Greely gets its revenge and then some
PORTLAND—For three years, the championship hopes and dreams of the Greely girls' basketball team were torn asunder by the York Wildcats.
Thursday afternoon, finally, the Rangers served up a dose of revenge.
Third-ranked Greely, unheralded despite its tremendous success all winter, had this game circled since the playoff seedings came out and never let No. 2 York get comfortable in the teams' Western Class B semifinal at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Rangers took the lead for good midway through the first period, pushed it to 22-10 at halftime and capped a sluggish third quarter with two 3-pointers from senior Caroline Hamilton to pretty much end all doubt. Even though the Wildcats battled to the end, Greely went on to a 44-28 victory.
The Rangers got a game-high 17 points from freshman Ashley Storey and displayed plenty of balance after that as they improved to 17-3, ended York's season at 15-5 and advanced to meet No. 1 Lake Region (18-2) in the Western B Final Saturday at 2 p.m., at the Civic Center.
Finally!" said Hamilton. "It's amazing. After three years, this is what I've worked for. We're not done."
Sweet, sweet revenge
Greely got to the Western B semifinals a year ago before being sent packing yet again by York. This winter, the Rangers, under new coach Kim Hilbrich, have gradually evolved into a dynamic team.
Greely dropped its opener at Wells (49-43), then put it together, beating visiting York (for the first time in 10 tries, 43-41), host Falmouth (37-30), visiting Fryeburg (39-29), host Cape Elizabeth (49-23) and visiting Poland (47-31). The new year didn't start auspiciously with a 40-27 loss at Lake Region, but four straight victories followed as the Rangers downed host Yarmouth (48-18), visiting Traip (42-31), host Freeport (53-38) and visiting Falmouth (43-37). After a 40-30 loss at York, Greely defeated visiting Gray-New Gloucester (53-44), host Fryeburg (47-37), visiting Yarmouth (56-43), visiting Lake Region (39-37), host Gray-New Gloucester (44-33) and visiting Cape Elizabeth (41-26) to wind up 15-3, good for the No. 3 seed.
York, which lost to Waterville in the state game in 2009, went undefeated and won a Gold Ball in 2010 and appeared destined to repeat last year only to lose to eventual champion Leavitt in the regional final (which snapped a 42-game win streak). The Wildcats came back to the pack a bit this winter due in large part to the graduation of standouts Nicole Taylor (now playing at the University of Vermont) and Stephanie Gallagher (who went to the University of Southern Maine).
They opened with a win at Fryeburg, then lost at Greely. After winning six in a row, they lost by 14 at Lake Region and were stunned by a point at Poland. York finished on a 7-1 tear, falling only at home by a point to Falmouth. The Wildcats had to scratch and claw to avoid an upset in Tuesday's preliminary round, holding off No. 7 Gray-New Gloucester, 51-42.
The Rangers ended a nine-game losing streak to the Wildcats with a 43-41 come-from-behind with Dec. 13 at home, then lost at York, 40-30 Jan. 24. Greely hadn't dropped a game since.
Greely and York had played seven previous times in the playoffs, with the Wildcats leading, 4-3. York had Greely's number in each of the past three tournaments: 49-30 in the 2009 regional final, 50-38 in the 2010 regional final and 46-15 in last year's semifinal round.
Thursday, the tables turned as the Rangers salved the wounds of the past three seasons.
The Wildcats got the game's first three points as senior Addison LaBonte made a free throw and LaBonte set up senior Emily Campbell for a layup.
Then, Greely got it going.
With 6:10 left in the first period, Hamilton knocked down a 3. Ashley Storey gave Greely its first lead when her bank shot rolled around the rim three times before dropping. With 4:59 left in the first, junior Ruby Cribby scored on a rebound of her own shot, was fouled and made the free throw for York's final lead.
Fifty seconds later, senior Haylee Munson passed to Ashley Storey for a layup. Before the quarter was over, Storey scored on a putback and took a pass from junior Jackie Storey and made a jumper to give the Rangers an 11-6 lead after one.
