Greely girls, Falmouth boys make Saturday night statements
FALMOUTH — One won with ease and the other got tested, but the high-flying Greely girls' and Falmouth boys' basketball teams each earned another victory Saturday evening.
The girls' contest was close at halftime before the Rangers dominated the final 16 minutes, holding the host Yachtsmen to just seven second half points en route to a 60-27 triumph.
In the nightcap, the game was tied late in the third period before Falmouth ran off six quick points and gradually pulled away in the fourth to stay unbeaten with a 73-63 victory.
Turnovers turn it around
Entering the girls' game, Falmouth had to like its chances. The Yachtsmen have held their own against the Rangers in recent years, including a semifinal round playoff victory two seasons ago and a 58-40 home romp last winter.
This year's young edition appeared to be putting it together. Falmouth was coming off a 59-46 victory at Yarmouth (behind a monster game of 23 points, nine rebounds, three assists and a block from freshman Kylie Libby and nine points and 12 boards from sophomore Jenna Serunian), its third win in four games.
Greely had stumbled twice against nemesis York, the defending regional champ, but won every other contest, including a 43-33 triumph at Cape Elizabeth Friday (senior Abby Young paced the victory with 12 points). The Rangers rolled, 63-39, at home over the Yachtsmen back on Dec. 15 and proved to be too much to handle again in the rematch.
Falmouth turned the ball over nine times in the first period (to just one for Greely) and the visitors raced to a 20-8 lead. The Yachtsmen scored the final seven points of the first half to make it a 29-20 contest, but the second half would prove to be a disaster for the hosts.
In the third period alone, Falmouth was outscored 21-2 and gave the ball away eight times. Rangers senior Karlee Biskup drained three 3-pointers, including one in the final minute to make it 50-22. A final Biskup 3 in the fourth enticed Greely coach Billy Goodman to pull his starters and the Rangers went on to a 60-27 victory, forcing 22 turnovers and holding the Yachtsmen to just seven points in the second half.
"The girls got embarrassed last year and remembered that," Goodman said. "They wanted it. We got an early lead. We didn't play great in the second quarter. I told them at halftime they had to come out strong in the third and they did that. We played good defense. That's what gets us to where we want to be. We've worked on taking care of the ball on offense. I feel the girls are getting better. They took good shots."
Biskup, one of the top all-around players in the conference, led all scorers with 15 points.
"I definitely was feeling it," said Biskup. "It came from my defense. When our defense is really good, the offense comes naturally. At halftime, we knew we had to step it up. We took our time and pushed it up the floor. We came out with the intensity we need to have at the beginning of the game. We remembered the feeling we had last year."
"Karlee's focusing on defense helped her offense," Goodman added. "She was pressing a week ago, but she's starting to come out of it. She does so much for us. When she lets the game come to her, she can play."
Young added a dozen, senior Megan Grondin had nine points and senior Nicole Faietta finished with eight.
The Yachtsmen (8-6), who got 11 points each from Libby and senior Annalise Keeler, were left shell-shocked.
"They really made a run after all our turnovers," said coach Kristi Ouellette. "We had a hard time finding a way to score against their starting five. They're very deep. I thought defensively we were great in the first half. We made a nice run before halftime and had good stops. We just didn't carry it over."
Falmouth (seventh in the latest Western Class B Heal Points standings) was at Poland Wednesday, hosts Lake Region Friday and welcomes York Tuesday. The Yachtsmen then close the regular season at home with Cape Elizabeth Feb. 5. The team will focus on continued improvement while trying to move up in the standings.
"We've learned a lot," Ouellette said. "I'm still trying to find the right mix. Trying to make sure we're all on the same page as a team. We still have a lot of work to do before the final standings come out. We have to win the games we know we can win."
Greely (now 12-2 and third in the region behind York and Leavitt), went to Fryeburg Tuesday, visits Yarmouth Friday and hosts Gray-New Gloucester Tuesday before going to Lake Region for the finale Feb. 5.
The Rangers are indeed championship-caliber and would love one more crack at the Wildcats.
"We had two chances against York," Biskup said. "They're always going to be in our minds. We have to work hard in practice every day and improve. I think (the losses) made us stronger. We'll want it that much more if we play them again."
"We have to treat it as a positive," Goodman added. "It's our only option. We know what we've done wrong. I think we'll get better because of it. We have five losses in two years, four to them. I like how we're playing. We're trying to get better as we go into the playoffs."
Another test passed
The boys' teams entered the game going in opposite directions.
