he did the first, with a basket, Guerette hit a baseline jumper and O’Rourke set up sophomore Quinn Hewitt for a fastbreak layup, making it 44-27.
The Rangers crept back within 13 on layups from Bagshaw and McDevitt, but after a steal by Bottomley, Murphy set up O’Rourke for a layup on the fastbreak. Guerette added a foul shot, but Axelsen made a floater and McDevitt hit two foul shots to cut the deficit back to 12, 47-35.
A 3 from Bottomley then made it a 15-point game.
“I just try to play my hardest,” Bottomley said. “I focus on defense mostly. I take opportunities on offense when I can. It felt good to knock down some shots. We fed off our defense. When we have good defense, we have good offense.”
“God love (Bottomley),” said Ray. “He went through a long stretch this season where he couldn’t get anything to go. He finally hit one at Greely that bounced high, hit again and hit again and went in and after that, the lid was off. He has good moves around the basket. For 135 pounds, he’s pretty good.”
Twitchell made a foul shot and after Cape Elizabeth tried to save the ball under its basket, McDevitt got it, made a layup and was fouled. He hit the free throw to complete the three-point play and Bagshaw added a layup after a steal to cut the deficit to just nine, but with time winding down, Bottomley got to the rim for a layup and a 52-41 lead heading for the final stanza.
Axelsen started the fourth quarter with a free throw, but Galvin drove for a layup and Galvin set up O’Rourke for a dagger 3 from the corner. Hewitt added a foul shot, Bottomley took a pass from Murphy and made a reverse layup, Bottomley stole the ball and set up O’Rourke for a layup and with 4:23 left, senior Grady McCormick hit a short jumper for a commanding 64-42 advantage.
Twitchell and Axelsen each made one foul shot for Greely. McDevitt then hit a 3 and made a leaner. Twitchell added a free throw to make it 64-50, but Murphy made two foul shots. A free throw from Bagshaw accounted for the Rangers’ final point and a pair of Donnelly foul shots brought the curtain down on Cape Elizabeth’s 68-51 triumph.
“We had a lot of confidence coming in,” said O’Rourke. “We stuck to our game plan. We knew we could beat them if we did. We’re a defensive-minded team. Once the defense got going, that generated offense for us.”
“Greely worked their butts off,” Ray said. “They played us pretty even in the second half. We have to make better decisions in situations, but I liked how tough we played.”
Galvin and O’Rourke led the way with 15 points apiece. Galvin also had five assists, four rebounds and two steals, while O’Rourke finished with three steals.
“It’s tough to cover everyone,” Galvin said. “They weren’t playing so much help-side (defense) sometimes, so I got a step on my man. When they did, I’d kick it out to Jack, who hit shots.”
“We had the Eddie Galvin factor,” Ray said. “He’s a tough matchup. If we’re patient and work the ball, we have guys who can put it in the basket. Eddie got it in some good situations. Jack hit some shots, but he played his butt off defensively and that’s what I was most impressed with.”
Guerette had nine points, six rebounds and four steals, Murphy finished with eight points and five assists and Bottomley turned heads with his seven-points, five-steals performance.
“I love Bottomley,” Galvin said. “He’s a player. I liked seeing his style on the floor.”
Bowe added five points (to go with seven rebounds, three assists and a block), Donnelly had four, Hewitt three and McCormick two.
The Capers only turned the ball over nine times, while forcing 26.
“Our defense has changed a little bit past couple years, but we’ll come at you,” Ray said.
Cape Elizabeth hit 10 of 19 foul shots.
Greely got 20 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks from McDevitt. Axelsen had 11 points (nine boards, two assists and a block), Bagshaw seven, Soule and Twitchell five apiece and Normandeau three. Senior Jordan Tebbs didn’t score, but had six rebounds.
The Rangers outrebounded the Capers, 36-20, and made 14 of 25 foul shots.
