Scarborough upsets Portland for much needed win
SCARBOROUGH—The month of January has not been kind to the Scarborough girls' basketball team, but with its eye on its February, the Red Storm came through in a big way Tuesday evening.
Hosting injury-riddled Portland, the region's feel good story this winter, Scarborough turned the ball over 20 times and got in foul trouble during a frustrating first half, but still managed to hold a 30-29 lead at halftime, thanks to 10 points apiece from junior Bailey Adams and unsung hero, sophomore Jamie Sargent.
The Bulldogs went on a 10-0 run in the third period and took a 47-44 lead to the fourth quarter behind strong play from senior Brianna Holdren, junior Gabby Wagabaza and a pair of unheralded reserves, Kate Johnson and Taylor Sargent, but the Red Storm, in desperate need of a Heal Points-rich victory, made the clutch plays late.
A tying the game on three occasions, Scarborough went ahead for good with 2:27 to play when senior captain Ashley Briggs, who was saddled with foul trouble in the first half, sank a free throw. Adams added two just inside the final minute and with 18.2 seconds to go, sophomore Rachel Linehan made two more. Those proved huge when Johnson improbably sank an off-balance 3 with 7.2 seconds to play, but Portland couldn't get the ball back and the Red Storm managed to hold on for an inspirational 61-59 victory.
Briggs had 17 points, Adams and Sargent had 16 apiece and Scarborough was able to overcome 18 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks from Wagabaza by making nine of 10 fourth period free throws as it improved to 6-7 and dropped the Bulldogs to 11-2 in the process.
"It means a lot for us," said Briggs. "We were on a five-game losing streak. Talk about low spirits. We're a young team, so that doesn't help. I think we proved a lot to ourselves tonight. We've played 16 minutes, 24 minutes sporadically, but I think we finally put together a full game. Proving to ourselves that we can play a full 32 minutes, that's definitely a confidence booster. We can win close games that we've lost before. Finally proving it to ourselves, it just feels good."
Portland has enjoyed a fairy tale run this season, but Friday night, the Bulldogs were dealt a heavy dose of adversity when Elizabeth Donato went down with a knee injury, likely for the season. She's not the only missing Bulldog. Seniors Mariana Angelo and Pam Lobor and junior Sydney Fredrick are also sidelined and classmate Haley Nelson is unavailable.
The Bulldogs opened by downing visiting Massabesic (59-36) and Noble (78-29), host Marshwood (76-55) and visiting Gorham (63-50). After holding off host South Portland, 50-46, Portland finally fell from the unbeaten ranks, 51-35, at Thornton Academy. After closing 2013 with a 62-60 home win over Cheverus, the Bulldogs beat visiting Westbrook (64-45), host Sanford (55-52), visiting Biddeford (47-27), host Bonny Eagle (61-44) and then visiting Deering (60-55).
Scarborough has been one of the top Western A contenders over the past five years and despite having a very inexperienced roster, the Red Storm has remained competitive this winter under new coach Mike Giordano.
Scarborough opened by beating host Biddeford, 56-32 and visiting Westbrook, 43-29. After a 48-43 loss at Windham, the Red Storm downed host Noble, 73-35, and visiting Massabesic, 58-42, before losing at home to Gorham, 66-48. After a 42-28 home win over Biddeford to close 2013, Scarborough has struggled in the new year, losing at Thornton Academy (42-27), at home against South Portland (54-46), at Marshwood (49-44), at home against McAuley (59-30) and last Thursday at Bonny Eagle (48-46).
The teams entered Tuesday's game having played 10 previous times, with Scarborough holding a 7-3 advantage. The Red Storm had won seven of eight, including last winter, 57-44, at the Portland Exposition Building.
This time, Scarborough overcame the odds to win again.
Adams got the Red Storm off to a good start by making a jumper, then, after a Briggs steal, taking a pass from her teammate and making a layup for a 4-0 advantage.
The Bulldogs got on the board when Wagabaza made a free throw. Sophomore Cierra Burnham added a foul shot (Briggs was called for her second foul of the game just 99 seconds in) and Wagabaza scored on a putback to tie the score, but Adams set up freshman Jordyn Cowan for a layup and a 6-4 lead.
Portland answered with a Wagabaza putback and a putback from Johnson gave the visitors their first lead. Briggs tied the game with a jumper, but a bank shot from Johnson gave the Bulldogs a 10-8 advantage after eight minutes.
After Briggs made a driving layup to tie the score, Adams set up freshman Brooke Malone to give Scarborough a 12-10 lead, but Portland's Sargent made her presence felt with a 3 and Holdren set up Burnham for a fastbreak layup, making it 15-12 Bulldogs.
Jamie Sargent countered with a short jumper, but Taylor Sargent said anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better with a long jumper. Jamie Sargent scored on a putback, but after Adams and Cowan both missed the front end of a one-and-one, Wagabaza scored on a putback to put Portland up, 19-16.
