Despite Bowe's 36 points, Cape Elizabeth's title dreams denied
PORTLAND—The Cape Elizabeth boys' basketball team tapped into its unrivaled reservoir of pride and heart Friday evening at the Cumberland County Civic Center, but ultimately, it wasn't enough.
Despite a game-high 36 points from senior standout Theo Bowe in one of the finest state game showings we've seen, the Capers' dream of cutting down the nets for the first time since 1988 were dashed by powerhouse Camden Hills in the Class B state final.
Cape Elizabeth certainly didn't make it easy, rallying from an early 8-0 deficit to lead for a good chunk of the game, but the talented Windjammers went ahead for good with 3:21 to go in the third period on a layup from senior Tyler McFarland, the favorite for the Mr. Maine Basketball award, who dominated in the second half.
Down the stretch, the Capers never folded and actually had a chance to take the lead with just over three minutes to play, but Bowe's 3-point look was just off and Camden Hills was able to hold on and win, 68-59, to complete a 22-0 season, win its second Class B crown in three years, and end Cape Elizabeth's valiant and unexpectedly wonderful campaign at 17-5.
"The kids played their hearts out," said Capers coach Jim Ray. "I never thought we'd be in this position when we started this summer. The kids did a great job. Camden Hills is a great team, big and strong and quick. We just came up a little short. There was just so much heart that we played with. I'm so proud of them."
Another close call
Coming off state final losses in 2008 and 2009, Cape Elizabeth was ousted by eventual champion Falmouth in last year's regional final and wasn't expected by many, even coach Ray, to be one of the final two teams standing this winter.
The Capers knew they had three solid senior starters in Bowe, Cam Brown and Joey Doane, but this squad would only go as far as the supporting cast could take it.
It took awhile, but Cape Elizabeth hit its stride.
The Capers opened with wins at Wells, Poland and Fryeburg and downed Lake Region at home, but four days before Christmas, Cape Elizabeth was humbled at home by Yarmouth, 84-61.
The Capers started the 2011 portion of their schedule in ideal fashion with an impressive 55-41 triumph at rival Greely, then downed visiting Gray-New Gloucester, host Falmouth and visiting Freeport before letting a late lead disappear in a 62-57 home loss to York.
After rolling at Lake Region, Cape Elizabeth hosted Greely in a highly anticipated contest Jan. 25, but Bowe missed the game with illness and the Capers lost, 68-50. Bowe was out the next game as well, a home win over Waynflete, then returned for a victory at Gray-New Gloucester and another over visiting Wells.
After a second loss to York, on the road, Feb. 4, Cape Elizabeth closed on a high note with a 61-39 romp at Yarmouth and a 53-44 home victory over Falmouth, which knocked the defending Class B state champion Yachtsmen out of playoff contention.
The Capers' 14-4 mark gave them the No. 2 seed in a talented Western Class B field. Cape Elizabeth got a mighty scare from No. 7 Wells in the quarterfinal, but eked out a 49-44 overtime win over the Warriors. In the semis, the Capers avenged their two regular season losses with a 55-42 victory over No. 3 York. In the regional final, versus No. 4 Yarmouth, Cape Elizabeth led from start to finish and went on to a 61-47 triumph.
Camden Hills, which lost a heartbreaker to Falmouth in overtime in last year's state final, to finish 19-3, is led by a pair of 6-foot-6 senior standouts in McFarland and Keegan Pieri. The Windjammers went undefeated in the regular year with just one major scare, an 84-82 win at Medomak on Dec. 17. As the top seed in the Eastern B tournament, the Windjammers eliminated No. 8 Caribou (79-44), No. 5 Winslow (55-44) and second-ranked and also unbeaten-to-that-point Ellsworth (73-55).
Both programs have storied histories.
Cape Elizabeth had played in six prior state finals. The first was in 1956, when the Capers captured Class C, 76-54, over Lincoln. Cape Elizabeth lost in the Class B Final in 1966 (72-53 to Ellsworth) and 1971 (69-60 to Schenck) and won its most recent crown in 1988 (70-54 over Ellsworth).
After two decades away, the Capers returned to the state game in 2008, but lost to Maranacook in Bangor, 56-46. Two years ago, at the Civic Center in Portland, Cape Elizabeth gave heavily favored Camden Hills a scare for much of the game before the Windjammers pulled away late to win, 62-49.
Camden Hills has been a regular participant in state finals.
