CUMBERLAND—Prior to Friday evening, Diana Manduca had done just about everything a person can do on a basketball court.
She helped the Deering girls win back-to-back Class A state championships, became a 1,000-point scorer at Colby College and has been a very successful assistant coach with the Greely Rangers, but in the first contest of the new calendar year, Manduca found herself on center stage, leading the Rangers into battle against visiting Fryeburg Academy after head coach Joel Rogers was forced to miss the contest with illness.
And to the surprise of no one, Manduca wound up on the triumphant end, thanks to a spirited defensive effort from her surging squad.
Greely never trailed and got off to a good start thanks to four quick points from senior Ashley Storey. Sophomore sharpshooter Moira Train added a pair of 3-pointer and the Rangers had an 11-7 lead after one quarter.
Greely’s defense then put on a clinic in the second period, frustrating the Raiders and holding them without a single point, but the Rangers only managed four themselves and it was still a contest at the break, 15-7.
Both teams got their offenses going in the third quarter and Greely couldn’t shake Fryeburg Academy, which pulled within five, 27-22, heading for the fourth.
There, the Raiders got as close as three and even had one shot to tie, but it was no good.
The Rangers were still clinging to a four-point advantage, 34-30, with under a minute to go when Train came up with a huge offensive rebound after sophomore Molly Chapin missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Train eventually had a chance to go to the line herself and with 25.8 seconds to go and the game still hanging in the balance, she hit both attempts. Senior Haley Felkel drained two more foul shots and a free throw from Storey slammed the door as Greely went on to a 39-31 victory.
Storey led all scorers with 14 points, Train added 11 and the Rangers made it six victories in succession, improved to 6-1 and dropped the Raiders to 3-4 in the process.
“I found out (I was coaching) at about 2-o-clock this afternoon,” Manduca said. “I was a little nervous, but the players know what they’re doing. We have a really good core. I told them before the game that the coach doesn’t play a second of it and if they took care of business, they’d be all set. They played their game, but they did give me a little scare at the end.”
Greely, which has consistently knocked on the door only to fall short in recent years, came into the season highly touted.
The Rangers lost on Opening Night to visiting Western B co-favorite Gray-New Gloucester (59-47), then righted their ship with victories over host Freeport (62-26), visiting Kennebunk (64-33), host Yarmouth (50-29),visiting Falmouth (54-28), and host Poland (47-30).
Fryeburg Academy entered the season with a lot of buzz, but dropped its first two outings: 56-38 to visiting defending Class B champion Lake Region and 52-49 at Gray-New Gloucester. Lopsided wins over Freeport, Kennebunk and Yarmouth followed before the Raiders closed 2014 with a 49-38 setback at Poland.
Last winter, Greely won both meetings: 52-42 in Fryeburg and 44-39 at home.
Friday, the Raiders hoped to beat the Rangers for the first time since Feb. 4, 2008 (58-54), but Greely instead made it 12 in a row in the series.
Fryeburg Academy scored first, when junior Sage Boivin made a free throw, but the Rangers rattled off the next eight points, as a Storey runner put the hosts ahead to stay, Storey took a pass from Train and spun for a bank shot that dropped in, Train sank a 3 and Chapin hit a free throw to make it 8-1.
The Raiders finally got their first field goal 5 minutes, 4 seconds in, when junior Julia Quinn made a layup after a steal. Quinn did it again 15 seconds later and junior Alexis L’Heureux-Carland scored on a putback to cut the deficit to 8-7. With just over a minute to go, Train knocked down a second 3 for an 11-7 advantage after one period.
“I was feeling it at the beginning,” Train said. “Coach told me to keep shooting.”
Offense would disappear altogether in the second quarter.
Greely’s defense set the tone on the first possession of the frame, as Fryeburg Academy passed the ball around the perimeter of the Rangers’ zone for nearly two minutes, unable to get a good look at the basket before turning it over.
The only scoring in the second came on a Storey layup (set up by junior Sarah Felkel) and a layup from junior Maddie Cyr (assisted by Storey).
Greely’s defensive effort was exemplified by sophomore Isabel Porter with just over a minute to play in the half, when she went crashing into a cart on the sidelines in an effort to save the ball, which deflected off a Raider for a turnover.
While the Rangers had pitched a shutout for the final 10:07 of the half, they only led by eight, 15-7, thanks to 12 forced turnovers, as well as six points apiece from Storey and Train.
“Lately our defense has been really good,” Storey said. “We have to try and keep it up. The offensive team had the ball for two or three minutes and didn’t get a shot, or we’d get the rebound.”
“We played really good defense in the first half,” Manduca said. “We locked it down. We packed it inside and I think the girls were very patient.”
A minute, 29 seconds into the second half, Fryeburg Academy finally made a basket, as Boivin sank a baseline jumper, ending an 11:36 drought.
Chapin answered with a driving layup, then Chapin took a pass from Storey and hit a 3. L’Heureux-Carland got two points back at the foul line, but with 4:11 left in the third quarter, Storey set up Train for another 3 and a 23-11 lead.
Back came the Raiders, as sophomore Kaylin Delaney sank two foul shots, Delaney buried a jumper and Quinn made a layup after another steal to cut the deficit in half.
