Gorham dominates Scarborough in battle of unbeatens

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Gorham senior standout Emily Esposito produces two of her game-high 22 points during the Rams’ 58-26 win at Scarborough Wednesday night.

Scarborough junior Lindsey Kelley goes up for a shot as Gorham senior Kaylea Lundin defends.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Gorham 58 Scarborough 26

G- 11 14 20 13- 58
S- 6 2 5 13- 26

G- Esposito 10-1-22, Holmes 4-3-11, Desjardin 3-2-9, Brent 2-0-6, Lundin 2-0-5, Rowe 0-4-4, Hamilton 0-1-1

S- Malone 2-3-9, Glidden 2-0-5, Dickinson 2-0-4, Alofs 1-0-3, Couture 0-3-3, Kelley 0-2-2

3-pointers:
G (5) Brent 2, Desjardin, Esposito, Lundin 1
S (4) Malone 2, Alofs, Glidden 1

Turnovers:
G- 15
S- 20

Free throws
G: 11-18
S: 8-10

SCARBOROUGH—Gorham’s girls’ basketball team isn’t satisfied.

And that spells trouble for everyone who crosses the Rams’ path.

Scarborough was Gorham’s unwitting victim Wednesday evening in a highly anticipated showdown between unbeaten squads at Alumni Gymnasium, as the Rams, coming off what they felt was a lackluster effort, made a powerful statement.

Less than 24 hours after holding off host Thornton Academy, 60-52, Gorham effectively put this one away by halftime.

Villanova University-bound senior standout Emily Esposito scored the Rams’ first six points and put them ahead to stay with a 3-pointer midway through the opening quarter, which ended 11-6 in Gorham’s favor.

The Red Storm got two free throws from senior Brooke Malone early in the second period, then didn’t score again until the second half, as Gorham went on a 14-0 run to take a 25-8 lead to the break.

The Rams continued to dominate at both ends of the floor in the third period, as their run eventually hit 21-0.

By the end of the third, Gorham had a 45-13 advantage and the Rams never let Scarborough make a run en route to a decisive 58-26 victory.

Esposito paced all scorers with 22 points, sophomore post standout MacKenzie Holmes stuffed the stat sheet as well and Gorham got key contributions from myriad sources as it improved to 9-0, extended its win streak to 30 and dropped the Red Storm to 7-1 in the process.

“They really impressed me tonight,” said Scarborough coach Mike Giordano. “I think maybe last night was a wakeup call for them and they certainly took it out on us. They have a very nice basketball team there.”

Measuring stick

Both teams have enjoyed great success so far this winter.

Scarborough opened with a 55-44 win at Sanford, then downed visiting Windham (44-40), host Noble (56-30) and host Maine Girls’ Academy (45-32). After earning critical home victories last week over highly touted South Portland (46-40) and Thornton Academy (41-39), the Red Storm rolled at Portland Monday, 53-35.

Gorham didn’t lose a game in 2015-16 and has lived up to billing as it chases a repeat title this winter. The Rams opened with a 64-26 victory at Westbrook, then defeated visiting South Portland (44-31), Massabesic (75-40) and Greely (67-64) and host Bonny Eagle (60-39) and Portland (73-36) to close the 2016 portion of their schedule. Gorham then opened the new year with wins over visiting Windham (69-32) and Tuesday at Thornton Academy (60-52).

Wednesday, in front of a good-sized crowd, the Red Storm were seeking their first win over the Rams since Dec. 7, 2012 (56-23 in Gorham), but it wasn’t to be, as the Rams made it four in a row in the series.

With more ease than expected.

Neither team could get it going offensively in the opening minutes, but Esposito did make a free throw followed by a layup after a baseline drive for a 3-0 lead.

After Malone tied the game with a 3, Esposito answered with one of her own from up top to give the Rams the lead for good and Holmes added a hook shot.

Malone made a second 3, but with 18.4 seconds left in the opening frame, sophomore Courtney Brent knocked down a corner 3 for an 11-6 Rams’ lead.

Gorham went cold at the start of the second quarter and Malone cut the deficit to three after making a couple free throws with 5:57 left, but the Red Storm wouldn’t score again for a long, long time and the Rams went on a 14-0 run to blow it open.

A putback from Esposito got things started. Holmes scored on a leaner, then Esposito displayed all her skills, making a layup, taking a pass from senior Kaylea Lundin in transition and making another layup, then hitting a jumper in the lane for a 21-8 lead.

After Holmes added a foul shot, Brent buried a 3 with 20 seconds left and that gave Gorham a commanding 25-8 advantage at the break.

Esposito led all scorers with 14 first half points and Holmes did it all, scoring five points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking four shots.

Malone had all of Scarborough’s points, but the Red Storm went the final 9:05 of the half without a field goal and turned the ball over nine times.

In the third quarter, Gorham didn’t relent and pulled away even more.

Esposito got the fun started with a layup after a steal, followed by a floater, and junior Michelle Rowe and Holmes added free throws.

Finally, with 5:14 to go in the third quarter, freshman Bella Dickinson took a pass from sophomore Josie Couture and made a layup to end the Rams’ 21-0 run and the Red Storm’s 8 minute, 43 second drought (11:51 without a field goal).

“We just didn’t respond well to adversity,” Giordano said. “It seemed like we didn’t score for forever. They punished us.”

“When we made it hard for them to get an open look, we ran them into McKenzie and she’s tough to go up against at the rim,” Gorham coach Laughn Berthiaume said. “Our rotations were good too. I’m pleased with the defensive effort all around.”

