Capers get pushed, but advance
PORTLAND—As sophomores, Henry Babcock and Chris Robicheaw played key supporting roles as the Cape Elizabeth boys' basketball team made it to the Class B state final.
Now seniors, Babcock and Robicheaw made sure they got to return to the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Facing sixth-ranked Wells, a team which has given them fits in recent years, the third-seeded Capers relied on a mixture of their experienced players and some newcomers, who came up big at the ideal time, to advance in a quarterfinal round tilt at the Portland Exposition Building.
Cape Elizbeth shot to a quick lead behind the 3-point shooting of Robicheaw and never trailed, but the Warrirors hung tough throughout. Wells almost grabbed the lead in the third period, but a dazzling defensive play by Babcock turned into a five-point swing. The Warriors eventually tied the score, 37-37, on a 3 from senior Dylan Stevens late in the third period, but unfazed, the Capers got a layup from sophomore Eddie Galvin as part of a 6-0 run to gain a little breathing room. Wells got as close as a point in the fourth quarter and only trailed by two, 46-44, with under two minutes to play, but Cape Elizabeth was nearly flawless from the free throw line and managed to hold on for a 57-51 victory.
The Capers got 17 points from Robicheaw, 16 from Babcock and 11 from Galvin, shot 14-of-16 from the line in the fourth quarter and improved to 14-5, ending Wells' season at 11-9, while setting up a semifinal round showdown versus powerhouse No. 2 York Thursday at 7:30 p.m., at the Civic Center.
"The guys showed a lot of heart today," said longtime Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray. "We just talked about that. We reflected on last year and all the games we struggled and figured out how to lose. It wasn't necessarily pretty all the time, but we found a way to win and got stops and made plays. Good for the guys."
Last winter, the Capers failed to take part in the quarterfinals for the first time in 15 seasons, but that could be forgiven considering how much talent they'd graduated from teams who had played in the Class B Final in 2008, 2009 and 2011 (and the regional final in 2010). This winter, Cape Elizabeth has returned to its accustomed perch as one of the best teams in the region.
The Capers stumbled in their opener, a 72-49 home loss to powerhouse and still unbeaten Falmouth, then closed 2012 with victories over visiting Freeport (66-34), host Gray-New Gloucester (64-38), visiting Greely (56-47), host Lake Region (63-41) and host Fryeburg (55-44). Cape Elizabeth won twice more with the arrival of the new year, 55-44, at Fryeburg (Ray's 250th victory with the program) and 52-34 at home over Western C power Waynflete, then dropped a tough 70-65 home decision to Wells. After winning at reigning Class B champion Yarmouth (59-50) and at home over Fryeburg in overtime (53-48), the Capers fell at Falmouth, 53-41 and at home to York (65-47), before bouncing back to win at home over Gray-New Gloucester (56-29) and at Wells (80-75). A 49-44 loss at York followed, the Capers closed with wins over visiting Yarmouth (48-44) and at Greely (54-46) to earn the third seed.
Wells, a quarterfinalist last season, has been dangerous this year, but also up-and-down. After a close home loss to Greely to start, the Warriors defeated Poland, Yarmouth, Old Orchard Beach and Freeport and after a loss to Fryeburg, downed Lake Region and Cape Elizabeth. A lopsided loss at York followed, but Wells bounced back to beat Gray-New Gloucester, Traip and Freeport to improve to 9-3. The Warriors struggled down the stretch, however, losing to Falmouth (twice), Waynflete and Cape Elizabeth before beating Traip and closing with a loss to York. That dropped Wells to sixth and necessitated a preliminary round game against No. 11 Morse Tuesday, a test the Warriors passed, 63-53.
The teams split in the regular season and had each won three of the six prior playoff meetings (dating back to 1964). The most recent resulted in a 56-49 Wells triumph in last year's preliminary round. They also squared off in a quarterfinal round thriller, a 49-44 Capers victory in overtime, two years ago in the quarterfinals.
Saturday, Cape Elizabeth got off to a quick start, thanks to several early Wells turnovers. Galvin made a layup (from Babcock) and Babcock hit a 3 for a quick 5-0 lead. Stevens got the Warriors on the board with 4:37 remaining in the first period with two foul shots.
