Scarborough girls open new year with win at SP
SOUTH PORTLAND—Just as it did a year ago, the unheralded Scarborough girls' basketball team entered a new year with an undefeated record Wednesday evening when the Red Storm made the short trip to Beal Gymnasium to take on once-beaten South Portland.
And as it did last winter, Scarborough kept the good times rolling behind its unique recipe for success.
The Red Storm couldn't match the Red Riots' size, but ran around and past them, produced points off 29 forced turnovers and every time the hosts made a run, stood up to the challenge.
Scarborough took the lead for good late in the first quarter, went up by seven points at halftime and extended its advantage to nine after three periods, then held South Portland to just one basket in the final 7:49 to seal a 42-30 victory.
Senior Mary Redmond exploded for 13 second half points to lead all scorers with 18, classmate Taylor LeBorgne added 10 and the Red Storm showed its depth, getting key bench contributions, most notably from sophomore Sam Sparda, as it improved to 7-0 and dropped the Red Riots to 6-2.
"We knew we'd get pushed," said first-year Scarborough coach Ron Cote. "(South Portland had) been playing very well. They had confidence in themselves. Coach (Mike) Giordano does a great job. I knew we'd be tested in their house. I was pleased with our intensity. I thought we executed for the most part. It's a good win for us."
The neighbors didn't start playing each other until the 2003-04 season, when Scarborough joined the Southwestern Maine Activities Association. The Red Riots took the first seven meetings between the schools before the Red Storm won, 45-41, during the 2008-09 regular season. That was the first of five wins in six meetings (including Western A quarterfinal round triumphs in 2009, 53-26, and 2010, 40-22) for Scarborough, capped by a 58-37 home triumph last year.
Both teams were playing their second game in three days.
The Red Storm, which didn't hire Cote as coach until October, easily handled visiting Biddeford Monday, 54-12, which followed on the heels of victories over host Gorham (56-23), visiting Westbrook (60-24), visiting Marshwood in a playoff rematch (44-31), host Windham (64-45) and host Portland (57-44).
The Red Riots were handed their first loss of the season Monday, 45-37, by visiting Deering. South Portland had won its first six outings: at Windham (48-27), at home over Biddeford (53-38), at Westbrook (61-42), at home over Thornton Academy (57-37), at Kennebunk (47-27) and at Massabesic (65-28), the last of which gave Giordano his 200th career win.
Wednesday, Scarborough rode a fast start to another victory.
The visitors broke the ice 40 seconds in when sophomore Ashley Briggs made a free throw. South Portland took its only lead 33 seconds later when sophomore Holly Black made a bank shot.
With 6:34 to go in the first quarter, a layup from LeBorgne put the Red Storm back on top, 3-2. Redmond added a jumper and after a steal from senior Courtney Alofs, Alofs fed Briggs for a layup and a quick 7-2 lead, forcing Giordano to call timeout.
The hosts responded with a Black layup, but Redmond sank a 3 and senior Maria Philbrick finished on a pretty left-handed driving layup to put Scarborough up, 12-4.
Then, South Potland's offense came to life and the Red Riots enjoyed an 8-0 run to tie the score.
A leaner from junior Brianne Maloney started the run. Senior sharpshooter Danica Gleason added a jumper, freshman Maddie Hasson fed Maloney for a layup and with 1:44 to go in the first, Hasson set up Black for a short baseline jumper, which tied the score at 12-12.
Just 13 seconds later, however, just after she entered the game, Scarborough senior Marisa O'Toole buried a 3-ball and the Red Storm had a 15-12 advantage after one period.
It took over two minutes for anyone to score in the second quarter before LeBorgne heated up to extend Scarborough's lead. First, she took a pass from Alofs and made a layup. Then, on an inbounds play, LeBorgne again was assisted by Alofs on a layup which made it 19-12.
South Portland answered when Hasson set up Maloney for a layup (ending a five minute drought). Black added a driving layup and with 3:15 to go in the half, Gleason managed to convert a putback while fading away from the hoop to cut the deficit to a mere point, 19-18.
Again, Scarborough responded, ending the half on a 6-0 surge.
Sparda first made her presence felt by breaking the Red Riots' press and feeding LeBorgne for a layup. Sparda then stole the ball and finished herself on a layup.
"I just try to help the team in whatever way I can, with rebounds or anything that helps," said Sparda.
"Sam works her tail off," Cote said. "She's like Alofs. They're cut from the same cloth. She did nice things for us. Rebounding, hustling. She made a nice pass for a layup. All those things add up."
LeBorgne scored one final basket in the half, a layup, from Redmond, and the Red Storm was up, 25-18, at the break.
South Portland had gotten close, but hadn't been able to get over the hump, due in large part to 15 first half turnovers.
That theme continued in the second half.
