Scarborough sends SP packing in quarterfinals
PORTLAND—Scarborough’s fourth-ranked girls’ basketball team held No. 5 South Portland to just one basket and forced seven turnovers in the first quarter of Monday evening’s Western Class A quarterfinal round game at the Portland Exposition Building.
Problem was, the Red Storm only had two points of its own.
Scarborough finally turned things around in the second quarter and got its offense in gear thanks in large part to senior Taylor LeBorgne. Seven LeBorgne points in the stanza and 13 forced turnovers allowed the Red Storm to gain some breathing room and lead, 21-11, at halftime. While the undermanned, but plucky Red Riots hung tough in the third period and only trailed 33-22 heading for the fourth quarter, Scarborough opened the final period on a 6-0 run and never looked back as it improved to 3-0 all-time against South Portland in the tournament with a 45-32 triumph.
The Red Storm, paced by 10 points from sophomore Ashley Briggs and nine apiece from LeBorgne and seniors Maria Philbrick and Mary Redmond, improved to 16-3, ended the Red Riots’ season at 12-7 and advanced to meet top-ranked, undefeated, two-time defending state champion McAuley in the semifinals Friday at 6 p.m., at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
"We were a little off (at first)," said LeBorgne. "It was a mixture of being nervous, the building's huge and there were a lot of fans. We weren't used to it. (In the second quarter) We came out and played better defense, passed better, shot better. Everyone did great."
Third time in five years
Scarborough, which made it all the way to the Western A Final a year ago before being bested by McAuley, won its first eight games this winter under new coach Ron Cote, downing host Gorham (56-23), visiting Westbrook (60-24), visiting Marshwood in a playoff rematch (44-31), host Windham (64-45), host Portland (57-44), visiting Biddeford (54-12), host South Portland (42-30) and visiting Thornton Academy (52-26). After a palpitating 58-57 triple-overtime home loss to Cheverus, the Red Storm bounced back with a 58-30 victory at Noble, then fell in a close home decision to Deering, 48-41 and lost at McAuley 65-42. Scarborough then closed on a six-game win streak, defeating host Kennebunk (65-23), visiting Sanford (52-42), visiting Massabesic (59-27), host Bonny Eagle (57-50), host Thornton Academy (47-29) and visiting Kennebunk (58-34) to wind up 15-3, good for the No. 4 seed in the region.
South Portland, which didn't even make it to the Expo last season, got off to a great start in 2012-13, winning its first six games: 48-27 at Windham, 53-38 over visiting Biddeford, 61-42 at Westbrook, 57-37 over visiting Thornton Academy, 47-27 at Kennebunk and 65-28 at Massabesic. The Red Riots fell from the unbeaten ranks New Year's Eve with a 45-37 home loss to Deering, then opened 2013 with a 42-30 home loss to Scarborough. South Portland bounced back with a clutch 68-63 overtime win at Sanford, tying the game in the final seconds of regulation after letting a lead slip away. After a 55-41 win at Portland, the Red Riots triumphed at Marshwood (54-32) and at home against Gorham (49-47) and Bonny Eagle (46-29), but that win proved mighty costly as senior standout Danica Gleason was lost for the season with a knee injury. South Portland lost home games to Cheverus (43-33) and McAuley (75-48) before getting back on track with a 76-33 home romp over Noble. The Red Riots then closed with losses at Deering, 33-21, and McAuley, 53-11, to wind up 12-6 and fifth.
Monday, South Portland hoped to hang tough against an expected Scarborough defensive onslaught. If the Red Riots had manage to score some first quarter points, the ending might have been different.
It looked like there would be plenty of offense when Briggs canned a jump shot just 26 seconds in, but the Red Storm wouldn't score again in the first period.
South Portland got on the board with 6:57 remaining in the first when junior Brianne Maloney banked home a shot, but neither team managed to put the ball in the basket again and the teams combined for 11 turnovers and just four points in the first eight minutes.
"I told the girls we were going to come out and play, attack the rim and shoot the ball and I look up and it's 2-2," Cote said. "I knew It couldn't get any worse, but I was shocked and (the girls) were shocked."
While the first quarter was far from aesthetically pleasing, there was one person on hand who was pleased.
"I was thrilled at 2-2," said Red Riots coach Mike Giordano. "A lot of people who paid to get in probably weren't happy, but I was thrilled that we'd weathered the first eight minutes of their pressure."
Scarborough continued to play great defense in the second period and finally got its offense going.
Thirteen seconds in, Philbrick hit a jumper to end a 7 minute, 10 second drought. At the other end, sophomore Holly Black took a pass from freshman Maddie Hasson and made a layup to end a 7:29 drought and tie the score for South Portland.
The Red Riots took the lead for the first and only time when Black scored on a putback with 6:28 left before halftime, but a LeBorgne free throw and a pair of foul shots from Redmond gave the Red Storm the lead for good.
Briggs made a short jumper after a steal and LeBorgne made a layup after a steal to stretch the lead to 11-6.
"Taylor got us going with her hustle," said Cote. "She got steals and scored. I thought she had a very nice game."
After South Portland junior Mackenzie Bowring made a layup, Scarborough senior Courtney Alofs was fouled after an offensive rebound and hit two free throws, LeBorgne banked home a shot, LeBorgne hit a jumper, sophomore Sam Sparda made a layup after a steal and Philbrick hit both ends of a one-and-one to cap a 15-2 surge and make it 21-8.
"(The first quarter) was really frustrating," said Briggs. "I don't think 2-2 has ever happened to me before. It wasn't good. Obviously, we needed to step it up. We ended up doing that in the second quarter. We moved the ball well and made shots."
