South Portland senior Meghan Graff goes up for two of her 12 points as Greely sophomore Brooke Obar looks on during the Red Riots’ 63-53 victory in a compelling showdown Friday evening.
Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.
More photos below.
G- 10 11 15 17- 53
SP- 14 12 16 21- 63
G- DeWolfe 10-4-25, Obar 6-2-18, Clement 1-0-3, Martel 1-0-3, Scott 1-0-3. Spoerri 0-1-1
SP- M. Whitmore 9-4-22, Graff 4-4-12, Mazur 2-6-10, Leckie 2-3-7, B. Cloutier 2-0-4, Boles 1-0-3, O. Cloutier 1-0-3, K. Whitmore 1-0-2
G (8) Obar 4, Clement, DeWolfe, Martel, Scott 1
SP (2) Boles, O. Cloutier 1
SOUTH PORTLAND—It was an early season showdown, a showcase of Maine girls’ basketball that featured an unforgettable moment produced by one of the state’s finest players and in the end, an affirmation that size trumps all.
Friday evening at Beal Gymnasium, Class AA South favorite South Portland played host to Class A South contender Greely in a compelling interclass showdown and neither team, nor its many standout individuals, disappointed.
It didn’t take long for it to become clear that this contest would be a struggle between the Rangers’ outside shooting acumen and the Red Riots’ post dominance.
Greely took an early 5-4 lead, but South Portland went on a 10-2 run before Rangers junior sharpshooter Anna DeWolfe sank a 30-foot, 3-point shot at the horn to cut the Red Riots’ advantage to 14-10 after one quarter.
In the second period, South Portland had ample opportunity to grab a big lead, but Greely hung tough and only trailed, 26-21, at halftime.
The second half saw DeWolfe steal the show, momentarily, but a trio of Red Riots ultimately led their team to victory.
South Portland opened up a 38-28 lead, but with 2:48 to go in the frame, DeWolfe got a baseline jumper to rattle home for her 1,000th career point.
The Red Riots were able to maintain their advantage, however, taking a 42-36 lead to the fourth quarter, where sophomore Maggie Whitmore proved unstoppable and senior captains Meghan Graff and Eva Mazur came up with clutch play after clutch play to allow South Portland to hold on.
Greely managed to draw within four points, 50-46, on a 3-pointer from junior Madison Scott, but the Red Riots never buckled, made every free throw they attempted and went on to a 63-53 victory.
South Portland got 22 points from Whitmore, shot 17-of-17 from the charity stripe, improved to 3-0 on the season and handed the Rangers their first loss in three outings.
“It’s a huge win for us,” Whitmore said. “They’re one of the best teams we’ll face all season. Us coming together and getting this win will be huge in the long run.”
Not only are Greely and South Portland two of the state’s premier girls’ basketball powerhouses, they also boast some of the most talented individual players, all of which was on display Friday.
Both teams are coming off seasons which ended with close and painful regional final losses and both have high hopes this winter.
Greely was the favorite to win Class A South in 2016-17, but the Rangers were upset by Brunswick, 54-51, in the regional final.
While some key veteran leaders were lost to graduation, Greely returned the nonpareil DeWolfe, as well as sophomore Brooke Obar, and added freshman Camille Clement, the younger sister of former Miss Maine Basketball, Allie Clement.
The Rangers opened the season with a decisive win over visiting Cape Elizabeth (85-44), before downing host Wells (60-48).
South Portland has lost two straight Class AA South Finals to two-time state champion Gorham and a year ago, the Red Riots took the Rams to the final horn before losing, 46-44. With just about everyone back from that team and with Gorham theoretically weakened by graduation losses, South Portland is the favorite this winter.
The Red Riots haven’t disappointed in the early going, dispatching visiting Bonny Eagle (61-41) and Cheverus (49-31).
Prior to Friday, the longtime powers had never met in a countable game, but they quickly made some history in a showcase of Maine girls’ basketball at its finest.
Junior Katie Whitmore got the game’s first points, when she finished a feed from Graff and made a layup 67 seconds in.
Graff (from Mazur) then made a layup for a 4-0 lead, but the Rangers got the next five points for their only lead, as junior Emma Spoerri made a layup, DeWolfe hit a leaner and Obar put home a miss for a 5-4 advantage.
With 4:24 to go in the opening frame, senior Sarah Boles sank a 3-point to put South Portland back on top. After Obar blocked a shot at one end, then pulled up and made a jumper to tie the score, a 3-point shot from sophomore Olivia Cloutier with 1:12 on the clock gave the Red Riots the lead for good.
