CUMBERLAND—Round one goes to the Rangers.
Saturday afternoon/evening, in an entertaining pair of basketball games, Greely’s boys and girls were able to fend off upset bids from fierce rival Falmouth and stay undefeated on the young season.
The girls’ contest got things started and the Yachtsmen dug an early hole. They attempted to rally in the second half, but the Rangers held on for a 36-27 victory to improve to 4-0, dropping Falmouth to 3-1.
In the boys’ game, the new-look Yachtsmen fell behind by eight in the first quarter, but rallied and were in great position to win in the second half, but ultimately, Greely’s depth was just a little too much and the Rangers improved to 4-0 with a 45-36 triumph, leaving Falmouth 3-1.
Both Falmouth and Greely’s girls’ teams are very different than they were last winter.
The Rangers graduated just about everyone who saw large chunks of minutes from last year’s team, which went 18-3 and made it to the regional final before losing to eventual Class B champion York.
Greely hasn’t missed a beat to date, however, downing Traip Academy (63-39), Yarmouth (44-16, after holding a 33-2 halftime lead) and Poland (51-31) in its first three outings.
The Yachtsmen welcomed a new coach this winter in Mari Warner and also have some holes to fill, but have earned confidence behind early, relatively easy victories over Gray-New Gloucester (41-28) and Freeport (61-31) and an improbable 42-41 come-from-behind triumph at Waynflete, in which they were down six with just over a minute to play.
Greely won both meetings a year ago and would extend its win streak to three against Falmouth, but it wouldn’t be easy as defense was the theme throughout.
The Rangers opened the scoring a minute in when junior Caroline Hamilton was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made two of her three free throws. After the Yachtsmen drew even on a reverse layup from junior Jackie Doyle (the hero of the Waynflete win), the hosts went on an 8-0 run to seize control.
A jumper by senior Sara Warnock put Greely ahead to stay. Senior Chelsea Bridges scored on a layup after a steal, Warnock converted a layup and with 1:53 to play in the first quarter, freshman Mykaela Twitchell hit a leaner for a 10-2 lead. With nine seconds left, junior Jenna Serunian hit a short jumper to end a 6 minute, 27 second drought and pull Falmouth within six, 10-4, after one.
“We gave up four points on offensive boards in the first half,” Warner lamented. “We fouled on a 3. There’s seven points right there. In a low scoring game, that’s critical.”
Neither squad did much offensively in the second quarter. After Rangers sophomore Jaclyn Storey and Serunian traded layups, Storey made another layup and converted a free throw for a 15-6 advantage. Doyle answered with a layup and sophomore Anna Hickey made one of two foul shots, but Warnock sank a jumper and Storey scored on a putback, capping her seven-point stanza, to give Greely a 19-9 lead at halftime.
“The first four games, we’ve come out in the first half with great defense,” said Rangers coach Billy Goodman. “We start with defense and we’ll be competitive in every game. It offense is there, it’s a bonus. If the offense clicks, we’ll take it.”
Falmouth wasn’t able to put a dent in the deficit in the third. After senior Megan Coale made a foul shot for the Rangers, senior Caitlin Costello made a leaner and junior Laney Evers hit a jumper to pull the Yachtsmen within 22-13.
Enter Storey. Again.
First, she made a layup after Greely managed to grab three offensive boards. Two minutes later, Storey scored on a layup again. Then, with 1:54 left in the third, Storey made a short jumper for a 28-13 lead.
“I read the defense,” Storey said. “If they go for the fakes, you go. If not, I shoot it.”
“(Jackie) really knows what she’s doing,” said Warnock. “She has really good moves, has a good shot and plays good defense.”
“Jackie’s one of my only pure basketball players,” added Goodman. Where she was last year to where she is now is huge. It’s all hard work. She’s developed a shot. She goes up with confidence. You can tell she’s practiced and worked on basketball. She’s a leader even though she’s only a sophomore.”
Falmouth kept things interesting by pulling within 11, 28-17, on a jumper from Hickey and a leaner from Serunian.
