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Cape girls chalk up another huge road victory

Sports

Cape girls chalk up another huge road victory

GRAY—In a season where every game is critical, the Cape Elizabeth girls' basketball team let an opportunity slip away in the first half.

But the Capers weren't about to make the same mistake twice.

After holding host Gray-New Gloucester scoreless for 6 minutes, 33 seconds to start the game, but allowing the Patriots to rally in the second quarter to tie the game at halftime, Cape Elizabeth pitched a 4 minute, 43 second shutout to start the third period and this time, the offense responded, scoring the first eight points of the second half to take control. The Capers then ended all doubt with a dominant fourth quarter and went on to a much-needed 45-28 victory.

Cape Elizabeth got 17 points from senior captain Kisa Tabery, a huge third period from freshman Montana Braxton, a great effort on the glass against a taller team and forced 22 turnovers as it evened its record at 7-7 and dropped the Patriots to 10-4.

"This is a huge one," Tabery said. "We really needed it. Gray has a really good record and they were high up in the playoff standings. We knew coming in this would be a really big win for us. We wanted to pull it out and we did."

Finding a way

Cape Elizabeth went 4-14 last winter and fell short of the postseason. This season, the Capers started slowly, dropping five of their first six. After a 54-42 loss at Falmouth in the opener, Cape Elizabeth sprung an upset at Freeport, 45-33. The Capers were then frustrated by visiting Gray-New Gloucester (45-42), host Greely (37-31), visiting Lake Region (46-23) and visiting Fryeburg (56-48). Everything changed Jan. 3 at Western C power Waynflete when Cape Elizabeth managed a 49-45 overtime win. That sparked a first-time-this-century five-game win streak, which also included victories over visiting Poland (43-35), host Wells (44-35), visiting Yarmouth (63-35) and host Fryeburg (42-31). The run ended last Friday when the Capers lost at home to Falmouth, 27-25, on a last-second 3-pointer. Friday night, at powerhouse York, Cape Elizabeth dropped under the .500 mark with a 52-35 loss.

Gray-New Gloucester won its first three games, lost at home to reigning regional champion Lake Region, won twice more, lost at home to York, then ran off another win streak of five to take a 10-2 record into Friday's home game versus Greely. The next 24 hours wouldn't be kind to the Patriots, however, as they dropped an agonizing 44-41 overtime decision to the Rangers before having to bounce right back to face the Capers.

The teams split last year, with Cape Elizabeth winning, 39-36, at Gray and the Patriots returning the favor, 46-37, on the Capers' floor. In the first meeting this winter, Cape Elizabeth rallied to tie it late but sophomore Maria Valente (17 points) hit the go-ahead free throws as Gray-New Gloucester prevailed.

Saturday, the Capers came out strong, but had nothing to show for it at halftime.

A jump shot from junior Emma O'Rouke put Cape Elizabeth up early and after a steal from junior Kate MIklavic, senior Marlo Dell'Aquila made a layup for a 4-0 lead.

With 1:38 left in the opening stanza, Dell-Aquila made a free throw to push it to 5-0, but despite the Patriots' offensive and ballhandling (eight first quarter turnovers) woes, the Capers hadn't taken command.

Eleven seconds later, the hosts finally got on the board when junior Stephanie Greaton made two foul shots.

A free throw from Valente started the second period, but Tabery made a shot to end a 7 minute, 10 second Cape Elizabeth field goal drought. Greaton made a layup with 6:21 to go before halftime (Gray-New Gloucester's first field goal) and a jump shot from junior Grace Ferguson tied the score.

Tabery answered with a driving layup and Tabery hit a jump shot to make it 11-7 Capers, but back roared the Patriots as sophomore Zoe Adams made a layup, senior Haylee Cote knocked down a 3 for Gray-New Gloucester's first lead and Ferguson scored on a left-handed hook shot for a 14-11 advantage.

Tabery prevented the Patriots from going on a bigger run with a layup and sophomore Hannah Sawyer put Cape Elizabeth back on top, 15-14, with a putback.

Cote restored Gray-New Gloucester's lead with two free throws, but Dell'Aquila made a foul shot to tie it, 16-16. In the final minute, Sawyer knocked down a long jumper, but senior Sammie Wilkins answered with one of her own to make it an 18-18 game at halftime.

After scoring just two first period points, the Patriots produced 16 in the second, turning the ball over only three times in the process.

The Capers, meanwhile, had 11 first half turnovers, part of the reason they were tied and not ahead at the break.

The start of the second half was similar to the first, but this time, Cape Elizabeth pounced and took a healthy lead.

Braxton first made her presence felt on offense making a layup after a steal 30 seconds in to put the Capers on top to stay, 20-18.

The next time down, Cape Elizabeth kept its possession alive with three offensive rebounds before Tabery scored on a driving left-handed layup.

Braxton added a jumper and scored on a putback and suddenly, with 3:37 to go in the third period, the Capers had their biggest lead thus far, 26-18.

"I'd been missing my foul shots in the first half," said Braxton. "I knew I had to step up and do something on offense."

"Montana's best asset is right around the hoop," said Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Casterella. "She gets offensive rebounds and puts it back in. Her touch around the hoop is pretty good. She did that in the third quarter. She's determined. She doesn't play like a freshman."

Twenty seconds later, the Patriots ended the run and a 5:04 drought when Wilkins made two free throws, but Dell'Aquila took a pass from Sawyer and made a transition layup, Tabery made two free throws and Tabery scored on a putback before Valente banked home her first field goal late in the quarter to make it a 32-22 game entering the final stanza.

The Capers only committed two turnovers in the third period.