After Mazur set up junior Bela Cloutier for a layup and junior Jena Leckie added a layup, DeWolfe, with time about to expire, launched a 30-foot rainbow that found nothing but net to pull Greely within 14-10 after eight minutes.
Clement opened the second quarter with a long 3-pointer, but 34 seconds in, DeWolfe was called for her second foul and South Portland got the ensuing eight points, as Maggie Whitmore scored her first points, finishing a feed from Graff and making a layup, Whitmore hit a jumper, Graff sank two free throws and Mazur made two foul shots for a 22-13 lead.
After DeWolfe stemmed the tide with a bank shot, Mazur hit a jumper, but Obar countered with consecutive 3-pointers to make it a one-possession game.
With 2.1 seconds to go in the half, Leckie was fouled on an offensive rebound and made both free throws for a 26-21 South Portland advantage at the break.
Obar led all first half scorers with 10 points, but the Red Riots put eight girls in the scoring column and made all six foul shots to hold the lead.
The third period featured a landmark basket and South Portland holding off Greely’s pressure to retain the lead.
Maggie Whitmore hinted at a huge second half to come, as in the first 45 seconds, she made two free throws and finished a feed from Mazur with a layup for a 30-21 advantage.
Junior Julia Martel countered with a 3 for the Rangers, but Mazur hit a runner. After a DeWolfe driving layup, Mazur sank a pair of free throws to make it 34-26.
After Obar made two foul shots, Whitmore took a pass from Mazur and made a layup and with 3:43 on the clock, Graff set up Whitmore in transition for a layup and a 38-28 advantage.
“It was definitely a team effort, but at some points, I felt I had an advantage in the post,” Whitmore said. “Meghan and Eva did a good job throughout the game getting the ball to me.”
DeWolfe then became the center of attention, as after an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw), she got the ball to the right of the basket and got a baseline jumper to rattle home with 2:48 remaining to cut the deficit to 38-33.
More importantly, on the play, DeWolfe eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau for her career, in just two full seasons, plus three games.
“It felt good,” DeWolfe said. “I didn’t know it was coming right then. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, so props to them.”
DeWolfe drew praise from all on hand, friend and foe.
“She’s really a gem,” Greely coach Todd Flaherty said. “She’s not a selfish player. She takes what she can get and she helps her teammates get better.”
“Anna is something special,” South Portland coach Lynne Hasson said. “I was happy for her. She’s a great kid. She’s earned everything. She’s going to score 20 or 25 points. You can’t shut her down, she’s too good. She’s one of the best players in the state.”
After play was momentarily stopped to honor DeWolfe’s achievement, South Portland wrested momentum back as first DeWolfe was called for her third foul, then Mazur set up Bela Cloutier for a layup.
DeWolfe got a point back at the line, but Mazur made a long jumper.
With 7.1 seconds to go in the frame, DeWolfe scored her prettiest two points, a short jumper after a dazzling spin move, and Greely was only down six, 42-36, heading to the final stanza.
There, the Rangers fought to the finish, but the Red Riots never folded under the pressure.
When South Portland started the fourth quarter with a runner from Whitmore and a pullup jumper from Graff, the lead was double digits and it appeared home free, but DeWolfe countered with a leaner and after Whitmore finished a scoop shot with her left hand, Obar buried a long 3 to cut the deficit to 48-41 with 5:17 to go.
Mazur stemmed the tide with a bank shot after a steal, but DeWolfe drove for a layup and with 3:56 remaining, Scott sank a 3 from the corner to pull the Rangers within four, 50-46.
Whitmore got two points back at the line, then she took a pass from Mazur and made a layup for a 54-46 advantage.
With 2:14 on the clock, DeWolfe hit a jumper, but Mazur passed to Whitmore for yet another layup.
With 1:43 remaining, Obar made another long 3, but 38 seconds later, after the Red Riots stalled, Whitmore showed she could give as well as receive, setting up Leckie for a three-point play to essentially plant the dagger.
In the final minute, Mazur ended all doubt with four free throws before two foul shots from DeWolfe accounted for the 63-53 final score.
“Coming in, we wanted to win this game because we knew they’ll be worth a bunch of (Heal Points),” Graff said. “It’s a big win for us, definitely. It was so much fun. Maggie, Eva, Katie and I all know (the Greely girls) and we play in the same AAU program.”
“We were looking forward to playing (Greely),” Hasson said. “They’re a top team in the state. They’ll win a ton of games.”
Maggie Whitmore led South Portland with 22 points. She also had four rebounds and three steals.
