Championship time on the hardwood

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After several close calls last winter, Forecaster Country basketball teams are looking to go all the way this season and there’s ample reason to believe that a Gold Ball or two might be in the offing.

The tournament is underway and will become all-consuming in the days to come as six teams qualified. 

Here’s an overview:

Greely’s time?

Greely’s girls stumbled twice this season, but were as impressive as anyone down the stretch as they wound up 16-2 after victories last week at Wells (51-19), at Cape Elizabeth (35-25) and at home over York (65-30). Ashley Storey had 21 points, while Moira Train added 13 versus the Warriors. In the win over the Capers, Storey had 19 points. Storey had 19 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two blocked shots and a steal in the win over the Wildcats, while Haley Felkel added 17 points and Isabel Porter had 12 points off the bench.

“That defensive effort tonight was just unbelievable, to hold (York) to 11 points in the first half,” said Rangers coach Joel Rogers. “Even if our offense isn’t there, I think defensively, we’ve had a truly outstanding season. It’s a tribute to the kids.”

Greely earned the No. 3 seed in Western B, but will have a very difficult tournament road. The Rangers open in the quarterfinals Tuesday versus No. 6 Lake Region (12-6), the defending Class B state champion. Greely beat the visiting Lakers, 52-30, Jan. 23. Lake Region has won five of the seven previous postseason encounters, including the past three seasons. Last winter, the Lakers beat the Rangers in the semifinals, 43-32.

“I’m excited,” Porter said. “Last year, I was out (of the tournament) with a concussion. This year, I’m ready to play. I think we have what it takes to go all the way.”

“It’s a good time for us to peak,” said Felkel. “We’re motivated and excited. We’re ready.”

“I’m really happy with our season so far,” Storey said. “We can make a run, I think. I’m very excited. It’s always going to be tough. (Lake Region’s) a great team, well coached. We just have go out and do what we know how to do.”

“I know I have the best player in the state, but I have three sophomores who have played a lot of minutes for me,” Rogers added. “I knew if I could get them firing all together, we’d be tough. On offense, it’s about effort, focus and execution. On defense, we have to challenge shots, box out and contain. We’re not a really physical team, but we’re long. I think if we continue to hold teams under 35 (points), I think we have enough offense to carry us through. If a team’s not ready in the quarterfinals, they won’t win, but I think we’ve built enough depth to win. I’m so proud of these kids, they’re so easy to coach. They work so hard. We’re excited.”

A victory likely will send Greely into a showdown with No. 2 Gray-New Gloucester (17-1) in the semifinals, Thursday of next week. The Patriots beat the host Rangers, 59-47, on Opening Night, Dec. 5.

Yarmouth couldn’t quite make the playoffs, but should be a regular going forward. The Clippers closed with a 43-27 home loss to Gray-New Gloucester and a 62-38 win at Freeport to wind up 7-11. Cory Langenbach had 14 points in the loss. In the victory, Sara D’Appolonia capped her stellar freshman season with 17 points, while Johanna Hattan added 14 points. Yarmouth ended up 12th in Western B, but only 10 teams qualified.

“I’m so proud of this team,” said Clippers second-year coach Christina Strong. “We had so much fun this year. The girls are warriors. They played so hard and they showed great character. The girls are beginning to believe in their potential and they enjoyed the ride at the same time.”

Freeport wound up 2-16 and 15th after a 50-45 home win over Kennebunk and a 62-38 home loss to Yarmouth. In the victory, Taylor Rinaldi had 19 points and nine rebounds and Megan Cormier had 12 points and three blocks. In the setback, Regan Lynch had 11 points.

In Western A, Falmouth earned the No. 6 seed after a 12-6 campaign. Last week, the Yachtsmen closed by winning at Cape Elizabeth (59-47) and at home over Kennebunk (48-27). Ally Hickey had 27 points (leaving her 40 shy of Haley Jordan’s career program record of 724) and Jess Burton finished with 14 versus the Capers. In the win over the Rams, Dayna Vasconcelos led the way with 17 points.

“I’m very happy with our season,” Falmouth coach Mari Warner said. “The girls were very disciplined. Our senior leaders did a great job.”

The Yachtsmen hosted No. 11 Windham (8-10) in the preliminary round Wednesday. The teams didn’t meet this winter and had no postseason history.

“It’s a good matchup,” Warner said. “In this day and age, the kids all know each other. We play a similar style. It will be an up and down game. We’ll have to deny (Eagles standout) Sadie (Nelson) the ball and our transition game will be important.”

