CUMBERLAND—You couldn’t have a worse first quarter than the one the Greely boys’ basketball team produced Thursday evening.
And you couldn’t ask for a better end result considering that start.
The unheralded Rangers welcomed always-tough York in a critical midseason test and a little over five minutes in, were down, 14-1.
Greely would turn the ball over 13 times in the first period alone, but began to creep back into the game thanks in part to a series of fouls on the Wildcats and a technical foul on their coach, Randy Small, which allowed the Rangers to make it 18-7 after eight interminable minutes.
Once the quarter switched from ‘1’ to ‘2,’ however, Greely kicked it into gear and thanks to strong play from sophomore Matt McDevitt, senior Gabe Axelsen and sophomore reserve Ryan Twitchell, it roared all the way to tie the game at 29-29 on a McDevitt runner, before York retook the lead, 31-29, to the break.
The Rangers continued to surge in the third quarter, going ahead for good on a McDevitt jumper and closing the frame on a 7-0 run to go up by nine, 47-38.
After the Wildcats drew within five early in the fourth period, Greely ended all doubt, exploding for 14 straight points, capped by two McDevitt foul shots, and the Rangers went on to a 63-50 victory.
McDevitt had 21 points, Axelsen finished with 17 and Twitchell added 11 as Greely improved to 6-3 and dropped York to 4-5 in the process.
“We needed it,” said Rangers coach Travis Seaver. “We’ll take wins where we can get them. I’m proud of how the guys kept their composure and got us where we needed to be. With our inexperience coming into the season, the goal was to get better every day. I think we’re doing that. We have our challenges at times, but for the most part, I’m happy with where we are going into the second half of the season.”
A year ago, Greely was the odds-on favorite to win the Western Class B title and garnered plenty of attention from the start of the season right through its stunning regional final loss to Poland.
This winter, no one had the Rangers on their short list of teams to watch, but the proud Greely program has reloaded and has impressed.
The Rangers began the 2014-15 campaign with a 51-41 loss at Gray-New Gloucester, then downed visiting Freeport (78-37) and host Kennebunk (48-41). Greely then suffered tough losses to rivals Yarmouth (57-53, at home) and Falmouth (55-52, in Falmouth, on a buzzer-beater). The Rangers closed out 2014 with a 69-57 home win over Poland, earning a measure of revenge for last year, then began the new year with a 52-44 victory at Fryeburg Academy and Tuesday, they knocked off visiting Kennebunk, 41-34.
York split its first eight meetings, beating Wells, Freeport, Kennebunk and Traip Academy and losing twice to Falmouth and once each to Lake Region and Gray-New Gloucester.
Last winter, Greely beat York twice in the regular season: 62-32 in York and 56-41 at home, but in the Western B quarterfinals, the Rangers had to rally late to save their season with a 41-38 triumph.
Thursday, the Wildcats were hoping to snap a three-game skid at the hands of Greely and got off to a great start, but the Rangers found a way to prevail.
The tone was set early by the officials, as whistles were frequent and one foul followed the next (17 in all were called during the first eight minutes).
In the first three minutes, two York players, seniors Justin Frecker and Zach Gauthier, got two fouls apiece.
Still, the Wildcats used their pressure defense to build a lead.
It took 2 minutes, 34 seconds for a point to be scored and York got the jump when Gauthier made a runner while being fouled, then added a free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play. A layup from junior Spencer Cribby was followed by a Cribby three-point play and a driving layup from senior Mark MacGlashing for a 10-0 York lead.
MacGlashing then got his second foul, but senior Keelan Hynes knocked down a baseline jumper, forcing Seaver to call timeout.
To that point, the Rangers had committed eight turnovers and missed a layup.
Finally, with 3:10 left in the first quarter, sophomore Jordan Bagshaw made a foul shot to break the ice.
The Wildcats got two free throws from junior Liam Bonner for their biggest lead, 14-1, but Greely finally awakened late in the frame.