Falmouth had won its first 13 games (including a 74-63 win in Cumberland on Dec. 15) and was coming off a 54-51 come-from-behind win at Yarmouth (senior Stefano Mancini saved the day with three late treys and had 20 points total).
Greely was riding a two-game losing skid and just 24 hours prior had fallen, 57-46, at home to two-time defending regional champion Cape Elizabeth (despite 16 points from senior Sam Thompson). The Rangers would make the Yachtsmen work, but ultimately fell short.
Falmouth clung to a 14-13 lead after one period (thanks to nine Mancini points), then got 3s from Mancini, Mancini again and senior Ryan Rogers to go up by nine, 27-18. A 3 from Greely senior Gerrick Lovenstein pulled the visitors to within eight, 35-27, at halftime.
The Rangers came out hot in the third period and pulled even at 43-43 on a driving layup from senior Trevor Tierney. When junior Sam Johnston scored on a runner with 1:27 left in the quarter, the game was deadlocked at 47-47, but was about to turn for good.
With 48.5 ticks left, Yachtsmen senior Sam Horning scored on a putback. With 22.1 seconds to go, Horning stole a pass and made a layup, then with time expiring, sophomore Jack Cooleen tipped home a missed shot to give Falmouth a 53-47 advantage and a ton of momentum.
"That was huge," Mancini said. "Momentum deflated them completely."
"We came out really slow in the second half," Horning added. "They brought more intensity than we did. Coach called timeout and calmed things down and everything flowed from there."
The Yachtsmen began the fourth with a free throw and a layup from senior John Roberts, then, after the Rangers got a layup from Tierney, got a layup from Roberts for a 58-49 lead. Greely pulled as close as 60-53 with 4:59 to go on a foul shot from junior Tanner Storey, but a 13-1 run (keyed by two more Mancini 3s) put the game away and despite a late 9-0 Rangers' surge, Falmouth survived and improved to 14-0 with a 73-63 victory.
"It's always a hard-fought game with Greely," Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan said. "We made some mistakes, but we played through it. This is a game of momentum, who will have the last run. We had a good one and that was it."
Mancini wound up with 35 points (including seven 3-pointers).
"I was feeling good tonight," Mancini said. "We're trying to keep rolling. This is the atmosphere we want to play in."
"I'm surprised he had that many points, but he just does it," Halligan added. "You get to expect it."
Roberts (13 points), Rogers (10) and Horning (10) also finished in double-figures.
"I see my role as playing hard on defense and rebounding," Horning said. "I take pride in my defense. If I'm open and they get me the ball, I'll shoot it. We work it around and everyone gets equal opportunities. Close games have helped us. When we got down against Yarmouth, we could have folded, but we picked it up and came back. In this game, we found it in ourselves and came out with a win."
"Sam stepped up," Halligan added. "He wasn't the leading scorer, but he did a lot of things that go unnoticed. John came through big in the fourth quarter. We had four guys in double figures. That's what they've been doing all year."
Falmouth (which is now first in Western A) hosted Poland Wednesday, goes to Lake Region Saturday and York Tuesday, then closes the regular season at home Feb. 5 against Cape Elizabeth. The Yachtsmen aren't done yet.
"We have goals," Mancini said. "We challenge ourselves no matter what. We're not satisfied where we are, but we're happy with our progress."
"I think we have all the right pieces, but we have to keep working," said Horning. "Our goal is to win it all. I think we have what it takes. We always have fun. Basketball's a fun game."
"The key is to get better every day and be better by the end of the season," Halligan added. "That's our motto."
Greely, which fell to 9-5 (fifth in the region), was led by 20 points from Johnston and 12 from Tierney, but couldn't quite pull off the win.
"Turnovers and shot selection hurt us in the first half," said Rangers coach Ken Marks. "In the second half, we did fine. We got back and tied it. I thought the kids showed some character there. Mancini's a tough player, one of the best offensive players we've had in this league in a long time. They weren't open shots. He had deep 3s and contested shots. He put the game away. They're a very good basketball team. They hit the shots they had to hit and we didn't."
Greely was home with Fryeburg Tuesday, plays at Yarmouth Friday and goes to Gray-New Gloucester Tuesday of next week before closing at home with Lake Region on Feb. 4. The Rangers plan to honor longtime manager Josh King in the finale.
"We have four games left," said Marks. "The thing that bothers me is that we have to beat the teams we're supposed to beat. For the most part, we've done that. When we play smart, we're a good basketball team."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com