If Falmouth advanced, it would meet No. 3 Gorham (16-2) in the quarterfinals Monday at 2 p.m., at the Expo. The teams don’t play in the regular season, but have met in the playoffs. Last year, the Rams held on for a 50-41 overtime win over the Yachtsmen in the preliminary round. Falmouth ousted Gorham in the 2001 Western B preliminary round and the Rams returned the favor in the same round a year later.

In Western D, North Yarmouth Academy wound up 13th at 4-14, but only 11 teams qualified. The Panthers closed with a 42-25 home win over Kents Hill and a 32-23 home loss to Seacoast Christian. Suzanna Butterfield had 15 points in the victory. Elizabeth Coughlin had seven points in the loss.   

Looking ahead, the Western A semifinals are Wednesday of next week. The regional final is Saturday, Feb. 21. Both rounds will be contested at the Cross Insurance Center (formerly the Cumberland County Civic Center). The Class A Final is Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Augusta Civic Center. The Western B semifinals are Thursday of next week, with the regional final Saturday, Feb. 21 and the state final Saturday, Feb. 28. All rounds will be in Portland.

Four to watch

Falmouth, Greely, NYA and Yarmouth’s boys’ teams were also hopeful of going all the way at press time.

In Western A, Falmouth was mortal earlier in the year, but the team has hit its stride and the addition of standout Thomas Coyne, who was injured most of the winter, has put it back among the top title contenders. Last week, the Yachtsmen held off visiting Cape Elizabeth, 69-62, then improved to 15-3 after prevailing, 55-40, at Kennebunk. Jack Simonds had 27 points, while Colin Coyne added 23 versus the Capers, as Falmouth extended its home win streak to 36 games (its last loss on its homecourt was Feb. 8, 2011, 57-45, to York). In the win over the Rams, Simonds had 22, while Colin Coyne finished with 13.

“Given the circumstances, I think our record is very respectable,” said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. “We said we wanted to get better and I thought we did that. We wanted to get experience for our younger players and we did that. We wanted to get Thomas back. He’s making progress.” 

The Yachtsmen earned the No. 3 seed for the Western A tournament and will face either No. 6 Bonny Eagle (11-7) or No. 11 Westbrook (8-10) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 7 p.m., at the Expo. Falmouth didn’t play either team this year. The Yachtsmen have no playoff history versus the Blue Blazes, but did drop a 62-61 heartbreaker to the Scots in last winter’s semifinals.

“Anybody, even teams playing in prelims, can with the whole thing,” Halligan said. “The region is very balanced. On any given night, anything can happen. We have to play our game and not get caught up in the atmosphere. If we play as a team, we’ll be successful.”

If Falmouth reaches the semifinals, there’s a good chance it will have a first-ever showdown against No. 2 South Portland (15-3).

In Western B, Yarmouth wound up 15-3 and earned the top seed for the first time since 1969. The Clippers closed on a seven-game win streak, capped by victories last week at home against Gray-New Gloucester (66-35) and at Freeport (84-54). Jordan Brown, Cody Cook and Adam LaBrie all had 15 points versus the Patriots.

“I’m pleased with how we finished the season,” Clippers coach Adam Smith said. “When things broke down, it showed us what we needed to work on and that was easily diagnosed by the team. The guys wanted to work to get better. We turned it around and played better down the stretch than I thought we could. We’re moving the ball well on offense. On any given night, three guys are scoring in double digits. We’ve got options. It’s hard to conceptualize being the top seed. You always look at the bracket and see where you are, but now that we’re first, it’s not that big a deal.”

Yarmouth will play either eighth-ranked Fryeburg Academy (9-9) or No. 9 Gray-New Gloucester (8-10) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 4:30 p.m., at the Expo. The Clippers beat the visiting Raiders, 62-42, Dec. 18. They swept the Patriots, also winning in Gray, 65-51, Jan. 3. Yarmouth’s only playoff meeting against the Patriots came in the 1974 semifinals (a 73-71 Clippers’ victory). Yarmouth split two prior encounters against the Raiders, winning in the 1974 quarterfinals, 54-52, and losing in the 1978 quarterfinals, 63-58.

“(Second-ranked) Cape Elizabeth had the bulls-eye going into the season and I don’t think anything has changed that, but it’s all about who plays well in the tournament,” said Smith. “All of our starters have played on (the Expo and Civic Center) floors. We’ve been playing well down the stretch and I feel good about us carrying that through starting next week. Both teams we could play could beat us, but we know them. It feels good having that familiarity, but if we don’t play well, we’ll lose.”

If the Clippers reach the semifinals, they may see a Lake Region squad they handled by 32 (87-55) Jan. 31 at home.

