Greely girls ready to take final step Falmouth, Freeport, Yarmouth also in hunt; NYA hopes to contend in Class C
A year ago, the Greely girls' basketball team fell one win shy of playing for a Gold Ball. This winter, the Rangers are bound and determined to finish the job, but they'll get a test from defending Western Class B champion York, as well as local rivals Falmouth, Freeport and Yarmouth. North Yarmouth Academy should be competitive in Class C.
Last season, Greely, under new coach Billy Goodman, wasn't expected to be an elite team, but instead, the Rangers sparkled, enjoying a magical ride that didn't end until a 49-30 loss to York in the Western Class B Final ended the year at 18-3.
This time around, after graduating just two players, Greely likes its chances. Senior Abby Young, a first-team all-star a year ago, leads the list of returners. She averaged 11.9 points per game in 2008-09 and had 11 points in Friday night's season-opening 62-34 win over Traip. She's one of the top post players around. Senior Karlee Biskup, a guard, was a second-team all-star a year ago. She led the conference in assists last year and had 10 points in the opener. Senior Megan Grondin (third team) is another returning all-star. A forward, she went off for 18 points against Traip. Seniors Abby Cornish and Nicole Faietta round out the starting lineup at guard. Both can hit shots when needed, as can juniors Chelsea Bridges, Megan Coale and Sarah Warnock.
The Rangers have their eye on York. The teams meet twice in nine days in January (in York on the 8th and in Cumberland the 16th), games which will go a long way toward determining the top seed in the region. If Greely plays to its potential, it has a great shot at dethroning the Wildcats. The Rangers are championship caliber and should be quite enjoyable to watch in the weeks to come.
"The girls really worked hard this summer," Goodman said. "Our experience will help this year. We hope to get back to the Western Maine Final and give it a shot. We still have to get by York. Until we beat them, they're the top team. We'll look to push it. If we're forced to, we can play a halfcourt game."
Falmouth endured a tumultuous up and down season a year ago, but peaked late and once again advanced deep into the tournament before losing 47-37 to York in the semifinals to wind up 12-8.. The Yachtsmen were then hit hard by graduation, including the loss of league all-stars Andie Doyle and Haley Jordan (who is now at the University of Southern Maine). While this year's team is young, Falmouth has a lot of promising players and could evolve into a very tough out by year's end.
Senior Annelise Keeler has experience and a scorer's touch at the forward position. She had 12 points in Friday's season-opening 43-42 home win over Gray-New Gloucester. Newcomer Kiley Libby added 11, Another new player, sophomore Jenna Serunian, had 19 rebounds. The Yachtsmen have an abundance of talented guards, led by juniors Caitlin Costello and Jess DiPhillippo and senior Katie McCarthy. New sophomores Laney Evers and Jackie Doyle will also make an immediate impact. Senior Lauren Boucher is also in the mix.
Falmouth isn't considered to be a serious threat to favorites Greely and York, but a lack of expectations and pressure should serve this team well. The Yachtsmen will be scrappy all season. If this group can come together as hoped, it will be very good by the latter part of the season. If Falmouth can make it back to the tournament, this is a team that no one will want to face in a one-and-done scenario.
"We're a brand new team now," said second-year coach Kristi Ouellette. "Very young. We're building the team aspect. I think we have a lot of strengths. We have pretty good size. We're definitely guard-heavy. We have a pretty tough schedule. We have to find a way to win. Our goal's to make it to the tournament. We want to come together at the right time."
Freeport, coming off a 4-14 campaign, has a senior-laden squad this winter and could be on the verge of making a move, despite falling 44-34 at Fryeburg in its first game Friday.
Seniors Rachel Foster (14 points in the opener) and Lucy Whitacre could be dangerous in the post. They're joined by senior Emily Drummond as four-year varsity team members. Drummond will play on the wing and be the point guard when the offense isn't being run by promising freshman Leigh Wyman, the sister of former Falmouth standout Paige. Senior Stephanie Pottle is another player who could be a force. Junior Katee Poulin plays guard, as will sophomore Jess Hench and freshman Aubrey Melhorn.
The Falcons have a series of tough games upcoming, but if they can survive and take advantage of the schedule when it gets more favorable, they'll be in the hunt in the second half of the season. This program simply needs to taste some success and if it does, look out.
"With our senior experience, we have a better team than the past three or four years, but the conference is so tough so there's no guarantee of doing better," said seventh-year coach Jay Harper. "We have lots of depth at the guard position, but not in the post. The good news is that we can put more pressure on teams defensively. We hope to double last year's win total and make the playoffs."
Then there's Yarmouth, a very intriguing squad. The Clippers hoped to make it to the Portland Expo a year ago and appeared en route after an early win over Falmouth, but they dropped five of six from mid-January into February and wound up falling short. After losing several players, including point guard Michelle Moylan, Yarmouth regroups this season with a young, but promising roster.
The Clippers got off to a great start Saturday with a 48-23 victory at Poland. Sophomore Morgan Cahill, who had a solid freshman season (leading the team in points and rebounds), hinted at an even stronger sophomore campaign, as she opened with 19 points. Junior Devin Simsarian, the point guard and a third-year starter, looks to score more this season. She had 12 points at Poland. Junior Olivia Harrison, a wing player, adds a scoring touch. Junior Emily Clark and sophomore Jeanna Lowery will also be heard from. A trio of newcomers add depth and promise. Senior center Beth White will be a factor in the post. Senior Maddie Mahoney is another threat at guard. Junior forward Laura Klepinger is one of the team's best rebounders.
Yarmouth is one of several teams that will be battling for one of the final Western B playoff spots. The Clippers have their destiny in their hands as they go head-to-head with many of those squads throughout the season. If they can earn enough positive results in what figures to be a lot of close games, they have a shot at a winning record and a postseason berth.
"We're a lot younger than we've been," said third-year coach Nick Nash. "The bulk of the team is sophomores and juniors. We have great chemistry. I think we're very athletic and a little quicker in the backcourt. We have more offensive weapons, but it'll be trial by fire. We hope to be one of those teams battling for one of the final playoff spots. I'm excited to see what the season holds."
In Western C, North Yarmouth Academy has a new coach this year in Liz Smith, who played collegiately and coached the middle school squad last season. She inherits a squad that was 6-13 a year ago, falling 53-24 to Jay in the preliminary round.
Unfortunately, Smith had to miss the opener at Waynflete Friday, but she had a very legitimate excuse as she had just given berth. In her stead, former coaches Mickey Rogers and Eric Austin watched as NYA fell behind 27-3, rallied to within 10, then watched as the Flyers put it away with a 16-0 run en route to a 53-26 triumph. Junior Blair Haggett led the way in that one with 14 points. She figures to provide a lot of offense with a penchant of scoring off the dribble or from the outside. Haggett is joined at the guard position by sophomore Morgan Scully and junior Eliza Gendron, who returns after a year away running track, and freshman Mallory Ianno. Senior Jaime Rogers could be a force in the post. Junior Emily Harrison plays forward. Gendron will see time inside as well. Look for the Panthers to bounce back from their first loss and make life difficult for the opposition throughout the season. NYA has a good chance to match last year's win total (or better it) and be in the running..
"We have more girls playing basketball this year than we have had in a long time, including enough for a JV team," Smith said. "The attitude among the girls has been tremendous and we have a good mix of both experienced and new players. I anticipate we'll give a lot of teams difficulty in matching up and we're going to play aggressively in every game. I only expect them to get better as the season goes on as they become more comfortable with each other and with a new coach."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com