Capers advance to semis after surviving Wells in OT
PORTLAND—If ever a team managed to embody the phrase "survive and advance" the Cape Elizabeth boys did that very thing Saturday afternoon.
The second-ranked Capers were expected by most to have an easy time of it against short-handed No. 7 Wells in a Western Class B quarterfinal round tilt at the Portland Exposition Building, but things played out much differently.
Cape Elizabeth trailed most of the way, was down seven points going into the fourth period and saw a sure victory disappear when the Warriors made an improbable 3-point shot as time expired to force overtime.
There, the Capers finally managed to take care of business, scoring all eight points from the foul line and benefiting from a questionable official's call in the waning seconds to win, 49-44.
Cape Elizabeth improved to 15-4, ended Wells' season at 11-8 and advanced to the semifinals to meet this year's nemesis, No. 3 York (15-4), in Thursday's semifinal round at the Cumberland County Civic Center (9 p.m. tip).
"It's a good team win, but it shouldn't have been so difficult," said Capers senior Joey Doane, who had 10 second half points.
The Capers have set the bar in Western Class B since the 2007-08 season, winning the regional crown in 2008 and 2009 and falling to eventual champion Falmouth in the regional final a year ago and are looking to make yet another deep tournament run.
Cape Elizabeth only lost once on the road this year, at York. It enjoyed victories at Falmouth, Greely and Yarmouth. The Capers fell three times at home: to Yarmouth, Greely and York, but behind its three-pronged senior attack of Theo Bowe, Cam Brown and Doane, gave every foe a battle.
Wells only won twice a year ago, but has come along nicely this winter, enjoying victories over the likes of York and defending champion Falmouth. The Warriors overcame a 1-3 start by going on an 8-2 tear, but senior standout Alex Furness (who played with the Class A champion Cheverus Stags a year ago before transferring to Wells) is no longer with the team.
Cape Elizabeth won the two regular season meetings, 60-41, on the road in the opener Dec, 10 and 52-39 at home on Feb. 3.
The teams last met in the playoffs in the quarterfinals three years ago when Cape Elizabeth rolled to a 72-35 victory. The teams also met in the 1984 semis (a 59-56 Warriors' triumph), 2003 preliminary round (Capers, 63-49) and 2005 quarterfinals (Wells, 63-58).
This one proved to be a treat for all on-hand.
The Warriors made a quick statement when sophomore Dylan Stevens made a layup 12 seconds in. Brown answered with a 3 for Cape Elizabeth, but junior Zachary Deshaies scored on a putback for Wells.
The Capers tied the score as Bowe made a foul shot to end a 4 minute, 15 second drought, Bowe hit a baseline jumper, then made a layup after a steal to make it 8-4. After junior Paul McDonough sank a 3 for the Warriors, Brown made a jumper. Stevens countered with a layup, but Brown made a jumper to give Cape Elizabeth a 12-9 lead after one period.
Wells erupted for the first eight points of the second period to go on top as Deshaies made a free throw, freshman Jake Moody sank a 3, junior Doug McLean made a layup and Stevens hit two foul shots for a 17-12 advantage.
With 3:35 to go before halftime, the Capers ended the run and a 4:33 drought when sophomore Henry Babcock sank two free throws, but junior Josh Ingalls made a layup, hit a free throw and Deshaies made a layup for a 22-14 lead. A late 3 from Brown pulled Cape Elizabeth back to 22-17 at the break.
The Capers hadn't played poorly in the first 16 minutes, turning the ball over only three times, but with Bowe being somewhat neutralized by the Warriors' box-and-one defense, the rest of team failed to knock down a series of open looks.
"I don't think we took (Wells) for granted," said Bowe. "We weren't looking by them. We came out kind of flat. To their credit, they played well. They had nothing to lose. They were very physical."
"We've been that underdog before so I knew (Wells) wouldn't show up just for fun," said Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray, who led his eighth-ranked team to a famous quarterfinal round upset of top-seeded Falmouth seven years ago. "You show up to win, otherwise why bother? They had nothing to lose. I thought they did a tremendous job. They played within themselves as well as they could. A variety of kids made shots early and they got confidence. They stuck around."
The pace of play picked up in the third period and even though the Capers rallied, they found themselves on the ropes heading for the fourth.
A turnaround jumper from Deshaies started the second half scoring. Cape Elizabeth senior Kyle Danielson responded with a layup and Doane got in the scoring column with a putback to make it 24-21. Deshaies answered with a spinning shot that found the hole, but back-to-back 3s from Bowe and Doane gave the Capers a 27-26 advantage, their first lead since 12-10.
"It was just getting back into the flow of offense," Doane said. "Coach told me not to rush anything. I was shooting 3s on the wing and should have settled for better shots. We worked it around and let it come to me."
"I didn't want to force anything, but I knew I had to get something done," Bowe said. "I was getting boxed so other people got open shots. We never questioned that we could win, but we were concerned to be in that position."
