S-sportsGB THE PLAYOFFS Scarborough girls start title quest Monday
Cape Elizabeth falls short of playoffs in best season this decade
By Michael Hoffer
While South Portland was advancing to the quarterfinals with a win over Portland Wednesday night (please see story, page ?), Scarborough was keeping a close eye on the Red Riots as it prepares to begin its run at the Class A championship.
The Red Storm, who went 16-2 this winter to earn the No. 2 seed behind undefeated defending state champion Deering, will face South Portland in a delicious quarterfinal Monday at 3:30 p.m. at the Portland Expo.
In Western B, while Cape Elizabeth fell short of the playoffs this year, it's hard to characterize their season as anything but an unmitigated success as the Capers went 7-11, their most victories in a season in nine years.
SUBHEAD-Team to watch
Scarborough lost in the quarterfinals last winter and expected to be a top contender this winter, but few thought the Red Storm would decimate most of their foes and go 16-2, tying the 1977-78 team for most wins in program history.
"The team's playing as one," Scarborough coach Jim Seavey said. "They're all on the same page. It seems like we have someone different every game. We found a way to get it done. I didn't know if we could be this good."
Back on Jan. 6, the Red Storm edged visiting South Portland 45-41 for their first-ever win over their neighbors. The teams have no playoff history.
While Deering is viewed as the team to beat, Scarborough feels its capable of stealing the headlines in the days to come.
"I like our chances," Seavey said. "I think we played (Deering) well in the regular season (a 53-43 home loss Jan. 8)."
The Red Storm have to win twice before even thinking about the Rams. If Scarborough knocks off South Portland, it would meet either No. 3 Biddeford (14-4) or No. 6 Marshwood (11-7) in the semifinals next Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Red Storm beat the Tigers twice this year, 65-56 on the road Dec. 27 and 64-54 at home in the regular season finale Feb. 5. Scarborough opened the year with a 49-43 home victory over Marshwood Dec. 5.
The Red Storm have not faced Biddeford before in the playoffs, but do have a previous history with the Hawks, losing to them in the 1991 Western B quarterfinals and 1992 Western B semis.
The Western A Final is Saturday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. The Class A state game is Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Cape Elizabeth girls' team has had a tough decade by any measure. Frequent coaching changes, limited attention to the youth program and losing seasons had been the norm, but it appears stability at the top in the form of a former star was just what the program needed.
Chris Roberts, Class of 1996, played on regional finalists teams her last two seasons and is the Capers all-time leader in assists and 3-point shots, as well as the school's second all-time scorer, She seems to have this team on the right track.
Cape Elizabeth dropped its first three games this winter, then turned the tide for good Dec. 22 with a 48-42 home win over three-time defending regional champion Lake Region. A 53-38 home victory over Yarmouth Jan. 9 gave the Capers four victories, the first time that had happened since 1999-2000. Cape Elizabeth would wind up 7-11, but didn't have enough Heal Points to make the playoffs.
Regardless, there was much to hail.
"I would attribute the success we experienced and the positive steps we took to several different factors," said Roberts. "I gave particular attention to teaching fundamentals. There was a focus on teaching the girls how to play as opposed to how to run plays. We paid particular attention to the nuances of the game and trying to improve the basketball IQ of the girls. They certainly made strides as the season progressed.
"We had great leadership from our captains, as well as from some other players. They set the tone for the team and set the bar high. I think the culture of girls' basketball at Cape is changing. I'm doing all I can to foster a cohesive program, from the high school girls all the way down to youth programs. I had seven varsity girls involved in the Saturday morning youth clinics. We did our best to generate enthusiasm with the younger kids. It was especially rewarding to have little third and fourth graders come up to me or the players after our games."
Roberts credited the Lake Region win with turning the tide and felt her team was very formidable by year's end and could be even stronger in 2009-2010.
"We ended the season with three strong games where the girls really gave 100 percent and left it all on the floor," she said. "We lost to Falmouth, the No. 4 team, by seven, we beat Yarmouth by 10, then we lost to Greely, the No. 2 team, by 14. Both the Falmouth and Greely games were closer than the final score indicated.
"We're certainly heading in the right direction. It's just a question of how good the girls want to be and how much time they're willing to put in during the offseason."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org