With 2:06 to go, McDevitt hit a runner on the baseline for the Rangers’ first field goal. Sophomore Trevor LaBonte answered with a tip-in. After Axelsen made two foul shots, senior Alex Gutierrez made a pair for York, but after junior Caleb Normandeau made a free throw for the hosts, Small was given a T for being outside the coach’s box, a call that left the Wildcats’ cheering section apoplectic.
Axelsen then hit one of the two free throws to pull Greely within 18-7 after a first period which took 22 minutes to complete.
“They called a lot of fouls on both sides,” Axelsen said. “We both got into the bonus pretty early. “
The fact that the Rangers were within hailing distance despite committing 13 turnovers was somewhat shocking and proved to be lamentable for the visitors.
Both teams found a much better flow in the second quarter, as fouls were less frequent.
In a 10-second span, Normandeau rattled home a 3, McDevitt made two and as the second fell through the net, another foul was called on York and Twitchell added a foul shot to make it 18-13.
At that point, things devolved further, as an official exiled the Wildcats’ bookkeeper from the scorer’s table and made her sit in the crowd after she was alleged to be making critical comments.
Back to the game, York got a driving layup from Gauthier, but Twitchell made a layup and Axelsen drove for a layup to cut the deficit to 20-17.
After the Wildcats got a driving layup from MacGlashing, McDevitt buried a 3 to make it 22-20.
MacGlashing answered with a free throw and LaBonte put back a miss to stretch York’s lead back to five. Axelsen set up Twitchell for a layup, but LaBonte made one at the other end for a 27-22 advantage.
After Twitchell hit a turnaround jumper in the lane, MacGlashing countered with a layup, but Axelsen knocked down a 3 and McDevitt made a runner after a steal to bring the Rangers all the way back to forge a tie.
It didn’t last, as with 22.2 seconds to go, two foul shots from Frecker put the Wildcats back on top, 31-29, at the break.
Then, Greely wouldn’t just go ahead, it would dominate much of the second half.
Just 34 seconds in, a Twitchell layup forged another tie, but a Frecker free throw gave York its last lead.
With 6:47 left in the third period, McDevitt’s jumper put the Rangers ahead for the first time and ahead for good, 33-32.
Normandeau added two free throws before MacGlashing countered with a putback.
After McDevitt scored on a turnaround jumper, the Wildcats received another technical foul, this one on Gauthier, and Axelsen made one free throw. Axelsen then added a jumper for a 40-34 advantage.
York crept back within two, thanks to a driving layup from MacGlashing and a leaner in the lane from Cribby, but Greely closed the third strong, thanks to a baseline jumper from McDevitt, a 3 from Axelsen and a layup after a steal from McDevitt, making the score 47-38 with eight minutes to go.
The Wildcats tried to keep things close as senior Matthew Pratt and LaBonte made layups to start the fourth quarter, but the Rangers ended all doubt by scoring the next 14 points.
The surge started with a Twitchell steal, which resulted in a layup by junior Calvin Soule. McDevitt added a baseline jumper and a Normandeau free throw pushed the lead to double digits, 52-42.
Axelsen rainbowed home a corner 3, Soule made two foul shots, Twitchell hit two free throws and McDevitt did the same and just like that, the score was 61-42 with 1:16 to play and the win was on ice.
Six seconds later, York ended the surge and a 5:55 drought when Pratt made a jumper. Pratt and Cribby added 3s before Rangers senior Jordan Tebbs made a layup to account for the 63-50 final score.
“There was concern, but we played Yarmouth earlier and were way down, so I was confident in my teammates that we could come back,” McDevitt said. “We realized they attacked really hard, so we had to just get it up the floor. We got some easy looks and layups. We started to attack their zone. That’s been a problem since the Gray game. We were able to get it down low to Ryan, where he could finish, and to Gabe, for outside shots.”
“We’ve always struggled against a zone, but when we took better care of the ball and when we started hitting our shots, we settled down,” Axelsen said. “At the beginning of the year, a lot of younger players didn’t trust each other, but we’re moving the ball well. We’ve gotten closer.”
