PORTLAND—It wasn’t easy, but the Greely boys’ basketball team earned its eagerly-awaited tournament rematch with two-time defending Western B champion Cape Elizabeth.
Saturday afternoon at the Portland Exposition Building, the fourth-ranked Rangers had just enough down the stretch to edge No. 5 Maranacook, 58-54, in the quarterfinals. Greely trailed by eight points at halftime and was down six in the third period, but overcame foul trouble and got clutch points down stretch from senior Trevor Tierney and junior Sam Johnston and held on to advance.
As a result of the victory, Greely (14-5) will battle the top-ranked Capers, the team which eliminated the Rangers a year ago on an agonizing buzzer-beater, in Thursday’s semifinal round.
“It’s a testament to the kids to be down eight at halftime and down six in the third and come back and win this game,” said longtime Greely coach Ken Marks. “We persevered in many different ways. In the tournament, as many times as we’ve been here, there’s always going to be a sketchy game. I hope this was our sketchy game.”
Greely has been in Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth’s shadow this winter, losing twice to both teams, but the Rangers went 13-1 in their other games (the only other blemish was at York) as they posted another fine mark, good for the No. 4 seed.
Maranacook, which won the 2008 Class B state championship when it was an Eastern B representative, went 14-4 in the regular year. The teams had not met before in a countable game, but did square off in the preseason, where the Rangers won easily.
Saturday, Greely was fortunate to be in the game after a rough first few minutes. The Rangers missed their first six shots and got in foul trouble.
Just five seconds in, the Black Bears took a 2-0 lead when senior Sam Poulin made layup. Then, neither team scored for over three minutes before Poulin sank two foul shots. With 4:17 to go in the first, Greely got its first points on a Johnston jump shot. That was the good news. The bad is that seven seconds later, Tierney picked up his second foul. Black Bears senior David Clough followed with a 3 and junior Harry Lanphear made a short jumper for a 9-2 lead.
Greely finally came to life late in the period and grabbed the lead.
After Johnston made a jumper, sophomore Nick Clark hit a runner and senior Sam Thompson made a leaner. After senior Ben Johnson and Poulin each made one foul shot for Maranacook, Johnston hit a floater, then scored on a layup off the inbounds pass underneath the Black Bears’ hoop for a 12-11 advantage.
The teams went back and forth in the second before the Black Bears opened up a halftime lead.
After Johnson scored on a puback to make it 13-12 Maranacook, senior Matt Dunn hit a long jumper for the Rangers to put them back on top. Poulin answered with a pair of free throws, but Johnston hit two from the stripe, then weaved through the defense and hit a layup for an 18-15 lead.
After Clough hit a pullup jumper, Greely senior Gerrick Lovenstein made a 3 for a 21-17 advantage.
The Rangers wouldn’t score the final 4:08 of the half and the Black Bears closed on a 14-2 surge.
A layup from Lanphear got the run stated and one from sophomore Seth Miller tied the score. With 3:13 left in the half, Johnson scored on a putback to put Maranacook ahead. A putback from Clough was answered by a Thomspon layup, but with 2:13 to go before halftime, Johnston was whistled for a technical foul and Clough made the two shots. After a Johnston layup, Poulin went end-to-end with time winding down and scored on a finger roll for a 31-23 advantage.
Greely made a run to start the third. Dunn got things started with a 3. Thompson was fouled and made two shots, but one was waved off when he was ruled to have stepped over the line. After Johnson made a free throw for the Black Bears, Tierney canned a 3 and junior Tanner Storey hit a putback to tie the score at 32-32.
“In the first half, we came out kind of flat and were forcing passes,” said Dunn. “In the second half, we played much better, spread the defense out a little bit. I was a little rusty in the first half. I played here in the Christmas tournament, which helped. As the game went on, I got more used to the depth. Having experience here was important. We were patient with our offense in the second half and put up a lot of points. We hit some outside shots.”
With 4:06 left in the quarter, Clough was fouled (Tierney’s fourth), but suffered an injury and couldn’t shoot the free throws. Sophomore Eben Ballard came off the bench to shoot the foul shots and hit one to put the Black Bears back on top. Johnson followed with an old-fashioned three-point play. With 2:08 to go, Johnson scored on a dunk to push the lead to six, 38-32. Dunn answered with a 3, but junior Jack Kennedy made one of three free throws at the other end. With 1:10 left in the period, Dunn hit his third 3 of the quarter to make it a one-point game, but a Lanphear layup and a Johnson foul shot gave Maranacook a 42-38 advantage heading for the fourth.
