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Hoops tournament begins as Scarborough boys fall in prelim

Sports

Hoops tournament begins as Scarborough boys fall in prelim

(Ed. Note: For the complete Scarborough-Cheverus boys' basketball and Scarborough-Deering girls' basketball game stories, with photos, please visit theforecaster.net)

If you're a fan of high school hoops, now, the fun truly begins.

Or more correctly, the fun has already begun.

The postseason commenced Tuesday evening, as the Scarborough boys lost a close one, 55-50, at Cheverus in a Western Class A preliminary round contest.

That left the Cape Elizabeth boys and the Scarborough and South Portland girls still standing, meaning there's still plenty to hold your attention.

Here's a glimpse:

Difficult road

Scarborough's boys went 9-9 in the regular season and earned the No. 10 seed in Western Class A and had to go to No. 7 Cheverus Tuesday night. The Red Storm lost earlier in the season at the Stags, 76-63, and also dropped the lone previous playoff encounter, 49-34, in the 2010 Western A quarterfinals.

Tuesday, Scarborough was down, 28-18, at halftime, but behind Matt Hartl, the Red Storm rallied and thrice got within three points in the fourth quarter. Scarborough, which only made one 3-pointer all night, never could get over the hump, however, and despite 21 points from Hartl, fell, 55-50, to end the season 9-10.

"The game wasn't the tempo we wanted to play, but I thought it was the way we had to play them because they shoot the 3-ball well," Red Storm coach Tony DiBiase said. "We were one possession away from tying it in the fourth quarter. We had some good chances. We hung in there. We did pretty well inside. Overall, I thought the kids played really well. We struggled from the 3-point line and we had some good looks too.

"I thought it was great we got back to the tournament. We had a bunch of kids come up from JVs. We really didn't know what to expect. We didn't have a lot of size. I thought we had some really good wins. I'm very happy with that."

The Red Storm projects to be starting from a better spot come 2014-15.

"Now, we have good experience in the program," DiBiase said. "We have three legitimate players (Sam Freeman, Milani Hicks and Nate Wessel) coming back, plus the big kid (Jacob Gardner). We should be one of the better teams next year. The kids know me, I know them. They know the system better."

South Portland, the defending regional champion, missed the playoffs with a 6-12 record after closing with a 59-34 home loss to Cheverus. Jaren Muller had 11 points. The Red Riots wound up 13th in Western A, but only 12 teams qualified.

In Western B, Cape Elizabeth finished the regular season 11-7 after a 71-62 loss at Greely. Jack O'Rourke had 18 points and Eddie Galvin added 16.

"It's been an up-and-down season," said longtime Capers coach Jim Ray. "We're young, but the guys have had plenty of minutes now on the floor. We played to the level of our competition this year. We didn't really have a gimme. They're still figuring it out, but I'm proud of them. It's been challenging."

Cape Elizabeth wound up fifth in Western B and will meet fourth-ranked Yarmouth (14-4) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 3 p.m. The Clippers won both regular season meetings: 66-52 in Yarmouth and 67-55 in Cape Elizabeth. The Capers have won all three prior playoff encounters, with a 61-47 triumph in the 2011 regional final the most recent.

"Yarmouth's tough and they're confident," Ray said. "The bottom line is we have to penetrate and we have to attack. We still haven't developed that mentality and they won't make it easy. It's tough to defend when you keep coming at a team. We have to play like we have nothing to lose."

The winner likely will face top-ranked Greely (17-1) Thursday in the semifinals at the new-and-improved Cumberland County Civic Center. Despite struggling against the Rangers in the regular season (Cape Elizabeth also fell at home to Greely, 51-47), the Capers would love another shot.

"Greely has the tools, but I think they're beatable," Ray said. "It will be interesting. It always is."

Looking ahead, the Western B Final is Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Civic Center and the Class B state game is Friday, Feb. 28, at the new Cross Center in Bangor.

In Western D, Greater Portland Christian School finished 3-15 and 15th in the Heals, but only 11 teams made the playoffs.

Hits and misses

On the girls' side, Scarborough and South Portland were looking forward to their opportunity as the postseason dawned.

The Red Riots had a surprisingly strong season, going 15-3 and closing on an eight-game win streak after a 71-39 home victory over Scarborough last Friday (Brianne Maloney had a game-high 23 points).

"The kids really believe that no one can beat them," said South Portland's first-year coach Lynne Hasson. "That's important. We're pretty athletic and tough."

The Red Riots earned the No. 3 seed in Western A and will face No. 6 Cheverus (12-6) or No. 11 Bonny Eagle (6-12) in the quarterfinals Monday at 2 p.m., at the Portland Exposition Building.

South Portland swept the Stags this year, winning, 72-56, Jan. 17 in Portland and rallying from an 18-point deficit for a 49-46 home victory on Feb. 4. The Red Riots also downed the host Scots, 47-31, on Dec. 23.

South Portland and Cheverus have no playoff history. The Red Riots last played Bonny Eagle in the 2001 third round (a 51-50 victory). The teams also met in the 1977 semifinals (56-29 South Portland), 1979 semifinals (46-31 Red Riots), 1985 quarterfinals (57-42 South Portland), 1993 quarterfinals (67-39 Scots), 1995 quarterfinals (67-52 Bonny Eagle) and in a tiebreaker for the 10th and final spot back in 1998 (a 54-39 win for the Scots).

"It's going to be a wide-open tournament," Hasson said. "It will be tooth and nail. We'll have to make foul shots, have key possessions and box out. That's where guts, character and mental toughness come in. All we can do is give our best effort, play hard and be focused and ready to play. The tournament's tough because good teams lose. We'll keep playing to win and we won't play not to lose. The score will take care of itself."

Scarborough ended up 7-11 after a 71-39 loss at South Portland (Jamie Sargent had 15 points) and earned the No. 9 seed, necessitating a preliminary round game at No. 8 Deering (8-10) Wednesday. Back on Jan. 24, the Red Storm lost at the Rams, 49-44. Scarborough won the lone prior playoff meeting (an epic 37-34, come-from-behind triumph in the 2010 Western A Final).

"We felt we let a couple get away and maybe won one we shouldn't have," said Red Storm first-year coach Mike Giordano. "We could have been 9-9, but we thought we'd be around .500. I think they've given me everything they had every night. We're learning on the fly. They're learning about me. I'm learning about them.

"We're excited (about Deering). We're evenly matched. The earlier game was tied with three minutes left and they finished the game and we didn't."

The winner will meet No. 1 McAuley (17-1), the three-time defending state champion, in the quarterfinals Monday at 8:30 p.m., at the Expo. Scarborough lost at home to the Lions on Jan. 14, 59-30. McAuley's eliminated the Red Storm from the playoffs each of the past two years.

"At some point, someone will have to beat them on a big stage and they have not lost on a big stage in quite a long time," Giordano said, of the Lions. "Until that happens, they're the prohibitive favorite."

Looking ahead, the Western A semifinals are Friday of next week at the Cumberland County Civic Center, while the regional final is the following day, Saturday, Feb. 22, also in Portland. The Class A state game is Saturday, March 1, at the Civic Center.

In Western B, Cape Elizabeth fell short of the playoffs with a 9-9 record, after losing, 54-38, to visiting Greely in the finale last Friday (Maddie Bowe had a team-high 11 points). The Capers wound up 13th in the region, but only 10 teams qualified.

In Western D, GPCS finished 6-12 and 13th, but only 10 teams made the playoffs.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.