“Maggie was the biggest factor,” Graff said. “We knew we had a height advantage. We struggled getting the ball to her in the first half, but in the second half, we kept getting the ball into her and it worked. She’s so versatile. She can be in the post, but she also has a mid-range jumper and she can stall and handle the pressure.”
“I thought Maggie took over the game and that was our advantage,” Hasson said. “That was great to see. From the get-go, we felt we both had some of the best guards in the state, but we had the advantage inside.”
Graff tallied 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
“Meghan does a lot of things,” said Hasson. “She makes important shots, but she also makes great passes. It’s the little things, along with the big things.”
Mazur had 10 points, six assists, six steals, five rebounds and a blocked shot.
“Eva always makes the big, backbreaking play on defense,” Hasson said.
Leckie was clutch off the bench with seven points, 10 boards, two steals and an assist.
Bela Cloutier added four points, Boles and Olivia Cloutier had three apiece and Katie Whitmore finished with two points (to go with five rebounds).
The Red Riots enjoyed a 43-28 rebounding advantage, only turned the ball over 10 times and made a remarkable 17-of-17 free throws.
“Coach is going to love that,” said Graff. “Our goal is to be 80 percent from the foul line. We’ve focused a lot on it in practice.”
“We’ve focused in practice on making our foul shots,” Hasson said. “We have the lofty goal of making 80 percent from the line. That’s what wins close games between two good teams.”
Greely was led by DeWolfe’s 25 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“We played hard,” DeWolfe said. “We had nothing to lose and we left it all on the court. It would have been nice to win, but we learned a lot from this game. We had our defensive energy up the whole game.”
DeWolfe got a ton of attention from the Red Riots.
“Anna was our main focus, but they’re an amazing shooting team,” Graff said. “Eva stepped up on her. We mainly played her on her drives because we wanted our help-side to step up. She still got her points.”
“Anna is so talented on offense and defense,” Maggie Whitmore said. “We knew slowing her down would be our biggest challenge. We knew she’d get her points, but limiting her would be our key and I think we did a good job. They have such good shooters. We had to interrupt their game and get to their shots.”
Obar was solid as well, scoring 18 points, including a game-high four 3-pointers.
Clement (six rebounds), Martel (five boards) and Scott (five rebounds) each had three points and Spoerri added one.
Senior Jen Spencer didn’t score, but grabbed three rebounds and was praised by Flaherty after the game for her effort, especially on the defensive end.
The Rangers gave the ball away 14 times and made 7 of 10 foul shots.
“We didn’t make the shots we needed to against one of the best teams in the state,” Flaherty said. “They’re good and well-coached and they executed better than us tonight. Their size was a disadvantage. We’re not big, we had to help a lot and it caused it problems.
“We scheduled them for a reason. We came here to win, we didn’t get it, but we got a lot out of it.”
Greely hopes to bounce back Tuesday when dangerous Poland pays a visit. The Rangers also have a home game against rival Falmouth and a trip/playoff rematch at Brunswick before the end of the calendar year.
“We can still get a lot better,” Flaherty said. “(South Portland) exposed some weaknesses. We have to execute a lot better on offense. We can’t just rely on (outside) shooting, we have to get better shots. We have a lot of work to do. Defensively, we worked hard, but they did a good job executing the high-low.
“We’re a work in progress. We’re young and we have new faces. We’re still learning how to play together. At the end, we could be pretty good.”
South Portland, meanwhile, is back in action Tuesday with a pivotal contest at Scarborough. Home games against Thornton Academy and Oxford Hills close out the 2017 portion of the schedule.
“I think we have a lot to work on, but it’s looking good and we just have to keep doing our thing,” Whitmore said. “We lost to Scarborough last year, so we’ll be ready.”
“I think we’re going into it knowing we have to work hard and that no game will be easy,” Graff said. “Everyone has talent, so we have to work hard. The past couple years, we haven’t had luck in that gym, but we’ll stay focused in practice.”
“We’ve got a lot of talent, but we have to get better,” Hasson added. “If we can finish shots, we can win by 20 instead of by 10.
“We have another big one Tuesday. (Scarborough will) be fired up. We tend to struggle there. It won’t be easy.”
South Portland senior Sarah Boles shoots over Greely junior Julia Martel.
South Portland junior Jena Leckie goes to the basket as Greely junior Emma Spoerri defends.
Greely junior Anna DeWolfe sinks a shot over South Portland sophomore Olivia Cloutier for her 1,000th career point.
Following her milestone basket, DeWolfe is congratulated by Greely coach Todd Flaherty and her teammates.