CAPE ELIZABETH—Three nights after losing to preseason favorite Falmouth, the Greely boys’ basketball team couldn’t hold on to the ball at two-time defending regional champion Cape Elizabeth.
Done in by 23 turnovers, the Rangers fell to 4-2 on the season with a 66-55 defeat in a game which saw Greely lead early in the third period, but ultimately do itself in.
“It was awful,” said Rangers coach Ken Marks. “We have to go to school on how to break pressure. The kids who had the most turnovers and the ones who need the ball in their hands. They’re just not playing composed.”
Cape Elizabeth and Greely have done battle for ages on the hardwood and produced an instant classic back in February in the Western B semifinals when Capers then-junior Andrew Dickey scored on a layup after a fullcourt pass for a miraculous 46-45 victory, which propelled Cape Elizabeth to a second consecutive regional title, leaving the Rangers stunned and heartbroken in the process.
The Capers fell to Camden in the state final and lost standout Alex Bowe, among others to graduation, but so far in 2009-10, have risen to the occasion. Prior to Saturday, Cape Elizabeth enjoyed wins over Wells (62-26), Poland (68-46), Lake Region (60-41), Fryeburg (81-38) and Yarmouth (64-56).
Greely, meanwhile, is once again in the hunt and entered the contest 4-1, beating Traip (78-46), Yarmouth (57-49), Poland (63-46) and Freeport (73-32), while losing only to preseason favorite Falmouth (74-63).
Saturday, the hosts made an early statement, but couldn’t deliver the knockout blow until much later.
The scoring ice was broken 50 seconds in when Capers junior Theo Bowe scored on a putback. After Rangers junior Sam Johnston tied the score with two foul shots, Cape Elizabeth junior Cam Brown sank a jump shot for a 4-2 lead. Greely senior Sam Thompson made a free throw, but Bowe hit a jumper, made a layup after a steal, then took a pass from Brown in transition for a layup for a 10-3 edge. Dickey followed with a layup and senior Conor Moloney buried a 3 to give the hosts a 15-3 lead with 3:41 still to play in the first quarter.
A jumper from Rangers senior Matt Dunn ended the run, but Moloney made a free throw for a 16-5 advantage. After Greely senior Peter Westra made a layup, Moloney hit a turnaround, but Johnston then erupted for six straight points to keep his team in it. Johnston made a pullup jumper, hit a transition layup, then stole the ball and made a layup to cut the deficit to just five, 18-13, but with time winding down in the quarter, senior Matt Donovan sank a 3-ball to give Cape Elizabeth a 21-13 lead.
The Rangers turned the ball over seven times in the first eight minutes and would give it up on five more occasions in the second, but hung close, thanks largely to the scoring of Johnston.
Early in the second, after a Greely technical foul, Dickey made a free throw and junior Joey Doane converted a backdoor layup (taking a pass from senior Ben Brewster) for a 24-13 advantage, but Johnston hit a jumper, then made two free throws to pull the Rangers within 24-17. After Capers senior Will Pierce sank a jumper, Greely got a layup from junior Tanner Shorey. Brown made a layup and Johnston responded with two foul shots, but Moloney scored on a spinning layup and Bowe sank a jumper with 3:45 left in the half for a 32-21 advantage.
Rangers senior Trevor Tierney then got on the board with a bank shot and Thompson added a leaner, but Moloney made a free throw to make it 33-25. A putback from sophomore Nick Clark and a leaner from Johnston allowed Greely to pull within four, 33-29, at the half.
When Dunn began the third with a 3-pointer and a layup, the Rangers had their first lead, 34-33. Brown put the hosts back on top with two foul shots, but with 6:32 to go in the third, Tierney made a turnaround jumper for a 36-35 Greely advantage.
The visitors wouldn’t lead again.
Thirty seconds later, Bowe made a jumper to put the Capers on top for good. Moloney followed with a pair of free throws and Dickey hit a jump shot to make it 41-36. After Johnston momentarily stemmed the tide with a layup, Moloney scored on a layup after a steal, Doane hit a fadeaway jumper and Moloney made a jump shot to push the lead back to nine, 47-38. Thompson answered with a leaner off the glass, but with time winding down in the quarter, Donovan canned another 3 to make it 50-40 Cape Elizabeth with eight minutes to go.
Eight more turnovers in the quarter helped dig a hole for the visitors.
Greely would stay within hailing distance in the fourth, but never made a serious run.
A 3-ball from Tierney 11 seconds into the final stanza made it 50-43, but senior Tanner Garrity answered with a floater for the Capers. After Tierney scored on a putback, Moloney made a free throw and Brown sank two to make it 55-45.
Tierney scored on a putback and Thompson sank a free throw to make it a 55-48 game with 2:48 left, but Pierce hit a clutch jumper and Moloney made two more foul shots for a 59-48 advantage with 1:43 left.
Tierney converted an old-fashioned three-point play, but Moloney made two free throws and Bowe sank three of four for a 64-51 edge with 54.1 seconds left. Johnston then sandwiched two layups around a Bowe layup in the waning seconds to account for the 66-55 final score.
Moloney had 20 points to lead the Capers. Bowe added 17, Brown had eight, Donovan six, Dickey five, Doane and Pierce four each and Garrity two.
For Greely, Johnston went off for 22 points, leading all scorers. Tierney added 14 points, Dunn had seven, Thompson six, Clark, Shorey and Westra two each. Ultimately, 23 turnovers sealed the Rangers’ doom.
“We’re just not getting good shots,” Marks lamented. “(Cape Elizabeth) shot the ball very well tonight. They hit shots when they needed to and we didn’t. That was the story.”
Greely is now idle until Jan. 2 (excluding holiday tournament play) when it goes to Fryeburg. The Rangers still have games remaining at home against the Capers (Jan. 22) and at Falmouth (Jan. 23).
“We have plenty to work on in practice,” Marks said.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com