Down the stretch, the Rangers did just enough to hold on.
After the Yachtsmen drew within nine on a Costello jumper to start the fourth quarter, junior Haylee Munson drained a 3 for Greely, making it 31-19. Hickey answered with a foul shot and senior Jess DiPhillippo, who had been held in check to that point, made a long jumper and a layup. Then, with 4:43 to play, Serunian was fouled after an offensive rebound and made a free throw to make it a 31-25 game.
With 2:22 to go, Warnock scored on a putback to end a 4:46 drought. With 1:46 remaining, Bridges added a free throw, but with 1:22 left, Serunian scored on a layup to make it 34-27.
Falmouth wouldn’t get any closer as Warnock made two free throws with 1:15 to go and the Rangers held on for the 36-27 victory.
“We’re playing with intensity,” said Storey. “Coming out strong, finishing strong. We have confidence. We’re trying to earn respect.”
“It was an important win,” Warnock said. “It brings up our confidence a lot. We proved to ourselves and everyone else that we can really play. We knew we needed to pull out a win. We played defense and hustled back to make sure they didn’t get easy shots. We were patient with the ball. That’s a big thing for us.”
“It’s a brand new team, I needed to see what we could do under pressure,” Goodman added. “I told the kids it was a show-me game and they showed me something. They’re earning everything they get. I’m really enjoying coaching them. This is an experience you can’t buy.”
Storey had 13 points to lead all scorers. Warnock added 10.
“Sara’s been here for three years,” Goodman said. “She can handle the pressure. I’ve asked her to step up and play more aggressive. She did tonight and it showed.”
Bridges, Coale and Munson all had three points, while Hamilton and Twitchell added two apiece.
Falmouth was paced by nine points from Serunian. Costello, DiPhillippo, Doyle and Hickey all scored four and Evers had two.
“We went backwards tonight,” Warner said. “We came out like deer in the headlights. We didn’t get our hands on the ball. We failed to run an offense. We didn’t have composure or patience to set screens. We had to foul to get them on the line. They did a nice job hitting their free throws. (Jackie Storey) played really well. We didn’t want to go with her head fakes.”
The Yachtsmen close the 2010 portion of their schedule Wednesday at home against talented Lake Region.
“Lake Region’s a fun team to watch,” Warner said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us. We hope to play a good game. We have to mentally be on track.”
Greely is home to winless Freeport Tuesday, then renews acquaintances with its nemesis, York, Thursday on the road.
“We’ll make the trip to York,” Goodman said. “We have nothing to lose. We’ll find out where we stand.”
“We’re working hard,” Warnock added. “We know we have to push ourselves every day to get better. It’s such a different year this year. Anything can happen.”
Two of the best
The Falmouth boys are the defending Class B state champions. The Yachtsmen graduated the vast majority that team and were expected by some to come back to the pack, but Falmouth opened with victories over Gray-New Gloucester (48-30), Freeport (63-29) and Waynflete (42-23).
Greely, a semifinalist in 2009-10 and the Western B favorite this winter, won its first three contests, 59-48, at Traip, 61-53 at Yarmouth and 65-40 over Poland.
Last year, the Yachtsmen swept both meetings. Saturday, Falmouth had its chances to win in Cumberland for a third straight year, but ultimately, the Rangers did enough to prevail.
Greely senior Sam Johnston and Falmouth senior Michael Lafond traded 3-pointers to open the game. The hosts then rattled off seven straight as senior Tanner Storey made a layup, junior Nick Clark converted a layup, Johnston fed junior Liam Maker for a layup and Johnston buried a free throw.
After the Yachtsmen answered with a layup by junior Jack Cooleen, the Rangers got a free throw from senior Jake Levite and two from Johnston to go up 13-5.
But just when it looked as if Greely would pull away for an easy win, Falmouth stormed back, scoring the final nine points of the first period.
