Cape girls hold off to Freeport to balance record
CAPE ELIZABETH—A year ago, Cape Elizabeth's girls' basketball team shot onto the scene and made a spirited run to the playoffs.
This winter, the Capers, dealing with the burden of expectations for the first time, dropped their first two games, but came to life Saturday with a palpitating, last second win at Gray-New Gloucester.
Monday evening, Cape Elizabeth had a chance to even its record when it welcomed Freeport in the latest test in a brutal schedule.
The Capers started slowly and didn't lead until the final minute of the first half, but after halftime, Cape Elizabeth went on an 11-0 run to take control and after things got interesting heading into the fourth quarter, it managed to hold off the Falcons and their dynamic senior standout Nina Davenport to win, 48-36.
The Capers were led by junior Hannah Sawyer, who had 16 points, and sophomore reserve Maddie Bowe, who added a dozen, as they improved to 2-2 and dropped Freeport to 1-3 in the process.
"It was a nice win," said Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Casterella. "We're still learning how to play as a team. It will be a battle every game. I'm happy to be 2-2."
Putting it together
Both Cape Elizabeth and Freeport were pleasant surprises a year ago, each making it to the Expo for a quarterfinal round playoff game.
This year, each squad started 1-2.
The Capers opened with a 45-32 home loss to Wells, then fell at defending regional champion Lake Region (52-38).
"We did well for part of the game, then we kind of had a letdown against Lake Region," said Casterella. "I don't think we came to play against Wells. We were tentative and made foolish mistakes."
Saturday, Cape Elizabeth got in the win column courtesy a breathtaking 61-59 victory at Gray-New Gloucester on sophomore Kate Breed's late 3-pointer.
"That was a really big win for us," said senior Kate Miklavic. "We had two tough games early on."
The Falcons started the season with losses at Poland (52-31) and Greely (55-46) before winning their home opener, 42-37, over Fryeburg.
Last winter, Cape Elizabeth won at Freeport, 45-33. The last time the Falcons beat the Capers was two years ago, 61-40, at Cape Elizabeth.
Monday's game was close throughout, but while Freeport featured the best individual on the floor, Cape Elizabeth had more scoring balance.
The Falcons shot to a quick 4-0 lead as Davenport made a pair of layups. After the Capers got on the board on a free throw from senior Emma O'Rourke, Freeport senior Ashley Richardson took a pass in transition from senior Livvy Dimick and made a layup to give her team its biggest lead, 6-1.
The Capers' first field goal came courtesy a transition jumper from Breed. Miklavic added a jumper to pull the hosts within one, but Falcons sophomore Kayla Belanger answered with a jumper.
A leaner from Sawyer again cut the deficit to a point and Sawyer then blocked consecutive Davenport bids, but with 1:44 to go in the first period, Davenport finished a feed from junior Lauren Cormier to make it 10-7.
Bowe came off the bench and got on the board with a baseline jumper, but Davenport made two free throws. A driving layup from Bowe pulled Cape Elizabeth within a point, 12-11, after the first quarter.
There was no separation in the second period either.
After Belanger and Sawyer traded jumpers, Davenport hit a long jump shot and Breed scored on a putback. Freeport got a putback from junior MacKenzie Ackley to go up three, but a putback from Sawyer and a layup from senior Maddison Lengyel gave the Capers their first advantage, 19-18, which they took the break.
The teams would exchange the lead six times in the third period before Cape Elizabeth finally opened it up.
Just eight seconds into the second half, Davenport made a layup after a steal. Sawyer answered with a long jumper to put the Capers back on top, 21-20.
A Davenport leaner put the Falcons ahead, but Breed took a pass from Miklavic in transition and made a layup for a 23-22 advantage.
With 5:20 to go in the third, Freeport went on top for the last time, 24-23, when, after a Belanger steal, senior Vanessa Lee made a layup.
Thirteen seconds later, however, Bowe drained a jumper and Cape Elizabeth had a 25-24 advantage and it wouldn't look back.
Sawyer was fouled after an offensive rebound and added two free throws, Bowe canned a 3, senior Emma O'Rourke hit a leaner and after Falcons coach Jim Seavey called timeout to no avail, Sawyer scored on a putback to make it 34-24.
"It takes awhile to get momentum," Sawyer said. "I used my legs a little more in the second half."
A Belanger jumper with 1:45 remaining in the stanza ended the 11-0 run and a 3 minute, 35 second drought. Davenport then made a layup while being fouled and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play. Cormier then set up sophomore Jessica Wall for a layup off an inbounds pass and the visitors had the momentum heading for the final quarter, trailing only by three, 34-31.
With the game still teetering in the balance, the Capers began the fourth period on a 9-0 run to once again open it up.
Sawyer got it started with a jumper in the lane. Bowe then hit a 3. A runner from Sawyer and a fastbreak layup from senior Mary Perkins (set up by Miklavic) made the score 43-31 with just 3:50 to go.
Freeport then tried fouling to lengthen the game, but it never put together any kind of serious rally.
After Davenport snapped the run with a layup, O'Rourke made two free throws.
Davenport scored on a putback and Cormier made a foul shot with 2:14 left, but the Falcons wouldn't score again.