"I think we kind of calmed down our offense a little bit, set better screens and had better looks," said Tabery. "We figured out how to beat their press. We got through it. We try to stay poised. Last year, that was one of our struggles. We'd turn the ball over. We have a better handle on the ball this year."

Any Patriots' comeback hopes were quickly dashed in the fourth.

After Braxton scored on a runner off the glass, Cape Elizabeth got the ball back and Braxton broke the press and found Dell'Aquila for a layup. Dell'Aquila was fouled on the play and made the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play to effectively break Gray-New Gloucester's back.

O'Rourke added a foul shot and with 4:40 left, Tabery scored on a spinner while being fouled and added the free throw to make it 41-22.

The Patriots got a free throw from Ferguson and a 3 from senior Michele Dehetre, but junior Kate Miklavic got a point back for the Capers at the line. After junior Julia Martell scored on a putback for the hosts, O'Rouke made a free throw and junior Anna Goldstein hit a jumper to give Cape Elizabeth the 45-28 victory.

"It was the same thing from the Waynflete game," said Casterella. "Going into the second half, I said, 'Guys, it's 18-18. We need to be the better team for the next half.' We were today. We handled York's very good press last night, but we were making foolish passes (in the first half). We got nervous and felt the pressure. I said, "Guys, you can do this.' We couldn't see over the pressure. We figured out a way to break it. That helped. We got some easy baskets. The girls just locked down and were focused and determined. We have outside motivation. Things you hear. I shared some of that with them. (The girls) were ready to get a win. Thank God we won it. This was a huge win. Mostly because we finally beat a team ahead of us."

Tabery had seven field goals and three foul shots to lead all scorers with 17 points.

"Kisa had big baskets," said Casterella. "She had a couple and-ones. She's not a marked player. It's nice when she puts major points on the board."

Dell'Aquila added nine points, Braxton had eight, O'Rourke and Sawyer four each, Goldstein two and Miklavic one.

The Capers finished with a 33-28 rebounding advantage as Braxton and Tabery each had seven and Dell'Aquila five.

"Montana gets as many rebounds as I do," said Tabery. "Any night, anyone can get rebounds. We work on boxing out and getting over the back calls because we don't have a lot of height."

Dell'Aquila also had three of Cape Elizabeth's six steals.

The Capers didn't make life easy on themselves, committing 20 turnovers and missing 13 free throws (while making nine), but prevail they did, thanks to another team effort.

"Marlo and Kisa set such a great example," said Casterella. "All the girls have bought into it. They want to get better and figure things out. They know we may be outclassed and other teams may have more talent. We're undertalented sometimes, but we won't be outworked. That's our goal in every game. If we work harder, we'll be in the game."

For Gray-New Gloucester, Cote and Ferguson tied for high scoring honors with five points each. Greaton and Wilkins each had four. Dehetre and Valente added three apiece and Adams and Martell each finished with two. Greaton led the way on the glass with six rebounds, while Martell and Valente both had five.

The Patriots, who were 8-of-12 from the charity stripe, were ultimately doomed by their poor shooting and 22 turnovers.

"We knew we needed to stop Valente, but we knew that they're strong all-around," said Braxton. "We were worried about their whole team.

Your guess is as good as mine

The best mathmetician or soothsayer doesn't have a clue how the final Western Class B Heal Points will end up. With so many competitive teams in the region this winter, it will certainly make for a fascinating tournament, which begins in just over two weeks with the preliminary round. While the top five teams appear locked in and the top four will earn byes to the quarterfinals, spots six through 14 (only 12 teams make the playoffs) are still up in the air. While it appears that both the Capers and Patriots will qualify for the postseason, they're hoping to move up the ladder in the season's final two weeks.

Gray-New Gloucester (now sixth in the Heals) hosts Poland in its home finale Tuesday, then closes with games at Fryeburg, Greely and Lake Region.

The Capers (seventh in the standings), according to longtime former athletic director and Heal Points savant Keith Weatherbie clinched a postseason berth with this victory, but they're not satisfied. Tuesday, Cape Elizabeth is home with Wells. Friday brings a rematch with York, at home. After playing at Yarmouth Feb. 5, the Capers close the regular season at home with Greely three days later.

It's likely we haven't heard the last of this special group, but Cape Elizabeth knows it still has work to do.

"We're getting pretty confident," Braxton said. "At the beginning, we were on a losing streak, but we're keeping composed during games. We have great captains. Marlo and Kisa do a great job leading us. The rest of the season will be hard. No easy games."

"We need to keep going hard in practice and bringing it into the big games we have the rest of the way," Tabery said. "It would nice to pull out some wins. I think our team chemistry is really strong. We work as a team. We don't have a star player, which is really nice. Anyone can bring it any night. Tonight, we all brought it."

"We've got a revolving door in the league," Casterella added. "You have a couple teams at the top. The rest of us are close. You can't go by record. You can just go by who beat whom. We had a chance to beat Falmouth and they knocked down a 3 because we couldn't make foul shots. We did the best we could against York. I think they're the best team in the league. We'll make adjustments for when we see them again. We have Wells, Yarmouth, York and Greely. Yarmouth has (Sean) Cahill back. Nothing easy the rest of the way. I just want to make the tournament. Then, we want to get as high as we can. You can look at matchups all day long. There are a bunch of equal teams. It should be a very good tournament."

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

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Cape Elizabeth junior Kate Miklavic shows defensive intensity while guarding Gray-New Gloucester senior Sammie Wilkins.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Cape Elizabeth sophomore Hannah Sawyer goes up for a shot.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Cape Elizabeth senior Marlo Dell'Aquila drives on a defender.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Cape Elizabeth freshman Montana Braxton, who had a huge second half, helps break the Gray-New Gloucester press.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Casterella talks to her team during a timeout.