"We went from a man defense to what we call our red press and I thought that caused a change for (South Portland)," Cote said. "We got turnovers and a couple quick baskets. I thought that was the difference. It was a total team effort."
A late 3 from Hasson pulled the Red Riots back to within 10, 21-11, at the break.
South Portland turned the ball over a whopping 20 times in the first half.
"Credit to (Scarborough) in the halfcourt," Giordano said. "They made us uncomfortable. We didn't do well in the halfcourt executing our stuff and that's a credit to their defense. They made us uncomfortable all night. I knew we'd struggle with their pressure. They made a little run. I used some timeouts to try and stop it. We missed some layups. It could have been closer at the half."
The Red Riots took better care of the ball in the second half, but couldn't dent the Red Storm's advantage.
Scarborough opened the second half with a Briggs jump shot. After Hasson and LeBorgne traded two free throws, Black made a layup, but Briggs knocked down a jumper and Alofs took a pass from Redmond and made a layup. Red Riots senior Hope Owen scored on a putback, but Briggs knocked down a long jumper to make it 31-17.
"I was kind of comfortable with the setting," said Briggs. "We played here last year and had a game here against Portland this year. That made it easier for shooting."
"I thought Ashley shot well and played well," Cote said.
South Portland put together a quick 5-0 mini-run as senior Emily Gray banked home a shot and senior Jenna Wing canned a 3-ball to pull her team within nine, but a late runner off the glass by Redmond pushed the Red Storm's lead back into double-digits, 33-22, with eight minutes to go.
Scarborough quickly ended any remaining doubt in the fourth quarter, courtesy Redmond, who banked home a shot and made a 3, and Alofs, who made a free throw for a 39-22 lead with just 2:35 remaining.
Twelve seconds later, Maloney made a 3 to end another long (6:53) Red Riots' drought. Maloney added a jumper before Philbrick answered with two free throws for a 41-27 advantage with 1:20 to go.
Hasson hit a 3 to cut the deficit to 11, but South Portland would get no closer.
Alofs made a free throw, Philbrick sank two and after South Portland sophomore Paige Carter scored on a putback, a Philbrick free throw accounted for the 45-32 final score.
Briggs led all scorers with 10 points and got plenty of help from the trio of LeBorgne, Philbrick and Redmond (nine apiece), as well as Alofs (six) and Sparda (two). Philbrick had a team-high eight rebounds. Alofs and Briggs grabbed three apiece. LeBorgne had five and Redmond four of the Red Storm's 16 steals. Scarborough committed 15 turnovers and made 16-of-21 free throws.
Per usual, the Red Storm featured a balanced attack and a great team effort.
"We're so close as a team," said Briggs, who suffered a Charley horse late in the game, but expects to be fine for the next round. "We don't care if we score 10 points, zero points, as long as we win as a team."
South Portland got more than half its points from non-seniors, a promising development looking forward. Hasson led the way with eight points, Maloney had seven, Black six, Wing three and Browing, Carter, Gray and Owen two apiece.
The Red Riots had a commanding 35-20 edge on the glass (Black grabbed eight boards, Maloney and Owen had six apiece). Maloney blocked two shots. Ultimately, South Portland's inability to get to the line (2-of-4 attempts) and its 29 giveaways were too much to overcome.
"I like how we finished," Giordano said. "We didn't quit. (The girls) had opportunities when we lost kids, but we didn't quit all year. We weren't going to quit tonight."
Consider Cote impressed with South Portland's effort.
"I think Mike Giordano's a great coach," Cote said. "I think he's done a great job with that team this year. I expected a tough game from them."
The Red Riots' record was better than many expected back in the preseason.
"If you'd told me we'd go 12-6 with our schedule, I would have been thrilled and I am," Giordano said. "I didn't think we'd do that. We beat everybody below us (in the standings). We didn't beat anybody above us. It was a great group of kids. A special group."
Next year's team will feature Bowring and Maloney as seniors, a junior class which will include Black and Carter and sophomores Doyle and Hasson, among others. South Portland doesn't hope to just make it to the Expo in the 2014, but to play on to the Civic Center.
"We return a lot and that's exciting," said Giordano. "We've got things to build on. We should be pretty tough next year. Our seniors meant so much to the program. We've been making the tournament, but I think we turned the corner this year from not being happy just making it to having success in it. I told the seniors they were the start of turning that corner."
The McAuley mountain
Friday evening at the Civic Center, Scarborough will face the daunting task of facing a 19-0 McAuley team which hasn't lost a game in over two years and is riding a 45-game streak.
The Red Storm was victim number 15 (49-37 in last year's regular season), 25 (61-43, in last year's regional final) and 38 (65-42, on Jan. 18, a game that was much more competitive than the 23-point final score).
Scarborough will take the floor Friday carefree and if a few breaks go its way, believes an upset is possible.
"It's exciting," said LeBorgne. "We've worked hard. We've adjusted to a new coach. All we really wanted was to get to the Civic Center and show we're good. We have to work hard the whole game. We'll have to have our best game. We can't make mistakes. We have to shoot well, play good defense and do the best we can."
"We really need our defense to be key," Briggs said. "We need to box out and we need to get (McAuley post players) Vic (Lux) and Olivia (Smith) in foul trouble like we did last time. With our defense, if we steal the ball and make our shots, we have a pretty good chance."
"No question, we're happy to be there," Cote added. "I got the job in October. We had a heck of a year. We have great record. You can't ask for anything more than to go to the Civic Center. We'll see what we can do."