Greely girls come alive late to frustrate Cape Elizabeth
CUMBERLAND—Two teams took the floor at Greely High School Saturday evening coming off painful losses 24 earlier and needing a victory to help in their playoff quest.
Greely, which was beaten decisively at Lake Region Friday and Cape Elizabeth, which dropped a last-second heartbreaker at York, produced 32 nailbiting minutes with virtually no separation, but in the end, the Rangers would have the last laugh.
Greely led, 10-8, after one quarter and took a 23-22 advantage to the half. After seven lead changes in the first five minutes of the third quarter, Cape Elizabeth appeared on the verge of opening the game up, but after the Capers went up by seven, Rangers junior standout Ashley Storey hit a pivotal shot just before the third quarter horn and the hosts had some life.
Greely would then dominate the fourth quarter, holding Cape Elizabeth without a field goal and when junior Haley Felkel made a clutch 3-pointer with 5:08 to play, the Rangers had the lead for good. Freshman Moira Train added a 3 and Greely slammed the door from there, going on to a 44-40 victory.
Storey finished with 16 points and the Rangers closed on a 12-1 run, improving to 11-3, while severely damaging the playoff hopes of the now 8-6 Capers.
"I turned to (assistant coach) Diana (Manduca) when we cut it to five and said, 'We're going to win this game,'" said Greely coach Joel Rogers. "I usually don't make that prediction. I challenged the kids and they stepped it up."
Entering Saturday evening, since the start of the 2001-02 season, Greely had beaten Cape Elizabeth in 21 of 22 meetings (please see sidebar, below), most of which weren't even competitive.
The one exception came in the season finale a year ago, when the host Capers finally vanquished the Rangers, 41-36.
Both teams made it to the tournament last winter and both are hopeful of doing big things next month, but each squad has experienced some ups and downs this season.
Cape Elizabeth opened with a 45-32 home loss to Wells, then fell at defending regional champion Lake Region (52-38). The Capers then won a 61-59 last-second thriller at Gray-New Gloucester and downed visiting Freeport (48-36), visiting Yarmouth (41-28), host Kennebunk (46-29) and visiting Falmouth (36-32) to extend their win streak to five before stumbling at Wells (43-28) and at home to Gray-New Gloucester (51-49). After winning at Yarmouth (41-30), at home over Traip (53-33) and at home over Kennebunk (54-16), Cape Elizabeth's playoff hopes took a serious hit Friday night, when host York scored in the waning seconds for a 37-36 victory.
The Rangers, meanwhile, dropped their opener, 54-31, at Gray-New Gloucester, then downed visiting Freeport, 55-46, host Kennebunk, 50-25, visiting Yarmouth (51-28) and visiting Poland (77-58), before falling at rival Falmouth (53-45). Greely opened 2014 with wins at Fryeburg (52-42), at home over Kennebunk (75-29), York (42-32) and Falmouth (55-44) and at Freeport (54-35) and Yarmouth (51-22) before stumbling Friday night at defending regional champion Lake Region (52-34).
Saturday, Greely found a way to beat Cape Elizabeth yet again, but it took the full 32 minutes to do so.
Rangers senior Blaise Tardif opened the scoring just 12 seconds in with a 3, but Capers sophomore Montana Braxton, hinting at a big night to come, answered from behind the arc to tie the score.
After Storey got on the board with a layup, taking a nice pass from Tardif and contorting her body to make the shot, Tardif added a layup to make it 7-3 Greely.
Cape Elizabeth roared back behind a 3 from junior Hannah Sawyer and a layup after a steal by Braxton, but as time expired, Rangers freshman Molly Chapin calmly sank a 3 and Greely had a 10-8 lead after one quarter.
Both teams' offenses picked it up a notch in the second period.
Tardif again got the scoring started with a jumper. After Braxton countered with a 3, Storey made a nice move, then laid the ball off the glass for a layup. Braxton pulled the Capers within a point with a putback, but senior Jordynne Copp scored on a driving layup for the Rangers.
After senior Kate Miklavic tied the score with a 3, Copp made a baseline jumper, but another Miklavic 3 put the visitors ahead, 19-18.
