Greely freshman Anna DeWolfe is defended by Gorham junior Kaylea Lundin during Wednesday’s showdown. Lundin held DeWolfe to six points and scored 14 of her own in the Rams’ 57-49 victory.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
Go- 19 9 17 12- 57
Gr- 10 11 11 17- 49
Go- Lundin 6-0-14, Esposito 5-1-12, Holmes 6-0-12, Fennie 3-2-8, Curley 3-0-7, Rowe 1-0-3, Bragg 0-1-1
Gr- Faietta 5-2-13, Chapin 3-0-8, Felkel 3-0-8, Train 3-2-8, DeWolfe 3-0-6, Porter 2-0-5, Cyr 0-1-1
Go (5) Lundin 2, Curley, Esposito, Rowe 1
Gr (6) Chapin, Felkel 2, Faietta, Porter 1
CUMBERLAND—Let’s not wait 11 years to do this again.
Wednesday evening, two of the state’s premier girls’ basketball powers squared off in an early season interclass showdown which saw last year’s top team take a backseat to the squad which could very well become the 2015-16 gold standard as defending Class B champion Greely played host to highly touted Gorham.
In the programs’ first countable game since February of 2005, the undefeated Rams shot to an 8-0 lead and took a 19-10 advantage after one period, thanks in large part to the dominance of freshman Mackenzie Holmes, who had 12 points in the frame.
While the Rangers neutralized Holmes’ scoring the rest of the night, they never could quite catch up, as Gorham junior standout Emily Esposito, returning from a wrist injury, heated up and Rams junior Kaylea Lundin did yeoman’s work in holding Greely freshman sensation Anna DeWolfe at bay.
The Rangers twice crept within five points in the second quarter, but Gorham took a 28-21 lead to the half.
In the third period, Greely again made it a two-possession game, but Esposito and Lundin kept responding and when Lundin hit a shot at the buzzer, the Rams took a 45-32 advantage to the final stanza.
There, Gorham stretched its lead to 18 points before the Rangers attempted one more rally, cutting the deficit to eight, but the Rams slammed the door on a 57-49 triumph, serving notice that they’re every bit as good as advertised.
Lundin had a game-high 14 points, Esposito and Holmes both added 12 and Gorham improved to 5-0, dropping Greely to 3-2 in the process.
“We hadn’t played (Greely) before so we didn’t know exactly what we’d get,” Esposito said. “We knew they were talented and could do a lot of stuff, including shooting the 3. We knew we had to be prepared mentally and play our game.”
Greely and Gorham were longtime Western Maine Conference rivals, but the teams stopped playing countable games when the Rams joined the Southwestern Maine Activities Association for the 2005-06 school year.
The statewide reclassification implemented this winter has re-established the rivalry and fans were looking forward to this one, as both squads are highly touted and full of star power.
The Rams, the preseason favorite in the new Class AA South, opened with wins over visiting Westbrook (61-36), visiting Scarborough (34-28), host South Portland (40-38) and host Massabesic (50-37).
The Rangers, who are now in Class A South, won at Cape Elizabeth in their opener (45-24), then lost at home to York (78-64) before getting back on track with wins at Brunswick (52-36) and at home over Yarmouth (40-27).
Gorham won the last meeting between the schools, 48-45, at home way back on Feb. 4, 2005. Greely’s last victory over the Rams was a memorable one, a 49-41 triumph in the 2004 Western B Final, when this year’s seniors were in kindergarten.
Wednesday, Gorham displayed offensive balance and played excellent defense and got out of town with a valuable ‘W.’
After a slow start by both teams, the Rams got the jump 87 seconds in as Esposito set up Holmes for a layup.
Lundin made her presence felt a little over a minute later with a jumper and after Esposito set up Holmes for a short left-handed hook shot, Gorham junior Kristen Curley stepped back and sank a jumper for an 8-0 lead.
Greely finally broke through with 3:38 to go in the first period when junior Moira Train scored on a putback, but Holmes countered with a layup after taking a nice pass from junior Danasia Fennie and Holmes hit a bank shot to make it 12-2.
