PORTLAND—Joe Geoghegan and Andrew Dickey, move over.
Mike Thurston, Jeff Love and Joe Campbell, it’s time to make room on Immortality Island.
Ethan Murphy has joined the club.
If you have to wait 27 years to win a state championship, you might as well make it as dramatic as possible and the word dramatic doesn’t come close to doing justice to the final minute of Friday evening’s Class B boys’ basketball state championship game at the Cross Insurance Arena.
The Cape Elizabeth Capers, longtime contenders and longtime bridesmaids, appeared destined for more agony, as a valiant effort in a back-and-forth affair against Medomak Valley, a school which had been waiting even longer for a Gold Ball, appeared to be going for naught.
Cape Elizabeth didn’t score a single field goal in the first seven minutes of the final frame and trailed by six points with time winding down.
But as it turned out, the Capers had the Panthers right where they wanted them.
In position to be left holding their heads, wondering what in the heck just happened?
Despite an early 7-0 lead and despite taking a 34-29 advantage to the fourth quarter, Cape Elizabeth’s title hopes were on life support when Medomak Valley senior Colton Spear made a layup with 1:37 to go, capping a 12-1 Panthers’ surge in the period and producing a 41-35 lead.
But a cornered Caper is a most dangerous Caper and needing some kind of spark, Murphy, the regional tournament MVP, drove for a high difficulty scoop shot with 54.5 seconds remaining, giving his team life.
After Medomak Valley got a point back at the line, Cape Elizabeth turned to a freshman with a famous last name in program circles, Finn Bowe, and Bowe hit the biggest 3 of his young life to make it a one-possession game.
That set up a frenetic 36.4 seconds that absolutely no one affiliated with the Capers program will ever, ever forget.
Following a missed Panthers free throw, Bowe set up junior Jack O’Rourke for a layup with 24.8 seconds to play and suddenly, the game was tied.
Eschewing a timeout, Medomak Valley went for the win, but a wild shot was off target and as time wound down, the ball wound up in the hands of Cape Elizabeth senior captain Eddie Galvin.
Galvin dribbled up-court, then spotted Murphy alone behind the defense. Galvin threw Murphy a perfect pass and just before the horn, Murphy laid the ball up and in and a program which has produced its share of buzzer beaters over the years, had the biggest and best buzzer beater in its history.
For with that shot, Ethan Murphy won the Capers their first championship since 1988, 44-42.
Murphy wound up with a team-high 13 points, O’Rourke added 11 and Cape Elizabeth absolutely pilfered the fourth Gold Ball in program history as it wound up 19-3, ended the Panthers’ fine season at 19-3 and produced one of the tournament’s all-time great moments in the process.
“We never gave up,” Murphy said. “Even though it was ugly, we persevered and did what we had to do to get the win.”
“I’m just so happy for the guys,” said longtime Capers coach Jim Ray, who, after three futile tries, won his first title. “We weren’t as good as we needed to be, but we were when it counted at the end.”
Since winning its most recent Class B championship in 1988, Cape Elizabeth has only missed the playoffs three times and counting this winter, has qualified 18 straight seasons. The Capers even got back to the big stage in 2008, 2009 and 2011, but fell short each time.
After dropping a down-to-the-wire quarterfinal round game to Yarmouth last winter, Cape Elizabeth entered the 2014-15 season viewed by many to be the favorite. The Capers would suffer their share of hiccups, but ultimately proved the pundits right (see sidebar for links to previous game stories).
After handling visiting Wells (59-48), host Gray-New Gloucester (70-48) and visiting Freeport (72-40) to start, Cape Elizabeth was beaten decisively by visiting Yarmouth, 59-46. After a 73-58 win at Kennebunk, the Capers lost again, 51-46, at Lake Region to close the 2014 portion of the schedule.
Once the calendar flipped, Cape Elizabeth hit its stride. The resurgence began with a 50-45 home win over Falmouth. The Capers then won at Wells (73-37), at home over Gray-New Gloucester (73-32), at Yarmouth (65-52), at home over Traip Academy (63-41) and Kennebunk (64-43), at York (66-52), at Poland (69-50) and at Greely (61-41). After Cape Elizabeth’s nine-game win streak was snapped at Falmouth (69-62), the Capers closed with home wins over Greely (61-39) and Fryeburg Academy (61-48) to go 15-3 and earn the No. 2 seed in Western B behind Yarmouth.
