PORTLAND—The Class A South girls’ basketball tournament has been alluded to by some as the “Greely Invitational.”
The top-ranked Rangers knew it wasn’t going to be that easy, however, and Wednesday afternoon in a semifinal against Marshwood at the Cross Insurance Arena, they were pushed for three-plus quarters before finally pulling away.
Greely sophomore standout Anna DeWolfe got in early foul trouble and the fourth-ranked Hawks avoided an early knockout, trailing by only three points, 9-6, after one quarter.
Marshwood managed to twice lead the game in the second period, before a 7-0 run, sparked by 3-pointers from freshman Brooke Obar and senior Moira Train, put the Rangers on top to stay.
Greely held a 21-18 advantage at the half, then extended its lead to 33-24 after three quarters.
It wasn’t until the final period, however, that the Rangers truly got comfortable, as they hit their free throws and pulled away for a 46-35 victory.
Greely got 13 points from Obar, as well as several other key contributions and improved to 19-1, ended Marshwood’s season at 15-5 and advanced to meet second-ranked Brunswick (17-3) in the Class A South Final Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena.
“I was really impressed with how (Marshwood) attacked us,” said Rangers first-year coach Todd Flaherty. “I thought that they played very hard. Our shooting percentage was quite a bit lower than it has been. They played a box-and-one (defense) on us and it forced us to make more passes. It’s tough to shoot in this big arena. Hopefully this was an adjustment game and we can shoot better Saturday. I think we’ll have to.”
Greely won the Class B Gold Ball in 2015 and got to the A South Final a year ago, only to lose to eventual champion York.
This winter, the Rangers were viewed as the favorite and haven’t disappointed, winning every regular season game but one (a close loss at defending AA champion Gorham) and they earned the top seed for the A South tournament (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories).
Monday, Greely had no trouble with No. 8 Leavitt in the quarterfinals, rolling, 75-36.
Marshwood had a solid 14-4 regular season and wound up fourth in the region before downing No. 5 Fryeburg Academy, 40-32, in its quarterfinal.
The Rangers prevailed, 65-44, at the Hawks Jan. 27.
Greely won both prior playoff meetings, both by 57-32 scores, in the 1997 Western B quarterfinals and again in last year’s quarterfinal round.
Wednesday, the Rangers got another victory, but it didn’t come as easily as expected.
Both teams started slowly, turning the ball over on their first two possessions.
The Rangers broke the ice 59 seconds in when senior Molly Chapin set up Train for a short bank shot, then neither team scored again for over three minutes.
With 3:45 to go in the frame, senior Isabel Porter was fouled and made two free throws for a 4-0 lead.
Marshwood broke through 42 seconds later when sophomore Natalie Herbold drained a pair of foul shots.
Greely heated up late in the frame, as Obar set up DeWolfe for a backdoor layup and after the Hawks got a layup from sophomore Noelle Barrett, Chapin knocked down a 3-ball from up top.
Barrett then made a bank shot with 40.3 seconds to go and the Hawks only trailed by three, 9-6, after eight minutes.
Marshwood actually took the lead in the second period before the Rangers restored order.
A putback from junior Ashley Conary and two free throws from Herbold made it 10-9 Hawks early in the frame.
A 3-ball from Obar put Greely back on top, but a jumper from freshman Angelina Bisson tied the game.
With 3:57 to go in the half, freshman Katie Fitzpatrick drove for a layup to put Greely on top, but Bisson countered with a 3.
With 2:42 left before halftime, Obar stepped back and hit a 3-pointer to put the Rangers ahead to stay, 17-15.
“I was really nervous, but my teammates really helped calm me down,” Obar said. “It’s different shooting here, but I got used to it. My teammates have been really supportive of me. The seniors and Anna are really good role models.”
Porter added a foul shot and Train hit a 3 to cap a 7-0 run.
After Herbold stemmed the tide with a jumper, Bisson hit a foul shot and Greely had a 21-18 lead at the break.
Marshwood was paced in the first half by six points apiece from Bisson and Herbold. Obar led the Rangers with six points and Train had five. DeWolfe only had two points, but Greely held the lead.
In the third quarter, the Rangers finally got some breathing room.
Just 26 seconds in, after Train grabbed an offensive rebound, Chapin got the ball to Obar, who drained a 3.
DeWolfe then made a pair of free throws for a 26-18 lead.
After Herbold made a pair of free throws, Obar hit a long jumper, but a putback from junior Elora Montgomery was followed by two free throws from sophomore Celine Lawrence to cut the deficit to 28-24.
