Greely falls in regional final
PORTLAND—After flying under the radar for most of the 2011-12 season, the Greely girls' basketball team found itself on the big stage Saturday afternoon in the Western Class B Final at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
A big-time production ensued, but unfortunately for the Rangers, it came courtesy the opposition, the top-ranked Lake Region Lakers.
After No. 3 Greely scored the game's first basket, the Lakers got the next eight points and never looked back as sophomore standout Tiana-Jo Carter was her usual disruptive self at both ends of the floor and junior Sydney Hancock had an afternoon to remember, with 22 points.
Lake Region opened up a 13-6 lead after one quarter and was in command at halftime, up, 29-10. The Rangers never got closer than 19 points the rest of the way as their season ended at 17-4 with a 49-30 loss to a Lakers' squad which improved to 19-2 and advanced to meet Presque Isle in Friday's Class B Final.
"It's not how you want to end it," said Greely first-year coach Kim Hilbrich. "Especially for the seniors. We had a great year. There's nothing for them to put their heads down about."
Greely got to the Western B semifinals a year ago before being sent packing by York for a third straight season. This winter, the Rangers, under Hilbrich, gradually evolved into a dynamic team.
Greely lost its opener at Wells, then turned things around by beating nemesis York for the first time in 10 tries. The Rangers would fall only at Lake Region and York the rest of the way and finished 15-3, good for the No. 3 seed.
Greely held off an upset bid by No. 6 Wells in the quarterfinals (43-38), then earned some sweet revenge with a 44-38 win over second-ranked York in the semifinals.
As for Lake Region, which was ousted by Leavitt in last winter's semifinals, it was the best team in the region for most of the season, winning 13 straight to start the year. The Lakers only lost at York and Greely and their 16-2 mark gave them the No. 1 seed in the region.
After handling eighth-ranked Yarmouth, 60-34, in the quarterfinals, Lake Region had to go to overtime to hold off No. 4 Leavitt, the defending state champions in the semifinals, 59-54.
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 junior 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).
Saturday, Lake Region was in control pretty much throughout.
Greely scored first and got an immediate dose of confidence, considering it didn't score a single point in its last regional final two years ago. Senior Haylee Munson set up freshman Ashley Storey for a jumper and a 2-0 lead, but Lake Region got the next eight points to seize control.
After Carter made a free throw, she banked home a putback and the Lakers were ahead to stay. Hancock then set up senior Abby Craffey for a 3 and Hancock passed to junior Kelsey Winslow for a driving layup and an 8-2 lead.
After a driving bank shot from Storey ended the run, Hancock pulled off an impressive individual feat, splitting two defenders, drawing the foul while going up and somehow scooping the shot off the glass. Hancock completed the old-fashioned three-point play with a free throw.
With 1:28 to go in the quarter, Jackie Storey banked home a hook shot over Carter, but two Winslow free throws gave Lake Region a 13-6 advantage after one.
The Lakers extended the lead in quarter number two.
Carter scored on a putback. Freshman Sarah Hancock added a foul shot. After Ashley Storey made a floater, Sydney Hancock took over, sandwiching a layup and a layup after a steal around a Craffey 3 and Lake Region was in command, up, 23-8.
With 3:17 remaining in the half, Ashley Storey set up Jackie Storey for a jumper, but the Lakers closed the half on a 6-0 run as Hancock made a 3, then hit another and it was 29-10 Lakers at the break.
Craffey started the second half with another 3, Hancock made two free throws and Hancock pulled off another athletic driving scoop layup for a 36-10 lead midway through the stanza.
A putback from Ashley Storey with 2:48 left in the third ended an 8 minute, 29 second scoring drought and Lake Region's 13-0 run. Munson added a free throw and classmate Ellie Weickert added a putback, but Hancock made two foul shots and Winslow added two. As time expired, junior Caton Beaulieu passed to Weickert for a short jumper, but that only cut the deficit to 40-17 heading for the fourth.
There, Lake Region made it official, but the Rangers fought hard until the final horn.
