Perfect Rangers dominate Messalonskee, earn coveted Gold Ball

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Greely senior captains Matt McDevitt, left, Jordan Bagshaw and Ryan Twitchell show off the Gold Ball after the Rangers’ 59-43 win over Messalonskee in the Class A state final Saturday afternoon. Greely won its first championship since 1998.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Greely 59 Messalonskee 43

M- 7 3 11 22- 43
G- 18 18 17 6- 59

G- McDevitt 8-3-23, Bagshaw 7-1-17, Twitchell 4-2-10, Wood 1-0-3, Brown 1-0-2, Coppersmith 1-0-2, DeWolfe 0-2-2

M- Charles 3-1-8, Warren 4-0-8, Kouletsis 3-0-7, Alley 2-0-6, Violette 2-1-6, Wood 2-0-4, McCray 1-0-2, Tuttle 1-0-2

3-pointers:
G (7) McDevitt 4, Bagshaw 2, Wood 1
M (5) Alley 2, Charles, Kouletsis, Violette 1

Turnovers:
G- 20
M- 19

Free throws
G: 8-11
M: 2-6

AUGUSTA—Prior to Saturday afternoon’s Class A boys’ basketball state final, the Greely Rangers were waiting to take the Augusta Civic Center floor and they were chomping at the bit.

For good reason.

The Rangers were rarin’ to go because they knew that their date with destiny awaited and did they ever embrace the moment.

Like they have all winter.

After an 18-0 regular season and an impressive run through the Class A South tournament field, Greely, led by title-starved senior standouts Jordan Bagshaw, Matt McDevitt and Ryan Twitchell, delivered an immediate knockout blow to the Cinderella Messalonskee Eagles and started the party early.

McDevitt put the Rangers ahead to stay with five quick points and he would tally 13 in the first quarter alone, as Greely opened up a commanding 18-7 advantage.

The Rangers, led by junior Shane DeWolfe, played lockdown defense in the first half, holding the previously potent Eagles to a mere 10 points and after Bagshaw heated up in the second quarter, Greely ran away to enjoy a 36-10 advantage at the break.

The Rangers weren’t about to let Messalonskee rally in the third quarter, eventually going up by as many as 34 points, and early in that frame, McDevitt made a free throw for his 1,000th career point.

Greely led, 53-21, going to the fourth period and while the Eagles made shots down the stretch, the Rangers were never seriously tested and they put the finishing touches on their 59-43 victory.

McDevitt bowed out with 23 points, Bagshaw added 17 and Twitchell had a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds as Greely finished 22-0, won its first Class A state title, its first Gold Ball in any class in 19 seasons, its fifth ever and in the process, ended Messalonskee’s season at 16-6.

“It’s awesome,” said Rangers coach Travis Seaver, who was a star player on the school’s last title team back in 1998. “It means a lot to the program. The kids have been focused all year. I’m super proud of them. We’re fortunate to have the group of guys that we have. We’ve had some great teams in the past, but it’s tough to win it. The way the guys have carried the target all year long and showed up every night focused was a testament to how much they wanted it.”

No doubt

Greely was the top seed in Class A South a year ago, but was upset by Brunswick in the semifinals.

“Losing last year was really upsetting, but we didn’t look back,” said Bagshaw.

This season, the senior-laden Rangers knew it was now or never and they not only welcomed the expectations, but embraced the pressure en route to a perfect regular season (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories).

Greely opened by beating visiting Cape Elizabeth (62-44) and York (77-51), before avenging last year’s ouster with a 55-44 win at Brunswick. The wins kept coming against visiting Yarmouth (80-58), Gorham (64-53) and Morse (96-50). After a scintillating 55-54 overtime victory at Falmouth, the Rangers stayed perfect with an 80-64 home win over Poland, then held on for an exhilarating 82-74, triple overtime victory at Yarmouth. Greely kept the good times rolling by downing host Biddeford (75-63), visiting Fryeburg Academy (72-41), host York (61-42), visiting Gray-New Gloucester (85-57), visiting Marshwood (76-31), host Cape Elizabeth (58-41), host Westbrook (52-40) and host Kennebunk (73-48), then closed with a 61-44 home win over Falmouth to go 18-0 and lock up the top seed in the region.