“York did a nice job taking us out of what we wanted to do in the first quarter, but we were in that position because we didn’t take care of the basketball,” Seaver added. “We had to slow down. For the most part we did a nice job. Fortunately, we were able to turn it around. We got them to take shots they didn’t necessarily want to take. Calvin Soule did a nice job on LaBonte.”
McDevitt had a game-high 21 points and also finished with four rebounds, three steals, three blocked shots and two assists.
“McDevitt is a threat,” Seaver said. “He rebounds really well. He’s smart and works really hard. He’s a tough matchup.”
Axelsen had 17 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal.
“My teammates did a good job finding me,” Axelsen said. “(York) collapsed their zone and we went inside-outside and got open shots.
Twitchell had 11 points off the bench and added eight boards and three steals.
“I’m looking to score every possibility I have,” Twitchell said. “I want to come in and keep the team together. I’m always anxious to get out on the floor and help out as much as I can.”
“Twitchell has played well off the bench,” Seaver said. “He has the ability to heat up quickly. He sees the floor well. He’s a good threat.”
Normandeau (four rebounds and a steal) finished with seven points, Soule (three rebounds, three assists, two steals) had four, Tebbs two and Bagshaw one.
The Rangers somehow overcame 31 turnovers, thanks in part to 18 of 24 foul shooting.
York was led by MacGlashing’s 11 points. He also had five boards and two steals.
Cribby had 10 points, LaBonte (five rebounds, two steals, two blocked shots) eight, Pratt seven, Gauthier five, Frecker three and Bonner, Gutierrez and Hynes two apiece.
The Wildcats committed 21 turnovers and made 10 of 15 free throws.
Rebounds were even, 26-26.
York (now 12th in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) begins the second half of the regular season Saturday at home versus Kennebunk.
Greely, meanwhile, is ranked eighth and has a huge test Saturday when Falmouth pays a visit. The Rangers then play at Yarmouth the following Friday, as they have a chance to avenge a pair of losses.
The sky is the limit for this consistently improving squad.
“I think it’s going great when we play as a team and don’t lose our composure,” Twitchell said.
“We have to attack better,” McDevitt said. “If we shoot well, the game flows for us. If we’re not, we have to figure out what to do.”
“We want to keep improving,” Seaver added. “With the league the way it is, anyone can play with anyone. I think we can create some havoc. We just need game experience and basketball experience. We have a lot of good guys, but not a lot of guys with varsity basketball experience. The learning curve can be pretty steep.”
Greely sophomore Matt McDevitt drives around a York defender. McDevitt led all scorers with 21 points.
Greely junior Caleb Normandeau handles the ball.
Greely senior Gabe Axelsen shoots a free throw following a technical foul on York coach Randy Small in the first quarter.
Greely junior Calvin Soule races past the York defense and goes up for a layup.
Greely sophomore Ryan Twitchell shoots over York senior Mark MacGlashing.
York coach Randy Small shouts out instructions. Small was given a controversial technical foul in the first quarter, which helped turn the tide in Greely’s favor.
Greely senior Gabe Axelsen drives to the basket during the Rangers’ come-from-behind 63-50 win over York Thursday night.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
Y- 18 13 7 12- 50
G- 7 22 18 16- 63
Y- MacGlashing 5-1-11, Cribby 4-1-10, LaBonte 4-0-8, Pratt 3-0-7, Gauthier 2-1-5, Frecker 0-3-3, Bonner 0-2-2, Gutierrez 0-2-2, Hynes 1-0-2
G- McDevitt 8-4-21, Axelsen 5-4-17, Twitchell 4-3-11, Normandeau 1-4-7, Soule 1-2-4, Tebbs 1-0-2, Bagshaw 0-1-1
Y (2) Cribby, Pratt 1
G (5) Axelsen 3, McDevitt, Normandeau 1