Scarborough girls down Biddeford, take momentum into new year
SCARBOROUGH—It's a year of transition and uncertainty for the Scarborough girls' basketball team, one of the league's consistent contenders in recent seasons, but there are two things the Red Storm can count on night in, night out and as long as juniors Bailey Adams and Ashley Briggs are on the court, Scarborough will match up well with just about everyone.
The Red Storm, which had to play without the injured Adams in a recent loss to Gorham, got her back Monday afternoon against visiting Biddeford and the dynamic duo, with a lot of help from their less heralded teammates, put on a show.
Just six seconds into the game, Adams passed to Briggs for a 3-pointer and the Red Storm never looked back. Briggs had a dozen first half points, but Scarborough only led, 19-15, because the Tigers were having their way inside.
The Red Storm switched to a zone to start the second half and that did the trick. Scarborough won the third quarter, 15-3, thanks in large part to the passing wizardry of Adams, who consistently set up teammates for easy layups. The Red Storm cruised from there to a 42-28 victory, its fifth in seven outings this winter.
Briggs had a team-high 12 points, while Adams added nine points and seven assists as Scarborough dropped Biddeford to 1-6 on the year.
"If you allow a team to have confidence and they hang around, they'll start to think they have a chance to beat you and in the first half, we definitely did that," said Red Storm first-year coach Mike Giordano. "I liked the way we played the first three minutes of the second half. We came out and took it away from them."
Scarborough reached the semifinals last winter before losing to eventual champion McAuley. The team then saw several key players graduate and lost coach Ron Cote, who retired due to health issues (Cote was on hand Monday and says he feels better than he has in months). Cote was replaced by Giordano, the longtime South Portland coach, who inherited a squad with only a couple proven commodities.
Regardless, the Red Storm got off to a good start, opening by beating host Biddeford, 56-32 and visiting Westbrook, 43-29. After a 48-43 loss at Windham, Scarborough downed host Noble, 73-35, and visiting Massabesic, 58-42, before losing at home to Gorham, 66-48.
Biddeford followed its loss in the opener to Scarborough with a 63-25 setback at Gorham, before earning its lone win, 45-32, at Massabesic. The Tigers then lost at home to Westbrook (45-16), Marshwood (45-42) and Windham (52-23).
Entering Monday's game, the teams had met 17 previous times, with the Red Storm holding a 9-8 edge (please see sidebar, below).
Last winter, Scarborough won easily at Biddeford, 54-12.
Monday, the Tigers looked to snap a three-game skid to the Red Storm, but Scarborough had the answers when it needed them.
Early on, it appeared that Briggs was going to shoot the lights out, as she opened the game with a 3, then hit a step-back jumper 59 seconds in for a quick 5-0 lead.
After Biddeford answered behind a short bank shot from senior Bailey Cote and a layup by freshman Kendra Cote, Briggs fed sophomore Jamie Sargent for a jumper and after a steal, Briggs passed to senior Mackenzie O'Brien for a layup and a 9-4 lead.
The Tigers again drew within a point behind a layup from sophomore Charlotte White and a White putback, but Adams knocked down a long jumper.
"It felt good to be out there," said Adams, who is battling back from a groin injury. "I feel completely healthy, so hopefully nothing else happens."
A Kendra Cote layup cut the Red Storm's lead to 11-10, but Adams set up Briggs for a jumper and freshman Brooke Malone made a free throw for a 14-10 advantage after one quarter.
Both teams struggled scoring for much of the second period.
It took 3 minutes, 13 seconds for Scarborough to score the frame's first points, on a Briggs foul shot.
Biddeford then ended a 4:45 drought when Kendra Cote made a bank shot and when she added a leaner a minute later, the Tigers only trailed by one, 15-14.
Briggs answered with a jump shot, but Kendra Cote was fouled on an offensive rebound and made one of two free throws before Briggs hit a pair to end the first half with the Red Storm on top, 19-15.
Briggs had 12 of her team's points, but Scarborough was giving up too many easy baskets inside, necessitating a change in its defensive approach for the second half.
Biddeford did score the first point of the third quarter when junior Abby Hale made a free throw 20 seconds in, but the Red Storm was about to break it open.
Scarborough's first second half hoop came on a layup by Adams, which was set up by Briggs. Malone then made her presence felt, taking a pass from sophomore Emma Hall and making a layup, then taking a pass from Adams and making a layup for a 25-16 lead.
"Brooke is a beast down low," Adams said. "I love giving the ball to Brooke."
Adams then set up for Hall for a layup, capping an 8-0 run.
"It's very nice to have Bailey back," said Briggs. "That eases the pressure on me. Their wings crept out on me a little more, opening up the post and Bailey saw that well."
The Tigers momentarily stemmed the tide with a layup from Bailey Cote, but after Malone had two offensive rebounds to keep possession alive, Adams made a jumper.
