By Michael Hoffer
CUMBERLAND — Normally, a 32-point half from a standout player would be more than enough to lead a team to victory, but Greely senior Chris Young wasn’t quite able to single-handedly rescue the Rangers boys’ basketball team from a slow start Monday night and they saw their eight-game win streak come to a close with a 72-64 home loss to defending Western Class B champion Cape Elizabeth.
Greely was done in by numerous turnovers and the sizzling shooting of Capers senior Alex Bowe as the visitors raced to a 35-19 lead at the half. The Rangers, led by Young (who finished with 38 points) got as close as five points down the stretch, but couldn’t complete the rally as they fell to 8-2 on the season.
“We dug too deep a hole,” lamented Greely coach Ken Marks. “You can’t let a kid like Bowe go off like that and expect to come back.”
Last year, the Rangers came closest to beating Cape Elizabeth in the regional tournament, giving the Capers fits for three periods before falling 48-39 in the semifinals.
After losing at home to Falmouth in its opener, Greely had passed all tests this season. The Capers entered the game 7-2, with its losses coming by two points to Falmouth and Lake Region.
The teams split during the regular year in 2007-08, with both winning on the road. At Greely, Cape Elizabeth escaped with a memorable double-overtime decision. This year’s initial showdown wasn’t anywhere near as dramatic.
The Rangers got the scoring started on a layup from Young, but Bowe hit a turnaround jumper and Capers senior Johnny Messina followed with an old-fashioned three-point play for a 5-2 lead. Layups from junior Trevor Tierney and Young gave Greely its first and only advantage, 6-5, but the visitors soon seized control.
A leaner from senior Ben Fox gave Cape Elizabeth the lead for good, 7-6. Bowe followed with a jump shot, junior Andrew Dickey scored on a putback and Bowe made back-to-back shots for a 15-6 lead. After Young stopped a 10-0 Capers’ run with a pair of foul shots, Bowe was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer as time expired in the first. He sank all three free throws for an 18-8 advantage.
Fox made a pair of foul shots to give Cape Elizabeth a 20-8 lead a minute into the second period, but two free throws from sophomore Sam Johnston and a leaner from junior Sam Thompson pulled the Rangers back within eight, 20-12.
The Capers then went on a 9-1 run to extend their lead. Dickey made two free throws and Bowe hit a 3-ball. After Greely senior Ben Andreasen made one of two foul shots for the hosts, Bowe made a jumper, then hit a turnaround jumper for a 29-13 lead.
After Tierney hit a jumper and senior Chris Higgins made a layup, Messina answered with a left-handed layup and Dickey made a jump shot to push the advantage back to 16, 33-17. Andreasen made a layup for the Rangers, but with 1.8 seconds to go in the half, sophomore Cam Brown made a layup for the visitors which gave them a 35-19 lead at the break.
Bowe almost matched Greely’s point production in the first 16 minutes, scoring 18 points on his own.
“We tried to switch out on him and get a hand up so he couldn’t catch and shoot,” said Marks. “He did in the first half. He didn’t as much in the second half.”
The biggest change in the third period was the sudden appearance of Greely junior Erik Thayer (the hero of last February’s Falmouth win). Thayer didn’t play in the first half (coach’s decision), but quickly brought renewed energy to the floor. The Rangers came out and made things interesting.
“(Erik) brings a ton of energy to the floor,” Marks said. “Had he played the first half, who knows?”
Young hinted at a half of dominance to come with a layup and a 3-ball to cut a 16-point deficit to 11, 35-24. After junior Conor Moloney made an old-fashioned three-point play for the Capers, Thompson made a free throw, Tierney scored on a tip-in and Young hit a bank shot to cut the deficit to just nine, 38-29.
Bowe answered with a free throw, but Young made back-to-back layups to make it a six-point game, 39-33. Cape Elizabeth calmly scored the next eight points as Bowe made two foul shots, then hit a jumper, Fox made a free throw and Dickey hit three of four foul shots for a 47-33 advantage. A Tierney layup was answered by a pair of Messina free throws to end the quarter, keeping the Capers firmly in control, 49-35.
To its credit, Greely didn’t quit down the stretch.
After Dickey and Young traded layups and Young and Messina traded two free throws to start the final period, Young made a layup, then hit two foul shots to make it a 10-point game, 53-43, with 5:33 to go. Dickey answered with a 3-ball from the left wing, but Thayer made a free throw and Young scored on a putback to again make it a 10-point game, 56-46. After Messina hit four foul shots in a 33-second span, Tierney hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 11, 60-49, but Brown hit a runner to push the lead back to 13, 62-49.
Young answered with a layup, then made two free throws. After Dickey scored on a layup, Greely senior Jake Dimick made one of his own to make it a 64-55 game. Fox made a layup for the Capers, but Young made two free throws and Tierney hit a bank shot with 1:54 to go to pull the Rangers within seven, 66-59.
Messina scored on a driving layup, but Young made two more foul shots and the score was 68-61 with 1:01 to play. Nineteen seconds later, Messina made the first of two foul shots, but with 22.7 seconds remaining, Young buried a long 3-ball to make it 69-64, the closest Greely had come since the score was 11-6. That would be the Rangers’ last hurrah, however, as Brown calmly sank two foul shots and with 6.6 seconds to play, Messina hit one more to account for the 72-64 final.
“It wasn’t (the Capers’) pressure that hurt us,” Marks said. “It was us trying to force things that weren’t there. They hit their shots in the first half. We didn’t. The second half was much better played. We brought the intensity, hit the boards better and defended better. Our philosophy is to not settle. In the first half we did. In the second we didn’t.”
“It’s really nice to win this one,” said Capers’ coach Jim Ray. “To lose to another contender would have put us in a tough place. We know we can beat a contender. We played well enough to do that. I’m very proud of the way the kids responded in the first half. Greely’s a very good team.”
Bowe led the Capers with 23 points. Messina finished with 17 and Dickey added 16.
The Rangers were led by Young, who erupted for 32 second-half points (including 21 in the fourth quarter) en route to a game-high 38.
“(Chris) was the only one,” Marks said. “You think about the shots he had in the second half. Two 3s. The rest were all going to the basket. That’s what we’re trying to instill in these kids. We’re bigger and stronger than anyone we play.”
Tierney added 13 points.
The Rangers (8-2 and second to Falmouth in the latest Western Class B Heal Points standings) returned to action Tuesday when they hosted the Rangers of Traip Academy (too late for this edition). Friday, Greely goes to Waynflete.
“We’re not an undefeated team or a one-loss team,” Marks said. “I think we’re very good. When we play (Cape Elizabeth) over there the last game it’ll be a great game.”
The Capers-Rangers rematch is Feb. 6 at Cape Elizabeth.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com