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CAPE ELIZABETH—It wasn’t always pretty but the Greely girls’ and boys’ basketball teams were happy to get out of Cape Elizabeth with victories Tuesday evening.
The girls got their biggest scare from the Capers this decade, almost let a 14-point lead slip away, but managed to hold on for a 32-29 victory to improve to 10-2 on the season, dropping Cape Elizabeth to 7-5.
The boys’ game proved to be anticlimactic after Capers’ senior star Theo Bowe wasn’t able to play due to illness. The Rangers came out with a vengeance, ended a five-game losing streak to their longtime rival and rolled to a 68-50 win, solidifying their stranglehold on the top spot in the standings with an 11-1 mark, dropping Cape Elizabeth to 9-3 in the process.
Ever since Cape Elizabeth’s girls beat Greely in the 1996 semifinals during their last winning season, the Rangers have dominated the rivalry. Greely has won every game this century, most by decisive margins (the closest, prior to Tuesday, was a 42-35 win during the 2005-06 campaign).
The Capers have slowly returned to prominence in recent seasons under coach Chris Roberts, barely missing the playoffs a year ago with a 9-10 mark after losing in double-overtime at Falmouth in the Western Class B preliminary round.
The Rangers, conversely, have excelled for many years, winning the 2004 Class B championship and reaching the regional final in each of the past two seasons, losing to nemesis York each time.
So far this year, both teams have impressed after losing ample talent.
Cape Elizabeth wasn’t expected to compete this winter after graduating the likes of Devon Bottomley, Gabe Donahue, Alicen Johnson and Morgan Pillsbury, but won seven of its first 11 games, highlighted by a 37-34 home victory over talented Lake Region Saturday night.
Greely lost twice to York, but beat everyone else, including visiting Gray-New Gloucester, 41-33, in its most recent game.
In the teams’ first meeting, Jan. 4 in Cumberland, the Rangers rolled over the Capers, 50-27.
This time, Cape Elizabeth wouldn’t go quietly.
Neither team could get anything going offensively in the first quarter as it took 4 minutes, 12 seconds to break the scoring ice before Greely went ahead on a layup from sophomore Jaclyn Storey. After the Capers got a foul shot from junior Kayla Raftice, senior Megan Coale hit a jumper for the visitors. Freshman Emma O’Rourke answered with a jumper for Cape Elizabeth, but Storey made another layup. Late in the period, Raftice sank a 3-ball to tie it, but Storey answered with a layup and the Rangers were on top to stay, 8-6, after one quarter.
Early in the second, senior Sara Warnock scored on a putback for the visitors and Storey added two foul shots. Then, both teams went cold for several minutes. Finally, with 1:02 to go before halftime, the Capers snapped a 8 minute, 16 second drought on a long jumper from sophomore Marlo Dell’Aquila. With 21.6 seconds remaining in the half, senior Chelsea Bridges made a layup for the Rangers (ending their 5:59 drought), but as time wound down, sophomore Maddy Riker banked home a shot to pull Cape Elizabeth within 14-10 at the half.
Greely appeared primed to put it away in the third quarter, but the Capers wouldn’t buckle.
An old-fashioned three-point play from Warnock and a jumper from Warnock made it 19-10. After sophomore Kisa Tabery made a foul shot for the hosts, the Rangers got back-to-back 3s from junior Haylee Munson and suddenly were on the verge of breaking it open, up 25-11.
“Hayley struggled in the first half, but in the third quarter, she came out and played great,” said Greely coach Billy Goodman.
Cape Elizabeth closed the third on a 6-0 run as Donovan finally got in the scoring column with a bank shot, Riker made a steal and a layup and Donovan did the same to make it a 25-17 contest.
Twenty-nine seconds into the fourth, Raftice sank a long jumper to make it 25-19. After Coale fed Warnock for a layup, Dell’Aquila hit a turnaround jumper and with 5:12 to go, Donovan got free and drained a 3-ball to pull the Capers within a possession, 27-24.
A free throw from sophomore Caton Beaulieu (who had a stellar defensive game guarding Donovan) made it 28-24 with 3:44 remaining. Twenty seconds later, junior Caroline Hamilton sank both ends of a one-and-one and with 1:52 to go, she did it again and Greely appeared home free, up 32-24.
