THE PLAYOFFS Greely boys beaten at the buzzer
Rangers upset 46-45 by Cape Elizabeth in semifinals
By Michael Hoffer
PORTLAND — A year ago, in the Western Class B quarterfinals, the Greely boys' basketball team completed an improbable rally from 10-points down with just over a minute to go to shock rival Falmouth on Erik Thayer's buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Thursday evening, at the Cumberland County Civic Center, the Rangers learned in the most painful way possible that what goes around also comes around.
Clinging to a 45-44 lead over defending regional champion Cape Elizabeth with 3.5 seconds to go in a Western B semifinal, Greely followed coach Ken Marks' instructions perfectly, but still watched in horror when Capers junior Andrew Dickey caught a three-quarters-of-the-court length pass and banked home the game winner as time expired.
The Rangers' 46-45 loss ended their superb season at 18-3.
"The kids worked so hard," Marks said. "They wanted to win the game. We had an opportunity at the end. We didn't capitalize. They did. Last year, we beat Falmouth and probably shouldn't have. This year, they beat us and probably shouldn't have. It all balances out in the end."
The agony of defeat
Greely peaked at the right time this winter, twice enjoying eight-game win streaks to take a 16-2 mark into the tournament and earn the top seed. The highlight came in the penultimate game, when Marks earned his 300th victory, but more importantly, longtime manager Patrick Thibodeau became a national sensation after draining a pair of 3-pointers.
After crushing No. 8 Gray-New Gloucester 68-35 in the quarterfinals, the Rangers squared off against No. 4 Cape Elizabeth, a team which eliminated them 40-31 in last year's semifinal.
The rivals split this winter, with the Capers triumphing 72-64 in Cumberland Jan. 12 and Greely closing the season with a 59-46 victory in Cape Elizabeth Feb. 6.
The teams had met five prior times in the postseason, with the Rangers winning three. None, however, were quite like Thursday's epic.
Greely quickly found itself down 11-0, but came to life as Tierney scored on a putback, senior Chris Higgins made a foul shot, senior Chris Young took a pass from senior Jake Dimick and made a layup and sophomore Sam Johnston hit a leaner to make it 11-7.
"We'd been here five hours, watching the girls play," Marks said. "We might have been rusty from hanging around. We missed some shots we should have put in. They hit some shots. We just got off to a slow start."
Trailing 13-7 at the start of the second quarter, the Rangers pulled even as Dimick made a layup, Tierney scored on a putback and junior Sam Thompson did the same. The rest of the quarter went back and forth and a late 3-pointer from junior Conor Moloney gave the Capers a 25-23 lead at the half.
Separation was difficult in the third period, as Greely clung to a 34-32 advantage at the start of the fourth.
Cape Elizabeth senior standout Alex Bowe, the regional tournament MVP, fed Moloney for a layup to tie the score. But Young answered to put Greely up 36-34.
With 5:35 left, Capers senior Conor Lawler hit a jumper to make it 36-36. With 4:57 to go, Dickey converted a three-point play. After Dimick made a layup, Young tied the game with a layup after a steal, but a Dickey foul shot and a layup by Bowe put the Capers ahead 42-39 with 1:59 to play.
Greely then rose from the deck.
With 1:47 left, Thompson took a pass from Young and made a layup. With 1:09 to go, Young drove the baseline for a layup and a 43-42 advantage. After a Cape Elizabeth timeout, Dimick stole the ball and fed Young for another layup and a 45-42 lead with 56.5 seconds to play.
On the ensuing Cape Elizabeth possession, a heavily-guarded Bowe maneuvered into the lane and hit a leaner to make it a one-point game. Moloney fouled out with 13.8 seconds left when he fouled Thompson. Thompson missed the front end of the ensuing 1-and-1. The Capers appeared doomed when Bowe missed a baseline jumper and Tierney grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Lawler.
Tierney gave Cape Elizabeth a reprieve, however, missing two foul shots. With 3.5 seconds showing, the Capers had one final chance.
Lawler inbounded the ball under his basket, fired a bomb downcourt, then watched in ecstasy as Dickey leaped to snare the ball out of Tierney's hands. Dickey then dribbled, eluded Tierney in midair before sending the ball toward the basket. The ball kissed the rim twice before falling through the net as time expired.
Cape Elizabeth exploded with joy, celebrating its improbable victory.
"I had full extension and went up for it," said Dickey, who was last winter's regional tournament MVP. "It was up there. The shot was slow motion off the back of the rim. I didn't know if it would go in. I didn't know until my teammates jumped on me. I was praying it would go in. It was amazing."
"I wasn't expecting what they did," Marks said. "They had 3.5 seconds left. I figured that was at least two full dribbles and a shot. We made sure Bowe was covered and no one got behind us. They didn't. He threw a great pass. It looked like Trevor had the ball in his hands. I don't know how it came out of his hands (Dickey) had time to put in the shot. I wouldn't have done anything differently. They just executed. There was nothing we could do.
"This is one of the toughest losses as a coach for sure. You don't expect when you have the lead and possession twice in the last 10 seconds to lose those games."
Bowe wound up Cape Elizabeth's leading scorer with 15 points. Dickey added 11.
"Greely played their heart out," Dickey said. "We didn't play that well against them at home. We came in here knowing we had to play better."
For Greely (17-3), Young led the way with 14. Tierney had 11 and Thompson eight.
The Rangers made many memories in 2008-09, but had their hearts broken in the end.
"We ended up 17-3," Marks said. "Looking back, we won the Western Maine Conference championship. It just came down to a game where things didn't go our way. Going into the season, I knew we didn't have much of a perimeter game. We showed a bunch of heart inside. We just didn't have it on the perimeter."
Greely loses seven seniors, but as always, has plenty of talent in reserve.
"I'm going to miss the seniors," Marks said. "Chris Young had a great year. This team was special to me and to one another. They were unselfish and they worked as hard or harder as any team I've had.
"We have to clear up the guard position. Sam Johnston might step in. I think we'll be extremely solid inside. Trevor and Sam Thompson are back. Tanner Shorey is 6-5, 230. He'll fill a hole."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org