Off an inbounds set, Cyr fed Storey for a layup, but sophomore Mackenzie Buzzell drove for a layup, was fouled and made the free throw and Boivin made a foul shot to cut Greely’s advantage to 25-21.
Porter countered with a jumper, but a L’Heureux-Carland foul shot made the score 27-22 heading for the final stanza.
There, Fryeburg Academy did all it could to complete the comeback, but the Rangers refused to buckle.
Just 15 seconds in, the Raiders made it a one-possession game on a long jumper from sophomore Nicole Bennett. The visitors then had a chance to tie and Quinn had an open look at a 3 from the wing, but it was off target.
Storey then took over like she so often does.
After making a free throw with 6:21 left, Storey took an inbounds pass from Haley Felkel and hit a short jumper with 4:57 to go and six seconds later, she took another inbounds feed, this one from Cyr, and made a layup to make the score 32-24.
With 4:15 showing, Fryeburg Academy crept back within five on a long 3 from Buzzell, but Haley Felkel drove for a tough angle left-handed layup to push the lead to seven with 3:54 to go.
The Raiders refused to go quietly and with 1:23 left, a deep 3 from Quinn cut the Rangers’ advantage to 34-30.
“I’m not surprised they came back because they don’t give up,” Storey said. “They’re tough. They kept everyone on the edge of their seats.”
After Greely milked over 40 seconds off the clock, Fryeburg Academy was forced to foul and Chapin went to the line for a 1-and-1. The Raiders got what they wanted when the free throw was off target, but Train soared for the rebound.
“I had a feeling and it bounced right to me,” Train said.
The ball then came to Haley Felkel, who was fouled with 32.6 seconds to go. She too missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Storey tipped the rebound back to her.
Then, with 25.8 seconds left, Train had a 1-and-1 opportunity and she wouldn’t be denied.
Train’s first foul shot rattled in and the second did the same, pushing the lead to 36-30.
“It was a little nervewracking,” Train said. “I’m not the best free throw shooter on the team, but it felt great to sink both of them.”
Fryeburg Academy then turned the ball over and Haley Felkel was fouled again. This time, she made both free throws.
After L’Heureux-Carland got a point back at the line, Storey iced it with one more free throw and Greely prevailed, 39-31.
“We knew we could do it,” Train said.” If we lose focus, that’s when we start to fall apart. When we focus on taking care of the ball, we’re fine.”
“When we knew Coach wouldn’t be here, we wanted to win it for him,” Storey said. “Diana was pumped about it. We knew we had to step up and play like we usually play. Diana made the point that coaches never play on the floor. It’s all the players. We had to do the work. She and Coach are very alike.”
“Everybody has a chance every night in this conference, so you have to bring your ‘A’ game every time,” Manduca added. “We were lucky to get some big shots to go and we played together.”
Nothing came easily for Storey, as she was smothered most of the night, but she still managed to lead all scorers with 14 points and also grabbed nine rebounds, blocked five shots and had three steals and two assists.
“Ashley’s a great weapon to have on the court,” Manduca said. “We can go to her. If they double (team her), she knows to kick it out. If they don’t double, she has the green light to take it to the basket.”
Train’s three 3s catapulted her to an 11-point effort. She also had five boards and three assists.
“Moira is really stepping up her game,” Storey said. “Her defense is tremendous. When her shot’s on, she’s an unstoppable player.”
“(Moira) had that huge rebound,” Manduca said. “She’s always getting tips. She’s very active. She hit 3s, made good passes without turning the ball over. She’s doing great.”
Chapin added six points, Haley Felkel had four and Cyr (five rebounds, a steal and an assist) and Porter finished with two apiece.
Greely only made 7 of 15 free throws, but committed a mere 10 turnovers.
For the Raiders, Quinn (six steals) led the way with nine points, Buzzell and L’Heureux-Carland (six rebounds) both added six, Boivin and Delaney (four rebounds) each added four and Bennett wound up with two (to go with seven boards).
Fryeburg Academy had a slight edge (23-22) on the glass, but turned the ball over 17 times as it never truly got in an offensive flow. The Raiders sank 9 of 13 foul shots.
Fryeburg (12th in the latest Western Class B Heal Points standings) has another tough test Tuesday when it goes to Lake Region.
Greely, meanwhile, hopes to continue to climb the ladder as it goes to Kennebunk, York and Falmouth in a five-day span next week.
The Rangers (now fourth in Western B) are four weeks removed from their lone loss and seem to get better every night.
“I think that our loss really motivated us and pushed us forward,” Storey said. “The rest of the season won’t be easy. We just have to get after it.”
“We put the loss behind us and we’re focusing on each game,” Train said. “We’re playing our best.”
“If we just run our sets and play our good defense, we’ll be all set,” Manduca added. “We have some big games coming up. It’s a challenge every night, but it’s fun.”
FA- 7 0 15 9- 31
G- 11 4 12 12- 39
FA- Quinn 4-0-9, L’Heureux-Carland 1-4-6, Buzzell 2-1-6, Boivin 1-2-4, Delaney 1-2-4, Bennett 1-0-2
G- Storey 6-2-14, Train 3-2-11, Chapin 2-1-6, H. Felkel 1-2-4, Cyr 1-0-2, Porter 1-0-2
FA (2) Buzzell, Quinn 1
G (4) Train 3, Chapin 1