Scarborough earns gritty win at Biddeford
BIDDEFORD—The Scarborough boys' basketball team had come close, but hadn't managed to win a tight game in the early going of the 2012-13 season.
Saturday afternoon, the Red Storm managed to finish.
After scuffling for most of the first half, Scarborough trailed host Biddeford, its playoff nemesis, by six in the third quarter.
Then, the Red Storm erupted.
Scarborough, behind excellent senior leadership from the likes of Brendan Hall, Kevin Manning, Dillon Russo, Sam Terry, Sam Wessel and John Wheeler, closed the contest on a 31-15 run and pulled away for a 60-50 victory.
Junior Matt Hartl hit the biggest shot, a tiebreaking 3 with 6:41 to play, and Scarborough went on to even its record at 3-3, dropping the Tigers to 2-4.
"This is something we haven't done," said Red Storm first-year coach Tony DiBiase. "In the games we lost, we had good chances to win down the stretch and we didn't make big plays. We made our foul shots today and made some key shots. We played legitimate defense. It's a positive to win on the road."
Up and coming
The Red Storm went 10-9 last year, losing at home to Biddeford, 65-59, in the preliminary round. Scarborough welcomed DiBiase as coach this winter and the Red Storm has been competitive, just unable to close out games.
After opening with a 66-49 home win over Gorham, Scarborough dropped close decisions at Westbrook (63-59) and Marshwood (77-74). After downing visiting Windham, 68-49, the Red Storm gave highly touted visiting Portland a scare before falling, 63-53.
Biddeford gave eventual champion Deering fits before losing in last year's quarterfinal round, 66-54, to finish 10-10. The Tigers opened with losses at Cheverus (57-46) and at home to South Portland (68-43), then handled visiting Windham (54-36) and Massabesic 49-37), before losing at Westbrook (48-28).
In last year's regular season meeting, Scarborough prevailed, 63-60, at Biddeford. The Red Storm would do it again and avenge last year's playoff loss, but it had to overcome a slow start.
The Tigers struck first when senior Sam Methot, who would be in the middle of everything all afternoon, fed senior captain Matt Cote for a layup. Senior Nicholas Leblond added two foul shots before Scarborough got on the board on a free throw from Hall. Hall added another foul shot, but Methot set up Cote for a reverse layup and a 6-2 lead.
The Red Storm's first field goal came from 3-point range, courtesy Manning, with 4:36 to go in the first quarter. Leblond countered with a jumper, but Russo made a 3 to tie the score, 8-8.
A Leblond free throw and a Leblond driving layup put the Tigers back on top. In the final minute, a pretty tip-in by Russo pulled Scarborough to 11-10 at quarter's end.
Leblond opened the second period with a free throw, but Wessel tied it with a putback and Manning drained a 3 to put the Red Storm on top for the first time, 15-12.
Two free throws from Wheeler extended the lead to five, but Methot made a foul shot after an offensive rebound and senior Kyle Lagasse sank a 3.
After Wessel made a free throw, Biddeford went back on top on a 3 from senior captain Cameron Nadeau, who added a free throw seconds later for a 20-18 lead.
Scarborough went right back on top on a 3 from Hall, but Leblond sank a 3 and Lagasse did the same to give the Tigers a 26-21 advantage.
The visitors crawled back within a point on a pullup jumper from Hall and a Hall driving layup, but Biddeford got a 3 from Lagasse and a putback from senior Ian Robinson to go up six. Then, as time expired in the half, Scarborough sophomore Nate Wessel fed Russo for a layup to pull the Red Storm to 31-27 at the break.
Neither team shot well from the floor or the line in the first half, but it was anybody's game.
Early in quarter number three, Cote's left-handed leaner and a layup by senior Patrick Wilson were sandwiched around a layup by Russo to give the Tigers a 35-29 advantage.
That would prove to be Biddeford's highwater mark as Scarborough embarked on a 9-0 run to take the lead.
Hall got the rally started with a steal which resulted in a foul and the conversion of one of two free throws. Terry added a leaner, Russo scored on a third effort putback and with 3:05 left in the third, Russo stole the ball and raced in for a layup for a 36-35 advantage.