The Capers wouldn’t quit, however, and got a 3 from Donovan with 1:15 remaining. After Hamilton missed the front end of a one-and-one and Munson missed two free throws, Cape Elizabeth crawled back to 32-29 on a Riker jumper with 6.5 seconds showing.
But the Rangers were able to run out the clock from there and held on for the narrow triumph.
“I think my team’s getting better, then we got out and we struggle and have turnovers,” said Goodman. “Then, they look like really good players. We’re just really inconsistent. In the end, I’ll take the experience playing a close game, but I’d like us to play better. We got away from the inside game. The girls weren’t looking at their spots. We missed some layups and had bad turnovers. We’re finding a way to win every game. I have to look at the positives. Cape doesn’t give up. They play good defense. They’ve come a long way. They’ll be in every game.”
“We just ran out of time,” Roberts lamented. “We shoot ourselves in the foot. We don’t make free throws and we have spurts where we don’t put enough points on the board. The girls work hard and play great defense. We got momentum and made shots, but unfortunately, time just ran out.
Despite her scoreless first half, Donovan led Cape Elizabeth with 10 points.
“Sometimes we look to Em too much,” Roberts said. “Other teams know she’s our principal scorer. I need other kids to step up. You could see the change when we put points on the board. If we can get five kids to do that, it’ll change how teams prepare for us.
Raftice and Riker added six points apiece, Dell’Aquila had four, O’Rourke two and Tabery one.
The Capers (seventh in the latest Western Class B Heal Points standings) host Gray-New Gloucester Friday. They still have games remaining against contenders York, Waynflete and Falmouth as they seek to post a winning mark and get to the Expo for the quarterfinals for the first time this century.
“We have a tough road ahead,” Roberts said. “Everyone’s either in our cluster or they’re a spoiler. This is the time of the season where every game matters. We can’t have an off night. We can’t not bring it and win. We’re not there. We don’t put up enough points. Our defense is good enough to compete.”
Greely (third in Western B, behind York and Leavitt) got nine points (along with five rebounds) from Warnock, eight points (and four boards) from Storey, six points from Munson, four from Hamilton, two each from Bridges and Coale and one from Beaulieu.
The Rangers are back in action Friday at Falmouth and go to Lake Region Saturday.
The Greely boys came into Tuesday’s came with a chip on their shoulder.
Their longtime rivalry with Cape Elizabeth had been decidedly in the Capers’ favor of late, as Cape Elizabeth had eliminated the Rangers from the postseason in each of the past three years (including 51-43 last February) and had beaten Greely five straight times overall (including a 55-41 win in Cumberland on Jan. 4, behind Bowe’s 34 points).
Since that loss, the Rangers had won four straight to climb to the top of the Western B Heals and as a result, they came to Cape Elizabeth full of confidence.
Thanks in part to the heroics of Bowe, the league’s leading scorer, the Capers had won nine of their first 11 games (losing only to visiting Yarmouth and York), but they would be shorthanded in their quest for six in a row versus Greely as Bowe was sidelined with a high fever.
“It’s too bad,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray. “The kid loves these games. He wouldn’t miss it if he wasn’t really down and out.”
The Rangers could have experienced a letdown facing the Capers without their star, but they took aim at their nemesis and quickly ended all drama, thanks to senior Sam Johnston.
Johnston, averaging nearly 20 points per game himself, hit a 3-pointer 31 seconds in, then added a jumper for a quick 5-0 advantage.
After the hosts got on the board courtesy a pair of free throws from senior Cam Brown, Greely ripped off six straight on a putback from freshman Michael McDevitt, a layup by McDevitt and a steal and layup by Johnston.
Cape Elizabeth made it an 11-4 game on a steal and layup from Brown, but the next 11 points would go to the visitors, who essentially ended the competitive phase of the contest behind a 3 from freshman Bailey Train, a pair of Train free throws, a Johnston jumper, a Johnston reverse layup (after a pretty pass from junior Liam Maker) and two Johnston foul shots.