Three free throws in four attempts by O'Rourke in the late going brought the curtain down on Cape Elizabeth's impressive 48-36 triumph.
"We started driving a little more and waiting on our offense," Bowe said. "We didn't shoot as quickly. That helped us with our shots and going to the foul line. (The Gray win) gave us momentum. We were definitely excited and ready to compete again and win this one."
"The adjustment we made on offense was to stop settling for shots," said Casterella. "We wanted to work the ball around, get it from one side to the other. The kids figured it out. The looks we got were better than in the first half. We were patient.
"The two wins we've had were team wins. Every girl who played at Gray scored. Tonight was almost the same thing. The difference has been it's been an all-around effort. Multiple kids have stepped up."
Sawyer (16 points) and Bowe (12) finished in double figures.
"Hannah's shot wasn't therev(in the first half), but she ended up with 16 points," Casterella said. "She's developed into more than a spot-up shooter. Maddie can come off the bench and score easily in double digits. She's got a beautiful shot. It gives us more options. She's getting caught up to varsity speed. She's got height. She's just a great kid."
O'Rourke added eight points, Breed had six and Lengyel, Miklavic and Perkins each finished with two.
The Capers finished with a 40-38 edge in rebounds, as Sawyer led the way with 11, Miklavic had seven, O'Rourke six and Lengyel and Perkins five each. Sawyer also had the game's lone two blocked shots.
Cape Elizabeth turned the ball over 16 times, but forced 17 Freeport giveaways. The Capers finished 8-of-13 from the free throw line.
The Falcons got a game-high 21 points, 11 rebounds and three steals from Davenport.
"It's very hard relying on Nina," said Seavey. "Not just relying on her, but sometimes we can't even get her the ball. We're inexperienced at the guard position and right now it shows. If the other kids shoot and miss they don't want to shoot. I said in the locker room, 'Have I ever told any of you not to shoot? Than why did we stop? If you don't shoot, it can't go in.'"
Cape Elizabeth was happy that Davenport didn't play a bigger role.
"We worked a lot in practice about what we wanted to do," said Miklavic. "We wanted to minimize the points she'd score. Mary and (junior reserve) Ashley (Tinsman) and Emma all did a great job on her. She's a great player. We just had a really good team effort there."
"We had a defensive plan coming in and I think the girls executed it well," said Casterella. "Davenport still had 21 points, but she's that good. We wanted to limit her touches, make her work for her points and make other kids beat us. Score-wise, we put enough on the board so that her 21 didn't sink us. Ashley and Mary had primary responsibility. Mary's 5-foot-5. She's outweighed and outsized, but she's a battler. Our help defense from everybody else limited her. We sagged to prevent her from getting the ball in the post, or closing down driving lanes. She plays all over. That's a challenge. You can't just double her in the post. I feel very lucky."
Belanger added six points, while Ackley, Lee, Richardson (who had six rebounds) and Wall all had two and Cormier added one.
Freeport wound up 4-of-9 from the foul stripe.
"The team that got hotter shooting-wise prevailed," Seavey said. "They shot the ball well in the second half and we couldn't put the ball in the ocean if we were sitting in a boat. Sawyer and Bowe were unconscious in the second half. That's just the way it goes sometimes. Streaky shooting. When you're hot you're hot and when you're not you're not.
"Our rebounding was atrocious. That was the difference in the game. We had one shot and they had two or three. I just told the kids, 'If you want playing time Thursday, you'll rebound the next two days in practice.' Ashley had the heart and desire to go do it. The rest of the kids get pushed around. They need to compete. The expectation levels haven't been there in the past, but they're there now."
Freeport wraps up the 2013 portion of its schedule with a home game versus York and a trip to Wells. The Falcons will also play some games over the Christmas holiday.
"It's early, but it doesn't get easier," said Seavey. "We get York Thursday and Wells over the break. It's a very strong league top to bottom. We have to come ready to play. We'll keep plugging away and working at playing fundamental basketball. We have to rebound and shoot better. Kids just don't do enough of that on their own anymore. That's everybody, not just Freeport."
Cape Elizabeth, meanwhile, is back in action Saturday when it hosts up-and-coming Yarmouth. The Capers then close 2013 with a game at Kennebunk Dec. 28.
Further bolstering the team, talented sophomore Montana Braxton will return to action this weekend.
"We'll add Montana back in," Casterella said. "That's one more person to add depth and give us another option."
Cape Elizabeth knows, however, that there is much work to be done this season.
"Every night we have to come out and play hard," said Miklavic. "We want to take advantage of everything we can early on and hopefully that will help us later."
"We can always work on our press break," said Bowe. "We did a little better tonight than the other night. Overall, we have to keep it at our pace. We're treating it like any other year. We have different people. Most of us didn't get a lot of playing time last year. We're trying to adjust. We want to get the team's name out there."
"We take each game as it comes and try to focus on each team's biggest attributes," said Sawyer. "We have to make sure we look at each game and not look at the future. If we have a bad game, we have to put it behind us and move forward."
"We're defining roles," Casterella added "We have a little height, but we're mostly guards who are scrappy and get after it. We're still trying to find out combinations that can work. It's a good problem to have."