The Warriors went back on top, 28-27, on a bank shot by McLean, but Bowe answered with a leaner for a 29-28 Cape Elizabeth lead. Wells would finish the period on an 8-0 run, however, as Moody made a jumper, McDonough made a layup and Deshaies scored consecutive layups for a 36-29 advantage.
The Warriors could have had an even bigger lead at that point in time.
"(The Capers) were gassed and we were close to pushing it out to a 10 or 12-point lead," said Wells' coach Troy Brown.
Showing the heart of the champion they hope to become, the Capers ripped off 10 straight points to start the fourth and seemingly finally take control.
Sophomore Chris Robicheaw got the rally started with a turnaround jumper. With 6:21 to go, Doane converted an old-fashioned three-point play (leaner, foul and free throw). After Cape Elizabeth missed chances to tie or go ahead as Bowe was off on a shot and Danielson was whistled for an offensive foul, Bowe gave the Capers the lead on a 3 with 4:51 to play. With 2:01 remaining, Bowe hit a floater and it was 39-36.
Wells gave the ball away at the other end, but after Stevens stole the ball and missed, Deshaies raced in for the rebound and put it home to make it 39-38, ending the 10-0 run and a 7 minute, 34 second drought.
Cape Elizabeth then turned the ball over and the Warriors had a chance to go ahead, but Doane stole the ball and laid the ball in to make it 41-38 with just 38.6 seconds to play.
"In our man-to-man defense, I'm supposed to help," said Doane. "I knew I could get the steal and just went for it. It was just natural for me to go for the ball. In the second half, our man-to-man defense improved and our communication was better."
"We had a couple steals and once we got a little momentum, steals led to baskets," Ray said. "We had to get defensive stops. We changed our defense and I think it confused them."
With 31.7 seconds showing, McLean missed the front end of a one-and-one and Doane grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He missed his one-and-one opportunity, however, but at the other end, Doane stole the ball again.
"I will say we were tired and there was some confusion recognizing their defense," said Brown. "Jake and Paul did a good job getting us into offense. We did rush a couple shots, but I have a young group that's never been in a game with a team of that caliber."
Cape Elizabeth tried to run out the clock, but turned the ball over, giving Wells one final chance and the Warriors took advantage.
The ball came to McDonough in the frontcourt as time wound down. Blanketed by Brown and Babcock just beyond the 3-point stripe, McDonough leaned into the defenders, fell forward and threw up a prayer that found the hoop.
Wells 41 Cape Elizabeth 41. Overtime.
"I thought it was a great job by McDonough," Doane said. "It was as good a defense as you can play. Henry and Cam both had their hands up. It was just a good shot, exciting."
"At first, I wasn't sure if he was on the line and I wasn't sure if he got fouled," said Brown. "I was just happy the kids had another opportunity."
The Capers were shellshocked, but quickly put things in perspective.
"I felt like we had come back in the fourth quarter and they made a lucky shot, so let's go take care of it," Bowe said.
"I was worried we fouled him and that sucker went in," Ray said. "Then, we had four more minutes to play. I said, 'Let's go play. It's fun, right?' I can say that now."
Any momentum Wells might have had going to overtime quickly went away.
The Warriors had the first possession of the extra session, but Moody missed a shot. With 3:38 to go in the four-minute OT, Brown put the Capers ahead to stay with two foul shots. After nearly two scoreless minutes, as Cape Elizabeth ran plenty of time off the clock, Bowe was fouled and sank both attempts to make it 45-41.
With 1:29 to go, Brown made another free throw, but Wells answered with 1:13 to go, as Stevens made a 3-pointer. Those would be the Warriors' lone points of the overtime.
Three seconds later, Robicheaw was fouled and made the first of two tries. After a Wells turnover, Bowe was fouled, but the Western Maine Conference's leading scorer uncharacteristically missed both free throw attempts, keeping Wells alive.
Controversy arrived with 12.1 seconds left. Deshaies grabbed an offensive rebound and went back up and put the ball home while being fouled. Virtually everyone thought he'd been credited for the basket and would have a chance to tie the game at the line, but instead, the official ruled that the foul occurred before the shot, meaning the two points didn't count and Deshaies would get a one-and-one opportunity. He missed and Robicheaw rebounded.
The Wells coach refused to cast blame for the call after the game.
"I'm not going to bash anybody," Brown said. "What it is is what it is. He thought he had a foul on the floor and that's that."
With 7.1 seconds to go, Bowe returned to the foul line and this time hit both free throws. That did the trick and Cape Elizabeth held on for the stirring 49-44 triumph.
"It shouldn't have been so difficult," said Doane. "Execution was not at its best and defensively, in the first half, we weren't at our best either. I definitely thought it was our defense at the end. We got stops and key rebounds. Offensively, we need to improve, but our defense saved us. I think our experience helped. Cam, Theo and I have been here and know what it's all about. Theo and Cam both stepped up."