The Rangers were phenomenal in the quarterfinals, blowing No. 8 Kennebunk out of the water early en route to a 76-31 victory. Greely was pushed hard by No. 4 York in the semifinals, but held on, 59-54. The Rangers then got a break when No. 2 Falmouth had to play without injured senior standout Colin Coyne in the regional final and Greely rolled, 47-26, to punch its ticket to Augusta.

Messalonskee lost two of its first three games and was just 7-4 at one juncture, then closed by winning six of seven to earn the No. 5 seed in Class A North. The Eagles upset No. 4 Gardiner, 53-46, in the quarterfinals, downed eighth-ranked Skowhegan, 64-55, in the semifinals, then advanced to the state final by virtue of a 61-40 victory over third-ranked Oceanside, the defending regional champion, in the Class A North Final.

While Messalonskee was taking part in its first state final, Greely was participating in its sixth, even though it had been a long time since the Rangers had been on the sport’s biggest stage (see sidebar, below). Greely had won four of five prior state games with a dramatic 70-69 triumph over Camden-Rockport in the 1998 Class B Final the most recent.

The teams had met once previously in a playoff game, a 59-57 Rangers’ victory in the 1984 Western B preliminary round.

Saturday, Greely showed its championship heart and skill from the opening tip.

Greely got off to a fast start when McDevitt hit a leaner 23 seconds in.

When DeWolfe set up McDevitt for a 3-ball from the corner with 5:36 left in the first period, the Rangers had a quick 5-0 lead and Eagles coach Peter McLaughlin called time out.

Messalonskee got on the board 16 seconds later on a putback from senior Trevor McCray, but McDevitt buried a 3 despite being closely guarded and with 4:05 left, Bagshaw fed McDevitt for a backdoor layup and a 10-2 lead.

“There were nerves and there was pressure on us, but I hit that shot and we got in the flow of the game,” McDevitt said. “I set my feet and hit (that 3) and that felt amazing. A fast start was very important. Defense leads to offense. That’s how we got off to such a good start.”

“Matt hit all his shots,” Twitchell said. “We got him the ball and he was hot.”

“We talk a lot about confidence,” Seaver added. “It isn’t a bad thing. There’s a fine line between confident and cocky. I want the kids to be confident, not nervous. They’ve earned the right to be confident. Matt shot great and that helped out a lot.”

The Eagles countered with a corner 3 from freshman Tucker Charles, but Bagshaw scored the Rangers’ first non-McDevitt points on a 3, then McDevitt took a pass from Twitchell and canned another 3 for a 16-5 lead.

Late in the quarter, Messalonskee senior James Kouletsis made a leaner, but Twitchell hit two free throws and Greely had a solid 18-7 advantage after eight minutes.

McDevitt stole the show in that frame with 13 points.

In the second period, McDevitt picked right up where he left off, taking a pass from DeWolfe for a backdoor layup 11 seconds in.

“Our AAU coach and St. Joe’s run that play,” said McDevitt. “I had to sell it a little bit, but it worked out nicely.”

The Eagles got two points back on a left-handed leaner from junior Cole Wood, but Twitchell scored on a putback, sophomore sub extraordinaire Mike Coppersmith drove for a layup, DeWolfe made two free throws, Bagshaw sank a 3, Bagshaw set up McDevitt for a layup and with 1:03 left, McDevitt set up Bagshaw in transition for a layup, Bagshaw was fouled on the play and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play and a commanding 34-9 lead.

After senior Nathan Violette hit a free throw to snap a 5:41 drought and Greely’s 14-0 run, McDevitt set up Bagshaw for a backdoor layup to make it 36-10 at halftime.