As Camden-Rockport, trips were made in 1973 (a 60-55 loss to Orono), 1974 (a 56-48 win over Orono), 1994 (an 84-71 loss to Mountain Valley) 1998 (a 70-69 loss to Greely) and 1999 (a 64-43 victory over York).
As Camden Hills, state titles followed in 2001 (76-62 over Gorham), 2002 (63-60 over Gorham), 2005 (66-63 over Gorham) and 2008 (over Cape Elizabeth). The Windjammers lost to Mountain Valley (48-38) in 2007 and fell just short a year ago, 72-65, to Falmouth in the overtime thriller at the Bangor Auditorium.
Two years ago versus the Capers, McFarland had 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Friday night, he started slowly while Bowe took the limelight, but in the second half, McFarland and his teammates got the job done.
Cape Elizabeth's worst fears were realized in the first few minutes as the Windjammers got off to a fast start.
Just 17 seconds in, Pieri made a layup to break the ice. McFarland got on the board 34 seconds later with a layup to make it 4-0. With 5:34 to go in the eight-minute first quarter, Pieri made another layup and 17 seconds later, senior Nathan Catell made a layup after a steal for a quick 8-0 bulge.
The Capers finally showed signs of life when Bowe buried a 3-pointer with 4:53 to go, but at the other end, Pieri scored on a putback to make it 10-3.
Then, Cape Elizabeth roared back.
Bowe got the rally started with a rarity, a four-point play. He canned his second 3-pointer and was fouled on the shot. Bowe hit the ensuing free throw to make it a 10-7 game.
Bowe then fed Doane for a layup and with 3:30 to go, Bowe hit two free throws to suddenly put the Capers on top for the first time, 11-10.
"We went with what we've been doing (defensively, playing zone), but they clearly had an answer, throwing to their bigs behind it," said Ray. "They knew what they were doing. A lot of teams hadn't figured it out. We changed and they struggled."
After a putback from junior Kyle Ohelnik allowed Camden Hills to take the lead, Bowe hit another 3, with 6.4 seconds remaining, to give Cape Elizabeth a 14-12 advantage heading for the second quarter.
There, Bowe continued to sizzle and the Capers kept the pressure on.
A 3 from Bowe and a layup after a steal by Brown gave Cape Elizabeth its biggest lead, 19-12, capping a 19-4 run, but the Windjammers rallied behind a 3 from senior Nathan Catell, a bank shot from junior Adam Carlsen and a foul shot from McFarland to pull within one, 19-18.
Brown answered with a runner, but another 3 from Catell and a runner from senior Joel Gabriele put Camden Hills ahead, 23-21.
After Doane made a laner, Pieri hit a jumper in the lane, but sophomore Chris Robicheaw made a layup to tie it for the Capers, Bowe put them up with a leaner and Bowe fed Doane for a layup and a 29-25 lead with 2:46 remaining.
The Windjammers again rallied to tie as Pieri hit a jump shot and McFarland scored on a putback. After a Bowe leaner gave Cape Elizabeth the lead back, McFarland tied the score with a jumper, but with time winding down, Bowe hit his fifth and final 3-pointer for a 34-31 lead.
Bowe had 22 points in the first 16 minutes, often frustrating McFarland (just five first half points) in the process.
"McFarland is a very good interior defender," said Bowe. "He had size on me, but he couldn't quite on-ball defend me."
The third period was back and forth until Camden Hills finally got a little separation.
A Pieri layup was answered by a Doane jump shot that appeared to be a 3-ball, but was ruled to have come from just inside the line. After McFarland made two foul shots, Bowe stretched the lead to 38-35 with a leaner, but Carlsen fed Pieri for a layup and McFarland scored on a putback to give the Windjammers a 39-38 advantage.
With 4:13 to go in the quarter, sophomore Henry Babcock set up senior Kyle Danielson for a fastbreak layup and the Capers' final lead, 40-39.
With 3:21 left, McFarland made a layup to put Camden Hills on top for good. Gabriele added a baseline jumper and Pieri fed McFarland on a pretty high-low set for a layup and a 45-40 advantage with 1:19 remaining in the third.
After Doane kept a possession alive with two offensive rebounds, Bowe was fouled and made one of two free throws. Pieri answered with a putback, but Bowe converted an old-fashioned three-point play (leaner, foul and free throw). This time, however, the Windjammers saved their best for the quarter's end as Carlsen found McFarland for an easy layup and a 49-44 lead with eight minutes to go.
McFarland had come to life with 10 points in the period and suddenly Camden Hills was back on track.
