Cheverus holds off Scarborough, Falmouth awaits
PORTLAND—The tournament started early for the Cheverus and Scarborough boys' basketball teams as they met in a Western Class A preliminary round contest Tuesday evening at Keegan Gymnasium as they vied for the right to meet No. 2 Falmouth in the quarterfinals.
The seventh-ranked Stags managed to keep the dangerous-shooting 10th-seeded Red Storm at bay from behind the perimeter, allowing one measly 3-pointer, but it didn't add up to an easy win.
While Cheverus was ahead virtually throughout and stretched a three-point lead after one quarter to 28-18 at halftime, Scarborough didn't go down without a fight in the second half.
Sparked by the determined play of senior Matt Hartl, the Red Storm crept within six in the third period, then, pulled within three on three separate occasions in the fourth, but Scarborough never quite was able to catch up.
With the game on the line, it was a Stags' freshman, Austin Boudreau, who hit the biggest shots, a pair of 3s, and Cheverus managed to hold on down the stretch to prevail, 55-50.
Boudreau led all scorers with 27 points and junior Zordan Holman was a force with 11 points and double-digit rebounds as the Stags improved to 10-9, ended the Red Storm's season at 9-10 and advanced to meet the 17-1 Yachtsmen Saturday at 9 p.m., at the Portland Exposition Building.
"It was a barnburner," said second-year Cheverus coach Dan Costigan. "We were fortunate enough to score a couple more buckets. The kids worked really hard. I'm really happy for them."
Down to the wire
Both teams came into the game having won their share and lost their share as their mutual 9-9 records would suggest. In the regular season meeting, Cheverus beat visiting Scarborough, 76-63, back on Jan. 28.
The teams had met just once prior, a 49-34 victory for the Stags in the 2010 Western A quarterfinals, a game most notable for Cheverus star Indiana Faithfull, who had apparently used up his eligibility, being granted an opportunity to play at the last moment (the Stags went on to the win the championship, but later had to vacate it).
Tuesday, Cheverus proved to be more adept at shooting from behind the 3-point line and made just enough plays to advance.
The Stags took a 15-12 lead after one quarter and opened it up to 27-16 late in the half, as senior Noah Stebbins made a layup and Holman scored on a putback. After Holman added a free throw, a driving layup from Hartl pulled the Red Storm within 10, 28-18, at halftime.
In the first half, Boudreau led the way with 12 points.
"I was feeling it early," Boudreau said. "I got into a rhythm. I just had to stay focused and do what I do in practice."
Senior Brad Carney added nine points (on three 3s), Holman had five and Stebbins two.
While Scarborough had yet to make a 3, Hartl kept his team alive with 10 points. Junior Milani Hicks added four and senior Dan LeClair and junior Nate Wessel (who was saddled with three fouls) both had two.
The Red Storm came out determined to start the second half and cut the deficit in half, as Hartl scored on a layup after a steal, was fouled and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play, and Hartl added a driving bank shot to make it 28-23.
After Holman made a reverse layup after a nice move, Wessel and Holman traded free throws, but a three-point play from Boudreau (runner, foul, free throw) put Cheverus back on top by 10, 34-24.
Hicks made a couple free throws and junior Sam Freeman made a layup, but two Boudreau free throws and a layup after a steal from senior Manny Ismail made it a 10-point contest again, 38-28.
In the final minute of the third period, Hartl spun, then banked home a shot and Freeman made a layup after a steal to make it a 38-32 game with eight minutes to go.
With 7:23 remaining, Hartl took a pass from LeClair, made a layup while being fouled and added the free throw for a three-point play which cut the deficit to only three, 38-35.
After the hosts turned the ball over, the Red Storm had a chance to draw even, but Ismail tied up Hartl and the possession arrow went the way of Cheverus.
At the other end, with 6:39 left, after some nice ball movement, Ismail set up Boudreau and the freshman buried a 3 from the corner to push the lead back to six, 41-35.
Back came Scarborough, as Freeman made a layup in transition, but with 4:58 remaining, Boudreau sank another 3, this one from up top, and the Stags were ahead by seven, 44-37.
The Red Storm refused to wilt, getting a layup from Hartl and with 3:34 showing, two Hicks free throws to again make it a three-point game.
Scarborough got the ball back and the it came to a wide open Freeman in the corner, but his potential game-tying 3 was off target.
After Cheverus turned the ball over, the Red Storm had another chance to pull even, but Hartl tried a finger-roll that was no good and with 2:13 left, Holman converted a three-point play to push the advantage back to six points, 47-41.
"We have good guards who can handle the ball and we'll set screens," Holman said. "We're a tough team to figure out because we'll do anything. You can't guard something if you don't know what's coming."
