Greely rallies to save season, title hopes
PORTLAND—There are no style points in the tournament.
You simply have to outscore the other team and move on to the next round.
If you have a powerhouse team that everyone is eager to crown for the first time this century, that should be easy, but nothing comes easily on the big stage, a lesson the Greely boys' basketball learned in a Western Class B quarterfinal round contest against York Saturday evening at the Portland Exposition Building.
The Rangers, top-seeded, highly acclaimed and as the first round of the tournament played out, seemingly pre-ordained to win it all, almost suffered what would have been near the top of the most painful losses in program annals.
Emphasis on almost.
Greely came out flat against a York squad which beat the Rangers in last year's tournament and was truly playing with house money, with nothing to lose and did it ever show.
The Wildcats were only down by a point, 7-6, after one quarter, then scored the final four points of the first half to take a 17-14 lead to the break.
Virtually everyone on hand was expecting Greely to come out and seize control in the second half, but instead, the Rangers' hopes were further compromised when senior standout Mike McDevitt was whistled for his fourth foul and had to sit.
York stretched its lead to nine at one point and after the Rangers crept back within five, Wildcats senior Michael Gallagher made an improbable contested 3-pointer at the third period horn, the kind of shot that always seems to define upsets, and with eight minutes to go, Greely trailed, 33-25.
With their backs firmly against the wall, the Rangers finally kicked it into gear, thanks in large part to senior Connor Hanley, who wouldn't let his team become the first top seed to lose in a Western B quarterfinal since Falmouth was shocked by Cape Elizabeth a decade ago.
Greely finally caught up and went ahead on two Hanley free throws with 3:03 remaining.
After Hanley set up McDevitt, who never picked up his fifth foul, for a layup, the Wildcats got a jumper from Gallagher to cut the Rangers' lead to 39-38 with 2:20 still to play.
Greely would have to suffer some anxious moments down the stretch, but it refused to buckle. Two foul shots from Hanley with 12.7 seconds remaining made it 41-38 and after McDevitt made a terrific athletic play to steal the ball, that essentially sealed it. The Rangers were able to run out the clock and exhale.
Hanley led the way with 16 points, senior Bailey Train had eight and McDevitt and senior Kyle Wood both added seven as Greely improved to 18-1, ended valiant York's season at 10-10 and advanced to meet rival Yarmouth (15-4) in the semifinals Thursday at 9 p.m., at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
"We dodged an enormous bullet, thank God," Hanley said. "It's more relief than jubilation today. We knew how we played all year long and we definitely didn't do that for the first three quarters at least. We had to keep plugging away and we did. We pulled it out."
Greely entered the season considered the team to beat in the region and did not disappoint.
The Rangers opened by winning their first nine games, which included a close home victory over Yarmouth and a thrilling overtime home win over defending Class B champion Falmouth to take control of Western B. After losing, at Falmouth, Greely won its final eight to wind up atop the heap.
York, a year after graduating a stellar group which made it to the regional final, came back to the pack a bit this winter, but still managed to get back to the Expo after downing No. 9 Lincoln Academy, 63-30, in Tuesday's preliminary round.
The Rangers beat the Wildcats twice this year: 62-32 in York and 56-41 in Cumberland.
Entering the game, York had won four of the seven prior playoff meetings, including each of the past three. The most recent was last year's quarterfinal round, where the Wildcats rolled after a sluggish start, 64-38.
Saturday, Greely hoped to do what York did last winter and win easily, but it took all 1,920 seconds of this one to determine a winner.
It took 88 seconds for a point to be scored, as Wildcats senior Ross Hogan set up junior Mark MacGlashing for a layup. The Rangers' first points came courtesy Wood, who took a pass from McDevitt and made a layup.
After Hogan scored on a spinning fadeaway jumper, Wood took a pass from Hanley made a layup while being fouled and added the free throw to put Greely ahead for the first time. Hanley added a layup (on a pass from McDevitt) with 4:21 to go in the first, but the Rangers wouldn't score again in the frame. A leaner from Hogan pulled York within a point, 7-6, after eight minutes.
The Wiildcats continued to frustrate Greely in the second period.
A jumper from junior Justin Frecker put York back on top, but McDevitt scored his first basket, taking a pass from Hanley and making a layup.
The Wildcats then got a dose of good fortune, as Gallagher's 3 hit the glass and fell through.
