Greely girls continue dominance over Yarmouth
CUMBERLAND—The names and the faces change, but the dominance of the Greely girls' basketball team over neighboring Yarmouth does not.
Wednesday evening, not only did the host Rangers carry a 15-game, nearly nine-year win streak versus the Clippers onto the floor, but they were further bolstered by the return of junior standout Ashley Storey from offseason shoulder surgery.
Sure enough, Storey scored the game's first four points and Greely never looked back.
The Rangers led, 11-2, after one period, pushed it to 26-9 at halftime and after fending off a Yarmouth rally in the third quarter, rolled to their third straight win this winter, 51-28.
Storey finished with 11 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, senior Blaise Tardif led all scorers with 13 points, junior sparkplug Haley Felkel inspired the effort from start to finish and Greely also got some key contributions from the freshmen on its roster as it improved to 3-1 with its third straight victory and dropped the up-and-coming Clippers to 1-3 in the process.
"It felt really good to be back," said Storey. "I was really excited."
On the rise
Yarmouth struggled through a 1-17 season last winter, but there's new optimism around the program this year, thanks to the arrival of new coach Chris Strong, a one-time University of Maine standout, assistant coach Ashley Marble, one of the more storied local players of recent vintage, and an up-and-coming core of players.
The Clippers opened with a decisive 57-25 victory at Kennebunk. They then dropped two heartstoppers: 38-35 at home to Falmouth and 46-44 to visiting Poland.
Greely, a semifinalist in 2012-13, expects to be one of the last teams standing again this winter. After dropping their opener, 54-31, at Gray-New Gloucester, the Rangers downed visiting Freeport, 55-46, and host Kennebunk, 50-25.
Greely beat Yarmouth twice last winter: 68-29 at home and 57-41 on the road to make it 15 in a row over the Clippers and 18 out of 20 since the start of the 2001-02 season (please see sidebar, below). Yarmouth's last win over Greely came in Cumberland, 56-48, Jan. 8, 2005, en route to its lone state final berth. The last time the Clippers even took the Rangers to the wire was Dec. 23, 2008, in a 40-36 home loss.
Wednesday, Greely quickly seized control, courtesy a player who was welcomed back with open arms.
Just 19 seconds in, the ball came to Storey on the left baseline and she didn't hesitate, rising for a jumper that found nothing but net and the Rangers were ahead to stay.
"I've been waiting for so long," Storey said. "I was disappointed I couldn't play. It was hard to watch. I was open, so I just shot it and it went in."
"Ashley obviously creates opportunities for everyone on the floor," said second-year Greely coach Joel Rogers. "Her wind was pretty good. I ran a play for her to get her shot off and she made it. She's like having another coach on the floor. She's such a talent. She got banged around a little bit, but didn't shy away from anything. She'll lead the team in assists like last year. She's that smart of a player."
Storey added another jumper and Felkel got in on the fun with a driving layup to make it 6-0 just two minutes in.
After the Clippers got on the board with 4:12 to go in the opening stanza on a layup from senior Sean Cahill (assisted by classmate Grace O'Donnell), Storey made a free throw, Felkel scored on a putback and sophomore Madison Cyr did the same to give the Rangers a commanding 11-2 advantage after one quarter.
Greely opened it up further in the second.
After Cyr made a foul shot, Tardif made her presence felt by scoring on a putback while being fouled and adding the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play and a 15-2 lead.
Yarmouth countered when talented freshman Cory Langenbach knocked down a 3 to end an 8 minute, 35 second drought, but Tardif hit a leaner. After Clippers senior Monica Austin made a jump shot, freshman Molly Chapin, whom you'll be hearing a lot about over the next four years, scored her first points on a putback for a 19-7 Rangers lead.
A leaner from freshman Johanna Hattan provided Yarmouth's final points of the half before Tardif scored on a layup, then hit both ends of a one-and-one foul shot opportunity, freshman Moira Train scored on a layup after a steal and Tardif hit a driving bank shot as time wound down to make it 26-9 Greely at the break.
Tardif outscored Yarmouth by herself in the first half, 10-9.
"Blaise brings so much," Felkel said. "She hasn't gotten the attention she deserves, but she's big on the boards. Her presence is amazing. She's improved a ton. She's got great range."
"Once Ashley gets on a roll, I don't know how anyone will cover Blaise," Rogers said. "She's an athlete. She runs the floor and goes to the rim."
To the Clippers' credit, they came out sizzling in the second half and made things interesting for awhile, courtesy senior Abby Nielsen, a former Ranger.
Nielsen started the third quarter with a driving layup while being fouled and added the free throw. She then knocked down a 3 and seconds later, hit two free throws to cut the deficit to nine, 26-17.