“We lost two games and a Christmas tournament game, but we used that as motivation,” Capers junior Justin Guerette said. “We had to keep moving forward. No great team has ever not gone through adversity. When you get down, that’s when the best players are made.”
“We had losses against good teams,” Ray said.” Yarmouth, at that point, was ahead of the curve. Lake Region’s a tough team and we didn’t have Murph. Falmouth’s Falmouth. They’re a very good team. We had lulls, but we kept working to get better.”
Cape Elizabeth wasn’t seriously tested in either the quarterfinals (a 68-51 victory over seventh-ranked Greely) or the semifinals (a 57-39 win over sixth-ranked Lincoln Academy), but in last Saturday’s regional final, the Capers were down two against No. 4 Lake Region in the fourth quarter before surging to win, 51-46, to win their fourth regional championship in eight seasons.
As for the Panthers, they won their first three games this winter, lost at Morse, then won four more before suffering a loss at Winslow. Medomak Valley then closed the regular season on a nine-game surge to earn the top seed in Eastern B.
In the quarterfinals, the Panthers handled No. 8 Maine Central Institute, 60-39. In the semis, they ousted 12th-ranked Mt. Desert Island, 59-47. The big test came in the Eastern B Final, but Medomak Valley survived No. 2 Winslow, 51-48.
Both squads have reached their share of state finals over the years, including recently.
Between 1975 and 1980, Medomak Valley played in four Class B state finals, losing to Foxcroft Academy in 1975 and to Bucksport in 1979 and beating Hampden Academy in 1977 and Schenck in 1980 (just days after the Miracle on Ice). After a 33-year absence, the Panthers were no match for a powerhouse Falmouth squad in 2013, 62-39.
Cape Elizabeth’s first state final (in Class C) resulted in a victory over Pemetic High School of Southwest Harbor back in 1953. Three years later, the Capers beat Lincoln Academy, 76-54. They then lost in the 1966 (to Ellsworth) and 1971 (to Schenck) Class B state games. In 1988, Cape Elizabeth was too much for Ellsworth in the Class B Final, 70-54. It took 20 years for the Capers to return to the big game, where they proceeded to lose to Maranacook. In both 2009 and 2011, Cape Elizabeth gave Camden Hills a scare, but ultimately, it fell short both times.
The teams had never met in a state game, but did have playoff history. The Capers beat the Panthers in the 1971 quarterfinals (69-65) and the 1983 quarterfinals (65-47) and lost to Medomak Valley in the 1980 regional final (80-66).
Friday’s game was as close as a state final could be and it came down to the 1,920th and final second.
Cape Elizabeth couldn’t have asked for a better start, as it got the game’s first seven points.
After 2 minutes and 15 seconds of scoreless action, Galvin set up O’Rourke for a 3. A Galvin putback and a circus scoop shot from Murphy (a harbinger of a bigger shot later on) after an O’Rourke steal and feed made it 7-0, but the Panthers would settle down.
With 4:29 left in the first period, a free throw from senior Micah Williamson broke the ice for Medomak Valley. Williamson added a scoop shot but with 2:56 left in the first quarter, Bowe got a rebound and put it home with left hand for a 9-3 lead.
The Capers wouldn’t score again in the period.
A turnaround jumper from junior Nick DePatsy, a 3-ball from senior Noah Beck and a putback by Beck gave the Panthers their first lead. in the final minute, Williamson set up DePatsy for a layup and Medomak Valley was up, 12-9, heading for the second period.
There, neither team could get much to drop.
After Galvin made a layup 58 seconds in to end a 3 minute, 54 second Capers drought, sophomore Cameron Allaire answered with a free throw for the Panthers. A Murphy putback tied the score and with 2:38 remaining in the half, Bowe scored on a putback to put Cape Elizabeth back on top, but a pair of free throws from Williamson tied the game again and with 37.3 seconds left, Williamson hit a jumper which allowed Medomak Valley to take a 17-15 lead to the break.