Robicheaw then first made his long range presence felt with a 3-ball. After Stevens countered with a three for Wells and junior Zach Moore made a layup, Robicheaw banked home a 3, then, the next time down the floor, Robicheaw made another 3 and it was 14-7 Capers.
"Henry and I have played together a lot and we were both very excited for this game," Robicheaw said. "It could have been either of us who went off. Today, it was me in the first quarter."
"Once (Chris) hits one or two, he can go off, so you have to find him when he's hot," Babcock said. "It was a great way to start the game. It got us going offensvely."
"(Chris isn't) hesitating now," Ray said. "That's the key. That shows his confidence. He demonstrated that. His hands were below the ball and he nailed shots."
Stevens answered with a putback for the Warriors, but Babcock made a jumper in the lane and it was 16-9 Cape Elizabeth after the first period.
As expected, Wells hung tough in the second.
After Babcock made a baseline jumper, Warriors senior Joey Spinelli made a layup. Robicheaw was then fouled on a 3-point attempt, but perhaps unaccustomed to shooting so close to the basket, he only made one of three attempts. Wells junior standout Jake Moody then got in the scoring column with a pullup jumper, but Galvin answered with two free throws to make it 21-13.
Stevens then made two free throws and hit a leaner and sophomore Nate Booth knocked down a long 3 and just like that, the Warriors only trailed by a point, 21-20.
As would be the case all game, the Capers responded as Babcock scored on a putback while being fouled and hit the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play. Moody fed sophomore Chris Carney for a layup, but Galvin made two foul shots and senior Harrison Clarke added one to give Cape Elizabeth a 27-22 halftime lead.
The Capers were only whistled for four fouls in the first half, to 13 for Wells, so you had to figure that disparity would even out in the second half, which is excatly what happened.
Just 25 seconds in, Stevens was fouled after an offensive rebound and made one of two attempts. The next time down the floor, Stevens made a layup to cut the deficit to two. Galvin then took a pass from Babcock and made a layup, but off an inbounds play under the basket, Moody lobbed a pass to Stevens, who made a layup while being fouled. Stevens added the free throw and the Warriors were within one, 29-28.
Babcock pushed the lead back to three with a layup, but Carney answered with one for Wells. Another Babcock layup was countered by a pair of Carney free throws and Wells once again trailed by a single point, 33-32.
What happened next didn't decide the game, but it certainly prevented Wells from taking the lead and grabbing serious momentum.
Stevens stole the ball and raced in for what appeared to be a go-ahead layup, but Babcock hustled back and pilfered the ball right away. Babcock then turned around, raced into the frontcourt and spotted an open Robicheaw on the left wing. Robicheaw launched a 3 which was nothing but net and instead of being down by a point, Cape Elizabeth led, 36-32.
"It was a crazy series," Babcock said. "I didn't give up and chased it down. He fumbled the ball, I grabbed it, then we had a 3-on-2 opportunity, I got it to the wing and he made the 3."
Moody countered with two foul shots (as Wells was in the one-and-one from the midway point of the quarter), but Babcock got a point back at the line.
Then, with 3:27 to go in the third, Stevens knocked down a 3 and for the first time since it started, the game was deadlocked, 37-37.
The Capers again rose to the occasion as Galvin made a layup.
"Eddie's been going up," Ray said. "He works so hard, doing little things that don't show up in the newspaper."
Clarke and Galvin added free throws and senior Peter Pfister scored on a putback to push the lead back to six. A Stevens foul shot made it a 43-38 contest with eight minutes to go.
Cape Elizabeth would win the game a the charity stripe in the final stanza.
First, the Warriors got within a point again as Carney made a layup and Stevens did the same. Babcock made one of two foul shots and Wells had a chance to tie or even take the lead, but it couldn't convert and with 4:22 remaining, Robicheaw was fouled and made both shots to push the lead to 46-42.
With 3:13 showing, Moody stole the ball and went in for a layup to cut the deficit to 46-44.
After running over a minute off the clock, the Capers got a big break as sophomore Ethan Murphy was fouled. Stevens was called for his fifth foul in the process and had to leave the game.