“When (Mackenzie) gets on fire, you pass her the ball,” Esposito said. “We have so many talented players, you can’t shut down just one. When you have someone as talented as her, you pass her the ball and it’s game over.”
“Fast starts are important in any game,” said Rams coach Laughn Berthiaume. “This game especially. (Greely) can score in bunches. Mackenzie is a mismatch for almost anybody she plays. I like her against anybody.”
As has so often been the case this winter, the Rangers got a spark off the bench from senior Lexi Faietta, who hit a 3, but Holmes made a leaner for a 14-5 advantage.
After Greely junior Isabel Porter sank a 3, Holmes scored again, on a putback. Faietta hit a jumper, but as time wound down, Esposito scored her first points, on a 3, for a 19-10 lead.
In the first eight minutes, Holmes had 12 points, but she wouldn’t score again.
“I was a little late to the dance on my defense around Holmes,” said Rangers coach Joel Rogers said. “I hadn’t seen her. I didn’t know she could finish that well and that consistently and she did. She does a lot of good things, but I think we wore her out and she got tired.”
Five points from Faietta helped the hosts stay within hailing distance.
Early in the second period, a Rangers’ rally appeared imminent, as Faietta made a layup and Train hit a leaner, but out of a timeout, Gorham got a jumper from Esposito. After DeWolfe scored her first points, on a scoop shot after a nice drive, Esposito made a free throw and after she missed the second, Holmes got the offensive rebound and kept possession. The ball eventually came to Lundin, who sank a clutch 3 and the Rams were on top, 25-16.
After DeWolfe answered with a pullup jumper, Fennie scored on a putback. Greely senior Sarah Felkel hit a 3, but in the final minute, Gorham senior Emily Bragg made a free throw for a 28-21 halftime lead.
The Rangers started the second half with a runner from junior Molly Chapin and senior Maddie Cyr went to the line to attempt to pull her team even closer, but after Cyr missed the first attempt, she made her second, only to see a lane violation wipe the point off the board.
The Rams took advantage.
First, Fennie made two free throws. Esposito then drove and banked home a shot and Esposito set up Lundin for a fastbreak layup and a 34-23 lead.
Greely got a driving layup from Felkel and a Felkel 3 to pull within 34-28, but the visitors again responded to a timeout and got a driving layup from Lundin, a step-back jumper from Esposito and after Cyr made a free throw, sophomore Michelle Rowe buried a 3 to make it 41-29.
“(Greely’s) a different team,” Berthiaume said. “We had to hang on the 3-point line because those runs come when you feel like you have them locked in and two or three 3s in a run change things in a hurry.”
The Rangers responded behind a Chapin 3, but Esposito hit a leaner and as time expired, Lundin drove the floor, pump faked, then hit a short jumper to give Gorham a 45-32 lead with eight minutes to go.
The Rams seemingly put the win on ice early in the fourth quarter when Curley hit a runner, then buried a 3 to make it 50-32, but Greely refused to buckle.
First, Train hit a long jumper. Train then made two free throws. After Fennie answered with a layup, Faietta made a foul shot, Faietta made a layup while being fouled and hit a free throw to convert the old-fashioned three-point play and with 2:57 to go, Chapin knocked down a 3 to pull the Rangers within nine, 52-43.
The Rams rose to the occasion, however, and 47 seconds later, Lundin hit her final big shot, a 3-ball, to push the lead back to a dozen.
The hosts got a runner from Porter and DeWolfe set up Faietta for a layup, but a Fennie putback ended any remaining drama and even though DeWolfe finished a feed from Felkel with a layup inside the final minute, Gorham went on to a 57-49 victory.
Lundin, who stands 5-foot-2-inches, played a foot taller on this night, leading all scorers with 14 points. She also had four assists and most importantly, played an integral role in holding DeWolfe in check.
“(DeWolfe) definitely was our biggest concern,” Lundin said. “We were focused on not leaving her and not letting her get the ball. I took it on myself and the team had my back. I wanted to prove that I could defend someone like that. In practice, I’ve tried to take more shots. We’ve missed players, so I figured I had to take more shots.”
“We knew DeWolfe was a key player and Kaylea is an unreal defensive player,” said Esposito. “She wasn’t fazed. She knew what to do and stepped up her game.”