“It was a frustrating game to coach,” Ray said. “We work so hard to struggle the way we did. My hands were tied because we didn’t have rhythm. We were in foul trouble right off the bat and that screwed up our rotation. We didn’t shoot the ball very well. We couldn’t get in a rhythm in the first half. Our shooters were missing and missing badly. We were impatient. Things we should have been better at this point of the season we weren’t.”
The Capers responded with a terrific third quarter and again opened up a lead.
After Allaire opened the second half scoring with a leaner, Guerette scored his first points on a runner and O’Rourke buried a 3 for a 20-19 lead. The next time down, Murphy set up O’Rourke for another 3 and a 23-19 advantage.
The Panthers got a layup from Allaire, but Murphy answered with two foul shots.
Allaire then put home a shot with his left hand and DePatsy made a baseline jumper to tie it, but with 2:25 to go in the frame, a Murphy 3 put Cape Elizabeth back on top.
“It got a lot better in the second half,” Ray said. “We had a couple possessions early where we settled down, took our time and spread the ball.”
Williamson set up DePatsy for a layup, but sophomore Quinn Hewitt answered with a free throw and O’Rourke set up Guerette for a layup. Allaire made a layup for Medomak Valley, but as time expired, Bowe set up junior James Bottomley for a clutch 3 from the corner.
“That’s a play we work on a lot,” said Bowe. “If I’m not open, I’ll just drive and kick it to him. He always knocks it down. I’m really glad he hit it.”
The Capers took a 34-29 lead, seemingly setting them up in good shape heading for the fourth quarter.
Instead, the Panthers controlled most of the final stanza and appeared Gold Ball-bound, until suddenly, Cape Elizabeth saved its absolute best for the final minute and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Medomak Valley set the tone just 48 seconds into the fourth when Williamson was fouled and made both free throws.
With 6:44 left, DePatsy took a pass from Spear and buried a 3 and just like that, the game was tied for fourth time, 34-34.
With 5:37 remaining, a leaner from Allaire put the Panthers on top and they didn’t stop there, as 28 seconds later, DePatsy somehow kissed home a runner off the glass (even though his momentum took him away from the basket) while being fouled and his free throw completed the old-fashioned three-point play, capping a 10-0 run and producing a 39-34 lead.
A free throw from Hewitt with 3:54 to play ended the Capers’ 4:07 drought, but despite ample chances, they couldn’t draw closer.
Following a Medomak Valley turnover, Cape Elizabeth had five looks on one possession, but Murphy three times missed layups, Guerette missed a putback and O’Rourke couldn’t knock down a 3.
With 1:37 remaining, DePatsy set up Spear for a layup and a 41-35 lead.
Sometimes to end a championship drought, you have to be on the verge of agony before cementing your place in history (see the 2004 Red Sox and Super Bowl XLIX) and Cape Elizabeth accepted that challenge, rising off the deck in legendary fashion.
After an O’Rourke miss, Williamson went to the line for a 1-and-1 which could have put the game out of reach, but he missed the front end.
Murphy then personally ensured the offense would get moving.
Murphy drove to his left, ducked under a defender, then switched to his right hand for a difficult bank shot which snapped a 7:07 field goal drought and pulled Cape Elizabeth within four, 41-37, with 54.5 seconds on the clock.
“I wasn’t trying to press really,” Murphy said. “I knew we needed points and to get momentum going. I had an opportunity to take it to the hole and I did.”
Allaire was fouled immediately and while he made the front end of his 1-and-1, he missed the second and the Capers pounced.
Bowe received a pass up top and with 40.8 seconds remaining, he proved he had icewater in his veins with the biggest 3 of his life to date and suddenly it was a one possession contest, 42-40.
“Coach called a play for me and I knew if I had any space, I had to shoot it because we needed points,” Bowe said. “When I got a clean look, I let it go and it felt good.”
“I knew (Finn) had that in him,” Galvin said. “My favorite thing on the floor is when I’m going in for a rebound and I see someone take a 3 and it goes in so I don’t have to rebound.”
“For a freshman, Bowe’s pretty composed,” Ray added. “To come off that entry, see it, feel it and have the confidence for it to be nothing but net was impressive.”
Four seconds later, DePatsy had a chance to extend the lead, but he missed the front end of his 1-and-1 and Cape Elizabeth had an opportunity to tie the game or even take the lead.