After Redmond pushed the lead to eight with a free throw to start the third period, Hasson made a 3 and freshman Meaghan Doyle scored on a putback to again make it a one possession game, 26-23.
Once more, Scarborough stayed focused and extended its lead as Redmond converted a leaner, Redmond made two free throws after a steal and with 3:28 showing in the period, Redmond pulled up and calmly buried a 3 to make it 33-23.
"I was open, so my teammates did a good job passing me the ball," Redmond said. "I just had to knock down the open shots. We've worked hard in practice on being unselfish and working the ball. We got open shots and we knocked them down."
South Portland got a point back at the line from Doyle, but Sparda fed sophomore Kaitlin Prince for a layup before Maloney set up Doyle for a layup to make it a nine-point contest, 35-26, with eight minutes to go.
The Red Riots envisioned making another run when Gleason made two free throws 11 seconds into the final stanza, but South Portland's inability to hold on to the ball and hit shots doomed its hopes.
After the Red Riots squandered opportunities to draw closer, Redmond essentially delivered the dagger with 5:23 remaining with a 3. Eighteen seconds later, senior Hope Owen scored on a putback for the hosts, but they didn't score again.
A pair of Redmond free throws and a jumper by Philbrick brought the curtain down on the 42-30 victory.
"We're definitely a fourth quarter team," said Redmond. "We know we can get a shot when we want. We have players who can make plays. We work hard and we never let up. We run the ball and try to get easy shots. We can run teams down."
"I feel like we responded really well under pressure," said Sparda. "We did well passing and playing team oriented. I feel like we're always the underdog and no one expects us to be up there. We always work really, really hard in practice and I think it helps us. It's difficult, but we got into the groove. Coach Cote is a great guy. He's helped us a lot with he style we like to play, which is fast."
"We pressed the whole game, so you'll have lapses, but we just hope they get more tired than we are," added Cote. "We played faster than they want to play. That's the philosophy of what we wanted to do. We have to keep running, pressing and causing problems. If we make it a halfcourt game against a taller team, it's not to our advantage. We need to make the game move faster because we have athletes and quickness."
Redmond had five field goals (including three 3s) and five foul shots to lead all scorers with 18 points.
"(Mary's) a scorer," Cote said. "She has that mental attitude about scoring. She handles her body well when she goes in. She can knock down the 3. She has the scoring mentality."
LeBorgne added 10 points, Philbrick had four, Briggs and O'Toole three apiece and Prince and Sparda two each.
The Red Storm was outrebounded, 31-25, but got five boards apiece from Alofs, Redmond and sophomore Bailey Adams. LeBorgne and Sparda had four each.
Scarborough finished with a whopping 17 steals, including four from Sparda and three apiece from Alofs, Philbrick and Redmond. The Red Storm turned the ball over 19 times and made 6-of-8 foul shot opportunities.
South Portland's top scorer was Black (eight points, to go with six boards). Gleason and Maloney each had six points and five rebounds, Doyle (a game-high 11 rebounds) added five points, Hasson had three and Owen two.
The Red Riots were 3-of-6 at line and couldn't overcome 29 turnovers.
"We had 29 possessions without a shot and we lost by 12," lamented Giordano. "We need to clean that up. If we shot 30 percent out of those possessions, that was enough to win the game. (The Red Storm) played harder and wanted it more than we did tonight. That's a compliment to them. We got it to three, then they'd get it to eight or nine. That was the flow of the game. Our runs were smaller than their runs. They've lost two games in a year. They know how to win and they play hard. I think our kids were a little surprised how hard they played. We didn't take advantage of our size. Credit to their defense."
Roller coaster ride
Both teams are now in the midst of tough stretches which will go a long way in determining where they'll be seeded for the postseason.
South Portland (third behind Scarborough and Deering in the Western Class A Heal Points standings) is back in action Tuesday at Sanford. Later in the season, the Red Riots close with a five-game stretch which includes two games versus McAuley and one each against Cheverus and Deering.
"Now we'll find out what we're made of," said Giordano. "We'll find out if we can handle adversity and who are our leaders and where we'll go from here. Sanford is next, down there. We'll work hard for the rest of the week and see who shows up."
Scarborough (first in Western A) plays host to Thornton Academy Friday and visits dangerous, undefeated Cheverus in a postseason rematch Tuesday. The following week, the Red Storm is home with Deering and goes to McAuley, hoping to avenge its only losses from last winter.
"Our rebounding has to keep improving," Redmond said. "Obviously, teams are bigger than us, so we have to box out. Our ball movement has to be good."
"We'll just keep playing hard, keeping pushing the ball, working on our skills," Sparda said. "If we do, we'll be OK."
"I'm very pleased where we are right now," added Cote. "Coming in, I knew we had four starters back, but I'm new and they're new to me, so there's an adjustment. I'm pleased how we've come out every night with intensity. If we don't do that, we'll be in trouble. It won't get easier. It'll only get tougher."