After Storey ended the 8-0 run with a putback, Felkel's boisterous, pressure defense forced a five-second call and a turnover and Greely proceeded to put the game away.
Train hit a jumper, Storey fed senior Jordynne Copp for a layup and Tardif hit a jumper to stretch the lead back to 17, 34-17, midway through the stanza.
"I feel like my role is to get the team pumped up," Felkel said. "I like to bring energy on defense and talk a lot. It's an important part of the game."
"Haley's a true leader," said Rogers. "She's playing through an injured hip, but she's still our second leading rebounder. She's the voice of the team. She was almost a unanimous choice as captain by her peers. That says a lot. She's the toughest kid on the team. I can get on her and she comes back harder. I was mad that Nielsen was getting off and the first thing (Haley) did was get a five second call. She's the heart of the team. We've got a lot of soul, but she's the heart."
After a driving layup from Yarmouth junior Lane Simsarian ended the Rangers' run, Storey was fouled after an offensive rebound and hit both free throws and Copp converted a three-point play for a 39-19 lead after three.
Early in the fourth quarter, Cyr and Storey scored on a putbacks before the Clippers ran off seven straight points. Nielsen scored on a leaner, freshman Alison Clark did the same and Simsarian knocked down a 3-ball to cut the deficit to 43-26, but Tardif answered with a free throw. After Langenbach made one for Yarmouth, Train hit a leaner and sophomore Sarah Felkel knocked down a long jumper. A Clark free throw gave the Clippers their final point and a long 3 from Greely freshman Isabelle Porter accounted for the 51-28 final score.
Rest assured, the Rangers have come a long way from Opening Night.
"After our first game, we had a reality check," said Felkel. "It's a young team. Defense and pushing the ball is important. I feel like we're all fighting game after game."
"We got pushed around at Gray," Rogers said. "They wanted it more than us. That won't happen anymore."
Tardif led the way for Greely with 13 points. Storey added 11, Train six, Copp and Cyr five apiece, Haley Felkel four, Porter three and Chapin and Sarah Felkel two apiece.
The Rangers, behind Storey and Tardif, dominated the glass, to the tune of a 42-31 advantage. Storey had 10 rebounds, Tardif six and Copp, Cyr and Train each grabbed five. Haley Felkel had three of Greely's 12 steals. Cyr and Train both had a pair. Chapin also blocked two shots.
In summary, a lot of players did a lot of key things.
"Our new players are so exciting," said Storey. "We were low on guards, but when they came up it was a big boost."
"Jordynne is only 5-9 as a center, but if I give her space, she's a top rebounder," Rogers said. "Sarah Felkel stepped in at point guard and she's not turning the ball over. That's (assistant coach) Diana (Manduca, a former Deering High and Colby College standout). I told the kids Diana's an early Christmas gift. She does all the drills."
The Rangers only turned the ball over 12 times, but didn't fare well at the free throw line, sinking only eight of 18 attempts.
Yarmouth was paced by Nielsen's 10 points and nine rebounds. Simsarian had five points (and five rebounds), Langenbach four (to go with four steals), Clark three and Austin, Cahill and Hattan two apiece.
The Clippers made just five of 11 free throws and were hindered by 17 turnovers.
Despite the setback, Yarmouth continues to show positive glimpses of a team that will be a contender by February.
"I felt we were competitive tonight," Strong said. "Greely's a very good team. They're very balanced. They have experience. They have speed. We knew it would be a challenge, but I was proud of the girls and their fight until the end. We did a better job defensively in the second half. Coming in here, the girls were excited. I wanted them to focus and do what we do well.
"We're missing (junior) Shannon (Fallon), who's out with an ankle injury. She's a scorer. She's fast. She'll probably be back after Christmas. When she comes back, it will be great. Cory's holding her own. She knows what she's doing. She's smart. We'll continue to rely on Lane's tenacious experience. It's been a learning experience, but I have good support."
New year dawns
Yarmouth is back in action Saturday, when it closes the 2013 portion of its schedule at Cape Elizabeth. Games at Gray-New Gloucester and defending Class C champion Waynflete open the new year. The Clippers are only going to get better.
"We have three freshmen who saw significant playing time tonight," Strong said. "They're the backbone of the future. I'm pleased with the leadership of the seniors. With a small and fairly young team, we have our work cut out, but it's great for team building."
As for Greely, it welcomes Poland Thursday, then will be tested at Falmouth Saturday. The Rangers begin 2014 with a trip to Fryeburg.
"(All our games will) be close and it will be a good year, but I think we can compete with anyone," Felkel said.
"Poland will be a really tough game, but I think we're ready," Rogers said. "Then, we obvoiusly have a talented Falmouth team. We have two good holiday tournament games. If we sweep this week, I think we'll be a team to be reckoned with in a league with a lot of good teams."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
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