THE PLAYOFFS Scarborough's title dreams denied by Biddeford
Red Storm have to wait 'til next year after semifinal loss
By Michael Hoffer
PORTLAND — The resurgent Scarborough girls' basketball team knew it had a great shot at knocking off undefeated, top-ranked, defending state champion Deering in the regional final. The Red Storm need only get that far.
Friday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center, roughly 24 hours and one win shy of a date with the Rams, second-ranked Scarborough fell victim to No. 3 Biddeford's surprise halfcourt zone defense and saw its season end at 17-3 with a 32-29 setback to the Tigers in the Western A semifinals.
"We picked a bad night to never get into a flow," said Red Storm coach Jim Seavey. "Credit to Biddeford. They made everything tough for us. It's tough to beat a good team three times. That adage came into effect tonight. I knew it would be a knock-down, drag-out."
Rise and fall
Scarborough enjoyed a special season, by far its best since joining Class A. The Red Storm lost by two early at Windham and fell by 10 at home to Deering Jan. 8 in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated. But behind a balanced attack, Scarborough finished 16-2, earned the No. 2 seed and punished No. 7 South Portland 53-26 in the quarterfinals.
The Red Storm beat the Tigers 65-56 Dec. 27 in Biddeford and enjoyed a 64-54 home win over Biddeford in the regular season finale Feb. 5.
The teams had no prior playoff history.
Friday, the game started as the Rousseau vs. Manning show.
Scarborough junior standout Christy Manning got things started with a jump shot. Biddeford's star junior Lauren Rousseau answered with a 3-ball. After the Red Storm took a 4-3 lead on a baseline jumper from senior Abbey Pelletier, Rousseau fed sophomore Keila Grigware for a basket and the lead. Rousseau then made a free throw and added a leaner for an 8-4 advantage. Manning answered with a jumper in the lane, but Rousseau banked home a leaner to make it 10-6. After Manning canned two foul shots, junior Jenn Colpitts made a layup after a steal to tie the game at 10-10 after one.
"Biddeford came out on the floor with nothing to lose and everything to gain," Seavey said. "Rousseau hit a couple huge shots and that took the wind out of our sails a little."
Scarborough turned the ball over seven times in the second, but still clung to a 16-15 lead at the break.
After a scoreless first half, Biddeford's 1,000-point scoring senior Aimee Mortensen made her presence felt in the third period and gave her team the lead.
After Manning got the second half scoring started with a foul shot, Mortensen scored on a leaner while being fouled. With 3:25 to play in the quarter, Rousseau made a free throw for an 18-17 Tigers' lead. Manning answered with a putback, but Mortensen canned a 3.
After Scarborough pulled even on a jumper from senior Reegan Brackett, Mortensen made a jumper in the lane to put Biddeford ahead to stay. Rousseau buried a long 3 with three seconds to go to put the Tigers up 26-21 with eight minutes to play.
The Red Storm were in an even deeper hole after Rousseau canned a trey 56 seconds into the fourth.
But Scarborough rallied.
Pelletier made a free throw, junior Heather Carrier hit a 3-pointer and Brackett drained a short jumper to make it 29-27 with 3:25 remaining.
Fifteen seconds later, however, Rousseau restored order by hitting a foul shot. After Colpitts missed on a potential game-tying 3-pointer, Tigers' senior Tracy Gouin was fouled. Gouin missed the front end of a 1-and-1, leaving Scarborough with another chance to respond.
After Moody missed a 3, Brackett got the rebound and banked home a shot to make it 30-29 with 1:29 to go.
The Tigers rose to the challenge, running nearly a minute off the clock before Mortensen was fouled. The standout then calmly hit both ends of a 1-and-1 and the lead was back to three, 32-29.
The Red Storm looked dead in the water when Brackett missed a short jumper and senior Shannon Grebin grabbed the rebound, but Grebin missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 9.4 seconds left.
Scarborough had one final chance to extend its season.
Inbounding at midcourt, the ball came to Brackett, the team's reliable point guard for the past three seasons. Brackett raced to the top of the key and with three defenders closing in, launched a 3-pointer that hit the rim and landed in the eager hands of Rousseau as the horn sounded.
"We had the final play designed for one of three players, Sarah Moody, Reegan or Jenn Colpitts, to take the shot," Seavey said. "It's designed for one of them to be open. I wouldn't say she was open. Biddeford guarded the 3-point line."
The Tigers were thrilled with the upset.
"It was a tough battle," said Biddeford coach Ron Cote. "I thought our defensive plan's execution was excellent. It was the first time all year we did not press. We took a chance and put in a whole new game plan for this team and for this game. We wanted to sandwich their big people inside. It worked pretty well."
Seavey was pleased with his team's effort.
"The kids battled back and we had a chance to tie it at the end," he said. "I anticipated them not wanting to get into a track meet with us after what happened in the regular season. If you told me we'd hold them to 32 points, I'd think we'd win by 20, but that didn't happen tonight because they took away our transition and made it very difficult for Christy and Abbey to establish themselves in the post.
"They played a lot of diamond-and-one in the first half. It caught us by surprise, but we attacked it. We got some good looks. If you're not shooting well from the perimeter, it just gets tighter and tighter inside. We attacked the way we needed to, but we didn't make shots."
Manning led Scarborough with 10 points. Brackett added eight.
Pride and promise
The Red Storm finished 17-3 and enjoyed arguably the finest season in program history.
"We had a lot of firsts," Seavey said. "I have to believe 17 wins ranks right up there. It's a great bunch of kids. They gave their all. If you would have told me back in November that we'd be 17-3 this year and lose in the semifinals at the Civic Center, I would have taken that. We won 13 games last year and made it to the quarterfinals at the Expo. This year we got to the big building. The kids have a lot to be proud of. These are great kids. They did everything I asked them to and more. I wouldn't trade them for the world."
Scarborough says goodbye to Brackett, Chelsea Kothman and Pelletier, but returns everyone else.
The Red Storm will be among the favorites next winter.
"The seniors were our backbone," Seavey said. "Reegan led the way. Abbey came back after being injured and didn't miss a beat. Chelsea didn't see the floor a lot, but she's the epitome of a teammate. One of the best girls I've coached. You can never replace your seniors. They brought different ingredients to the table for us.
"I think we'll be a favorite next year. I like that. The target's going to grow bigger and bigger. These kids will battle and work to get better between now and next season. We'll try to replace the three kids who were integral to our success. There were no individuals on this team. No petty jealousies. They didn't get caught up in any of that. They just wanted to go out and perform for each other and be successful and I think that's what they did."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com