"Coach yells a lot and after awhile, it sticks in your brain to slow the game down in your mind," said Robicheaw. "You have to go play by play. Over the past few games, we've been slowing the game down and waiting for a better shot. We passed for a minute and were waiting, then Stevens fouled out."
Murphy made both attempts and with 1:18 to go, senior Chad Peterson added two foul shots for a 50-44 lead.
Thirteen seconds later, Murphy made two free throws for a 52-44 lead, but Wells had one final run as Spinelli made a free throw and Moody converted a three-point play, making it a 52-48 contest with 43 seconds left.
Eight seconds later, Robicheaw went to the line and calmly sank both attempts. Moody answered with a 3, however, and with 19.9 seconds remaining, Cape Elizabeth clung to a 54-51 lead.
The Capers got the ball in to Murphy, who was fouled. Murphy then went to the line and made both attempts.
"Ethan's a very strong player," Robicheaw said. "He's going to have a great career ahead of him. I'm was confident with him at the line. I knew he'd make those."
"Ethan's such a competitor," Ray said. "He knocked down big foul shots."
After Moody was way off target on a 3, Murphy was fouled again and he salted away the 57-51 victory with a last second foul shot.
Cape Elizabeth had returned to the big stage and earned a big win.
"It's unbelievable," Babcock said. "I wanted to get back here since losing in states (in 2011). It's so nice to get back. The last three years, we've had amazing games with Wells. Evrything's been within 5-10 points. We knew we'd be in for a battle. It caame down to execution at the end. All the credit in the world to our underclassmen. We have two sophomores starting. They both did a great job knocking down free throws, staying composed at the end. Close games this year have helped us. We spent a lot of time working on late game situations this week in practice. I think it helped us out."
"It was really intense," Galvin said. "The only other time I played here was in the Christmas tournament. The color of the floor distracts you at first, but it was fun, a great atmosphere. (Wells has) stellar players. We knew we had to play well to beat them. Coach tells us to play with heart."
"It was big, especially beating Wells after losing to their gym last year," Robicheaw said. "It felt good to win."
"The guys took charges, ones that were called and ones that weren't," Ray added. "That set a tone for (Wells not) penetrating to the hoop early. They carried out the game plan tremendously."
Robicheaw (17 points) and Babcock (16) set the tone.
"As they grow, they've both matured so much since their sophomore year, as people, as well as basketball players," Ray said. "I'm so happy for Henry. He's struggled offensively, but he always impacts the game. He guarded Moody, who I think is one of the best point guards in the state, from start to finish. That's pretty draining in and of itself. He did a tremendous job."
Galvin (11 points) also paced the winning effort, with help from Murphy (seven points, all from the line), Clarke, Peterson and Pfister (two points each).
"We have good young guys," Robicheaw said. "They push us in practice and make us better for these kinds of games."
Cape Elizabeth had a 25-19 rebounding advantage, as Babcock, Clarke, Galvin, Murphy and Peterson all collected four. Babcock also had four assists. The Capers turned the ball over 20 times, but forced the Warriors to give it away on 21 occasions. Cape Elizabeth finished 24-of-36 from the free throw line.
Wells got a game-high 23 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots from Stevens. Moody added 12 points (four rebounds and three assists), Carney eight, Booth and Spinell three each and Moore (four boards) two.
The Warriors made 13-of-18 free throws.
Cape Elizabeth knows how difficult it will be to beat York (18-1, after a 64-38 evisceration of Greely in its quarterfinal) Thursday in the semifinals. The Capers were handled twice in the regular season by the Wildcats. In the past 50 years, Cape Elizabeth holds a 6-2 postseason edge over York. The teams last met two years ago in the quarterfinals, a 55-42 Capers' victory.
Cape Elizabeth knows that doing it again will be immensely difficult, but this proud program will show up at the Civic Center confient and ready to go nonetheless.
"York's a big, strong rebounding team," Babcock said. "It'll be a tough, defensive minded game."
"We handled (Wells') pressure pretty well," Robicheaw said. "We have to keep controlling the pace and play our game, make some shots and hopefully things will go well."
"We have a little more practice time," Ray said. "We'll try to get better and you never know. We have our hands full. We have a shot. That's all you can ask for."