Again the ball came up top to Bowe, but this time, the Panthers swarmed him. Instead of panicking, Bowe spotted a wide open O’Rourke underneath, fed him and O’Rourke calmly laid the ball in to make it 42-42 with 24.8 seconds left.
“We called the same play and I knew DePatsy’s a great defender,” Bowe said. “He knew the same play was coming. He read it and stayed on me. Jack’s man switched and Jack peeled out. I knew we needed a basket and an open layup is great.”
“I said to Murph, ‘Run it again,'” Ray said. “They’d seen it a number of times and they ran at him and he had the presence of mind to dump it to O’Rourke to tie the game. That was a ‘Wow!’ moment right there.”
Medomak Valley brought the ball right back up and didn’t call a timeout. With under 10 seconds to go, Williamson drove to the basket and looked to draw contact. He forced his way through two defenders and threw up a wild shot that was off-target.
With the clock ticking under 5 seconds, Galvin collected the loose ball, but it didn’t seem as if the Capers would have enough time.
Galvin dribbled out of traffic, then delivered a perfect pass to Murphy in stride behind two defenders.
Just before the horn sounded, Murphy went up to the left of the rim and casually kissed home the biggest basket he’ll likely ever make.
“I don’t really know what to say,” Murphy said. “I’m not really a hero. I couldn’t have done it without a perfect pass from Eddie. I just turned around and saw the ball in Eddie’s hands. Coach always talks about running the floor and I finally did it. I knew the clock was low, but I didn’t expect it be at zero when I made it.”
“I wasn’t even sure what defense we were in,” Galvin said. “(Williamson) went to the hoop and tried to get fouled and threw the ball up and the ball took a few bounces and everyone looked at it. I said, ‘It’s my ball’ and grabbed it. I took it and tried to dribble through. I knew there wasn’t much time left. I saw Ethan open and I passed to him and looked up and saw there was just 1 second left and I was like, ‘Oh my God, finish it!’ and he finished it.”
“I got taken out because I don’t think, honestly, Coach Ray wanted me shooting free throws because I’m not a great free throw shooter,” said Guerette. “I looked at the clock and saw 3 seconds. Eddie got the rebound and it was a mess. I thought it was going to go to overtime. Half the team was on the floor. I thought they might call a foul. He brought the ball out and there were two defenders. Eddie has great court vision. He had his eyes wide open and passed a dime right through two defenders right into Ethan’s hands and Ethan made a contested layup for the win. Ethan’s my best friend. He’s my buddy in football. He’s like a brother to me.”
“I was trying to defend and make sure they didn’t get the lead back,” said Bowe. “Eddie got it. I thought we might call timeout. I thought there might be 10 seconds left. Thank God our senior captains came through.”
“We have a rule that four seconds or more, we have to get it and go,” Ray added. “They just reacted. I’d like to say it was taught, but it was instinctive. I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. I’m not that good to draw up that kind of shot. I’m just glad Murph made the layup.”
At 10:22 p.m., after a roller-coaster ride of emotion, Cape Elizabeth, improbably, was the Class B state champion, 44-42.
Let the celebration begin.
“Everyone jumped on top of me,” said Murphy, who was buried in the wild postgame scene. “I still can’t process it. No Coach Ray team ever has given up. We play the game the right way.”
“I went to hug Coach Ray and then I saw the pigpile and I was one of the last ones in,” Galvin said.
“This wasn’t our best game,” Bowe said. “Even though we’ve played here before, the crowd is different. It’s hard playing a team we haven’t seen before. I was getting nervous with a minute left when we were down six, but we didn’t give up and we made the plays to win the game. There was never doubt. That stems from our captains, Eddie and Ethan. They made sure no one gave up. We kept believing. When Ethan hit that shot, I didn’t even know how much time was left. I thought there was still time left, but when I heard the horn, I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy.”
“There’s nothing like this,” Guerette said. “It’s been 27 years. My uncle, Joel Murray, was the captain of the last Cape championship team. It feels like it was meant to happen. I can’t give enough credit to our captains.”
As has been the case all season and certainly all postseason, the victory was a team effort.
Murphy, perhaps fittingly, led Cape Elizabeth in scoring with 13 points. He also had seven rebounds in his final game in a Capers uniform.
