GORHAM—Scarborough’s girls’ basketball team won four of its first five games this winter, but Tuesday afternoon, the Red Storm faced their biggest test yet, at Gorham, and quickly learned that they still have a lot of to learn and improve upon.
Scarborough was hindered by early foul trouble and sloppiness, but only trailed, 13-11, after one period.
Gorham then roared to life in the second quarter, getting easy looks and knocking them down, as it erupted for 26 points to stretch a two-point lead to 20, 39-19, at halftime.
The Red Storm weren’t able to make any kind of a second half run and the all-around brilliance of Rams sophomore standout Emily Esposito helped Gorham pull away to a 64-37 victory.
Gorham got a double-double from Esposito (17 points, 10 rebounds), 10 points from senior sharpshooter Abby Hamilton and improved to 5-1, dropping Scarborough to 4-2 in the process.
“We were matched up against a much better team, let’s call it what it is,” said Scarborough coach Mike Giordano. “They shot well. They play well here. We didn’t get untracked. It was disappointing. They overwhelmed us today. We wanted to measure ourselves. We’d played a bunch of teams we should have beaten. Gorham is one of the better teams in our league and we just didn’t show up.”
Scarborough impressed out of the gate, handling visiting Biddeford (53-19), Windham (74-52) and Noble (57-11) before falling at Westbrook (41-39). Friday, the Red Storm rolled at Massabesic, 67-30.
Gorham won its first two games, 43-40, over visiting Marshwood and 59-24 at Biddeford before losing at four-time defending Class A champion McAuley (54-43). A 51-47 home win over Portland and a 52-28 home victory over Windham followed.
Last year, Scarborough lost at home to Gorham (66-48).
Tuesday, the Red Storm were seeking their first win over the Rams since Dec. 7, 2012 (56-23 in Gorham), but it wasn’t to be.
Scarborough got off to a good start when senior standout Ashley Briggs his a jumper 14 seconds in, but in a harbinger of troubling things to come, Hamilton got an offensive rebound and was fouled. She made both free throws to tie the score.
With 6:22 to play in the first period, Red Storm senior Sam Sparda was called for second foul and by quarter’s end, Scarborough would have seven team fouls, meaning the Rams were shooting free throws the whole second period.
A pair of free throws from sophomore Brooke Malone put the visitors back on top, but Gorham sophomore Kristen Curley knocked down a 3.
With 5:10 to play in the first quarter, the Red Storm took their last lead, 6-5, when freshman Sophie Glidden knocked down a jumper.
The Rams got a jumper in the lane from Esposito to go on top and a driving layup from feisty sophomore Kaylea Lundin made it 9-6.
An old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) by Malone tied the game, but with 2:52 left in the first, a three-point play from junior Molly Merrifield put Gorham ahead to stay.
Briggs canned a jumper to pull Scarborough within one, but in the final minute, an Esposito free throw gave the Rams a 13-11 advantage at quarter’s end.
The teams combined for 14 turnovers and 12 fouls in the first eight minutes.
Gorham then put it all together in the second period.
Just 12 seconds in, Esposito stole the ball and raced in for a layup. Hamilton added a free throw for a 16-11 lead.
After the Red Storm got a jumper from Sparda, Esposito made a layup. Senior Bailey Adams got a point back for Scarborough, but Rams senior Ashley Woodbury buried a 3 and Hamilton drove for a layup to stretch the lead to nine, 23-14.
With 4:28 to play in the half, Adams momentarily stemmed the tide with a 3-ball, but Woodbury hit two free throws, Hamilton sank a pullup jumper, senior Caitlyn Hawxwell made a foul shot and Merrifield twice put home misses.
“Molly gave us great minutes,” said Gorham coach Laughn Berthiaume. “Her role is to come off the bench, defend and rebound and I think she did that.”
Then, with 2:18 left, Esposito scored on a leaner to cap an 11-0 run, making it 34-17.
Two Malone free throws ended the surge, but freshman Michelle Rowe made two foul shots and Hamilton nailed a 3 to give Gorham a comfortable 39-19 lead at halftime.
Hamilton had 10 points and Esposito added nine (with five rebounds) in the first half, while the Red Storm were partially done in by 13 turnovers.
Scarborough never made a run in the second half.
Just 11 seconds in, Esposito took a pass from Lundin and made a layup. Lundin then hit a runner to stretch the lead to 24.
After Glidden answered with a jumper, Esposito put home her own miss.
“You get second and third opportunities and you break a team’s will,” Giordano said. “You defend for one possession and can’t get the ball to go the other way, that breaks your will. It was a deficiency last year and continues to be one this year.”
Adams made a 3, but Esposito scored on another putback and it was 47-24 Gorham.
After Glidden made a free throw, Esposito set up senior Aliza Jordan for a layup. Junior Jamie Sargent made a free throw for the Red Storm, but Jordan made another layup. A jumper from sophomore Jordyn Cowan only pulled Scarborough within 51-28 heading for the final stanza.
