By Michael Hoffer
CUMBERLAND — It isn’t often a team can go 12-1 and be relatively anonymous, but the Greely girls’ basketball squad has managed to do that this winter.
The host Rangers won their ninth in a row Monday afternoon in sensational fashion, crushing rival and three-time defending regional champion Lake Region 59-27. Greely demonstrated its ability to shoot inside and out and rode a 14-0 first quarter run to a commanding lead that it would never relinquish.
“We were just really excited to play and we were really pumped up before the game,” said junior Abby Young, who led all scorers with 14 points. “We knew they’d bring it after beating them by four on their floor. We knew we had to come out strong.”
SUBHEAD-Only getting better
After losing a heartbreaker to Falmouth in last year’s Western B semifinals, junior-laden Greely was expected to compete, but not dominate this winter.
The Rangers are led this year by new coach Billy Goodman, a former assistant with defending Class A champion Deering, and he has enjoyed the Midas touch to date.
Greely got off to a stellar start with wins over Falmouth (sweet revenge), Fryeburg and Wells. The Rangers then stumbled for the only time, losing 47-34 to visiting York, which has yet to lose and is viewed as the team to beat.
Before the holiday break, Greely bounced back by winning at Poland and Yarmouth. The Rangers then defeated Marshwood and Mountain Valley in a holiday tournament and got 2009 off to a good start with victories over Gray-New Gloucester, Lake Region, Freeport, Cape Elizabeth and Traip Academy.
Friday night, Greely hosted Waynflete, a top Western C contender, and held on for a 56-43 victory. The Rangers only led by six, 25-19, at the break, but a 16-5 run gave them some breathing room. After the Flyers rallied to pull within six, 44-38, Greely put it away.
Led by four outstanding junior starters and their senior point guard and captain Danielle Slocum, the Rangers answered the Flyers charge with an 8-2 run.
“That was great team play,” said Goodman. “We had a few possessions where we had eight or nine passes before we took a shot. We have been working in practice on moving the ball and finding the open player. We’re still working on putting together a total game, but we played great team basketball tonight and that’s what we’ve been preaching. I have 10 or 11 girls that get in and contribute every night. They’re ready to play and we expect them to play like starters. I never know who is going to step up from one night to the next.”
Young led three teammates in double figures with 17 points on a variety of inside moves and a pair of sweet looking 3-point shots that showed her versatility. Junior forward Megan Grondin added 10 points, but the Rangers’ first star of the game had to be junior guard Karlee Biskup.
With a deadly outside shot, Biskup hit a pair of 3-pointers on the night to go with a pair of nice jumpers in the lane on her way to 12 points, but her biggest contribution to the team is her court awareness and ability to thread the needle with the pass. Biskup had six assists on the night, including two no-look passes off the dribble to Young and junior forward Abby Cornish (five points) rolling in the lane in the high-low offensive set.
“We knew Waynflete would be a good team,” said Biskup. “We don’t take any team lightly. When we play well we take our time and move the ball around. We try not to force things. The key for us was to keep our intensity up and keep working hard on the boards.”
That set up a date with Lake Region Monday. The Rangers only managed a 53-49 triumph in Naples Jan. 8, but the rematch was never in doubt.
After Biskup and Lakers’ junior Chelsea Meyers traded free throws, Biskup hinted at the strong shooting to come with a 3-pointer. Lake Region tied the game at 4-4 on a 3 from junior Meghan Craffey, but junior Nicole Faietta put Greely ahead to stay with a 3-ball, then Faietta hit another 3 32 seconds later. Slocum made a jumper and Grondin sandwiched a pair of hoops around a Young leaner for an 18-4 lead.
Any Lake Region comeback hopes were dashed in the second period when the Rangers went on a 15-1 run to take a mindboggling 35-7 advantage into the break.
The Lakers made just two field goals in the first half.
“That was our best game yet,” Goodman said. “We played great defense and great team offense. We moved the ball nicely. Very unselfish basketball. Our defense is what we focus on. We took good shots and hit the open man. Our shooting percentage will go up when you do that.”
Lake Region got no closer than 26 in the second half and Greely, which emptied its bench, went on to the 59-27 win.
Young led the way, while Biskup had 10 points and Faietta and Grondin both finished with eight. Nine Rangers wound up scoring.
“We have a lot of players who can contribute,” Young said. “If one isn’t having a good game, someone else will.”
“A lot of the girls can go inside-out,” Goodman added. “Abby, Karlee, Megan Grondin. I play a lot of girls. They know what I want. They all relish it and like the balance. The things we’re doing well now, I knew they could do it. They just needed time. They’re starting to get it. I want them to keep getting better every game.”
If York (and the rest of Western B) wasn’t paying attention, it better start. Greely, which might have arrived a year ahead of schedule, now believes it’s on the cusp of doing something special.
“We definitely knew it was there, but that we had a lot of work to do,” Young said. “Coach has really helped us with that. He works a lot on the little things. He helps us to get it right each time. Those small things add up to big differences.”
“We still need to work on stuff,” Goodman added. “They’re starting to get me. It’s a good situation. I had the summer, but I’m new. They’re starting to notice the little things I want. They’re adding up to great games like this.”
The Rangers (second to York in the Western B Heals) visit Freeport Saturday, then face another big test at revenge-minded Falmouth. Home games with Fryeburg and Cape Elizabeth and a trip to rival Gray-New Gloucester close the regular season schedule.
“We’ve got some good games coming up,” Goodman said. “Falmouth’s hungry. Whenever you have a good record, everyone else wants to play you. The girls know that. There’s no room for error.”
“We just need to keep working in practice and get better each game,” added Young. “We need to continue to do that.”
Eric Carson contributed to this story. Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org