Greely would save its best for last.
Johnson got the scoring started in the final stanza with a layup. A free throw from Poulin pushed the lead to seven before Thompson answered with a reverse layup. With 6:31 to go, a layup from Kennedy made it 47-40 Black Bears, but Storey scored on a putback, Tierney hit a leaner and Thompson did the same to make it 47-46.
With 4:56 remaining, Kennedy hit a little floater to end a 6-0 run and make it a three-point game, but Storey and Dunn both hit short jumpers and Greely was up 50-49, its first lead since 21-19 and the seventh lead change of the contest. Kennedy tied the game with a foul shot, but with 3:15 left, Tierney scored while being fouled. He missed the free throw, but Storey got the rebound. After running a minute off the clock, Thompson appeared to extend the lead with a layup, but he was called for an offensive foul.
At the other end, a Black Bears and a follow attempt resulted in a foul on Johnson. Tierney went to the line with 1:51 left and calmly sank the front end of a one-and-one for a 53-50 lead.
With 1:40 to go, Kennedy was fouled (Storey fouled out on the play), but missed both free throws. Poulin intercepted a pass at the other end and fed Clough for a layup to make it a one-point game, but with 1:09 remaining, Johnston hit both ends of a one-and-one for a 55-52 advantage.
With 52.1 seconds to go, Kennedy scored on a finger roll, but with 25.8 seconds remaining, Johnston was fouled again and again made two clutch foul shots.
“I was nervous with the people yelling, but I tried to block it out,” said Johnston. “I had some opportunities in the York game to make some, but I missed them. I’ve been practicing. We talked in the locker room about keeping our composure and intensity. (This win) means a lot. We need to gain experience. The more games we play the better. We thought they’d be good, but we looked past them in the first half.”
“Sam’s been there before and wasn’t overly successful,” Marks added. “He’s learned from his past.”
After a timeout, Maranacook went for the tie, but instead, with 6.1 seconds left, threw the ball away. Greely got the ball in to Tierney, who hit the second of his two foul shots to finally slam the door as the Rangers went on to the 58-54 triumph.
“We tried not to foul and stop the 3,” said Dunn, of the last defensive sequence. “We just closed out on the shooters. It was huge to get the free throw at the other end.”
“I give (Maranacook) credit,” Marks added. “They’re a very good team. We just talked about coming back and playing quarter by quarter. We had to get the ball inside and play like we can. The game wasn’t poorly officiated, it was just officiated differently that what we saw all year long. It was hard for the kids to adjust. Going into the fourth quarter, i said the ball has to be in Trevor’s hands and he has to score and he did. If we don’t beat ourselves, we’re a pretty good basketball team. We have a tendency to push and overdo. When you do that, you turn the ball over and other teams score. We played better in the second half and backed off the press.”
Johnston led the Rangers with 16 points. Dunn had 13, Thompson nine, Tierney nine, Storey six, Lovenstein three and Clark two.
“I thought Tanner Storey did a heck of a job, not having played a kid that big before like Johnson,” said Marks.
For the Black Bears, Johnson led the way with 16, Clough had 11, Poulin 10, Kennedy eight, Lanphear six, Miller two and Ballard one.
A year ago, in the semis, Greely lost a buzzer-beater to Cape Elizabeth (46-45). This year, the Rangers fell twice to the Capers, 66-55 in Cape Elizabeth Dec. 19 and 57-46 at home Jan. 22. The teams square off Thursday at 7:30 p.m., at the Civic Center, where Greely is looking to turn the tide and avenge last year’s agony.
“We’ll change some matchups and figure it out,” Johnston said.
“We always seem to lose to them, but this time I think we just need to be more patient,” said Dunn. “If we hit our outside shots, it will definitely open up our inside game and we definitely have a height advantage. We can create problems for their defense. We have to work hard on defense and close out on their shooters. It will be a good challenge.”
“Cape’s very good,” added Marks. “We don’t match up well with them because of their size. They don’t match up well with us because of our size. If we take care of the basketball, we can beat them. We love to play them again.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Greely junior Sam Johnston beats Maranacook defender Harry Lanphear en route to the hoop. Johnston hit clutch shots all day, including some free throws in the waning seconds, to help the Rangers advance.
Greely senior Trevor Tierney had to go way up to get a shot over Maranacook’s 6-foot-8 senior center Ben Johnson.
Greely senior Sam Thompson hangs in the air and shoots over Maranacook senior David Clough Saturday afternoon during the Rangers’ come-from-behind 58-54 win.