"We had to hit shots and rebound, but we didn't keep (Camden Hills) off the glass," Bowe lamented. "We beat York and Yarmouth by outrebounding them, but tonight we didn't do that. They have a lot of talent. They brought guys off the bench. It was tough to maintain."
The Windjammers hoped to deliver a knockout punch in the fourth, but Cape Elizabeth never went away.
With 6:13 to go, McFarland made two free throws for a 51-44 lead. Bowe answered with a leaner for his 29th and 30th points, but McFarland hit a pullup jumper and Pieri made a free throw to make it 54-46.
Bowe responded with two foul shots with 4:14 left and even worse for the Windjammers, McFarland was whistled for his fourth foul.
Last year, McFarland got his fifth foul in the waning seconds of regulation against Falmouth in the state game and had to watch in agony from the bench as Camden Hills suffered the loss.
This time, he was bound and determined to remain in the game.
"There were four minutes left, so I was shaking," McFarland said. "You have to persevere and play with what you have. I had to play a little more passive, but it worked out."
"I wasn't trying to think (that it was deja vu)," said Camden Hills coach Jeff Hart. "There was no way he was going to foul out of this game. He made eye contact after his fourth. We switched Keegan on to Bowe and that worked out well."
First, the Windjammers got a major scare.
After a steal, Brown buried a 3 to pull the Capers within three, 54-51. Then, with 3:32 left, Bowe went to the line and made his second attempt to make it 54-52.
The next time down the floor, Cape Elizabeth had two great chances to go on top, but Brown missed a 3 and Bowe was just off with the follow from behind the arc. Gabriele grabbed the rebound and Camden Hills had dodged a major bullet.
With 2:57 to play, McFarland converted a three-point play for what was essentially a six-point swing. Gabriele added a layup after a steal with 2:09 to go for a 59-52 advantage and the hour neared midnight for the Cinderella Capers.
With 1:43 remaining, Brown made a foul shot, but Pieri answered with two for a 61-53 lead.
With 1:01 to go, Brown canned a 3 to keep hope alive, but McFarland answered with two free throws to make it 63-56.
With 39.7 seconds to play, Bowe converted an old-fashioned three-point play for his 34th, 35th and 36th points, cutting the deficit to four.
But Cape Elizabeth would get no closer.
First, with 18.8 seconds remaining, after running 20 seconds off the clock, Gabriele was fouled and hit his first attempt. After a Capers turnover. Gabriele hit two more free throws and after Cape Elizabeth's 17th giveaway of the night, Gabriele iced it with 2.2 seconds to go with two more foul shots and that was all she wrote.
Camden Hills 68 Cape Elizabeth 59
"This game means everything," said McFarland. "This is what I've been looking forward to. This is what the seniors have been striving for. This very moment. It's very rewarding to come in and get this one. It was a huge feeling of relief. Last year was an awful year. This takes that weight off my shoulders and our shoulders."
"Early, our goal was to get the ball down on the blocks against their 1-3-1 (zone)," said Hart. "They adjusted and we got tentative. We talked about that at halftime, getting it back to pounding it inside and shooting with confidence. After halftime, we were able to settle down and get back to business. We didn't wear them down, but we got our running game going a little. Keegan in the post and on the backboard was the difference."
The Capers had come up just short.
"The odds were stacked against us, but our kids did a heck of a job all things considered," Ray said. "Our kids really reacted well in the first half. Made big shots. It takes so much out of you. Our lack of depth. Is that my fault? Maybe it is. We weren't able to develop a deeper bench. The guys played so hard for so long. Even at the end, I told Theo, 'It's all about the legs.' It was asking a lot to ask four kids to play all 32 minutes of hard basketball. They made our community very proud.
"There's an awful lot of heart there. No quit in those guys. It would have been nice if we had a couple other bodies to bang with. Unfortunately, we didn't. We ran out of gas. The offensive glass absolutely killed us. Their size and strength. We probably missed checkouts, but it's tough going up against kids that big. They bring great pressure, but we played hard for that long and didn't foul. That's a credit to the guys and how they play. We never mixed any man in. We didn't have the matchups to do that. The penetration in the second half and getting the ball to their bigs we had a hard time locking that up. I don't think we got in a very good rhythm offensively, but they did a good job dictating defensively. Credit to them for that."
A performance for the ages
Even though Camden Hills cut down the nets and raised the Gold Ball to the heavens, much of the talk afterwards was about the sensational performance of one Theodore Bowe.
Bowe led all scorers with 36 points and if that wasn't enough, grabbed five rebounds and had a couple steals.