Late in the half, Storey rattled home a 3 and Storey took a pass from Felkel and made a layup before Sawyer made a 3 to pull Cape Elizabeth back within a point, 23-22, heading to the break.
In the first 16 minutes, just one point, one rebound and one turnover separated the teams. Braxton impressed with 10 points and seven rebounds, while Storey (nine points) was almost as effective. Eighteen of the Capers' 22 points came from 3-point territory. Greely didn't attempt a free throw, while Cape Elizabeth missed all four of its opportunities.
The lead changed hands often in the third quarter.
Fifty-nine seconds in, a Miklavic jumper put the Capers ahead. Back came the Rangers, as sophomore Sarah Felkel scored on a driving layup to make it 25-24 Greely.
Braxton set up senior Emma O'Rourke for a layup, but Storey hit a short jumper in the lane and the Rangers retook the lead, 27-26.
After Sawyer made a 3 for the visitors, Sarah Felkel set up Haley Felkel for a 3-ball and Greely was back on top, 30-29, although it would be the last time for quite awhile that the Rangers would have the upper hand.
With 3:05 left in the stanza, Braxton scored on a driving layup. Eighteen seconds later, the athletic standout stole the ball and raced in for a layup. Sawyer then banked home a shot, which rolled around and in, and after Storey countered with a leaner, Braxton rattled home a jumper and after a steal, Braxton pulled up for a short jumper with 16.5 seconds to go, making it 39-32 Capers.
No one at the time would have believed that Cape Elizabeth had scored its last field goal.
Or that the Rangers had the visitors right where they wanted them.
The comeback started with 2.4 seconds left in the frame, as Storey made a baseline jumper, cutting the Capers' lead to 39-34 entering the fourth period.
"I felt like that brought us back into the game," Storey said. "They were up by a lot and we were falling out of it, but it was good to hit that shot to bring us back into reality."
In the final quarter, the Rangers amped up their defense and got just enough offense to steal one.
Just seven seconds into the fourth, Tardif was fouled and went to the line to take Greely's first free throws of the contest. She made them both and suddenly, it was a one possession game.
With 6:45 left, Tardif went ot the line again and made one of two attempts, cutting the deficit to 39-37.
Braxton had a chance to extend the lead, but she missed two foul shots and with 5:54 remaining, Storey was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound and hit one of two free throws to pull the Rangers within a single point, 39-38.
The next time down, Greely had a chance to take the lead and would do so behind the confident Felkel, who got the ball behind the 3-point arc, lined up a shot and buried it to put the Rangers on top for good, 41-39.
"I just shot it," said Felkel. "I tried not to think about it too much. I didn't make a lot of shots tonight. It wasn't a good shooting night tonight for me. Making that felt good and made me confident we'd pull through and win the game."
"We're a good 3-point shooting team," Rogers said. "We made them when we had to. Haley's made them for two years."
Cape Elizabeth then missed a shot, but senior Mary Perkins snared the rebound. The Capers then held possession for a long time, but couldn't get a look and eventually turned the ball over.
"(Cape) had a possession in the fourth quarter for two minutes and couldn't get a shot," Rogers said. "That's what wins championships. That kind of defense."
Greely then looked for a good shot and got one with 2:29 remaining, as Train was true from behind the 3-point line, pushing the lead to 44-39, capping a 12-0 run in the process.
Cape Elizabeth still had time to answer, but Braxton missed a leaner and Train got the rebound. After Sawyer blocked a Storey shot, the Capers had a chance to ride that momentum, but they turned the ball over.
After Greely gave the ball back, Braxton was fouled with 59.4 seconds to go. She missed the first attempt, but made the second, ending a 7 minute, 17 second drought and more importantly, pulling her team within four, 44-40.
When the Rangers turned the ball over again, Cape Elizabeth had life, but Sarah Felkel stole the ball back. Storey missed the front end of a one-and-one, but a final Capers' turnover sealed the deal and Greely was able to celebrate its 44-40 triumph.
"We picked it up on D and they didn't get anything," Storey said. "The atmosphere here was great tonight. I think that made us play harder. We got the stops. We know we can play like that."