"Our start was really important," Ashley Storey said. "When we get a lead, usually we keep it. it's tough to come back when you're down by so much."
Greely did even better in the second period.
A 3-ball from senior Courtney Nielsen made it 14-6. With 4:31 to go before halftime, Mountford made a short jumper after a steal to end the 9-0 Greely run and an 8 minute, 28 second scoring drought. Junior Marquis MacGlashing added a free throw and Mountford hit another, but the Rangers got the final six points of the half.
Junior Caton Beaulieu made a free throw, then hit a jumper in the lane after making a nice move to elude a defender. Munson added a foul shot and with 14.8 seconds to go, Munson passed to Jackie Storey for a layup and Greely was in command, up, 22-10.
"We knew we needed to come out strong and stay strong," Munson said. "That's been an issue for us, but we did it this time."
"We didn't want to get down early because it's hard to come back when the other team gets momentum," Hamilton said. "We got the lead and kept it with our defense."
Greely struggled on offense the first half of the third quarter, but York couldn't cut much off its deficit.
Eleven seconds in, Mountford made a free throw. Neither team then scored for over three minutes before LaBonte banked home a runner, ending an 8:17 field goal drought by the Wildcats.
But that would be as close as York would get.
With 3:56 remaining in the third, Ashley Storey got an offensive rebound and knocked down a short jumper. Cribby answered with a free throw, but Munson countered with two.
With 2:25 to go, Mountford drove and banked home a tough angle finger roll to make it 26-16.
Then, Hamilton ended the competitive phase of the game.
First, with 1:19 left in the quarter, she took a pass from Munson and sank a 3.
Then, with 19.2 seconds remaining, in transition, Beaulieu passed to Hamilton and she nailed another 3-ball to give the Rangers a 32-16 lead after three.
"Warmups were rough, but in the heat of the moment, you just shoot, you don't think about it," said Hamilton. "It gave us momentum going into the fourth."
"Caroline has a great shot," said Hilbrich. "She's struggled a little bit this year, but I have the utmost confidence in her shot. I expect it to go in every time she shoots."
Greely finished it off in the fourth.
Hamilton passed to Nielsen for a layup to push the lead to 18. Mountford answered with a driving layup, but the Storey sister act returned as Jackie set up Ashley for a layup and a 36-18 advantage.
After Wildcats sophomore Anne Graziano made a free throw, Mountford sank a pair, but Hamilton answered with one and Beaulieu set up Ashley Storey for a layup and a 39-21 lead with 3:52 to play.
To its credit, York never folded. Campbell knocked down a 3 and Cribby made a layup. Mountford sank a free throw and Campbell hit a long jumper to make it a 39-28 game.
With 1:45 to play, Mountford almost cut the deficit to single digits, but her runner went in and out and was rebounded by Beaulieu.
With 1:34 left, Munson passed to Ashley Storey, who hit a leaner while being fouled, then completed the three-point play with a free throw to essentially ice it. Two foul shots from Beaulieu with 1:02 remaining brought the curtain on the therapeutic 44-28 victory.
At last, the nemesis had been slain.
"We didn't want to beat them because they beat us, because our goal was states," Hamilton said. "We just didn't want to lose to them again."
"I don't even know what to say," said Munson. "We haven't won anything yet, but it's a personal feat for us. I lost to them every year in high school and I wasn't going to let it happen again. I know we acted like we just won something. It's exciting. We lost to them in the regular season and in playoffs. We finally got past them. We take it one game at a time, so we only prepared for them yesterday. We tried to play the whole game like we were down. We talked about keeping our foot on the gas pedal the whole game and we did that."
"I've been in the crowd the past three years and it was tough to watch," said Ashley Storey. "This year was better, obviously. We were all pumped up coming in. We weren't going to let them win. At halftime, we treated it like we were down by 10."
Hilbrich was thrilled with her team's effort.
