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Scarborough junior Madison Blanche goes all out for a loose ball during the Red Storm’s 55-45 loss to Oxford Hills in Saturday’s Class AA state final. Blanche had 16 points, but Scarborough couldn’t capture its second Gold Ball.
Derek Davis / Portland Press Herald photos.
More photos below.
OH- 14 9 11 21- 55
S- 4 8 14 19- 45
OH- Colby 10-12-34, Dumont 2-6-10, Whitney 2-0-4, Dieterich 1-1-3, Adams 1-0-2, Smedberg 1-0-2
S- Blanche 6-1-16, Couture 5-4-14, Freeman 3-0-7, Dickinson 2-0-5, Conley 1-1-3
OH (2) Colby 2
S (5) Blanche 3, Dickinson, Freeman 1
PORTLAND—As it turned out, Scarborough’s girls’ basketball team was still a year away.
But what a run the Red Storm had through the 2019 Class AA state tournament.
Saturday evening at the Cross Insurance Arena, Scarborough finally met its match in the Oxford Hills Vikings, a squad which managed to scale the mountain-top for the first time in program history.
The Red Storm dug an immediate hole, turning the ball over a dozen times in the first quarter and falling behind 14-4 as Vikings junior standout Julia Colby scored six points.
Scarborough pulled within five early in the second period behind five quick points from junior Madison Blanche, but by halftime, Oxford Hills, behind 11 points from Colby, enjoyed a 23-12 advantage.
Senior Josie Couture, in her final game in a Red Storm uniform, tried to rally Scarborough in the third quarter and a 3-ball from Blanche capped an 11-2 run to cut the Vikings’ lead to 29-25, but a Colby runner in the final minute made it 34-26 Oxford Hills.
Colby then single-handedly answered every Red Storm surge in the fourth period and her dagger of a 3-pointer helped the Vikings finally pull away as they went on to a 55-45 victory.
Colby set a Class AA state game scoring record with 34 points as Oxford Hills finished 20-2, won a championship for the first time in four tries and in the process, ended Scarborough’s memorable campaign at 19-3.
“I told the girls what a great ride it was and to reflect on that,” said Red Storm coach Mike Giordano. “It’s been a tremendous run. Those kids gave me everything they had every day and that’s why we ended up here.”
Oxford Hills was upset by Edward Little in last year’s regional final and had to watch as the rival Red Eddies won the Class AA crown in surprising fashion.
This winter, the Vikings went 16-2 in the regular season, losing only to Class AA South top seed South Portland and defending Class A champion Greely. Oxford Hills closed the regular season on a seven-game win streak and in the quarterfinals, had no trouble with No. 8 Lewiston (77-26). In the semifinals, the Vikings ousted No. 4 Portland, 47-36, and in the regional final, Oxford Hills ended No. 7 Deering’s Cinderella run, 51-29.
Scarborough got to the Class AA South Final a year ago before losing to Gorham and this winter, the Red Storm were viewed by many as the third best team in the region, trailing the Rams and South Portland.
Scarborough started with a 41-38 home win over Sanford and downed host Falmouth (49-25) and Bonny Eagle (59-44) before losing at South Portland, 55-36. The Red Storm then rattled off 12 wins in a row, beating host Gorham (50-36), visiting Edward Little (33-32), visiting Noble (48-37), visiting Cheverus (56-35), host Deering (68-48), visiting Gorham (44-36), host Windham (53-34), host Biddeford (58-37), visiting Massabesic (67-56), host Sanford (50-39), visiting Kennebunk (40-35) and host Lewiston (44-26). After a 49-34 home loss to Portland, Scarborough closed by downing visiting Thornton Academy, 63-27.
The second-seeded Red Storm then overcame a slow start to oust No. 7 Massabesic, 41-29, in the quarterfinals, beat No. 3 Gorham for the third time this winter, 39-32, in the semifinals, then stifled top-ranked South Portland, 35-25, in the regional final.
Scarborough had won its lone prior state game (see sidebar, below), while Oxford Hills was seeking its first Gold Ball in its fourth try.
The Red Storm and Vikings didn’t play in the regular season this year and had no playoff history.
Saturday, Scarborough got off to a slow start and ultimately, couldn’t come back.
The Red Storm turned the ball over a dozen times in the game’s first eight minutes and Oxford Hills, after a slow start, took advantage.
After 2 minutes, 10 seconds of scoreless action, the Vikings went ahead to stay, when after a steal, sophomore Cassidy Dumont set up Colby for a layup.
