PORTLAND—While it wasn’t quite as palpitating as last year’s buzzer-beater, top-ranked Cape Elizabeth and No. 4 Greely once again put on a show in a Western Class B boys’ basketball semifinal Thursday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Capers never trailed in the second half, but they couldn’t completely put the Rangers away until the waning moments, thanks to a clutch basket and three foul shots from junior Theo Bowe and a defensive series that helped them withstand seven Greely shots and come away unscathed.
In the end, Cape Elizabeth moved on with a 51-43 victory and will face No. 2 Falmouth in a rematch of last year’s regional final in the Western B championship game Saturday at 3:45 p.m., at the Civic Center.
While both teams were in Falmouth’s shadow for most of the regular season, Cape Elizabeth and Greely entered Thursday’s contest full of confidence.
The Capers closed the regular season with a win at Falmouth, finishing 17-1 and leapfrogging the Yachtsmen for the top seed, then pulled away in the second half to eliminate No. 9 Lake Region, 53-37, in the quarterfinals.
The Rangers went 13-5 in the regular season, then rallied for a 58-54 victory over No. 5 Maranacook in the quarterfinals.
Cape Elizabeth beat the Rangers twice this year, 66-55 at home Dec. 19 and 57-46 in Cumberland Jan. 22. Of more resonance, last season in the semifinals, Andrew Dickey’s buzzer-beater on a fullcourt pass as time expired gave the Capers a 46-45 win. Cape Elizabeth beat Greely in the 2008 semifinals as well.
Since 1984, the rivals have played six times in the posteason, with each winning three. Greely’s last win came in the 2003 quarterfinals (50-37).
Thursday, the Rangers couldn’t hold on to the ball in the early going, but Cape Elizabeth didn’t take advantage.
A jumper from junior Theo Bowe (the younger brother of recent tournament hero Alex) got the scoring started 48 seconds in. After Greely junior Sam Johnston tied the score with a leaner, junior Cam Brown sank a baseline jumper and Bowe followed with a long jumper, that appeared to be a 3, but was credited as a two. After Johnston fed senior Trevor Tierney for a layup, Dickey answered with one for the Capers and an 8-4 advantage.
The Rangers then demonstrated just how well they can move the ball as they embarked on a 6-0 run.
First, Johnston fed Tierney for a layup. The next time down, senior Peter Westra took a pass from Johnston and made a layup to tie the score. Then, with 42.2 seconds left in the quarter, Johnston fed Westra for another layup and Greely’s first lead of the game, 10-8, but as time expired, junior Joey Doane drained a rainbow 3 for an 11-10 advantage.
The Rangers were able to overcome six turnovers to hang close.
Early in the second, Dickey made a free throw for a 12-10 lead, but Tierney fed junior Tanner Storey for a layup to tie the score. Senior Tanner Garrity put Cape Elizabeth on top with a putback and senior Conor Moloney buried a 3 and senior Will Pierce hit one from the corner for a 20-12 advantage.
With 4:16 to go in the half, Storey took a pass from Westra and made a layup, ending an 8-0 run. The Rangers almost crept closer on their next possession, but as Storey was going up for a layup, Dickey stripped the ball and raced coast-to-coast for a layup.
With 1:30 left, Storey made a foul shot, but Moloney answered with a floater. With 55.7 seconds remaining, Tierney hit a leaner, but at the other end, Dickey hit a runner in the lane. With 27.9 seconds left, Storey scored on a putback while being fouled and added the free throw to cut the deficit to six, 26-20, but with 4.2 seconds to go, Moloney buried a baseline jumper and Cape Elizabeth was up eight entering the half.
Greely was fortunate to be as close as it was, considering it had 12 turnovers to just two for the Capers.
The Rangers did a better job taking care of the ball in the final 16 minutes and made their move.
While Cape Elizabeth couldn’t make a shot early in the third, Johnston scored on a leaner while being fouled, but missed the free throw. Then, senior Matt Dunn drove for an apparent layup, but was whistled for a charge.
After a Capers turnover, Tierney scored on a hook shot and after a miss, Greely raced down and got a layup from Tierney, who was fouled on the play. After play was halted to tend to an ankle injury to Moloney (who wouldn’t return), Tierney missed the free throw, keeping it a two-point game, 28-26.
With 4:18 to go in the quarter, Tierney tied the score with two foul shots, but Cape Elizabeth’s offense then came to life.
Twenty seconds later, Bowe sank a 3, giving the Capers the lead back. Dickey followed with a 3 and Bowe scored on a floater to restore the eight-point halftime lead, 36-28.
A driving layup by senior Sam Thompson and a putback from Tierney cut the deficit in half, but Bowe fed Dickey for a layup before an up-and-under layup from Tierney made it 38-34.
With 25.6 seconds to play in the third, Doane calmly buried another 3. Cape Elizabeth almost went ahead by even more, but senior Ben Brewster’s shot at the horn rimmed out.
A Bowe rainbow started the fourth period scoring, but Johnston answered with two foul shots. With 6:30 remaining, Tierney scored on a putback and 30 seconds later, Johnston fed Storey for a layup to cut the deficit to three. With 5:08 to go, Thompson had a chance to draw Greely closer, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one. That only delayed the inevitable as with 4:34 left, Dunn got the ball at the top of the key and calmly buried a 3 to tie the game, convincing Capers coach Jim Ray to call timeout.