“Kaylea had some big baskets,” Berthiaume added. “Fourteen points is a big number for her. She took shots in the flow of the offense. She’s an energy player. I wish I had a buck for every time somebody asked me about her or said how much they love her energy or style of play. We definitely needed her defense. You can’t give DeWolfe much room and I don’t think Kaylea did at all tonight.”
Esposito, who missed two games, was welcomed back with open arms and had 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“I feel close to 100 percent,” Esposito said. “I couldn’t wait to get back.”
More to the point, the Rams couldn’t wait for her to get back.
“I hate playing without (Emily),” Lundin said. “She’s as much a team leader on the bench as on the court, but having her on the court, we can control the offense and the defense.”
“Emily helped us bring the ball up, she can go down low, she can shoot it,” Berthiaume said. “She does a little bit of everything. When we lost her, we lost multiple facets of the game. It was big to get her back emotionally for the girls. When she’s on her game, she’s tough to stop. Her wrist is feeling better. She had to get permission from the doctor. She wanted to play even when she was out. She was ready to go.”
Holmes ended up with 12 points (to go with nine rebounds and two blocked shots). Fennie had eight points (and five boards), Curley seven points (and four rebounds), Rowe three points and Bragg one.
Gorham had a 33-23 rebounding advantage, made 4 of 6 free throws and turned the ball over 15 times.
Greely was led by Faietta’s 13 points.
“I have total confidence in her,” Rogers said. “She has as many fourth quarter minutes as anybody I have.”
Chapin (three assists, two steals), Felkel (four steals, three assists) and Train (five rebounds,, two steals and a blocked shot) all finished with eight points, DeWolfe (five rebounds) had six points, Porter five and Cyr (five boards) one.
“I told (Sarah) if she passes up a shot, I’m going to take her out,” Rogers said. “She passed up a shot and I took her out immediately and I told her that there are four or five times a game when she needs to pull the trigger. She played well defensively and dove on the ball. We had scoring spread around. That will help Anna down the stretch.”
The Rangers finished with 13 turnovers and made 5 of 8 foul shots.
“I’m really happy,” Rogers said. “We had some mistakes, but overall, we did well. This is by far our best effort. This by far exceeds our win over MDI in the preseason. It was an incredible sustained effort. We’ll build on it.”
Gorham closes the 2015 portion of its schedule Tuesday when Bonny Eagle pays a visit. As much as the rest of the state hates to hear it, this team can still improve.
“Mental toughness will be a key for us this year,” Esposito said.
“I welcome the expectations, but we’re taking it one day at a time,” Lundin said. “We’re not thinking too much about the future.”
“Like any team in the early season, there are a number of things we can improve upon,” Berthiaume added. “We have to work every day to get better. I think there are times we can make sure we don’t miss a defensive possession. There are times we have excellent energy on defense, then that disappears for a couple possessions. It’s consistency really.”
Greely has two more home tests before the new year, as Falmouth pays a visit Saturday afternoon and Morse comes calling Tuesday.
The Rangers’ ceiling remains high.
“I can’t wait for practice tomorrow and Friday,” Rogers said. “Our season wasn’t won or lost on this game. We have the top three 3-point shooters in last year’s tournament on this year’s team and we have the 1, 3, 4 and 5 scorers from last year’s team back. (Reigning Miss Maine Basketball) Ashley (Storey) didn’t lead the team. These girls have already done it. That’s what I’ve talked about. I don’t like losing, but this is the first time I’ve said it all year, I’m proud of the kids.”
Gorham junior Emily Esposito shoots over Greely freshman Anna DeWolfe.
Gorham sophomore Michelle Rowe goes up for a shot.
Gorham junior Kaylea Lundin is defended by Greely junior Molly Chapin.
Greely seniors Sarah Felkel, left, and Lexi Faietta trap Gorham senior Emily Bragg.
Greely senior Lexi Faietta is fouled by Gorham sophomore Michelle Rowe.
Gorham junior Danasia Fennie defends Greely senior Maddie Cyr.
Greely junior Isabel Porter prepares a long pass during a fastbreak.