"We really came together and got intense on defense," Haley Felkel said. "That fell through to our offense and things started happening for us. They were trying to rush things a little bit and were getting frustrated."
"This is a quality win," Rogers added. "It helps set the tone for where we want to be. They had six 3s in the first half. They had just one in the second half. I ended up going small. More or less a four-guard offense and Ashley. Once we got the lead, I went back to a post player to help us on the boards. Those (Cape) kids played their hearts out. Chris (Casterella) is such a great coach, but I knew (playing on back-to-back nights), they weren't as deep as we are. That's why they missed their 3s."
Storey had a team-high 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. She also blocked two shots and had a steal.
"Ashley's a presence," Rogers said. "Sometimes against smaller teams, she gets a lot of contact below the waist. I told her to settle herself, square up and elevate, instead of catch and shoot."
Tardif added 10 points, Haley Felkel had six (to go with six rebounds and four assists), Copp four, Chapin and Train three apiece and Sarah Felkel two (to go with a pair of steals).
Greely was outrebounded, 34-33, turned the ball over 16 times and was 4 of 7 from the free throw line.
Cape Elizabeth got a stellar effort from Braxton, who had a game-high 19 points and seven steals and a team-high 10 boards.
"Montana played all 32 minutes," Casterella said. "I told her before the game she has to get to the hoop. She has the ability. She's trying to figure out her role. Athletically, she's as good as anybody, if not better. It was nice to see her step up. Tonight, she showed the offensive piece that's been coming along."
Defending Braxton was Haley Felkel's job and while it wasn't easy, she held her own.
"(Montana's) very hard to guard," Felkel said. "She's extremely quick. She was just everywhere. She had a lot of steals and she's really good at transition."
"Montana's a great ballhandler, she's quick, she's athletic, she knows what she's doing, but Haley did a great job on her," Storey said.
"(Montana's) very long and she's a good athlete, but we adjusted," Rogers added.
Sawyer had 11 points (including three 3s), seven rebounds and two blocks, Miklavic added eight points and five boards and O'Rourke had two points and a pair of steals. Junior Ashley Tinsman had five rebounds off the bench.
The Capers only turned the ball over 13 times, but were doomed by making just 1 of 8 free throw attempts.
"I stopped harping on free throws," said Casterella. "The girls know they have to make them. It's varsity basketball. We have to make at least 60 or 70 percent."
It was a tough loss for Cape Elizabeth to handle.
"Last night hurt because I thought we outplayed (York), but we couldn't handle the pressure," Casterella said. "Greely's a very good team and we stayed with them. Our effort was phenomenal tonight. We just have to find a way to get over the dry spell that happens every game. A lead against Greely doesn't mean anything. You can't stall and hold the ball. They missed a lot of shots and they adjusted to what we were doing. To their credit, they hit shots in the second half they didn't make in the first half. I was happy we didn't throw the ball away at the end. That killed us at York."
Work to do
Despite the fact that it could beat anybody in the field, there's a decent chance Cape Elizabeth will fall short of qualifying for the tournament, unless it wins out. The Capers (now 12th in the Western Class B Heal Points standings, only 10 teams make the playoffs) go to Poland and host Fryeburg next week, then play at Falmouth before closing with a home game versus Greely Feb. 7.
"We have to keep playing with the intensity we had tonight," Casterella said. "Unfortunately, in a different year, we'd be OK where we are right now. We're competing with every team we play. We just hope we can grab a couple of these last four games. The girls know how important they are. They don't want the season to be over yet."
The Rangers (now sixth in Western B) host Fryeburg and go to York next week, then play host to Wells before finishing at Cape Elizabeth.
"If we play defense like we did in the fourth quarter, I think we can be really good," said Haley Felkel. "We want to win games so when tournament time comes, we can be ready."
"Lake Region was a big loss for us, but today, we showed we could bounce back and who we really are," Storey said. "We play Cape again. Fryeburg gave us a good run, then we have Wells. We have a lot of tough games."
"I want to run the table," Rogers added. "We'll be tested going into the tournament. We may not be seeded in the top four, but I want to be a top four team. I have to figure out every game if we're better off playing with four guards and a post, or a couple bigger players. We should be scoring more points in transition. We'll get ready."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
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