Adams then found Sargent in transition for a short bank shot and after Adams made a free throw, a baseline jumper from Sargent stretched the lead to 34-18 heading for the final stanza.
"(The Tigers) were in a zone and they pressed the outside, which opened the inside up," said Adams. "I was just looking for our bigs down low. They were open, got their body position and made layups. We can rely on our bigs. They're young, but they're definitely getting there. We're proud of them. We realized we had to be more patient on offense, trying to look for layups and swing the ball."
The competitive phase of the game was effectively over, but the Red Storm didn't let up in the fourth.
After Biddeford got a jumper from junior Jillian Sheltra, Hall kept possession alive with an offensive rebound and found Sargent, who banked home a shot to make it 36-20.
The Tigers sandwiched a Kendra Cote layup and two Cote foul shots around a layup by Scarborough sophomore Regan Mars to make it 38-24, but Adams found Hall for another layup. After Biddeford got within 12 on a Kendra Cote layup and a pullup jumper from junior Carissa Gelinas, a putback from Adams slammed the door on the 42-28 triumph.
"We changed to zone because they were bigger than us and we didn't match up well," said Briggs. "They didn't make outside shots and that helped us."
"The coaches talked at halftime about all their points in the first half coming in the paint and we wanted to see if they could shoot from the perimeter and they struggled with that," Giordano said. "That was a good adjustment."
Briggs had 12 points, five rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.
"Sometimes you're hot, sometimes you're not," said Briggs. "First half, I made a lot. Second half, not so much, but there's other ways to help your team without scoring."
"Ashley does everything," said Giordano. "I think she's a first-team all-star. She defends as good as anybody. We've asked her to score more this year. It's a role she's not used to, but she's accepted that. We need other kids to help, but she'll lead us for sure."
Adams wound up with nine points, seven assists, three steals and two boards.
"Having Bailey back is huge," Giordano said. "Leadership, playing the position she plays, her court vision. She's just a confident kid to have out there. She's an important kid for our success."
Also scoring were Sargent (eight points), Malone (five), Hall (four) and Mars and O'Brien (two apiece).
Scarborough outrebounded Biddeford, 18-7, in the second half to finish with a 32-22 advantage. Malone led all players with nine boards. Mars had eight and Hall four.
"I've seen a lot of growth from the younger kids," said Giordano. "Emma Hall's done a great job rebounding all year. She's undersized every night. She hit a couple shots. She's getting more confident around the basket. Regan did a nice job going for the ball."
The Red Storm only made 5-of-13 free throws and turned the ball over 15 times, but forced 20 Tigers' turnovers.
Biddeford was paced by Kendra Cote, who had a big game to the tune of 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Bailey Cote had four points and seven boards. White added four points, while Gelinas and Sheltra both had two and Hale finished with one (to go with four steals). The Tigers made 4-of-6 free throws.
A new year
The road gets no easier for Biddeford (15th in the Western Class A Heal Points standings), which has to go to three-time defending state champion McAuley Friday.
Scarborough, meanwhile, has a tough test as well, as it goes to Thornton Academy Friday, then welcomes South Portland Tuesday of next week.
The Red Storm (now eighth in Western A) has made the playoffs in five of the past six seasons and believes it has what it takes to get to the Expo again.
"We have to play good, solid defense," Adams said. "That will keep us in games. Offense will come. We need to get transition points. Hopefully we'll be ready."
"In order for us to have success, we have to grind out close games," Briggs said. "We have TA and South Portland coming up. Those are games we have a chance to win if we play good defense and make our shots. In previous years, we were more a defensive team. We had athletes, not basketball players. It's a slower process this year, but we're getting there."
"As young as we are, it's an adjustment, but the kids have been great and I've enjoyed it," Giordano added. "It's their fourth coach in four years and I can't measure up to the other three. We have to take care of the ball and get shots every possession and limit them to one. If we do, we have a chance to compete every game. The schedule gets more difficult, but I think we're up to the challenge."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Scarborough-Biddeford results
Scarborough 56 @ Biddeford 32
@ Scarborough 54 Biddeford 12
Scarborough 57 @ Biddeford 29
Biddeford 39 @ Scarborough
Scarborough 44 @ Biddeford 39
Western A semifinals
Scarborough 39 Biddeford 29
Scarborough 65 @ Biddeford 56
@ Scarborough 64 Biddeford 54
Western A semifinals
Biddeford 32 Scarborough 29
@ Scarborough 45 Biddeford 43
@ Biddeford 66 Scarborough 38
Biddeford 69 @ Scarborough 60
@ Biddeford 75 Scarborough 59
@ Biddeford 67 Scarborough 46
Biddeford 60 @ Scarborough 36
@ Scarborough 55 Biddeford 49
@ Biddeford 60 Scarborough 43