Finally, with 1:58 to play, after 30-plus minutes without a 3, Scarborough finally got one, as Hicks did the honors, making things very interesting again.
But as was the case every time they were pushed, the Stags had an answer.
First, they dodged a bullet, as after a turnover, Hartl forced a shot which was no good. Holman got the rebound and with 45.8 seconds left, Boudreau was fouled and went to the line for a one-and-one.
He calmly sank the first attempt, then made the second and the Stags had a little breathing room.
Only for four seconds, however, as Hartl set up Wessel for a layup, making it a three-point game again, 49-46.
Ismail was sent to the line for a one-and-one with 36.4 seconds to go and he too was cool under pressure, knocking down both shots.
At the other end, Cheverus senior Sam Cross came up with a huge defensive play, blocking LeClair's 3-point attempt and Holman got yet another rebound.
"I like battling for rebounds," Holman said. "It's just what I do."
With 23.3 seconds left, Ismail added two foul shots for a 53-46 advantage.
Scarborough stayed alive courtesy a driving layup from Hartl, but with 10.5 seconds to go, Boudreau went to the line again and made both attempts to essentially seal it. A late jumper from Hicks wasn't enough and the Stags held on, 55-50.
"It was a good team effort," Holman said. "We played hard on defense. We focused hard on transition defense, since they like to run and gun up the court. Teams will make runs. There's flow in a basketball game. It's just what happens. You have to handle the adversity. We pride ourselves on that."
"There was very high intensity tonight," said Boudreau. "We just had to do what we do best, get the ball inside, get it reversed, attack, get to the line and finish strong. We got screens, handoffs. We're a mentally tough team. We played well down the stretch."
"The guys stay together," Costigan added. "They help each other out. Scarborough's a hard team to play against. Hartl's really good. He's slippery. Hicks and Wessel are good players. They grind. There's nothing tricky or fancy about them, but it's hard to stop them. Because they're so perimeter oriented, they can hit 3s. They kind of make you do things you don't want to do. It's hard for Zordan to play in a game like that, but he got a lot of rebounds and we limited them to one shot."
Boudreau, the rare Cheverus freshman who not only sees ample playing time, but excels, had a game-high 27 points.
"He's playing well," Holman said. "He shoots lights out."
"He's just got a sense for the game," Costigan said. "He can shoot it from deep. He's confident. He takes shots that not many freshmen are willing to take. He's unique in that way. You don't have a lot of freshmen in the SMAA have an impact like he did tonight. He was playing at Old Orchard Middle School last year. That's quite a difference."
Holman added 11 points, Carney had nine, Ismail six and Stebbins two.
End of the road
Scarborough got 21 points from Hartl in his swan song.
"(Matt's) played well all year long," said Red Storm coach Tony DiBiase. "He was our eighth man last year, worked really hard in the offseason and became one of the better players in the league."
Hicks added 16, Freeman had six, Wessel five and LeClair two.
"We had to play them (man-to-man) because of the way they shoot the ball," DiBiase said. "The game wasn't the tempo we wanted to play, but I thought it was the way we had to play them because they shoot the 3-ball well. We were one possession away from tying it in the fourth quarter. We had some good chances. We hung in there. We did pretty well inside. Overall, I thought the kids played really well. We struggled from the 3-point line and we had some good looks too.
"I thought it was great we got back to the tournament. We had a bunch of kids come up from JVs. We really didn't know what to expect. We didn't have a lot of size. I thought we had some really good wins. I'm very happy with that. Now, we have good experience in the program. We have three legitimate players (Freeman, Hicks and Wessel) coming back, plus the big kid (sophomore Jacob Gardner). We should be one of the better teams next year. The kids know me, I know them. They know the system better."
First time Falmouth
Falmouth (which had its coaching staff and several players on hand Tuesday) is new to the Western A tournament this winter, as the defending Class B state champions have moved up due to an increase in enrollment numbers.
The Stags and Yachtsmen have no history.
Cheverus expects to have to play close to a perfect game to spring an upset, but goes in knowing it's the underdog and has nothing to lose.
"We didn't make it last year, but we made it this year and we'll go hard against Falmouth and try to beat them," Boudreau said. "We'll go strong. They're a good team."
"It's good to get back to the Expo," Holman said. "We've worked hard in the offseason. We're looking forward to playing Falmouth. We have to do what we do. They're a good team. They'll make runs. It's going to be a great game."
"We'll catch our breath here and make sure we handle the moment and go out there and handle adversity," Costigan added. "They're a tough team. We just need to stay focused and stay together. We have our work cut out, but at least we have a shot."