In the first half, McDevitt led the way with 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. Bagshaw added 11 points as the Rangers shot nearly 50 percent (13 of 27 from the floor).

Lost in the excitement was the indisputable fact that Greely’s defense was spectacular, as DeWolfe stymied Violette and everything else fell into place.

“To hold them to 10 points in the first half was amazing,” Twitchell said. “Coach wanted to hold them to the low 40s for the whole game. For the defense to step up meant a lot. At the beginning of the game, Coach said defense would win a championship and that happened today.”

“Shane is such a great defender and the rest of us tried to help him out,” McDevitt said.

“Defensively, to hold them to 10 points in the first half was unbelievable,” Seaver added. “I’m biased, but I think Shane’s one of the best, if not the best defender in the state. Team-wise, we took everything away.”

In the third quarter, Greely continued to pull away and McDevitt reached a milestone in the process.

McDevitt started the half by setting up Twitchell for a layup, then fed sophomore Zach Brown for another layup.

With 7:05 to go in the third period, a driving layup from Warren ended Messalonskee’s 7 minute, 30 second field goal drought and Kouletsis set up senior Griffin Tuttle for a layup, but with 6:22 left in the frame, McDevitt was fouled while shooting a 3 and went to the line for three free throws.

When he made his first, play stopped as McDevitt was honored for reaching the 1,000 point mark for his career.

“I knew I was one point away and I wanted to savor the moment,” said McDevitt. “It’s a huge accomplishment. I wanted it for a long time. It felt amazing. I’m glad I could do it with these guys.”

“I’m proud of Matt,” Bagshaw said. “I’m so happy he got his 1,000th point.”

“For (Matt) to get 1,000 points in a state championship game was exciting,” Twitchell said.

“We wanted Matt to accomplish it and he never let it get in the way,” added Seaver. “He’s such a competitor and such a great kid.”

McDevitt added two more free throws, but Charles countered with a layup.

With 4:39 remaining in the quarter, Twitchell scored on a putback of his own miss. Bagshaw followed with a fadeaway jumper, Coppersmith grabbed an offensive rebound and set up Bagshaw for a layup and Bagshaw capped the 8-0 run with a putback.

With 33.9 seconds left, Wood made a left-handed hook shot, but that only pulled the Eagles within 53-21 after three quarters.

The fourth period served as a long-awaited, gratifying coronation for the new state champions.

After Kouletsis hit a 3 and Violette knocked down a jumper to start the final stanza, McDevitt made his final basket, fittingly a 3.

With 4:46 the parade of ovations began, as Twitchell came to the bench.

After Kouletsis made a layup, Bagshaw came out with 4:02 remaining.

Junior Chase Warren made a layup for Messalonskee and with 3:16 to go, McDevitt got his ovation.

“We got (the seniors) their last curtain call and they certainly earned it,” Seaver said. “They sacrificed a lot.”

Down the stretch, Warren made a pair of layups, Charles converted a three-point play and junior Christian Alley made a 3 before Greely senior Evan Wood and Alley traded 3s in the waning seconds.

At 4:14 p.m., the Rangers got to shake off 19 years of close calls and what-ifs and celebrate the state championship with a 59-43 victory.

“It feels amazing,” said McDevitt, who hasn’t committed to playing next winter. “We’ve thought about this since we were six. Me, Jordan and Twitchell have played together forever. It’s awesome. We knew that 1 seeds aren’t invincible after losing to Poland (in the regional final as a freshman) and Brunswick. We knew we had to get off to a hot start. I feel if you’re the best team playing you should win every game and you should go undefeated. Coach was the last one to win. We gave him a hard time about it and it feels awesome.”