"In any game it's good to get off to a good start," she said. "It gives you confidence and allows you do things on the court you want to do. Going out there, taking care of the ball, doing the fundamentals, it's all on them. I had people diving for balls and hustling and that's what I've been asking. My guards take care of the ball. They handle things well."
Ashley Storey continued to demonstrate why she's one of the premier young talents in the state, adding 12 rebounds and a blocked shot to her 17 points.
"Our motto is to only let them get one shot, so rebounding and boxing out is a key," said Storey. "On offense, we just work it around to get it into the post. if we have good shots, we take it."
"I don't have a freshman anymore," Hilbrich said. "She plays hard and she works hard. She's going to be a force to contend with in the future."
Hamilton had 10 points, including three 3-pointers, four rebounds and a steal.
Beaulieu was steady throughout with five points and six rebounds. Nielsen had five points as well. Jackie Storey finished with just four points, but was a rock defensively and grabbed six rebounds, while blocking a shot and snaring a steal. Munson had three points, three boards and six assists.
"I prefer getting the assists," said Munson. "I think I distribute the ball well. Jackie and Ashley are our rocks. I try to get the ball to them."
The Rangers had a 33-30 rebounding advantage, made just 8-of-15 free throws and turned the ball over 16 times, but victory was never in doubt in the second half.
York's effort was sparked by Mountford, who only stands 5-foot-7, but was all over the place, grabbing 11 rebounds, three steals and blocking three shots to go with her 11 points. Making her effort more impressive was the fact she's been playing with a severe ankle injury.
"Andrea was all guts," York coach Rick Clark said. "She can't practice. She's too sore to practice. She gives everything she has. She didn't want to come out."
Campbell finished with seven points (and six boards), Cribby had five, LaBonte three (and four rebounds) and Graziano and MacGlashing one apiece.
The Wildcats had 21 turnovers and shot 11-of-21 from the charity stripe.
"Give Greely all the credit, but we couldn't hit the broad side of a barn," Clark lamented. "We had opportunities. We looked tense early on, then we started doing what we're supposed to do. We just didn't get results. We did everything right in the third quarter, we got steals, rebounds, defensive stops and at the end of that stretch we gained one point. We had that spurt at the end where we tried to get under 10 and hoped to see if we could make it tough for them, but we couldn't get to that point. We didn't have the answers. It's tough to be a state champion as a sophomore, miss out last year and lose in the semifinals this year, but (the seniors) handled it fine."
Greely will play in its third regional final in four years and seeks its first state final berth since winning it all back in 2004 when it meets a Lake Region team it knows very, very well.
The Rangers split with the Lakers in the regular season, losing, 40-27, in Naples and winning, 43-41, at home on a late basket from Jackie Storey. Greely beat Lake Region in the 2001 quarterfinals (44-33) and the 2009 quarterfinals (39-27) and lost to the Lakers in the 2005 semifinals (45-42) and the 2007 semifinals (44-32)
As thrilled as Greely was with Thursday's win, the Rangers know they're not done yet. They have every intention of continuing this ride for another week.
"I'm excited," Hamilton said. "If we play our game and our defense and don't turn the ball over, I know we can beat anyone."
"We just have to play lockdown defense and not let them score, said Ashley Storey. "
"I'm just happy to be there," said Munson. "We've kind of been overlooked and have been the underdogs, but I'd rather be the underdogs. We came into the tournament with no target on our backs, no pressure. We weren't in the top 10 teams to watch at the start of the season. We beat York and we beat Lake Region and we got our five minutes of fame. Then, it was over."
Hilbrich can't say enough about her teams' effort all winter and is eager to take on another challenger.
"The kids have done all year long what we've asked them to," Hilbrich said. "It's a lot of fun. I've said all year long to come into this situation with these kids, it's a utopia. They're great kids. They've grown in leaps and bounds.
(Lake Region's) a great team. they're well-coached. They move the ball well. The kids are basketball savvy. We have to take care of the basketball, play good defense and rebound (Saturday). Do the fundamental stuff."
The Class B state game is Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m., at the Bangor Auditorium.