After the Rangers got a point back at the line courtesy senior Patrick O'Shea, MacGlashing scored on a putback, but Hanley made a free throw, then, Hanley took a pass from McDevitt in transition and banked home a shot to tie the score, 13-13.
A McDevitt free throw gave Greely a lead, but York finished strong, getting a pair of free throws from junior Matthew Pratt and a layup from MacGlashing to take a stunning 17-14 lead into the break.
"We were really tentative when we got the ball," McDevitt said. "Me in particular. I took too many conteested jump shots. I should have been dishing when they doubled. We just didn't play as smart as we could have."
The Rangers, after a long halftime talk, hoped to get it going in the third period, but instead, they found themselves falling further behind without their most valuable player on the floor.
Just 16 seconds into the second half, McDevitt was called for a charge, setting the tone.
Hogan then set up senior Nicholas Darby for a backdoor layup, senior Adam Legg made a bank shot and Hogan set up MacGlashing for another backdoor layup and just like that, York was up by nine, 23-14, with 5:51 to play in the third.
Twenty-three seconds later, McDevitt charged again and received his third foul.
With 4:46 to go in the frame, Hanley finally ended a 5 minute, 11 second drought and the Wildcats' 10-0 run with a jumper, but 40 seconds later, McDevitt was called for his fourth foul and he was done for the rest of the quarter.
"I was worried, but I hoped for the best," McDevitt said. "I was hoping my teammates would pull out a run."
Making matters worse for Greely, its bench was called for a technical foul and Gallagher made one of two free throws to make the score 24-16.
With 3:27 left in the third, Train took a pass from Wood and canned a 3, but at the other end, Gallagher made two foul shots and with 2:19 to go in the period, Gallagher drove for a layup, which hung on the rim forever before dropping into the net. Gallagher was fouled on the play, but couldn't make it a double digit lead as he missed the ensuing free throw.
Late in the quarter, the Rangers' offense awakened, as Hanley scored on a leaner and O'Shea made two free throws, but Gallagher countered with two free throws. Train then set up Wood for a layup and it looked like Greely would be within a manageable five points going to the fourth, but as time expired, Gallagher, with a defender essentially in his uniform, managed to steer home a prayer from NBA range and the Wildcats took a 33-25 lead to the final stanza.
There, with their season and legacy on the line, the Rangers responded like the champions they hope to become.
Just 22 seconds in, McDevitt returned.
"(Assistant coach Kevin Rollins) told me to be an assist man," McDevitt said. "When I got on the wing, I was looking for someone cutting."
"At that point, we had to make a decision to try to get back in the game or try to prolong it," Greely coach Travis Seaver said. "Mike's a smart player. He can play both ends of the floor. He's earned the trust to be on the floor in tough situations. I thought he did a good job not putting himself in a tough situation at the end of the game. He's a senior. That's a luxury we have, having seniors who are smart."
McDevitt's return provided an immediate spark.
With 7:13 to play, Train made a layup.
Then, 28 seconds later, McDevitt took a pass on the baseline and buried a jumper to make the score 33-29.
"I've taken so many shots in my life," McDevitt said. "It was just muscle memory at that point."
After Gallagher missed the front end of a one-and-one, a Train free throw brought Greely within one possession.
After Legg and Hanley traded free throws, Gallagher set up MacGlashing for a layup with 5:07 to play and York had a 36-31 lead, but the Wildcats wouldn't score again for almost three minutes and the Rangers took advantage.
With 4:46 to play, Hanley made two free throws.
Sixteen seconds later, Train put home Hanley's miss and Greely only trailed by a point, 36-35.
With momentum clearly on their side, it took over a minute for the Rangers to take the lead, but they finally did.
After Darby was fouled after an offensive rebound, he missed both free throws, but McDevitt missed a shot and MacGlashing got the rebound.
The Wildcats couldn't convert on offense and after an initial Greely shot was no good, Hanley soared for the offensive board and was fouled with 3:03 to play.
Hanley's first free throw hit the rim, then rattled off the backboard before kissing the net and at long last, the game was tied. Hanley's second free throw went through the hoop more conventionally and for the first time in 14 minutes, 22 seconds, when the score was 14-13, the Rangers were on top, 37-36.
"I'm confident (at the line)," Hanley said. "We shoot a ton of free throws in practice. I just had to go up there and shoot it."
At the other end, McDevitt blocked a shot and Wood got the rebound. Greely raced into the frontcourt and Hanley set up McDevitt for a layup and a 39-36 lead with 2:45 to play.