Jamie Sargent's short jumper and layup (after taking a pretty pass from Briggs) put the Red Storm ahead, 20-19.
The back-and-forth continued as the Bulldogs got two free throws from Johnson before Linehan threw a long pass to a wide open Adams behind the defense on an inbounds pass and Adams made a layup. Adams added two foul shots for a 24-21 advantage.
Three Wagabaza free throws over a 40 second span tied the score. After sophomore Mary Farnkoff made a bank shot for Scarborough, sophomore Merritt Ryan hit a free throw for Portland and Wagabaza scored on another putback to put the visitors back on top, 27-26.
Two Adams free throws gave the Red Storm the lead, but with 13.6 seconds to go before halftime, Wagabaza hit a short jumper and it appeared the Bulldogs would take the lead to the break.
Not so fast.
As time expired, Jamie Sargent hit a jump shot and Scarborough had the edge after 16 frenetic minutes, 30-29.
Despite turning the ball over 20 times and making just 4 of 11 free throws, the Red Storm managed to be in the lead, thanks to the play of Adams and Jamie Sargent, who both had 10 points.
"We had to figure it out," said Giordano. "I thought we played a little too fast. We talked about playing at our tempo. We're a pretty good shooting team if we get a shot each possession."
Portland had 13 turnovers, but was very much in the hunt, due in large part to 16 points and 12 boards from Wagabaza. Johnson and Taylor Sargent combined for 11 first half points.
The hosts appeared as if they would gain a little breathing room early in the third quarter when Malone made two free throws and Jamie Sargent set up Adams for a layup, but the Bulldogs answered with a 10-0 run.
A runner from Taylor Sargent got things started and Holdren got in the scoring column by scoring on a leaner while being fouled and sinking the free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play.
"Brianna tried to do everything in the first half, tried to take over for injuries," said Portland coach Jan Veinot.
A Sargent 3 put Portland ahead and a Wagabaza bank shot pushed the advantage to 39-34.
Scarborough didn't buckle, however, as Jamie Sargent ended the run with a jumper. After Johnson hit a jump shot, Briggs began heating up with a jump shot. A putback from Burnham pushed the Bulldogs' lead back to five, 43-38, but Briggs made a jumper, then made a difficult angle layup after a steal to make it a one-point game.
"I started feeling it a little bit," Briggs said. "I had more confidence. Being one of the older players, I knew it was time."
After Holdren made a layup after a steal, a Jamie Sargent jumper pulled the Red Storm back within a point, but with 1.8 seconds to go, Holdren set up Johnson for a jump shot which made it 47-44 Portland heading for the final stanza.
There, Scarborough saved its best for last.
A Briggs jumper got the quarter started, but Holdren countered with a driving layup. A baseline jumper from Briggs with exactly seven minutes to play again pulled the Red Storm within a single point, 49-48, but 20 seconds later, Holdren knocked down a 3-ball for a four-point advantage.
Undaunted, Scarborough kept fighting and was rewarded.
After Malone made two free throws, Adams scored a left-handed layup with 5:42 remaining and the game was tied, 52-52.
With 3:29 left, Briggs was fouled on a drive and made both foul shots for a 54-52 lead, the Red Storm's first since 34-31.
A driving layup by Wagabaza 12 seconds later tied the game (she was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw), 54-54.
With 3:10 to go, Jamie Sargent drove for a layup and Scarborough went back on top, but with 2:33 to play, Johnson made a layup and the game was deadlocked for the ninth and final time, 56-56.
Briggs was fouled six seconds later and went to the line for a one-and-one. She calmly sank the first free throw.
"I actually do like being in that situation," Briggs said. "I like to prove that yes, I'm a good foul shooter. I don't mind the tough situations. I enjoy them."
Briggs' second foul shot was off target and Portland had some great chances to go ahead.
After Wagabaza twice kept possession with offensive rebounds, Briggs stole the ball, but Holdren stole it back. Burnham then had a look, but it was off target and Jamie Sargent got the rebound.
After milking some time from the clock, Adams was fouled with 41.5 seconds to play. With all eyes on her, Adams buried both ends of a one-and-one to give the Red Storm a little breathing room.
The Bulldogs then turned the ball over.
With 18.2 seconds to go, Linehan was fouled.
"She missed three foul shots in the first half, so I just went up to her and told her to have some confidence," Briggs said. "I know how hard it is to miss foul shots."
After making the front end of a one-and-one, Linehan also drained the second and Scarborough was close to victory, leading 61-56.
"She sank those free throws," said Briggs.
"Those were huge free throws," Giordano said. "They were the difference in the game."
The win would come, but not without some harrowing moments.
Johnson somehow managed to bury an improbable 3 with 7.2 seconds showing and Portland was back within two points, 61-59.
The Red Storm then had difficulty getting the ball inbounded and Giordano called timeout to be safe with just over a second to go.
"I thought we were running out of time on the five-count, that's why I used a timeout," Giordano said.
