PORTLAND—At the least the Greely girls’ basketball team can say it went toe-to-toe with York for a quarter.
Indeed, the Rangers came out guns ablazin’ Thursday afternoon in their Western Class B semifinal versus the undefeated, defending state champion Wildcats at the Cumberland County Civic Center, trailing by a mere two points before a last-second York hoop.
Problem was, the game still had 24 minutes to go.
The rest of the way, Greely managed just one field goal, six measly points and was defeated by its nemesis for the ninth straight time and the third consecutive time in the postseason, 46-15.
The Wildcats improved to 20-0, advanced to meet 20-0 Leavitt in the Western B Final Saturday at 2 p.m. and ended the Rangers’ season at 15-5.
“It’s great defense,” said Greely coach Billy Goodman, who dropped to 0-8 versus York during his three years with the Rangers. “That’s what’s stopped us for three years. This year’s team wasn’t nervous. We came out and played well in the first quarter. It was turnovers and lack of shooting that really hurt us. It just added up. I tried everything we had.”
On Feb. 19, 2007, Greely beat York, 54-40, in the quarterfinal round of the Western B tournament. It marked at least the 12th consecutive time the Rangers defeated the Wildcats, dating to the start of the 2001-02 campaign.
In 2008, the host Wildcats beat the Rangers in the regular season, 60-46. In 2009, Goodman’s first year, York was a 47-34 regular season winner in Cumberland and triumphed, 49-30, in the regional final. In 2010, the Wildcats swept two close games in the regular campaign (51-43 at York and 32-27 in Cumberland) before blanking Greely in the first quarter of the Western B Final en route to a 50-38 triumph.
This winter, the Wildcats were 54-28 winners at home Dec. 23 and rolled in Cumberland, 48-22, Jan. 13.
Including the 2007 quarterfinal Greely win, the teams had split the six previous playoff meetings. The Rangers also took the 1983 regional final (69-43) and the 2004 quarterfinals (48-38). York triumphed in the 2000 semis (57-41), along with the past two regional finals
The Wildcats hadn’t lost since the 2009 state final, hardly broke a sweat this season and dominated No. 8 Gray-New Gloucester, 55-14, in their quarterfinal Tuesday (York went on a 32-1 tear in the second and third quarters) and took a 41-game win streak into Thursday’s meeting.
This time, Greely avoided shooting itself in the foot with a slow start, but the rest of the game proved to be the problem.
The Rangers actually took an early 3-0 lead behind a 3-pointer from junior Caroline Hamilton, but York came right back behind two foul shots from its senior University of Vermont-bound standout Nicole Taylor, a layup from sophomore Emily Campbell (set up by junior Andrea Mountford) and a pass from Campbell to senior University of Southern Maine-bound star Stephanie Gallagher for a layup to go up, 6-3.
Greely answered when Hamilton set up senior Sara Warnock for a layup, but Taylor made a free throw and senior Chelsea Morley hit a little hook shot for a 9-5 advantage.
After Warnock made a layup and Morley answered with a jump shot, Warnock buried a jumper to keep the Rangers close, 11-9, late in the first.
However, late in the period, Gallagher scored on a putback and that proved to turn the tide for good.
“If not for that late hoop, it was 11-9, and anything could happen,” Goodman lamented.
At halftime, Greely was still stuck on nine points and instead of being close, was down 16 and essentially out of the game.
A putback from Taylor got the second quarter scoring started. Unheralded junior Addison LaBonte added a jumper and Gallagher buried a 3 to stretch the lead to 11, 20-9. With 1:33 to play in the half, sophomore Marquis MacGlashing stole the ball, raced in for a layup, was fouled and hit the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play. A Gallagher jumper put York in command, up 25-9, at the break.
The Rangers were doomed by going without a point for nearly the final nine minutes of the half and by their 16 first half turnovers.
“I knew if our shots went in, if we could get them, we could play defense,” Goodman said. “I thought Sara Warnock played unbelievable on Taylor. Problem was, they got easy hoops and we didn’t get any. It was only a matter of time until they built the lead. We scored early and I thought, ‘This could be it,’ but every hoop matters with them. If we scored at all in the second, maybe it would have been a game.”
After a slow start to the second half, Greely finally broke an 11 minute, 26 second scoring drought when Warnock was fouled after an offensive rebound and made two free throws. Mountford made a bank shot and a pair of foul shots and with 3:41 to play in the third quarter, Taylor made two free throws which allowed her to surpass Lani Boardman as York’s all-time leading scorer with her 1,414 and 1415th points (1,413 was the record).
After Morley hit a jumper for the Wildcats, sophomore Jaclyn Storey made two free throws for the Rangers, but a putback from Taylor, a MacGlashing free throw and two Gallagher freebies made it 38-13 York after three.
With the competitive phase of the game over, the remaining question was if Greely would ever make another field goal.
The answer came with 6:31 to play, when senior Chelsea Bridges canned a jumper, ending an astonishing 18 minute, 20 second stretch without a basket from the floor.
The hoop made it 38-15, but would be the Rangers’ final points of the season.
Down the stretch, Taylor scored on yet another putback, Morley hit a jump shot, Mountford sank a free throw and in the final minute, sophomore Ruby Cribby knocked down a 3-ball to give the defending champs another resounding win, 46-15.
In the final accounting, York’s two stars led the way.
Taylor had 11 points, seven rebounds and a steal and Gallagher wound up with 11 points of her own.
“I’m not going to miss (Taylor),” joked Goodman. “She’s a great player. Gallagher too. Their role players do their job too.”
Morley added eight points, Mountford five, MacGlashing four, Cribby three and Campbell and LaBonte two apiece. The Wildcats had 19 turnovers, but most of those came well after the contest was decided. They made 12 of 18 free throws.
Greely was led by Warnock’s six points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots in her swan song. Storey added four points, Hamilton three (the first points of the game way back when) and Bridges two. The Rangers made 4 of 7 foul shot attempts and their doom was sealed by 29 turnovers.
“We were going to move the ball around without dribbling,” said Goodman. “We had good practices and seemed to do it. When you’re under that much pressure, it’s tough. We played a very good first quarter, but you need four. The girls were nervous and came out a little shaky.”
Despite a big-time roster turnover, the Rangers managed to win 15 games for the third straight year (18 each of the past two). While the loss of Bridges, Megan Coale and Warnock will be felt, next year’s team should be well equipped to compete. Even with York.
“I have a lot of girls back who I feel got a lot better and hopefully we can build on that,” said Goodman. “I’m very happy with the season. I have girls coming back so we won’t have to rebuild again. If some younger players step up, we should be better.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @foresports