Not surprisingly, York refused to fold and 25 seconds later, Gallagher hit a jumper to snap the 8-0 Rangers' run, pulling the Wildcats within a point, 39-38.
Greely then just had to hold on.
After milking almost two minutes off the clock, the Rangers had a chance to extend their lead when O'Shea went to the line with 32.7 seconds showing, but he missed both attempts and when MacGlashing got the rebound, York had a chance to steal a victory.
After a timeout, MacGlashing drove into the lane, but found himself trapped and traveled.
Greely got the ball back and Hanley was fouled with 12.7 seconds to go. Again, he hit both shots and the Rangers led, 41-38, meaning the Wildcats could at best tie on their final possession.
York never even managed a shot.
Out of a timeout, the Wildcats tried to pass the ball across the court to Gallagher, but it was knocked loose, McDevitt fell on it and smartly called timeout with 2.6 seconds to go.
"They inbounded it to the right baseline and I thought that kid would try to drive or do something, but he passed it to Gallagher," said McDevitt. "I was scared he would score like he did (at the end of the third quarter). O'Shea did a good job defending it. He swiped it, got a piece of it and I just dove on it."
"Everybody took their own guy and locked them down," Hanley said. "We didn't try to do too much."
Greely just needed to get the ball inbounds and did so, as Train lofted it to McDevitt at midcourt, who tapped the ball into the air and that, at last, did the trick.
Rangers 41 Wildcats 38.
"With 2.6 seconds, I knew if I got a hand on it, they wouldn't get a good shot," McDevitt said. "I was trying to make something happen. A win's a win."
"It's a great win," Seaver said. "But we didn't play great. I thought York did exactly what they wanted to do for the first 20 minutes of the game, but we grinded through. York did a nice job taking certain things away and we didn't respond well to that. We have to be more prepared. We can learn from this. We get to play again, which is a fortunate thing. We didn't play well until halfway through the third quarter and we can't get away with that."
Hanley saved the day for Greely as he led all scorers with 16 points. He also had three assists.
"We move the ball well and ran the floor well, but we were a little hesitant to do that in the playoffs," said Hanley. "We were down at the end and we realized we had to just go for it. Our defense was great all game, but our offense was lacking a little bit. I knew I could beat my guy off the dribble and create some offense. That's what I tried to do."
"'Hans' is taller, quicker, more athletic and stronger than anyone he'll go against," McDevitt said. "He showed how dominant he can be."
"Connor was great," added Seaver. "He's been our defensive leader, but tonight, he picked it up on offense, especially when Mike was on the bench. He's a great player. He's very versatile. He can get out in transition. He's got great touch and he hit free throws at the end. Those were huge."
Train had eight points, all in the second half. He also had three rebounds and blocked two shots.
McDevitt, despite his foul trouble, had seven points, three boards, three blocks and two steals.
Wood added seven points (and nine rebounds) and O'Shea had three points (to go with seven boards).
Despite the pressure of the game, the Rangers only committed 12 turnovers and made 14 of 23 foul shots.
York was paced by Gallagher, who turned heads in his final game, scoring 15 points. MacGlashing had 10 points (nine rebounds and a steal), Hogan four (to go with four assists), Legg three and Darby, Frecker and Pratt two apiece.
The Wildcats turned the ball over 15 times and made 8 of 14 foul shots.
Greely's next opponent is also well known and has been a bit of nemesis in recent years.
The Rangers swept the Clippers this season: 57-49 at Greely and 65-48 at Yarmouth.
Greely and Yarmouth have played four previous times in the postseason, with each team winning twice. The most recent meeting came in the 2011 semifinals, when the Clippers upset the top-ranked Rangers, 54-42.
Greely and Yarmouth have appeared to be the two best teams in the region most of the season, so it's fitting they square off, although once again, it can be argued it's a round too soon.
"When we show up (at the Civic Center), we have to be in the right mindset and if we do, I think we can come out on top," Hanley said.
"At this point, we're looking to have three or four of the best practices we've had all year so we can come into the Yarmouth game hot and hopefully redeem ourselves from this game," said McDevitt. "(The Civic Center's) just a different environment. As long as we can get layups and mid-range jumpers, we'll be OK. We'll focus on Yarmouth, what they'll try to do to beat us. We'll just focus on that game."
"Hopefully we prepared come Thursday," Seaver added. "The nice thing is we see each other a lot. We'll see what we can do. Tonight was a good learning tool."