There, the Rams slammed the door.
After Esposito set up Jordan for a layup, Esposito drove for a layup and a 55-28 advantage.
After freshman Natalie Taylor made a 3 for the Red Storm, Lundin hit a jumper, Woodbury buried a pullup jumper, Hawxwell hit a runner, then Hawxwell made a jumper to make it 63-30.
After Taylor answered with a jump shot, Merrifield made a free throw for Gorham’s final point. Scarborough junior Regan Mars then hit a bank shot and just before the final horn, Mars made a layup to account for the 64-37 final score.
“It was definitely our best game so far,” Esposito said. “We came out, we had a lot of enthusiasm, we rebounded. We really played as a team. That was the biggest thing. We didn’t think about their record. Whether it’s McAuley, TA, any team, you come out and play the same and we did that today. We played with a lot of energy.”
“Scarborough is athletic and they play extremely hard,” Berthiaume said. “I thought if we didn’t defend as a team, we could get in foul trouble. Briggs is one of the best players in the league. You have to be aware of where she is because she’s not just a scorer, she’s a playmaker.”
Esposito led the way with 17 her points and 10 rebounds, but that wasn’t the end of her contribution. Esposito also had four assists, two blocked shots and two steals.
Both coaches raved about her performance.
“I think (Emily’s) taken more responsibility for every part of her game,” Berthiaume said. “Defending, rebounding, passing. Her complete game has come around. She’s grown up and is more experienced. She’s doing well in all facets of the game.”
“She impressed me last year and impresses me even more this year,” Giordano said. “She’s smooth. She’s a Division I player. I like her demeanor on the floor as well. She’s stronger this year, which means she’s finishing shots. That year of growth physically has made her even better.
Hamilton added 10 points (to go with seven boards and a steal), Merrifield had eight (along with seven rebounds, including five on offense), Woodbury seven, Jordan and Lundin (three steals) six apiece, Hawxwell five, Curley three and Rowe two.
Gorham outrebounded Scarborough, 38-23.
“I thought we did a pretty good job giving them one shot and rebounding the basketball,” Berthiaume said. “We’re not a big team. Rebounding is a focus for us. When we rebound, we do well in most games. That allows us to get out in transition and keeps us out of foul trouble.”
The Rams committed 15 turnovers and made 11 of 18 foul shots.
The Red Storm got seven points apiece from Adams and Malone, five each from Glidden and Taylor, four apiece from Briggs and Mars, two each from Cowan and Sparda and one from Sargent.
Scarborough turned the ball over 18 times and made 8 of its 14 free throws.
Gorham is second to Thornton Academy in the Western A Heals. The Rams are back in action next Tuesday at Sanford. They open 2015 at Bonny Eagle Jan. 2.
This is a team that has the potential to be right there at the end.
“We’re definitely getting better,” Esposito said. “We need to be a little more patient and keep working as a team. This is an eye-opener of what we can be and how far we can go.”
“I think we improve each game,” Berthiaume said. “I’d say (today’s) the best we’ve played so far. We’re going in the right direction.”
Scarborough (currently 12th in the Heals) hopes to bounce back Tuesday at Biddeford. A home showdown versus Thornton Academy and a trip to South Portland begin the new year.
“It gets harder,” Giordano said. “We need to re-evaluate some things over break. We still have work to do.”
Scarborough freshman Sophie Glidden and Gorham sophomore Emily Esposito soar for the game’s opening tip.
Scarborough senior Ashley Briggs sends a bounce pass to a teammate.
Scarborough sophomore Jordyn Cowan battles Gorham senior Ashley Woodbury for a rebound.
Scarborough freshman Brooke Malone goes up for a shot.
Scarborough senior Sam Sparda gets past a Gorham defender and goes to the basket.
Scarborough sophomore Brooke Malone throws up a desperation shot.
Scarborough freshman Natalie Taylor looks to dish off.
Scarborough freshman Sophie Glidden (25) and sophomore Brooke Malone battle Gorham senior Aliza Jordan fight for a loose ball during the Rams’ 64-37 victory Tuesday afternoon.
Joe Carpine photos.
More photos below.
S- 11 8 9 9- 37
G- 13 26 12 13- 64
S- Malone 1-5-7, Adams 2-1-7, Glidden 2-1-5, Taylor 2-0-5, Briggs 2-0-4, Mars 2-0-4, Cowan 1-0-2, Sparda 1-0-2, Sargent 0-1-1
G- Esposito 8-1-17, Hamilton 3-3-10, Merrifield 3-2-8, Woodbury 2-2-7, Jordan 3-0-6, Lundin 3-0-6, Hawxwell 2-1-5, Curley 1-0-3, Rowe 0-2-2
S (3) Adams 2, Taylor 1
G (3) Curley, Hamilton, Woodbury 1