THE PLAYOFFS Cape Elizabeth repeats...improbably
Capers ride buzzer-beater to Western B title
By Michael Hoffer
PORTLAND — After losing to visiting Yarmouth and Greely to end the regular season, the Cape Elizabeth boys' basketball team didn't remotely resemble a squad capable of making it back to the Class B state final.
Yet two weeks later, the Capers danced on the floor of the Cumberland County Civic Center and cut down the nets after beating Falmouth to win the Western B title.
Cape Elizabeth, perhaps playing with house money after Thursday's improbable buzzer-beating win over top-ranked Greely in the semifinals, found itself down 13-4 after one quarter, but erupted in the second period and rode the stellar play of senior Alex Bowe and a huge fourth period contribution from junior Andrew Dickey to punch its ticket for the state final.
The Capers (17-4) will face the state's lone remaining undefeated team, powerhouse Camden (21-0), in the Class B championship game Friday at 9 p.m., at the Civic Center.
"This year was a lot more bumpy of a ride than last year," said Bowe, who led all scorers with 22 points and was named the Pierre "Pete" Harnois Award winner as the regional tournament's most valuable player. "A lot of people didn't think we'd respond and play like we did in the tourney."
Cape Elizabeth wound up 14-4 after its late-season slump and took the No. 4 seed into the playoffs. After holding off No. 5 Yarmouth 66-58 in the quarterfinals, the Capers and top-ranked Greely squared off in the semis.
The teams split in the regular season, with each winning on the road. The teams had met five prior times in the postseason, with the Rangers winning three. But none were like Thursday's epic.
Cape Elizabeth jumped to an 11-0 lead, but Greely rallied within, 25-23, at the half. The teams went back and forth in the second half. The Capers led 42-39 with just under two minutes to go, but the Rangers scored six in a row to seemingly take control.
Yet even with everything working against it, Cape Elizabeth wouldn't buckle.
"We lost two games early when baskets were scored and kids had a look of defeat on their face," Capers coach Jim Ray said. "In this game, not once did I see a look of defeat. They knew what they had to do and they did it. They had a look that they were going to win."
On the ensuing Cape Elizabeth possession, Bowe, heavily guarded, maneuvered into the lane and hit a leaner to make it a one-point game. After the Rangers missed a pair of chances to ice the game at the foul line, the Capers had one final chance.
Senior Conor Lawler inbounded the ball under his basket, fired a bomb three-quarters of the way down the court, then watched in ecstasy with his teammates and fans as Dickey leaped to snare the ball. Dickey dribbled, then eluded Greely junior Trevor Tierney in midair before sending the ball toward the rim. It kissed the iron twice before falling through the net as time expired, leading the Capers to explode with joy as they celebrated an improbable 46-45 victory.
"I had full extension and went up for it," said Dickey. "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's amazing."
"Conor threw a great pass," Ray added. "Thank God his arm was loose. Dickey came and caught it and then he had to make a play. He just made a hell of a play. It was right where it needed to be and Andrew went up and got it. He just made a great play. It's a sweet victory."
Bowe wound up Cape Elizabeth's leading scorer with 15 points. Dickey added 11.
Take a Bowe
After the Greely party ended, the Capers turned their attention to Falmouth, a team they split with during the regular year.
The Yachtsmen won 55-53 at Cape Elizabeth Dec. 16. The Capers turned the tables Jan. 30 with a 73-70 victory in Falmouth.
The teams had three prior playoff meetings with Cape Elizabeth winning once.
Saturday, it was the Capers' who got off to a slow start. But in the end, they simply had too much.
Cape Elizabeth trailed 6-0 early and 13-4 after one, then came to life, rallying to lead 21-19 at the break after a late 3 from Bowe.
The Capers kept the pressure on in the third and went up 10 after a 3 from sophomore Theo Bowe.
Things heated up quickly in the final period as the Yachtsmen made several runs, but they couldn't get any closer than three. Dickey then came up huge with eight points down the stretch and Cape Elizabeth held on for the 58-48 victory.
"It was a 1-2-2 (zone) they went into," Bowe said. "We'd seen that before. We were ready. We tried to get to the line. Dickey kept getting to the hoop."
"(The Greely win) was so exciting that today was almost like a letdown," Ray added. "The first quarter was a little slow, but I couldn't be prouder of how they reacted. The kids didn't panic. Maybe they're coming together. It was a matter of kids getting it together at the right time and believing."
Bowe led all scorers with 22 points.
"A lot of (our success is) Bowe," Lawler said. "He hits his shots. We rally around him."
"Alex was Alex," Ray added. "He's steady. He doesn't panic. He's one of the most composed players I've had the opportunity to coach. I'm so happy for him and all the guys."
Dickey added 12.
"He took it to the hole and rebounded," Ray said. "When he's playing like that, he's tough."
"We're back in states," Dickey said. "It's one of the best feelings. I sat out almost the whole third quarter. I had so much stuck in me that I wanted to let out. I did. We realized it wouldn't be an easy game and we stepped up on defense. That helped us in the end."
The Capers, who lost to Maranacook in last year's state game, now look ahead to their big challenge. Camden was already considered the finest team in the state regardless of class after the regular season. After crushing its opposition in the regional tournament, the Windjammers will be heavy favorites in the final.
"We've heard all about this Camden Hills team," Bowe said. "I'm sure they're quite a team. I think it definitely helps playing here. We're looking forward to it."
"It's going to be a good game," Dickey said. "They're big and physical. It could go either way."
"We'll try and play tough and get rebounds and play good defense," Lawler added. "We want to finish the job this time."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org