“It’s a dream come true,” said Bagshaw, who plans to play at the University of New England next year. “Since freshman year, we’ve wanted to win a Gold Ball and we got it as seniors. A packed house, 5,000 people here, I’ve never played in a gym with that many people. My Dad played here 30 years ago and loved playing here and I did too. We’ve played together for so long. That’s definitely a bonus. We work hard in practice and got to win it senior year.”

“It feels amazing,” Twitchell said. “To finish it as a senior just feels great. This was our dream from the beginning of the season. Everyone was talking about it. To accomplish it means a lot.”

“It’s more emotional (to win a championship) as a coach,” Seaver added.
You see how much they give. It’s like a parent wanting what’s best for your kids. To see them set a goal and get what they wanted is just awesome.”

McDevitt bowed out in memorable style, not only leading all scorers with 23 points and reaching his personal milestone (he finished his career with 1,005 points), he also grabbed eight rebounds, blocked three shots and had three assists.

Bagshaw said farewell with 17 points and Twitchell had a double-double of 10 point and 11 rebounds (to go with three assists and a steal).

Wood added three points and Brown (two steals, two assists), Coppersmith and DeWolfe (four boards, two assists and another terrific defensive effort) finished with two apiece.

“We have such players and athletes,” said Seaver. “Even our guys off the bench could play elsewhere. We have seven or eight starters.”

Greely shot 22 of 48 from the floor in its first tournament game in Augusta in over a decade, made 7 of 18 3-pointers and hit 8 of 11 foul shots. The Rangers also enjoyed a 33-21 rebounding advantage and overcame 20 turnovers, half of which came in garbage time in the fourth quarter.

Messalonskee was led by Charles and Warren, who had eight points apiece. Kouletsis added seven, Alley and Violette had six apiece, Wood finished with four and McCray and Tuttle both had two.

The Eagles finished strong, but only made 18 of 45 field goals, sank just 5 of 21 3-pointers and made only 2 of 6 free throws while turning the ball over on 19 occasions.

On to another

There’s no question that the departure of Bagshaw, McDevitt and Twitchell, along with the graduation of Wood, Joe Piwowarski, Brendan Scott and Ben Williams, will be felt.

“The seniors have been a huge part of the program for a long time,” Seaver said. “Matt’s a three-year starter. Ryan and Jordan are three-year varsity players. Even our other seniors have been great guys off the bench.”

Despite the departures, now that Greely has returned to the pinnacle, it hopes to stay there.

The 2017-18 Rangers will be paced by Brown, Coppersmith and DeWolfe and other players will get a chance to shine.

Don’t expect 19 years to elapse before Greely raises another Gold Ball to the heavens.

“Younger guys got a chance this year and our senior leadership has rubbed off,” Seaver said. “We’ll see how we do.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Greely senior Matt McDevitt goes up for two of his game-high 23 points.

Greely junior Shane DeWolfe battles Messalonskee senior Nathan Violette for a loose ball.

Greely senior Ryan Twitchell goes up for a shot.

Greely sophomore Mike Coppersmith drives to the basket.

Greely senior Jordan Bagshaw soars for two of his 17 points.

Greely sophomore Zach Brown brings the ball up the floor.

Greely junior Jack Kane and Messalonskee senior Griffin Tuttle await a rebound.

Greely seniors Jordan Bagshaw, left, and Matt McDevitt celebrate a Bagshaw basket during the win.

Greely senior Ryan Twitchell beams after cutting down the net.

Previous Greely stories

Season Preview

Greely 80 Yarmouth 58

Greely 55 Falmouth 54 (OT)

Greely 82 Yarmouth 74 (3 OT)

Greely 61 Falmouth 43

Greely 76 Kennebunk 31

Greely 59 York 54

Greely 47 Falmouth 26

Previous Greely state game results

1998 Class B
Greely 70 Camden-Rockport 69

1997 Class B
Greely 62 Bucksport 49

1995 Class B
Greely 69 Mt. Desert Island 55

1981 Class B
Orono 79 Greely 67

1963 Class C
Greely 45 Milo 42

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.