That’s as close as Marshwood would get.
With 4:17 left in the third, Chapin knocked down her second 3-pointer.
“It’s not easy shooting here,” Chapin said. “It felt good to have some shots fall for me. It was tough watching Anna, who is a key scorer and we rely on her, struggle, so it was up to the rest of us to step up.”
“Molly made big 3s and those were important,” Flaherty said. “The nice thing about our team is we have different girls who can pick it up when they have to. Anna struggled today. They did a nice job on her. I counted on the other players picking her up and they did.”
With 1:49 remaining, despite being saddled with three fouls, DeWolfe finished a feed from Obar with a layup for a 33-24 lead and that’s the advantage Greely took the fourth period.
Where it put the game away.
The Rangers went up by double digits for the first time 29 seconds into the final stanza when DeWolfe fed Train, who spun and made a layup.
With 6:32 to go, Marshwood ended Greely’s 7-0 run when Montgomery hit a shot from the baseline.
Porter got a point back at the foul line, but sophomore Alicia Richards’ 3 with 5:35 left pulled the Hawks within 36-29.
DeWolfe countered 24 seconds later, scoring on a leaner and that was the straw that broke the Hawks’ back.
Obar added two free throws with 2:57 remaining and 22 seconds later, Porter did the same for the Rangers’ biggest lead, 42-29.
After sophomore Courtney Thim drove for a layup for Marshwood, Train was fouled and hit both free throws. Lawrence made a layup, but DeWolfe countered with two foul shots.
A late layup from Thim accounted for the 46-35 final score.
“They gave us a good challenge,” Obar said. “They did a lot of what we didn’t really expect. We came out in the second half with good defense and that won us the game.”
“I give Marshwood a lot of credit,” Chapin said. “They played a great game. They simply outplayed us. They came in with a mindset that they were ready. We came in nervous and slow. They got rebounds and loose balls. They played great defense. We had to work around Anna getting shut down. We got the ball moving and that settled us down.”
“People have their own ideas (of this being the Greely Invitational), but we’ve had to play well all year to get the scores we’ve had,” Flaherty added. “We were expecting a tough game today.”
Obar led all scorers with 13 points. She also grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists.
“Brooke stepped up and had a great game with scoring and rebounds,” Chapin said. “Brooke’s one of my best friends on the team. She has a great work ethic. She spends so much time in the gym that goes unnoticed.”
“Brooke’s a solid basketball player,” Flaherty said. “She airballed her first shot the other night, then didn’t miss another shot.”
DeWolfe had a quiet 10 points, but had three assists and a pair of steals.
Train finished nine points, seven boards and a blocked shot, Chapin (six rebounds, two assists, two blocks) and Porter (seven rebounds, two blocks) had six points apiece and Fitzpatrick added two.
Greely made just 13 of 46 shots from the floor (6 of 18 from 3-point land) and was outrebounded, 36-31, but committed only 10 turnovers and hit 14 of 17 foul shots.
Marshwood’s top scorer was Herbold, who had eight points (as well as five rebounds). Bisson added six, Barett, Lawrence (10 rebounds), Montgomery and Thim all had four points, Richards finished with three and Conary had two.
The Hawks turned the ball over 13 times, hit 12 of 50 shots from the floor (2 of 10 from behind the 3-point stripe) and made 9 of 13 foul shots.
Saturday afternoon, Greely will take part in its third straight regional final and will be tested by a Brunswick squad which downed No. 7 Kennebunk (57-42) in the quarterfinals and third-ranked York (43-35) in the semifinals to advance.
On Dec. 15, the host Rangers handled the Dragons, 65-46, but that was a long time ago.
The teams have no playoff history although there will be an interesting sidebar for this one as Brunswick is coached by Sam Farrell, who once coached at Greely.
“Brunswick’s good,” Obar said. “It should be fun. I’m excited.”
“I get nervous before everything, but having some experience going into the regional final will be big,” Chapin said. “We’ll focus on helping out the younger players. Brunswick will be tough. They’re big and we’re not used to that. We’ll focus on rebounding and on our mental game. We want nothing more than a Gold Ball. It’s been in the back of our minds and that’s how I want to go out.”
“We have a lot of respect for Brunswick,” Flaherty added. “They’re really long. The passes we’re used to making will be difficult. Being in a lot of big games should help us. The girls know what to do. That has to ease the nerves a little bit. It should be a good game Saturday.”
2016 Class A South quarterfinal
Greely 57 Marshwood 32
1997 Western B quarterfinal
Greely 57 Marshwood 32