By Michael Hoffer
CUMBERLAND—With all eyes on defending regional champion Cape Elizabeth and the sizzling start of the unbeaten Falmouth Yachtsmen, the Greely boys’ basketball team reminded everyone Monday night that it intends to be right in the thick of things this winter.
Hosting once-beaten Yarmouth, the Rangers rode a dominating first half performance from senior Chris Young to an insurmountable lead and cruised to a 63-44 victory, improving to 5-1 with their fifth successive win, dropping the Clippers to 5-2 in the process.
“We talked about this being a barometer game and the kids wanted to go out and see what they could do,” said longtime Greely coach Ken Marks. “I thought we stepped up. Yarmouth’s played well. They’re a good team.”
Both teams had played well to date.
The Rangers, who fell 54-49 at home to Falmouth to start the year, bounced back with wins over Fryeburg (64-48), Wells (60-36), York (57-56) and Poland (62-23).
The Clippers had defeated Wells (70-30), York (51-49), Gray-New Gloucester (62-38), Lake Region (52-50) and Fryeburg (78-36) and lost at Falmouth (52-33).
Both teams were regional finalists a year ago, but the Rangers have dominated the Clippers head-to-head for the better part of two decades, winning 16 of the past 18 meetings.
Yarmouth did earn a rare win over Greely last season, eking out a 49-46 triumph, but the rivalry returned to form Monday.
Young fittingly got the scoring started with a layup (taking a nice pass from junior Trevor Tierney). After the Clippers went ahead on a layup from senior Rob Highland and a long jumper from junior Evan Henry, the Rangers went on a 9-0 run to seize control.
After Tierney tied the score with a hook shot, he scored on a layup to put his team ahead to stay. Young added two free throws, then Young made a layup, was fouled, and hit a free throw for an 11-4 lead midway through the first.
Yarmouth ended the run when Henry made a bank shot and senior standout Johnny Murphy followed with a jumper to pull the visitors within three, 11-8, but Tierney made a layup, Young hit two free throws, then made two more after the Clippers’ bench was called for a technical foul, for a 17-8 lead.
Yarmouth sandwiched a layup from sophomore Michael McCormack and a bank shot from senior Peter Erickson around a layup from Rangers’ senior Chris Higgins to pull back within seven, 19-12, after one quarter.
Young had 11 points in the stanza and dominated inside.
“Chris played very well,” Marks said. “He put the ball on the court and took it to the basket. He has perimeter range so he makes people play him. I thought we absolutely dominated the boards in the first half.”
“They rebound extremely well and attack the rim on the offensive end very well also,” said Yarmouth coach Adam Smith. “I was extremely disappointed that we allowed penetration that created a lot off the glass for them.”
Young started the second period with a flourish as well, converting an old-fashioned three-point play. After Highland answered with a layup, Young made a layup and junior Sam Thompson followed with a layup to make it 26-14. After Henry scored on a layup, senior Ben Andreasen made a layup and Higgins hit two free throws for a 30-16 advantage.
Sophomore Luke Pierce got a point back for the Clippers with a foul shot, but Thompson made a layup and Tierney hit a jumper to make it 34-17.
Greely had a chance to bury Yarmouth by halftime, but didn’t do so. Henry and Erickson made layups to make it 34-21. After Thompson answered with a rebound putback, Henry buried a 3-ball. After Andreasen made a layup for the Rangers, Murphy hit a jumper as time expired and the Clippers were still within hailing distance, down 12, 38-26, at the break.
When Murphy scored on a layup after a steal to start the second half, Yarmouth envisioned a comeback, but Tierney hit a jumper and a layup and after Murphy countered with a turnaround jumper, Tierney made another layup for a 44-30 lead. After Pierce made a foul shot, Higgins converted a layup, Tierney hit a turnaround jumper and sophomore Sam Johnston made a jumper for a commanding 50-31 advantage with 2:10 to go in the third.
Yarmouth would get no closer than 15 points the rest of the way and Greely cruised home to a 63-44 win.
“We wanted to make sure we got the ball inside,” Marks said. “We wanted to be the aggressor. I thought we had good leadership down the stretch. We had a hard time closing the game at York. I thought we closed it better today. We put some pieces together. I’m pleased with where we’re at. I like how the kids are playing. They’re working hard and playing together. No selfishness. We’re doing some good things.”
Tierney wound up leading all scorers with 19 points, Young had 18.
“We just played as a team,” Young said. “Everyone helped out. It wasn’t just an individual effort. It’s what we needed.”
Thompson added eight points and Higgins wound up with six. Nine different players scored.
Yarmouth was paced by Murphy, but he was held to 13 points.
“I thought (senior) Jake Dimick completely nullified a very good offensive player,” Marks said.
“Jake was the player of the game,” Young added. “I told him to focus on defense the whole time and that’s what he did.”
Henry finished with 11.
“Evan’s played really well since the Falmouth game,” Smith said. “He’s played very well. Evan can’t get every rebound for us. Tonight it really broke down off the glass for us.
“If those young guys, they’re seniors, but they’re young varsity-wise, if they don’t play well right off, it’s hard for them to turn it on. That’s what we have to work on. The ability to change the course of the rest of the game if we don’t start well. Tonight we couldn’t. We got within 10 in the third quarter, but we gave up a nice run. We know we need five guys playing well together. We just put it on the floor too much tonight.”
Yarmouth will take part in the Maine Mall Holiday Classic in Portland then returns to action Jan. 3 at home against St. Dom’s.
Look for this team to improve dramatically between now and February.
“I told the guys going into the campaign if I knew the year would end at 5-2, I’d take that,” Smith said. “I’m not happy right now, but 5-2 is a very good start for us because we’re going to get better.”
Greely will also take part in the holiday tournament then returns to league play Jan. 2 at Gray-New Gloucester. The Rangers will look to pick up where they left off and remain a lead contender.
“I think Cape and Falmouth are the top,” Young said. “I think we can compete with them. Hopefully we’ll be up there also.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com