“(Cape’s) a tough team and they don’t make a ton of mistakes and they take advantage when we do,” Seaver said. “Galvin didn’t really score against us the first two games, but he had a great first half. O’Rourke hit some big shots. They spread it out. We turned it over and defensively, we gave up 40 points in the first half. We just didn’t get stops.
‘We got here and obviously, that was the big goal. I thought we played great the first half of the season. We hung with the big guns like Falmouth and Yarmouth. We had a downward trend after Christmas, but I’m proud of how these guys played the past two weeks. Getting here speaks volumes, especially as young as we are. It’s no secret we’re young. We didn’t use that as an excuse. Down the road, this will help us.”
Cape Elizabeth doesn’t play Lincoln Academy (which upset No. 3 Morse in its quarterfinal) in the regular season. The teams have met six previous times in the postseason, with the Capers taking all six. Cape Elizabeth beat the Eagles in the 1956 Class C state final, 76-54, the 1988 Western B Final, 69-51, the 1995 preliminary round, 73-58, the 1998 quarterfinals, 75-60, the 2001 semifinals (53-39) and the 2002 semifinals (56-43).
This time around, the Capers will again be the favorite, but they know it won’t come easily.
“Coach has used the expectations to get us to work harder,” Galvin said. “He’s done a good job of not letting us get cocky and giving us a chip on our shoulder. (Lincoln) looked good (against Morse). They’re scrappy. They moved the ball well. I’m excited to play them.”
“We focused hard all week in practice to get ready for this game and now we’ll get ready for the next game,” Bottomley said. “We have to play our game.”
“I think it’s a good matchup for us,” O’Rourke said. “We’ll be confident no matter who we play.”
“(Lincoln’s) a tough team, tough kids,” Ray added. “I think they look a lot like us. They keep coming at you. They’re not afraid to shoot it. They play loose. We’re going to have our hands full. It wouldn’t be fun if it was easy.”
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Quinn Hewitt flies to the basket.
Cape Elizabeth freshman Finn Bowe dishes off.
Cape Elizabeth junior Marcus Donnelly goes up for a shot.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Quinn Hewitt flies to the basket.
Greely senior Gabe Axelsen dribbles the ball under the watchful eye of Cape Elizabeth senior Ethan Murphy.
Greely sophomore Matt McDevitt defends Cape Elizabeth sophomore Quinn Hewitt.
Cape Elizabeth junior Jack O’Rourke crashes into Greely sophomore Jordan Bagshaw.
Greely sophomore Ryan Twitchell soars to the basket.
Cape Elizabeth senior Eddie Galvin is all smiles after the final horn.
Cape Elizabeth’s student section had a lot to cheer about Saturday.
Greely’s fan section, conversely, could only try and implore a comeback which never came.
Cape Elizabeth junior Jack O’Rourke gets leverage on Greely junior Caleb Normandeau during the teams’ Western B quarterfinal Saturday afternoon. O’Rourke had 15 points to help the Capers advance, 68-51.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
G- 16 9 16 10- 51
CE- 19 21 12 16- 68
G- McDevitt 7-5-20, Axelsen 4-3-11, Bagshaw 2-3-7, Soule 2-0-5, Twitchell 1-3-5, Normandeau 1-0-3
CE- Galvin 6-3-15, O’Rourke 6-0-15, Guerette 4-1-9, Murphy 2-3-8, Bottomley 3-0-7, Bowe 2-0-5, Donnelly 1-2-4, Hewitt 1-1-3, McCormick 1-0-2
G (3) McDevitt, Normandeau, Soule 1
CE (6) O’Rourke 3, Bottomley, Bowe, Murphy 1
2010 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 51 Greely 43
2009 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 46 Greely 45
2008 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 48 Greely 39
2003 Western B quarterfinals
Greely 50 Cape Elizabeth 37
1998 Western B semifinals
Greely 62 Cape Elizabeth 49
1992 Western B semifinals
Greely 64 Cape Elizabeth 50
1984 Western B quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 61 Greely 55