Greely won, 60-44, at home over Wells last Tuesday (Matt McDevitt had 21 points), but lost, 61-39, at Cape Elizabeth (despite 11 points from McDevitt and nine from Ryan Twitchell) Thursday, meaning Friday’s game at York was a win-and-get-in showdown. The Rangers rose to the occasion and prevailed, 62-51, behind 27 points from McDevitt and 13 from Jordan Bagshaw to finish 9-9 and earn the No. 7 seed.

“We played well at York under the circumstances,” said Greely coach Travis Seaver. “We had played well at the beginning of the season and competed with teams like Yarmouth and Falmouth. It’s nice to get back and play that way again.”

The Rangers hosted No. 10 Poland (8-10), the defending Western B champion, in Tuesday’s preliminary round. On Dec. 30, Greely downed the visiting Knights, 69-57. Last year, the top-ranked Rangers were stunned by Poland in the regional final, 63-59, in the lone prior playoff encounter.

“If we’re able to play like we did at York, as crazy as this conference is, anything can happen,” Seaver said. “We’ll take our chances if we can get there. We beat Poland the first time, but we expect a closer game this time around. They’ve played teams tough.” 

If Greely advanced, it would face No. 2 Cape Elizabeth (15-3) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Rangers lost both meetings to the Capers this winter, also falling at home, 61-41, Jan. 31. Cape Elizabeth won four of the previous seven playoff meetings, with the most recent being a 51-43 semifinal round triumph in 2010.

Freeport wound up 0-18 after falling at Kennebunk (61-46) and at home to Yarmouth (84-54). Jack Davenport had 18 points versus the Rams.

In Western D, NYA lost its last five games, but still qualified for the playoffs at 7-11. Last week, the Panthers fell at Richmond, 48-45, and at home to Seacoast Christian, 52-34. Eoin Anderson and Jake Malcom both had 13 points, while D.J. Nicholas added 12 against Richmond. Anderson finished with nine against Seacoast Christian.

“Making the playoffs was a team goal at the start of the season, but we’ve had some bumps along the path,” said NYA coach Jason Knight. “Chase Gendron suffered an ankle injury earlier in the season that evolved into a need for surgery.  We have certainly missed his presence on the floor and in the box score.  Following that and a run of illness and injuries, we’ve spent a great deal of time as a team talking about adversity and working through tough, unexpected situations and looking for the ‘next man up.’

“Individually, senior captains Eoin Anderson and DJ Nicholas, have been offensive and defensive keys for us and Jake Malcom, in particular, had to step up into a bigger role sooner than planned following Chase’s injury. He put in a great deal of work to improve his game during the offseason and that prepared him for the opportunity as he has provided stability in the paint.”

NYA wound up ninth in the region and had to go to No. 8 Rangeley (6-11) for a preliminary round game Tuesday. The Panthers didn’t play Rangeley this year. The teams have no history.

While we don’t see them during the regular season, Rangeley has been playing well of late, as evidenced by a couple of big late-season wins to earn their spot,” Knight said. “We expect a tough game in a great playoff atmosphere. As our record reflects, we aren’t exactly on an roll heading into the tournament, but there have been some positives the last few games that we’re looking to build momentum around. I’m confident that good things can happen if that positive effort continues. With all of our losses coming against playoff-bound teams, and eight of our games against Class C opponents, I think we play one of the toughest schedules in Class D. I’m optimistic that the lumps we may have taken with that schedule will provide us some valuable experience in the tournament.”

If NYA advanced to the quarterfinals, it would face top-ranked Forest Hills (18-0) Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center. The schools have never met.

Looking ahead, the Western A semifinals are Friday, Feb. 20. The regional final is Saturday, Feb. 21. Both rounds will be contested at the Cross Insurance Center. The Class A Final is Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Augusta Civic Center. The Western B semifinals are Thursday of next week, with the regional final Saturday, Feb. 21 and the state final Saturday, Feb. 28. All rounds will be in Portland. The Western D semifinals are Wednesday of next week and the Western D Final is Saturday, Feb. 21. Both rounds will be held in Augusta. The Class D state final is Saturday, Feb. 28, in Bangor.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter:@foresports.

Sidebar Elements

Greely’s Haley Felkel knocks down a 3-point shot during the Rangers’ regular season-ending 65-30 home win over York Friday. Greely is the No. 3 seed in Western B and has what it takes to go all the way.

NYA’s D.J. Nicholas brings the ball up during last week’s loss to Seacoast Christian. The Panthers earned the No. 9 seed in Western D and went to Rangeley for a preliminary round game.

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.