Scarborough wasn’t able to go on a run, however, as Lundin made a layup after a steal and sophomore reserve Brittany Desjardin knocked down a jumper from just inside the 3-point stripe.

After Couture made a free throw, Holmes made a layup after a nice spin move. Junior Lindsey Kelley got two points back for the Red Storm at the line, but Esposito drove for a layup, Esposito took a pass from freshman Jacqui Hamilton and made a layup and as time expired, Lundin buried a 3 to give Gorham a 45-13 advantage heading for the fourth quarter.

The final stanza was largely played by both teams’ reserves, but not until the starters made a few more baskets.

Scarborough junior standout Sophie Glidden, who had been held scoreless by Esposito up until that point, opened the fourth quarter with a layup, then hit a 3, but that would be it for her offensive production.

“(Sophie) was running all over the place and I looked at her and said, ‘Can you stop running for a second for me to catch my breath?’ and she laughed,” Esposito said. “We’ve played together in AAU. It was a matter of knowing her strength and weaknesses and I think I did a decent job of that.”

Holmes scored her final points a layup, but Malone hit a free throw. After Rowe made two foul shots, Couture hit two of her own, making it a 49-21 game with 5:41 left.

Desjardin would open it back up with a 3 and Rowe added a foul shot.

With 3:26 to go, Dickinson made a layup, which finally gave the Red Storm as a team more points than Esposito managed on her own.

Down the stretch, Desjardin made two free throws and sank a long jumper before Hamilton made a free throw for Gorham’s final point.

As time expired, Scarborough junior Emily Jefferds hit a 3 and that accounted for the 58-26 final score.

“We were upset about how we played yesterday,” Esposito said. “We didn’t have good energy or play good defense. It was a good scare to light a fire under us. We can’t go into games thinking we’re all that. Teams will give us good games. We responded really well tonight. We’ve come out flat in most games this year. It was a matter of being ready mentally after a hard game yesterday.”

“I was a little concerned our energy level wouldn’t be there, but I’m proud of the girls,” said Berthiaume. “They bounced right back and were ready to go.”

Esposito led all scorers with 22 points. She also four rebounds, three steals and a pair of assists in addition to playing stellar defense.

“For me it’s mental,” Esposito said. “When my shots fall in the first quarter, I’m usually good for the rest of the game. I think I had a sub-par performance, but my teammates had my back.”

“Emily does a lot,” Berthiaume said. “She guarded their best player today and she played a lot of minutes. To have your legs under you to even score after that effort is impressive, but that’s what she does.”

“Emily got her points and it snowballed,” Giordano said. “She’s awfully good off the dribble. What impressed me even more was what she did to Sophie defensively. She shut her down. She really brought it defensively tonight.”

Holmes finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots as she made life miserable every time a Scarborough player entered the paint.

“To McKenzie’s credit, she blocked a couple early and we got tentative,” Giordano said.

Dejardin added nine points, Brent had six, Lundin five (to go with five assists and four steals), Rowe four and Hamilton one (to go with six boards and five blocks). Senior Kristen Curley didn’t score, but she did produce eight rebounds and blocked three shots.

Gorham outrebounded Scarborough, 30-29, blocked 16 shots, produced 10 steals, forced 20 turnovers while committing just 15, and made 11 of 18 free throws.

“We’re playing together,” Berthiaume said. “Kaylea does her part. Curley does her part. Michelle Rowe has played great the last couple games. She’s been a monster on the offensive glass. When everyone does a little bit, collectively it’s a big deal.”

Scarborough’s leading scorer was Malone, who had nine points. Glidden added five (to go with a team-high nine rebounds), Dickinson had four (to go with five boards), Alofs and Couture three apiece and Kelley two.

The Red Storm made 8 of 10 foul shots.

Playoff push

Gorham and Scarborough will quickly put this game behind them, as they’re dreaming of February and March glory.

The Rams (who appear to have a stranglehold on the top spot in the Class AA South Heal Points standings) host Bonny Eagle Friday and welcome Maine Girls’ Academy Monday. Trips to Deering, Bangor, Noble and Windham and home tilts versus Sanford, Thornton Academy and Cheverus also loom.

Gorham has one goal in mind this winter.

Winning another Gold Ball.

It doesn’t appear anyone is going to stand in the Rams’ way.

“We get trash talked all the time and we hear we’re not that good,” Esposito said. “We got booed when we ran out on the court yesterday. We’re competitors and that fuels the fire. When we hear that, we want to prove them wrong. Hopefully that leads us to another state championship. Defense will be key. We need to swing the ball more quickly. If we fine-tune the small things, we’ll get to the next level.”

“The girls are hungry to do it again,” Berthiaume said. “It starts with our senior leadership and that’s what’s so great about them.”

The Red Storm (second in AA South) look to bounce back Saturday when they go to Lewiston. After visiting Westbrook Monday, Scarborough still has home games remaining against Noble, Maine Girls’ Academy, Cheverus, Deering and Bonny Eagle, as well as trips to Bonny Eagle, Massabesic and Thornton Academy.

“We have to get better,” Giordano said. “We’ll come to practice and challenge each other and dust ourselves off. We have a tough trip to Lewiston. It will be interesting to see how we respond Saturday.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Scarborough senior Brooke Malone gets around a Gorham defender. Malone had a team-high nine points.

Scarborough junior Sophie Glidden goes up for a shot while surrounded by Gorham senior Kaylea Lundin (3), junior Michelle Rowe (20) and sophomore Mackenzie Holmes.

Scarborough freshman Bella Dickinson is hounded by a defender.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.