Murphy joins the aforementioned Geoghegan (whose buzzer beater helped eighth-ranked Cape Elizabeth upset No. 1 Falmouth in the 2004 quarterfinals) and Dickey (whose shot at the horn shocked Greely in the 2009 semifinals) in program lore and is now part of state game legend alongside Thurston, whose legendary halfcourt shot helped Caribou beat Westbrook for the state title in 1969, Love, who lifted Winthrop over Washington Academy in 1992 and Campbell, who gave Bangor a title at the horn over Deering in 2001.
“It’s been an incredible four years,” Murphy said. “I credit my maturity and my evolution through high school to being a basketball guy. Everything I am right now, I credit to this program.”
O’Rourke had 11 points, which included three enormous 3-pointers. O’Rourke also had a game-high four assists and three steals.
Bowe finished with seven points, four rebounds and two timely assists.
Galvin struggled shooting the ball, only producing four points, but he led all players with 10 rebounds and also had three assists (including one that will be replayed eternally) and a pair of steals.
“I was getting a little rattled because I missed some layups in the first half I should have made, but I’ve learned this year that it’s not about the points you score, so I didn’t let it get to my defense and I tried to lock down DePatsy,” Galvin said. “We stayed mentally tough. We never panicked. We knew we were talented and we worked our butts off. It’s been a hell of a ride.”
Guerette also had four points and grabbed five boards.
Bottomley finished with three points and Hewitt had two (to go with five rebounds).
Donnelly didn’t score, but had three rebounds and two steals.
The Capers enjoyed a 34-28 rebounding advantage, had seven steals, forced 13 turnovers while committing only eight and hit 4 of 8 free throws.
The Panthers were paced by 14 points from DePatsy, who also had seven rebounds. Allaire was superb with 12 points and seven boards. Williamson finished with nine points, five rebounds and a blocked shot. Beck added five points and Spear finished with two.
Medomak Valley made 8 of 13 free throws, but missed three of its final four when it could have closed out the contest.
“Give credit to Medomak Valley for the way they played,” said Ray. “They played tough defense. They have tough kids. Very similar to how our kids play. They get after it. They don’t whine or complain. They didn’t deserve to lose that game.”
As much as he disdains it, Ray was a center of attention following the win as the robust fan section, which included many of his former players, his parents, Ted and Barbara, his wife, Susan, and his two sons, Nick and assistant coach, Tom Ray, were thrilled to see him earn that elusive first championship.
“I’m so happy for Coach Ray,” Bowe said. “If he’s not the best coach in the state, he’s one of the best coaches in the state definitely and he’s been so close to winning so many times and he deserves one. Coach makes us work hard every day in practice. He keeps us humble.”
“Coach Ray is a huge influential character in my life and I’ll never forget this season,” Guerette said. “He not only helped us grow as players, but as men. Coach Ray always says, ‘Never die.’ I don’t know if this could have happened with any other coach.”
Ray deflected praise.
“I don’t want to diminish (what the kids accomplished),” said Ray. “I know exactly what I put in year in, year out. I didn’t work any harder this year than I did last year or 20 years ago. I work as hard as a I can and try to do the best I can with what I have year in, year out. I try to find the right combinations and chemistry. We had contributions from everybody tonight and this year.”
Ray saluted the many well-wishers for their role in encouraging him and his players.
“There were so many alumni here,” Ray said. “I got so many emails and texts from guys who had played before that had done the same things these guys have done, but had never gotten to this point. It was great to see their appreciation for what these guys were doing. Everybody was telling me good luck. Kids from the youth program. To see that kind of excitement, that helped. You can’t tell me those kids won’t want to experience this.”
Family was indeed a theme in the postgame.
Not only was Ray surrounded by his, but there were Bowes as far as the eye could see, including Finn’s older brothers, Alex and Theo, who both fell short in state finals, only to revel in this postgame celebration.
“It’s also nice to get one for my family after my brothers got so close,” Bowe said. “They were very encouraging.”
Cape Elizabeth has a habit of waiting a generation or so between titles, but this championship might be followed by another quickly if all goes well.
But before talk turns to 2015-16, tribute must be paid to Galvin, Murphy and classmate Grady McCormick, whose influence will be missed.
“They’re such good kids,” Ray said. “Grady was sick much of the week. I felt terrible I couldn’t get him in the game, but he understands. He’s a good team player. He had a great attitude. Tonight was a great way for it to end for Murph and Eddie with the heart and soul they’ve poured into this program.”