The Rangers had a couple chances to take the lead, but after a turnover, with 2:14 to go, Bowe got a steal and raced in for a leaner than ended the 9-0 run and a 5:35 drought.
“We couldn’t get it inside and turned it over,” Marks said. “We weren’t holding it by a long shot. We focused on getting the ball inside.”
Despite being far from 100 percent as he rebounds from mono, Bowe sparkled when his team needed him most.
“I saw Johnston and he was going to the hoop,” Bowe said. “I let him go by, tipped it into Brewster’s chest and got the ball back. I was trying to draw a foul and the shot went in. That’s all that matters.
“Bowes are gamers,” Ray added. “They like this stage. Theo was sick, but he’s done well with what he’s got.”
After a Greely miss, Cape Elizabeth senior Matt Donovan was fouled with 1:26 to go, made the front end of a one-and-one, but missed the second.
At the other end, the Rangers had ample opportunity to answer.
First, Dunn was off on a 3. Johnston grabbed the rebound and shot, but missed and Dunn’s follow was also off. That rebound resulted in a held ball, with the possession arrow pointing to Greely. After Tierney missed a 3 from the right wing, Johnston kept the play alive with a rebound and Tierney tried another 3 from up top, but it was short. The ball went out of bounds, to the Rangers. This time, Johnston drove baseline and fed a cutting Thompson, but he missed. Greely again got the ball and it came to Dunn for a 3-point attempt, but Dickey blocked it and this time, finally, the Capers got possession.
“(Greely’s) a great rebounding team,” Bowe said. “Every time it goes up, we had to box out. We didn’t do it well enough. They kept getting shots. We finally got a rebound to go our way.”
With 13.7 seconds to go, Bowe was fouled and he made the first of two attempts.
“We spend practice time every day with free throws,” Bowe said. “We have competitions. It’s a matter of pride. I just took a deep breath, aimed for the back of the rim and it went in.”
Bowe was off on the second foul shot, but Johnston missed a 3 at the other end and Bowe grabbed the rebound. He made both foul shots and as time expired, Brewster made a layup to bring the curtain down on Cape Elizbeth’s dramatic 51-43 victory.
“(Cape) hit some great shots,” Marks said. “We got the ball where we wanted it tonight for the first time all year. Our goal was to get the ball inside, but you also have to have some sort of outside game and we didn’t have it. We just couldn’t score. I feel bad for the kids. Holding them to 51 points isn’t bad. That’s what we were looking at.
“I have to give Cape a ton of credit. I love playing Jimmy. Their kids work so hard. When they had to hit shots, they hit shots. They have what we don’t. They have quickness, speed, perimeter, we don’t have any of that. We tried to maximize our strength, which is our size. We did OK with that tonight.”
“It was a little nervewracking,” Ray said. “We were sloppy in the fourth quarter in our passing and in our cuts. The kids had nerves, but they earned it. They’ve earned everything they’ve gotten this season. They should be full of confidence. I told them not to second guess what got us here. They pulled it out.”
Bowe led the Capers with 16 points.
Dickey added 12 points and Moloney had seven before leaving with his injury, which will play a key role in Cape Elizabeth’s hopes Saturday.
“Losing Conor was huge, but guys stepped up like we have all season,” Bowe said. “We found a way and kept our composure.”
“We don’t know (the severity) yet,” Ray said. “He walked down the hallway (after the game). We’re trying to keep the swelling down. I’m guessing he stepped on someone’s foot. He wiped out pretty hard.”
Doane had six points, Pierce three, Brown, Brewster and Garrity two apiece and Donovan one.
“Dickey played very well tonight and Bowe hit big shots,” Marks lamented. “I feel bad for Conor. Our goal was to hold those three kids in check.”
“Some experience is there, but guys have to step up and assume the leadership roles,” Ray said. “It’s nice to see guys step up and be willing to do that. Theo’s done that. Will did a nice job in the first half. Cam did a nice job running the point. He’ll be better on Saturday. They’ve really done a nice job developing their own identity. Kids need to do that. We have a level of tradition where that’s expected.”
For Greely, Tierney led the way with 18 points. Storey had 10, Johnston six, Westra four, Dunn three and Thompson two.
“Tierney and Storey played well,” Marks said. “Trevor worked his tail off this year. He had a great season. Tanner’s come into his own the past few games. If he improves like he has the last few games, he’ll be something else next year. Sam Johnston didn’t practice all week with a thigh contusion. I didn’t know if he’d be able to play or what he could do. I have to give him so much credit.”
The Rangers finished 14-6 and as always, will be on the short list of contenders next winter.
“We had six losses this year, only one that was unexpected, down at York,” Marks said. “The Cape and Falmouth games we knew would be tossups.”
Saturday afternoon showdown
Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth (both 19-1) have seen plenty of each other recently. Last year, the Capers held on for a 58-48 regional final victory. The teams also met in the 2004 quarterfinals (No. 8 Cape Elizabeth upset the top-ranked Yachtsmen 44-42) and the 2006 semis (a 60-45 Falmouth win).
On Jan. 5, at home, the Capers lost 62-55 to the Yachtsmen. A month later, in the regular season finale, Cape Elizabeth spoiled Falmouth’s quest for a perfect season with a 48-45 triumph.
“I’m excited,” Bowe said. “I had mono and missed the chance to play at Falmouth. We can’t let them dictate. We need to dictate the flow of the game. That’s what we did at their place.”
“We’ll sit down and try and figure out a game plan,” added Ray. “It’s a good problem to have.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com