"Bowe is an unreal player," said McFarland. "All the credit to him. I was on him for a while. The offense gets him good shots and he hit them tonight."
"Hats off to that kid," said Hart. "He played great. We had our best guy on him, then we ran a couple others at him. He forced us to pay attention to him off the ball. We doubled and pinched him a little bit. I thought he got a little tired late."
Bowe, who isn't just a phenomenal player, but also a tremendous young man, was heartbroken after the game, but still managed to articulate his feelings.
"It doesn't feel good right now, but I'm sure it will some time," said Bowe, who didn't make the cut as a Mr. Maine Basketball finalist, but proved to all he's one of the best around. "I spent all I had. I left it all on the court tonight. We did what we did all year. I hit my shots, but I didn't think that was sustainable all game. As a senior class we had to step up and I think we did that. We have great heart on this team."
"Theo Bowe particularly is a very special kid," Ray said. "He lives for opportunities like this. He made the most of it. I'd rather have it no one else's hands than Theo's. He deserved it. He laid it all out there tonight."
Brown finished with 11 points, five boards and three steals, Doane had eight points, five rebounds and a steal and Danielson and Robicheaw both had two points. Babcock didn't score, but had four boards.
The Capers turned the ball over 17 times and hit 10 of 13 foul shots.
Cape Elizabeth had fallen short, but gave its followers an abundance of thrills.
"It was a great ride," Bowe said. "Great teammates. I couldn't ask for better friends and teammates than Cam and Joey. I'm very grateful to have such a great coach and team and play for such a great program."
Camden Hills got 24 points, nine rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot from McFarland.
McFarland said he won this one for the fans.
"The community is fantastic," McFarland said. "When you come up here as a fourth, fifth, sixth grader, the first thing you notice is how packed the stands are on the Camden Hills side. You play for this community. They have such pride and passion. You don't want to let them down. They deserve a championship team every year."
"I was in the locker room with Tyler last year," Hart said. "He's a grown man, but he's still a boy. I never saw anyone so distraught. I guarantee not a day's gone by when he didn't think about it. He put a lot of pressure on himself to get back. I'm thrilled for him. Tyler's the man. A great kid. All that you see, he's earned. As great a player as he is, he's a better person."
Pieri added 21 points, seven boards, two steals and two blocks. The Windjammers also got 11 points, four steals and three rebounds from Gabriele, eight points from Catell and two each from Carlsen and Ohelnik. The Windjammers gave the ball away just eight times and made 16 of 19 free throws (including 13 of 15 in the fourth quarter).
"Shooting 100 free throws a day for weeks will do that," Hart said.
Camden Hills made a point of praising Cape Elizabeth's effort.
"With coach Ray over there and those Capers he has, you never know," said McFarland. "They're one of the hardest working teams in the state. I want to make sure Cape Elizabeth gets the credit they deserve. They're really a gutsy team. They played their butts off. They came out and gave us all they have and all we could really handle."
"People like to look at our team and say we have this and we have that, but you come in to a state game against a team coached by coach Ray with those kids, I didn't think it would be easy," Hart said. "No way. Ever."
Try, try again
Both teams will be hit hard by graduation.
Camden Hills graduates the likes of Catell, Gabriele, McFarland and Pieri, but the Windjammers seem to always find a way to reload.
"You see Cape Elizabeth come through every year," McFarland said. "They're a perennial power because of how hard they work. Camden basketball is much the same. The coaches work our guys hard. It doesn't matter who we have, we'll put a team out there than can play with anyone in the state."
The Capers will lose their core.
Bowe, Brown and Doane have been three-year centerpieces and Danielson was tremendous in a supporting role this winter.
"Those kids have to be so proud," said Ray. "It's devastating to get here again and be runners-up. There's no disputing that, but I can already step back from this and be so proud of what they've accomplished. We're not the most talented group of guys in Western Maine. They played together with the right attitude and work ethic. Good things happen to those who work hard. I hope the lessons they learned from working in our program carry on beyond the basketball court when they go on to do other things. They were terrific kids to coach."
Next year's team will feature Babcock and Robicheaw. Cape Elizabeth hopes a supporting cast will emerge and allow for another playoff run.
Never write this program off.
"(The program has) changed the last two years too," Ray said. "We'll go back to work. We always do."
Friday night's star had the final word.
"I think Cape is always underestimated," said Bowe. "No one realizes the heart we play with every year. I don't know when people will figure out we're here to play."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @foresports