Starters Guerette, Hewitt and O’Rourke will be back, as will Bottomley, Bowe and Donnelly.
Not a bad nucleus.
“I think we’ll make another run,” Bowe said. “We have a lot of good talent returning. Eddie and Ethan will be missed, but we have three returning seniors. Me, Jay, Marcus and other players who didn’t play this year will step in. Coach will make sure we have another good team.”
“It will be interesting to see if there’s a reclassification, but we’re hoping to be back here next year,” Guerette said.
“I’m already hearing from some of the kids that they want to do it again, but talk is cheap,” Ray added. “Goal number one is to get in and play your best basketball at the end and take it one game at a time. The guys have to do the work and improve upon our weaknesses. If they do, we can do it again. That’s the goal.”
Cape Elizabeth senior Eddie Galvin and Medomak Valley sophomore Cameron Allaire vie for the opening tip.
Cape Elizabeth junior Marcus Donnelly plays tight defense.
Cape Elizabeth senior Eddie Galvin leans in for a shot.
Cape Elizabeth junior Jack O’Rourke races up the floor.
Cape Elizabeth junior Justin Guerette tries to get to the basket.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Quinn Hewitt leans in for a shot.
Cape Elizabeth junior Jack O’Rourke launches a clutch 3 over the outstretched hand of Medomak Valley senior Noah Beck.
Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray looks on with concern during the second half.
Cape Elizabeth senior Eddie Galvin races over to congratulate coach Jim Ray following the winning basket.
They wore white and cheered wildly and it’s safe to say that the Cape Elizabeth student section earned an assist in Friday’s victory.
Cape Elizabeth senior Eddie Galvin swings the freshly shorn net in celebration during postgame ceremonies.
Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray, with son Tom by his side, receives the game ball.
Cape Elizabeth senior captains Ethan Murphy (left) and Eddie Galvin show off the Gold Ball.
After receiving the Gold Ball, the Capers give their fans an up-close look at it.
Your 2014-15 Class B boys’ basketball champions.
Somewhere beneath this celebratory pile of humanity is Cape Elizabeth senior Ethan Murphy, whose layup as time expired gave the Capers a scintillating 44-42 come-from-behind victory over Medomak Valley in Friday evening’s Class B state final.
Joe Carpine/365digitalphotography.com photos
More photos below.
MV- 12 5 12 13- 42
CE- 9 6 19 10- 44
MV- DePatsy 6-1-14, Allaire 5-2-12, Williamson 2-5-9, Beck 2-0-5 Spear 1-0-2
CE- Murphy 5-2-13, O’Rourke 4-0-11, Bowe 3-0-7, Galvin 2-0-4, Guerette 2-0-4, Bottomley 1-0-3, Hewitt 0-2-2
MV (2) Beck, DePatsy 1
CE (6) O’Rourke 3, Bottomley, Bowe, Murphy 1
MV (28) Allaire, DePatsy 7, Williamson 5, Beck, Spear 3, McMurrin 2, Starr 1
CE (34) Galvin 10, Murphy 7, Guerette, Hewitt 5, Bowe 4, Donnelly 3
MV (2) Allaire, DePatsy 1
CE (7) O’Rourke 3, Donnelly, Galvin 2
MV (2) Spear, Williamson 1
2011 Class B
Camden Hills 68 Cape Elizabeth 59
2009 Class B
Camden Hills 62 Cape Elizabeth 49
2008 Class B
Maranacook 56 Cape Elizabeth 46
1988 Class B
Cape Elizabeth 70 Ellsworth 54
1971 Class B
Schenck 69 Cape Elizabeth 60
1966 Class B
Ellsworth 72 Cape Elizabeth 53
1956 Class C
Cape Elizabeth 76 Lincoln Academy 54
1953 Class C
Cape Elizabeth defeated Mattanawcook (score unavailable)
2013 Class B
Falmouth 62 Medomak Valley 39
1980 Class B
Medomak Valley 80 Schenck 59
1979 Class B
Bucksport 45 Medomak Valley 43
1977 Class B
Medomak Valley 72 Hampden Academy 57
1975 Class B
Foxcroft Academy 56 Medomak Valley 53