Girls' teams primed to turn heads at tournament
It was a banner year for girls' basketball in Forecaster Country and four teams will take part in the upcoming tournament.
In Western A, Scarborough and South Portland are on a quarterfinal round collision course.
In Western B, Cape Elizabeth is as hot as anyone going in and has shown for weeks it is capable of beating anybody.
In Western D, Greater Portland Christian School is hoping to make some noise.
Scarborough and South Portland were among the top teams in Western Class A all year and will square off in a quarterfinal round showdown Monday at 7 p.m., at the Portland Exposition Building.
The Red Storm went 15-3 in the regular season, good for the No. 4 spot. Scarborough finished with a 58-34 home victory over Kennebunk last Thursday behind 18 points from Mary Redmond and 15 from Ashley Briggs.
"I'm very pleased going 15-3," said Red Storm first-year coach Ron Cote. "The girls came to play every game and had great attitudes. In the games we lost, we kept it close at McAuley, we came out flat in the first half, then played better in the second against Deering and Cheverus (a triple overtime setback) was a battle the whole way. Our other closest games were 10 or 12 points. We won most of the others handily."
The Red Riots, hindered down the stretch by the loss of senior standout Danica Gleason to a knee injury, wound up 12-6 and fifth in the region following a 53-11 loss at two-time defending Class A state champion McAuley last Thursday (Samantha Munson had a team-high four points).
"We had the toughest schedule in the league, playing (McAuley and Deering) twice," said South Portland coach Mike Giordano. "To be 12-6, I'm really proud of the kids."
Scarborough beat host South Portland in the lone regular season matchup, 42-30, Jan. 2. The teams met in both the 2009 and 2010 quarterfinals, with the Red Storm prevailing both times, by scores of 53-26 and 40-22.
Both coaches respect the opposition.
"When Gleason went out, they still played tough," Cote said. "Mike is as good as any coach in the league. They're fundamentally sound. They have more height than we do. We'll need some luck to have a run like we did last year (when Scarborough reached the regional final). We have to play our fast game. If we can get teams to play fast, it's an advantage for us. I expect a tough battle."
"Scarborough is very disciplined and is extremely well coached," Giordano said. "They have great senior leadership and they know how to win. They force you to play at an uncomfortable tempo. We'll try to dictate the tempo a little ourselves. It's a challenge. I think our kids are up for it. All year, our goal has been making it to the Civic Center (for the semifinals). We're 32 minutes away."
Quite a ride
Cape Elizabeth, which missed the playoffs last winter, was 1-5 entering the new year when its season took a sudden turn for the better with a stunning overtime win at Western C power Waynflete. That started a run which saw the Capers go 9-3, finish 10-8 (their best record since 1995-96) and earn the No. 7 seed in Western B (their best finish since that aforementioned 1996 campaign).
"When we were 1-5, I never thought we'd go 9-3 the rest of the way," said Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Casterella. "I don't even know how we did it. We were doing the same things as earlier in the year, but we weren't getting wins. Winning at Waynflete gave the kids the picture that we could do it. It propelled us forward. It was our biggest win of the year. The kids believe in what we're doing and we've played great defense. It's been fun to watch the kids step up. We had a great last two-thirds of the season."
The Capers hosted No. 10 Oak Hill (11-7) in the preliminary round Wednesday night. The teams don't play in the regular season and had no prior playoff history. Cape Elizabeth was seeking its first postseason win since beating Greely, 57-48, in the 1996 Western B semifinals.
"We don't know much about Oak Hill other than they're scrappy and like to push the ball up the floor," said Casterella. "We'll try to prepare based on what we know, but we have to be mentally prepared to play. It's built up to this all season. We want to get to the Expo."
If the Capers took care of business and advanced, they'll face powerhouse No. 2 seed York (16-2) in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., at the Expo. Cape Elizabeth lost at York, 52-35, Jan. 25, but took the visiting Wildcats to overtime in dramatic fashion before falling, 59-51, Feb. 1. The last time the Capers played York in the postseason with the 1994 quarterfinals (a 61-57 Wildcats' victory). The schools also met in the 1979 (32-31 York), 1986 (55-39 York) and 1988 quarterfinals (49-40 Capers).
Greater Portland Christian School, which made it to the quarterfinals last year, finished the 2012-13 season with a 12-5 record after closing with a 64-23 loss at Waynflete and a 23-7 win at Acadia Christian. The Lions earned the No. 5 seed in Western D and advanced to the quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center to face No. 4 Forest Hills (15-3) Tuesday at 10 a.m. The teams didn't meet in the regular season.
Looking ahead, the Western B semifinals are Thursday at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The Western A semis are Friday of next week at the same location. The Western A and B finals are both Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Civic Center. The Class B state game is Friday, March 1, at the Civic Center. The Class A state final is Saturday, March 2, at the Augusta Civic Center.