Bowe, although he struggled at times, led all scorers with 19 points. He also had two rebounds and two steals. Brown (three steals) and Doane (seven rebounds, two steals) both added 10 points.
The supporting cast helped secure the victory as Babcock had five points and three rebounds, Robicheaw finished with three points and four boards and Danielson added two points and five rebounds.
"Those guys, for a first big tournament game, stepped up," said Doane. "Chris made foul shots, Henry made some shots. Kyle's a big body. They did a great job."
The Capers made 12 of 19 free throws and turned the ball over on only eight occasions, but there were a few at critical junctures.
"We had turnovers at key times," Ray lamented. "Things that have plagued us all year. That put doubt in our mind."
While Cape Elizabeth managed to earn the win, everyone on hand marveled over the valiant effort of the Warriors.
"(Wells) did a great job," Ray said. "This is great for their program. I'm glad we're moving on, but I wish them the best. We had the discussion in practice that the other kids would step up and play a larger role without having to look for Alex Furness to save the day. (Moody's) going to be fantastic. He's come along. He's not afraid. He did a great job as a freshman."
Afterwards, the Wells coach was effusive in his praise for his team.
"I can't be any more proud of my kids than the way we played today," Brown said. "I think we showed what this team's capable of. I told the guys they played the best game of their season on the biggest stage. We're a number seven seed against a team that's been here before. It's our first time stepping on the Expo floor. How we came together as a unit the last three games after some things that transgressed in our program and see the kids play like that for 36 minutes against a very, very good team, I'm just so proud of them."
Wells was paced by Deshaies' 15 points and 12 rebounds. Stevens had nine points, five rebounds, a steal and a block, McDonough finished with eight, Moody five (and two steals), McLean four and Ingalls three (to go with 10 boards).
The Warriors made 4 of 10 free throws and turned the ball over 12 times.
"Looking into fullcourt pressure from start to finish, I thought we handled it very well," Brown said. "In our first two games against Cape, we didn't handle their fullcourt or halfcourt pressure well and we didn't get a lot of shots off. We moved the ball really well today once we got the ball across halfcourt and got some easy looks, which we didn't get in the first two meetings. We, this year, at times against pressure, panicked, but tonight we regained our composure. We practiced fastbreaks in practice. We pulled the ball out well and moved it and had good possessions.
"What I'm most impressed with was our defense, which was outstanding today. That was a team effort. All 12 guys worked this week on one goal, shutting down (Bowe) because he's one heck of a player. I thought we did a great job of that. We took him out of their plans and made other kids step up and make shots. It's the first time we played box-and-one on him. We threw two guys at him all day. (Sophomore) Jason Chase and Dougie McLean. We wanted to disrupt him as much as possible. He's the best player in our league.
The Warriors lose just two players to graduation and should return even hungrier and better in 2011-12.
"I think you'll see these kids take further steps next year," said Brown. "It was a realization today as to how good they could play."
Back to the semis
Thursday, Cape Elizabeth will make its sixth straight semifinal round appearance, its seventh in eight seasons and 12th in the past 14 years.
The Capers will battle a York squad which has proved to be an Achilles' Heel this season (the Wildcats eliminated No. 6 Leavitt, 52-47, in their quarterfinal). On Jan. 15, York won at Cape Elizabeth, 62-57. On Feb. 4, the host Wildcats held on for a 49-45 triumph.
Will the third time be a charm for Cape Elizabeth? The Capers will certainly be focused after surviving Saturday's scare.
"What has to be different is that we have to be more aggressive on offense and rebound since we've lost the rebounding battle both times," Doane said. "That's definitely key. They're big and we're small. We'll have to box out and play good defense and shoot well and grind it out."
"We have to play good defense, keep them off the boards, win loose balls," Bowe said. "All the fundamental things. I think we have a good chance."
"Clearly as a coach, I have to do a better job of helping my kids be successful," Ray added. "I hope to figure that out by Thursday. I have to do a better job coaching in situations. We're moving on and York's pretty good. I wouldn't say they've had their way with us, but in the fourth quarter against them, we've had trouble managing a lead. They grind it out and come from behind. Theo, Joey and Cam have played at the Civic Center. They'll be on familiar ground. For us, it's the ability of role players to step out and play with more confidence."
The Capers and Wildcats have met seven times previously in the playoffs, dating to 1968. In the quarterfinals that year, Cape Elizabeth won, 76-42. They also squared off in the 1969 semifinals (York, 74-66), 1978 quarterfinals (Capers, 76-72), 1999 regional final (Wildcats, 48-45), 2000 semis (Capers, 48-45), 2001 quarterfinals (Capers, 61-44) and 2007 quarterfinals (Capers, 61-50).
Looking ahead, the Western B Final is Saturday at 3:45 p.m., at the Civic Center. The Class B state championship game is Friday, March 4 at 8 p.m., at the Civic Center.