The tandem connected again for a layup and a 4-0 lead before Scarborough got on the board with 5:03 to play in the frame, when sophomore Kayla Conley drove for a layup.
Oxford Hills then used its defense to spark a 6-0 run, as junior Cecilia Dieterich stole the ball and fed senior Bailey Whitney for a layup, Colby stole the ball and set up Dieterich for a layup and after a Red Storm timeout, junior Jade Smedberg hit a jumper to make it 10-2 Vikings.
“We just got rattled to start,” Giordano said. “It was just nerves, I think. They got to our passes and then we made some really bad passes on top of that.”
Scarborough junior Julie Freeman scored her first points on a putback, but Oxford Hills got a putback from Dumont and Colby stole the ball and threw a behind-the-back pass to Dieterich for a layup and a 14-4 advantage after one quarter.
“(Cecilia and I have) played together a long time, so we know each other pretty well,” said Colby. “When we stole the ball on our press, that gave us a lot of energy and confidence. When I see someone steal the ball, I just run. Our goal was to turn them over. They’re a guard-based team. We didn’t want to let them attack.”
“Every time I get the ball off a turnover, I looked up and (Julia) was there,” Dieterich said. “Transition is how we get ahead on most teams. That worked again tonight. We played a lot of zone in the halfcourt and Jade got a lot of tips which allowed me to get steals on the wing.”
“(Cecilia and Julia have) played together since they were two feet tall,” added Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier. “It’s great to have them on the floor because they’re a press-breaker by themselves. Add Cassidy to the mix and it’s impossible to press us. When we have to sit in a halfcourt offense, it’s tough on us. We want to get in transition and push. It was important to get off to a great start. You never know how the girls will react with nerves, but that was a big key to the game.”
Scarborough’s 12 turnovers were a big reason for the deficit.
The Red Storm did a little better job of caring for the ball in the second period, but couldn’t cut into the Vikings’ advantage.
Blanche heated up to start the frame, first making a 3-pointer, then banking home a shot to cut the deficit to five, but Dumont answered with two free throws and after Conley sank one for Scarborough, Colby went coast-to-coast for a layup and an 18-10 lead.
Blanche set up junior Bella Dickinson for a layup, but again on the fastbreak, Dieterich passed to Dumont for a layup and after a Colby steal, Dieterich got the ball to Colby, who made a layup while being fouled before converting the and-one free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play for a 23-12 halftime lead.
Colby’s 11 first half points set the tone and Dumont added six.
Scarborough was handcuffed by its 18 turnovers.
The Red Storm tried to get back in the game in the third quarter, closing within four points at one juncture, but Oxford Hills didn’t buckle.
Couture, who didn’t score in the first half, opened the second half with left-handed runner off the glass, but Colby made two free throws and Whitney scored on a putback for a 27-14 advantage with 6:48 to play in the third quarter.
Scarborough then rose off the deck to score 11 of the next 13 points to make things very interesting.
The run started with two Couture free throws, then Couture got a runner to rattle in and Blanche banked home a runner with her left hand to make it 27-20.
Colby got two points back with a layup after a steal, but Freeman scored on a bank shot, then with 2:56 remaining, Blanche’s 3 pulled the Red Storm within 29-25.
But five of the final six points of the frame would go to the Vikings, as senior Jadah Adams scored her only points, on a putback, Dieterich added a free throw and after Blanche got a point back at the line, Colby’s runner rolled in for a 34-26 lead heading to the fourth period.
And in the final stanza, Colby wasn’t about to be denied the Gold Ball she coveted.
Just 20 seconds in, Colby rained in a 3-pointer to push the lead back to double digits.
After Couture drove for a layup, Colby made two free throws.
Couture then converted a three-point play, but after a Dieterich steal, Colby made a layup to make it 41-31.
Blanche hit a 3 with 5:17 to play, but Colby made two more free throws.
With 3:35 on the clock, Dickinson sank a 3 from the corner to cut the deficit to 43-37, but 19 seconds later, Colby buried a 3-point dagger and with 2:43 on the clock, Dumont ended Colby’s 14 point run with two free throws for a 48-37 advantage.
Dickinson set up Couture for a layup, but Colby got the points right back at the line.
After Freeman made a 3, Colby made one of two free throws and Blanche made a layup to make it 51-44 with 34.5 seconds left, but Dumont made two more free throws and after Couture sank one, Colby drained a pair to bring the curtain down on Oxford Hills’ 55-45 win.