“We had a game plan against them, whether Bowe was here or not,” said Johnston. “Coach let us know at game time (that Bowe was out). We had the same mentality and it worked for us.We came out hot. We did well.”
A Brown jumper with 1:09 to play in the first period ended the surge and Brown managed to hit a fallaway jumper after slipping late in the quarter to pull the Capers back to 22-8 after one.
The teams played even in the second period.
After senior Joey Doane pulled Cape Elizabeth within 22-11 with a 3, Johnston answered with a 3-ball and McDevitt made a layup. Bowe hit a 3, but Johnston scored on a putback. After a Doane layup, Johnston hit a jump shot and junior Nick Clark added a pair of foul shots. An up-and-under layup by sophomore Chris Robicheaw got the Capers back to within 15, 33-18, at the half.
Greely left no doubt in the third, outscoring Cape Elizabeth 20-8 to put it away. Clark started the half with an off-balance leaner. After Brown answered with a jumper, McDevitt made a layup, Maker hit back-to-back shots and Clark drained a pullup jumper for a 43-20 bulge with 4:23 left in the period.
After sophomore Henry Babcock made a layup for the Capers, Storey made consecutive hoops and Clark drove into the lane for another layup and a 49-22 lead with 2:14 left.
The lead was up to 53-26 after three. In the fourth, during extensive garbage time, Greely pushed its lead to as many as 29 points, 57-28, before the Cape Elizabeth reserves made a charge at the end and accounted for the 68-50 final score.
“It was great,” said Johnston. “As soon as that buzzer rang, I was pumped. I’ve lost five in a row to them so I had to beat them. We’ve had crushing losses to them in the playoffs. I didn’t want to lose again. It might have been my last chance. I brought energy to help the team.”
“I thought the kids came with a lot of energy,” added Greely coach Ken Marks. “I was afraid they’d lose the energy when they heard Theo wasn’t playing. They played hard from beginning to end. The starters played well when they were on the floor. I was pleased overall. It’s been a long time since we beat Cape. We did a good job getting the ball inside their zone. Without Theo here, it’s a different team. They tried, but they just couldn’t do it. Sam was sick at our place. The whole second half, he struggled. He wasn’t going to let that happen here. It’s still Cape at Cape and it’s nice to win here. It’s a bucket-load of (Heal Points).”
For Greely, Johnston set the pace with 24 points (he also had five rebounds and a steal). Clark added 10 points, McDevitt eight (and five boards), Maker six and Train five.
The Capers weren’t able to overcome the absence of the league’s top scorer and their spiritual leader.
“Everything we’ve been working on is to try and develop balance,” said Capers coach Jim Ray. “The other guys had to shoulder more of the load. Theo’s shouldered quite a bit. It’s very difficult to replace him. The other guys have to figure it out. Something like this could happen at any time. It can’t ride on one guy. It’s a team game and the team has to step up. No excuses. We played hard, but you have to score. You have to step up and shoot open shots. We were hesitant in doing that tonight. We think about missing instead of thinking about making. You live and learn from it. Greely played very well. Johnston was terrific.”
Cape Elizabeth got a team-high 18 points from Brown. Junior Sam Donnelly added eight, Doane and sophomore Kyle Snowden seven apiece.
Cape Elizabeth (now fifth in the region) hosts Western C contender Waynflete Wednesday and visits Gray-New Gloucester Friday. While the Capers would love nothing more than to meet Greely again (in the tournament), they first have to focus on the task at hand.
“We hope to see them again,” Ray said. “We have to take care of business first. A lot of teams can beat up on each other.”
The Rangers (who extended their lead in the Heals) are at Falmouth Friday and host Lake Region Saturday. They still have a pivotal home test versus dangerous Yarmouth Feb. 4 in their quest for the top tournament seed.
“We want to keep the No. 1 spot,” said Johnston. “We don’t want to have any bad losses. We want to keep everyone’s intensity. If we do that, we have a good chance to win every night. We’re 11-1 now, but 17-1 is looking good. We have a big game against Yarmouth.”
“We have Gray coming, Yarmouth coming, Falmouth Friday,” Marks added. “We need to take care of the basketball.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org