After Manning extended the lead on a putback, Biddeford ended the Red Storm's run when senior Matthew Boynton scored on a leaner, but with 2 seconds to go, Hartl fed junior Dan LeClair for a layup and a 40-37 Scarborough lead with eight minutes to play.
With the game on the line, the Red Storm didn't wilt this time around, instead making the key plays and hitting pivotal shots to prevail.
First, the Tigers forged the last tie of the game as Leblond made a free throw and Cote got a hook shot which rolled around and around the rim to drop.
With 6:41 left in regulation, Scarborough went on top to stay on a 3 from Hartl (his lone points).
A leaner by Manning extended the lead to five and after Lagasse made two free throws, Sam Wessel made two foul shots to make it 47-42 Red Storm with 4:18 showing.
A layup by Leblond with 3:59 to play made it a one possession contest, but Terry hit a baseline jumper and Hall hit three of four free throw opportunities to push the lead to 52-44 with 3:02 left.
Leblond got a point back at the line for the Tigers, but Wheeler sank two foul shots, Manning hit one, Wheeler made two more and Terry drained one with just under a minute remaining to stretch the lead to 58-45 and essentially put the game out of reach.
Down the stretch, Robinson made a bank shot for Biddeford, Terry hit a layup for Scarborough's final points and Methot sank a 3 to account for the 60-50 final score.
"We knew we couldn't lose this one because we'd lost a couple close ones," Russo said. "We stepped up. Coach told us to knock down shots. We were taking good shots. We wanted to keep shooting and hopefully they'd fall. We remembered last year. There was a little bit of a grudge. We didn't want to let them get us again."
"We came out slow, but we battled back in the second half and showed our senior leadership," said Hall. "We were 9-for-33 in the first half, but we came out and knocked some shots down. We made an adjustment at halftime to switch to man (defense). I think we matched up better in man against them. We forced turnovers. The guys off the bench made some big shots and got rebounds. We got up in their face and forced turnovers. We knocked down foul shots. It was definitely in the back of our heads, getting revenge."
"We're a perimeter team," DiBiase added. "We don't have any size. We have to make the outside shot. That's how we have to play. Biddeford played very well in the first half. In the second half, we forced them to do things they didn't want to do. We made some shots and that opened lanes. We have good athletes who can put the ball on the floor and go. They're seniors, but they're inexperienced seniors. Only Russo and Hall played extensively last year. The others played little, if any."
Hall and Russo each had 13 points to lead the Red Storm. Manning added 11 points, Terry had seven, Wheeler six, Sam Wessel five, Hartl three and LeClair two.
Scarborough had a slim 41-39 edge on the glass, as Hall finished with 11 rebounds, Terry had nine, Sam Wessel collected six and Russo had five. Russo had five of the Red Storm's nine steals. Scarborough committed 16 turnovers, but forced 21, and made 17-of-31 free throws (11-of-17 in the fourth quarter).
For Biddeford, Leblond led the way with 15 points. Lagasse added 11, Cote had eight, Methot, Nadeau and Robinson four apiece and Boynton and Wilson two each. Methot led the way on the glass with 11 boards, while Cote had nine and Robinson five. Methot also blocked two shots. The Tigers hurt themselves by only making 10-of-20 free throws.
Biddeford is back in action Wednesday when it hosts Portland.
Scarborough has a tough task of its own as it hosts undefeated South Portland. The Red Storm then goes to Thornton Academy and Cheverus and also has remaining tests against Deering, Bonny Eagle, Thornton Academy and a return match versus Biddeford Jan. 18 at home.
Scarborough feels it can be a factor right into the playoffs and be a team that no one wants to face.
"We're improving as a team," said Hall. "We're growing. It's a confidence thing. We need consistency."
"I think we're getting there," Russo said. "We lost those close ones early, but we have potential. I think we can beat some teams. We just have to execute. It's usually a team effort. We have a lot of chemistry. We play well together. We have to show we can play with the top teams. In practice, we have to work hard. We have to hit shots."
"We're there athletically with most teams," DiBiase added. "We just have to step it up and play basketball. Other than Portland, Deering, South Portland and Bonny Eagle, everyone else is in one group. I don't think anyone is unbeatable. Portland and South Portland and Deering are very, very good, but on a given night, anyone can win. We're trying to build to get better as January and February roll around."