“It’s incredible,” Dieterich said. “The whole community was supportive. So many were here today and it was awesome to do it not only for us, but for them.”
“This means a lot, especially to do it with my teammates, because we’re so close,” said Colby. “It feels good. The lead we got was really important, then we tried to get to the foul line and make our free throws.”
“Scarborough is a great club,” added Pelletier. “They didn’t give up. They could have, but they battled. It’s amazing. The girls worked so hard all year to get this opportunity. I knew we had to get to 50 points to win. We got to 55 and it was close. We did enough to win. We have a Gold Ball, the first one in school history. It came down to everyone doing their job and working hard. It’s been that way for us all year. These girls have been working at it since third, fourth grade. It’s been a whole community effort. We’ll have some fun when we get back home.”
Colby eclipsed Gorham’s Mackenzie Holmes’ short-lived record of 24 points in a Class AA state game (set last year) with a performance for the ages, 34 points, four steals and a pair of assists.
“(Julia’s) just a great player,” said Dieterich. “It’s awesome to play with her because you can always count on her to make a shot in a big situation.”
“‘Jules’ had an amazing game,” Pelletier said. “She does all the little things and puts herself in good positions. She made big free throws down the stretch. That’s just who she is. She has icewater in her veins. Her emotions don’t go up and down. She may have cracked a smile when she won the Gold Ball, but that’s what you’re looking for from a great athlete. She’s so quiet the way she does things. In the end, we wanted the ball in her hands.”
“(Julia) had a game for the ages,” Giordano said. “We had a lot of respect for her coming in. She may be the best point guard in the state as a junior. She’s a heady kid who does a lot of things really well. She answered every time we made a run.”
Dumont also finished in double figures with 10 points. She added five rebounds and three steals.
Whitney had four points, Dieterich three (to go with seven assists and five steals), Adams two and Smedberg two (to go with three steals and two rebounds).
The Vikings sank an impressive 19 of 22 free throws and only committed 12 turnovers.
Scarborough got 16 points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots from Blanche and 14 points and four rebounds from Couture, who made quite an impression in her swan song.
“(Josie’s) a four-year starter and when we needed a basket, she took it to the hoop,” Giordano said. “She’s done that all year. I’m so proud of her and what she accomplished.”
Freeman was held to seven points (and four rebounds), Dickinson had five points, four rebounds and three assists and Conley had three points and seven rebounds.
The Red Storm had a 28-27 rebounding advantage and made 6 of 9 free throws, but 26 turnovers proved fatal.
Regardless of the outcome, Scarborough made a lot of memories in this tournament.
“The last week has been the most special week in my life,” Giordano said. “It’s been such a great ride. It makes all those long winter days worth it. I’ve got a great support system and I found that out this week.”
Scarborough graduates two (reserve Leah Dickman is the other player to depart), while Oxford Hills only says goodbye to Adams and Whitney.
With that in mind, it wouldn’t come as a huge shock to see a rematch in next year’s state game.
“It would be really good do get back and do it again,” Colby said.
“We have a lot of talent coming back, but we’ll enjoy this one right now,” Pelletier said.
“We were ahead of schedule (this year) and we bring a lot of kids back next year with the chance to come back here and probably see (Oxford Hills) if we do,” Giordano said. “We have to get better individually. We’ll come together as a group in November and see what we can accomplish. It’s all about meshing and these girls meshed really well.”
Scarborough senior Bella Dickinson can’t keep up with Oxford Hills junior Cecilia Dieterich.
Scarborough junior Madison Blanche floats a shot over Oxford Hills sophomore Cassidy Dumont.
Oxford Hills junior Julia Colby, who had a game-high 34 points, goes behind the back to elude Scarborough junior Julia Freeman.
Scarborough junior Julia Freeman and Oxford Hills junior Cecilia Dieterich go to the floor to try and gain possession.
Oxford Hills celebrates its first championship.
Oxford Hills shows off its Gold Ball.
Class AA South semifinals
Scarborough 39 Gorham 32
Class AA South Final
Scarborough 35 South Portland 25
Class AA North semifinals
Oxford Hills 47 Portland 36
Class AA North Final
Oxford Hills 51 Deering 29
2010 Class A
Scarborough 52 Skowhegan 32
2017 Class AA
Gorham 45 Oxford Hills 31
2014 Class A
McAuley 67 Oxford Hills 41
2008 Class A
Deering 55 Oxford Hills 43