Cooleen got the run started by tipping home a missed shot. He then scored on a layup. After junior Jeremy Lydick made a free throw, junior Matt Kingry hit a jumper and with 1.2 seconds left, junior Matt Packard drained a jump shot to give the Yachtsmen a 14-13 lead.
Falmouth completed an 11-0 run when Kingry made a layup to start the second quarter, but with 6:48 to go before halftime, Storey made two foul shots to end a 3 minute, 50 second drought. A layup by Johnston put the hosts back on top and a free throw from Clark made it 18-16.
The Yachtsmen answered and retook the lead as Lydick made a layup and Packard buried a jump shot, but freshman Bailey Train hit a free throw and Storey scored on a layup just before the horn to give Greely a 21-20 advantage at halftime.
Neither team could seize control in the third.
The Rangers pushed the lead to five when Clark made successive layups, but junior Alec Cattell sandwiched a layup and a jumper around a layup from Storey. Storey made two free throws with 1:53 to go in the period, but Kingry made a layup and as time wound down, Packard stepped back and buried a jumper to make it a 29-28 Greely lead heading for the fourth quarter.
There, the Rangers finally got some breathing room and were able to hold on.
After Cooleen misssed two free throws that could have put Falmouth ahead, Storey made a layup, Johnston canned a 3 and freshman Michael McDevitt scored on a leaner for a 36-28 advantage with 4:25 remaining.
The Yachtsmen drew back within four behind a pair of free throws from Lydick and a putback by Cooleen, but with 1:28 to go, Johnston calmly sank two foul shots to push the lead back to six.
With 40 seconds to play, Lydick made two free throws, but with 37.9 seconds remaining, Johnston again sank two foul shots and it was 40-34.
With 30.2 seconds to go, Packard made two free throws for Falmouth’s final points. Clark then went to the line and made two in a row, then went again and made one. With 7.6 seconds left, Johnston brought the curtain down on the 45-36 victory with two final foul shots.
“We played horrible, but it’s good to beat Falmouth,” Johnston said. “We haven’t beaten Falmouth in a long time. The veteran guys helped us through. We played hard. We made free throws and held together at the end. We made the right plays. Our team motto is family. We stick together. We got big plays from unexpected guys. Guys chipped in in different ways. We have to work on our shooting, rebounding, defense on certain areas and out of bounds plays.”
“We tried to get the ball inside and did so more successfully in the second half,” Greely coach Ken Marks added. “Defensively, we played OK at the end. Guys closed the middle. The kids who needed to be at the line at the end were. We didn’t handle the ball well. Falmouth played its zone well.
“I told (the guys) it’s a learning process. Only two of those guys have a lot of floor time. We have some talented kids, but playing in front of a pressure crowd is different. That’s what it was tonight. (Greely and Falmouth are) in the same boat. I think they’re going to get better and I think we’re going to get better. It’s a process.”
Johnston led all scorers with 17 points. He was nine of 10 from the line.
Storey added 12 points, Clark finished with 10. Maker and McDevitt both added two points and Levite and Train each had one.
For Falmouth, Cooleen and Packard each had eight points, Lydick added seven, Kingry had six, Cattell four and Lafond three.
“We’re experimenting at this time of year, seeing what works and what doesn’t work and which players work in different situations,” said Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan. “It was a loss, but it wasn’t a bad loss. It’s not a step backwards. Greely’s very good. We had our chances. We didn’t get breaks. That happens. I was pleased with the effort. We made some young mistakes. Those are frustrating at times. We had 25 turnovers. Most of them were unforced errors, but I think we’re on schedule. I like the guys we have and their attitudes and how they’re working hard. It won’t come easily.”
The Yachtsmen close the 2010 portion of their schedule Tuesday at dangerous Lake Region.
Greely visits Freeport Tuesday and plays host to York Thursday.
“York’s a good test,” Johnston said. “Hopefully we can get a win. We have high expectations. We’re 4-0 and we want to stay in the ‘0s.’ We’d like to be 6-0.”
“York here will be a big one because they’re good,” Marks added.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com