Scarborough just had to avoid a turnover on the inbounds pass and managed to do so as it got the ball into Briggs, who cradled it as time expired.
"We set it up to get the ball to (Ashley)," Giordano said. "We were in pretty good shape there. That's why I hoard my timeouts."
Red Storm 61 Bulldogs 59.
'Coach was extremely inspirational in our locker room talk (at halftime)," said Briggs. "He believes in us so much. We want to win for him. It clicked in the second half. That's what makes basketball fun, winning a tough game like that."
"Our team energy helped get us going," Sargent said. "It's hard to keep composure sometimes, but you have to keep going and push back. There's always fluctuations in a game, but I knew we could pull together and pull it out. We'd lost five games in a row. It was really emotional. This will really help us."
"It's huge," Giordano added. "Yeah, they're short-handed, but so are we. We're missing two post players and a third post player (Cowan) goes out with an injury. I'm just so proud of my kids. Every one of them contributed in a different way. In games the last couple of weeks, we've buckled. Tonight, we didn't. We responded. It was a little bit of everything from all the of the kids on the offensive and defensive end. A huge team win."
Briggs led the way with 17 points, seven assists, four steals and three rebounds.
"Ashley carried us in the second half," said Giordano. "She got her shot going."
Adams had 16 points, five assists, five rebounds and a steal.
Sargent really impressed with 16 points, nine rebounds and a block.
"(Jamie) is a shooter to go to," said Briggs. "She stuck it tonight. She had a huge game. She had rebounds, dove on the floor."
"She kept us in the game in the second quarter," Giordano said.
Malone had six points (and a team-high 16 rebounds).
"The unsung hero of our team this year is Brooke Malone," said Giordano. "She held Burnham to five points. I thought that was a big key to our success. She's leading the league in rebounding at 5-7. She's a very tenacious kid. She doesn't mind mixing it up inside."
Cowan (who also had nine boards and three blocks), Farnkoff and Linehan all added two points.
The Red Storm was outrebounded, 49-46, but had 13 steals and made 15 of 23 free throws. Scarborough had 26 turnovers, but only six after halftime.
Wagabaza stole the show for Portland, scoring 18 points, adding 18 rebounds, six blocks and three steals.
"Gabby stepped up," Veinot said. "I don't know if it's because she didn't get the ball and now she is. Thank God she did."
Johnson, a budding star, made the most of her big minutes, contributing 15 points, five boards, three assists and three steals and playing with poise well beyond her years throughout. Sargent was deadly from the outside, scoring 10 points, and had two steals.
"Kate and Taylor haven't played," said Veinot. "They've played JV. They were great tonight."
Holdren added 10 points, all in the second half, grabbed six rebounds and also had a pair of steals.
Burnham had five points (and a dozen rebounds) and Ryan finished with one point. Freshman Abi Ramirez, who didn't score, did have five steals before fouling out.
The Bulldogs committed 22 turnovers and made 9 of 14 from the charity stripe.
"We don't have experience," Veinot lamented. "We've got kids who haven't played. We've lost five players. We're starting all over again. I think Elizabeth's a big loss, but we've lost five players, three starters."
Need to win
Portland (third in the Western A Heal Points standings) will lick its wounds as it has a brutal closing stretch. Friday, the Bulldogs host three-time Class A champion McAuley.
"I'm not going to prepare for that game," said Veinot. "I'm preparing for the rest of the season. I care about McAuley, but it's not do or die. We have to prepare for key games and for playoffs. We have to adjust."
Next week, Portland is at Windham and hosts South Portland. It then closes the season with games at Biddeford and Deering.
Scarborough has some new life after Tuesday's win. Twelfth in the Heals before the game, but now eighth at press time, it can still help its cause with a few more wins in the season's final two-and-a-half weeks, but they won't come easily.
The Red Storm's schedule certainly won't help, as it goes to Deering Friday, hosts Cheverus Tuesday, then plays at Sanford, hosts Thornton Academy and closes at South Portland.
"This gives us a chance to maybe host a prelim," said Giordano. "At least we're not on the cusp where if somebody beats somebody, we'd be out. There's still work to do. Plenty of Heal Points left. We want to be playing our best the next three weeks. We need to get a shot every possession, make our free throws and defend.
"I really enjoy this group. I walk out of the gym after practices so pleased about how things are going. The kids have responded well to me. It's been a great experience. I'm really enjoying it. Wins and losses come and go, but these kids are battling and that's all you can ask."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Portland-Scarborough results
Scarborough 57 @ Portland 44
@ Scarborough 50 Portland 38
@ Portland 50 Scarborough 43
@ Scarborough 56 Portland 43
Scarborough 64 @ Portland 46
@ Scarborough 67 Portland 46
@ Scarborough 54 Portland 26
Scarborough 41 @ Portland 39
@ Portland 54 Scarborough 32
Portland 65 @ Scarborough 39