A Beaulieu bank shot was answered by a Carter leaner. With 6:28 left, Munson knocked down Greely's first 3 of the day to cut the deficit to 20.
The Lakers answered with a Carter putback and two Hancock free throws and after a steal and layup by Beaulieu, a foul shot from senior Allison Clark made it 47-24.
Jackie Storey scored on a putback and Ashley Storey (from Beaulieu) made a layup, but Carter drew Ashley Storey's fifth foul and hit one free throw. Sarah Hancock added one final free throw and with 41.6 seconds to go, Greely's Abby Nielsen made two foul shots to account for the 49-30 final score.
"It feels good," Lake Region coach Paul True said. "The kids have worked hard. They deserved it. We knew a big key for us was to apply some pressure on the perimeter and make it difficult on every possession to get it inside."
For Lake Region, Sydney Hancock was the story, scoring 22 points, grabbing five rebounds and adding two steals.
"Syd struggled a little bit the first two (tournament) games, but I thought today would be her game," True said. "She's put in a lot of time and in big moments like this, kids like that step forward and she did that tonight."
Carter finished with nine points, but she excelled on the glass (14 rebounds) and swatted away five shots.
"T is steady," True said. "Defensively, she's been like that all year long. She's a difference maker. She was patient. She didn't go for up-fakes. She stayed on the floor. That was a discouraging factor for Greely tonight."
Craffey had nine points (on three 3s) and also grabbed four boards. Winslow had seven points, four rebounds and two steals, while Clark and Sarah Hancock each added one point.
The Lakers made 16-of-27 free throws and turned the ball over 18 times.
They were a very different (and much better) team than what Greely saw a few weeks back.
"I've said for years that in high school basketball, homecourt advantage is huge," True said. "We didn't play very well (in that game), we were missing kids and T was banged up. I thought the bigger floor would help our game today. We've negated their perimeter play this year. We made a switch with Kelsey guarding Jaclyn and Tiana guarding Ashley. We thought that worked out in our favor. "
Lake Region will face a stern test Friday at 7 p.m. in Bangor when it meets Eastern B champion Presque Isle, which is 21-0 to date.
The Lakers, who are seeking their first state championship since 1975, lost to Presque Isle, 48-36, in the 2006 state final.
"That game's not a defining factor for me," True said. "We've played in five Western Maine Finals in the last eight years. I'm so proud of the kids. We'll enjoy every moment of it and looking forward to going to Bangor. (Presque Isle's) an outstanding team."
Much to be proud of
The Rangers got 10 points and four rebounds from Ashley Storey. Jackie Storey finished with six points and seven boards. Beaulieu added four points and four steals. Munson also had four points, as did Weickert (three rebounds). Abby Nielsen finished with two points.
Greely was outrebounded, 31-18 and committed 14 turnovers. The Rangers only got to the line for four attempts, making three.
"Lake Region is extremely well coached," Hilbrich said. "They're a very good ball club. I think we have the ability to play with anybody in the state. I still believe that. It just wasn't our day today. We did have looks, but they just weren't falling for us. I probably don't want to know our shooting percentage. There's was very good. I'll put my guards up against anybody in the state. I'm proud of how my guards have played this year. They just had a tough game today. I'll continue to put them up against other guards. We didn't score for quite awhile. That hurt."
Greely's 17 wins exceeded pretty much everyone's expectations and hopes.
The Rangers really had a remarkable run.
"I've been so proud of this team all year long because they don't quit," said Hilbrich. "I knew I had good athletes. I knew there's a tradition at Greely. Coming in, I was happy about what I had to work with. The kids stepped up and did everything we asked them to do."
Greely loses Hamilton, Munson, Nielsen and Weickert, along with five others to graduation, but both Storeys will return, as will Beaulieu, so the Rangers have a good foundation for future success.
"It's hard to look ahead right now, but it's going to be a lot of fun for the next few years," Hilbrich said. "We'll keep trying. That's what this is all about. It's the joy of the game, coming out and playing hard and being with your teammates. It was a sisterhood we had at Greely this year."