PORTLAND—The Scarborough girls’ basketball team is going where it’s never been before.
The Western Class A Final.
Friday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center, the top-ranked Red Storm, playing without injured senior Jenn Colpitts, came together and produced another superb defensive performance and closed the game on a 9-1 run to hold off No. 5 Biddeford, 39-29, and advance to within a win of a first-ever state title.
Saturday night at the Civic Center, Scarborough will meet two-time defending state champion Deering, the No. 2 seed, in the regional final with a berth in the state final at stake.
The Red Storm dug a nine-point hole after a slow start, but turned it up defensively and took the lead for good on a free throw from Ellie Morin early in the fourth quarter. Biddeford managed just five fourth period points and Scarborough improved to 20-0.
“It’s a huge step,” said Red Storm coach Jim Seavey. “We’re excited. The kids realize they still have to play another one to get to the ultimate prize.”
Taking care of business
Scarborough has enjoyed a magical run this winter. The Red Storm entered the campaign as a co-favorite with Deering, but took sole control of the bullseye after a stunning 52-50 come-from-behind win over the Rams on Dec. 11. Scarborough passed every other test and entered the tournament ranked first at 18-0. Monday, in the quarterfinals, the Red Storm’s defense made life miserable for No. 9 South Portland and the Red Storm advanced with a 40-20 triumph. Unfortunately, in the second half of that one, Colpitts hurt her wrist after falling on the court and an ensuing X-ray determined that the wrist was broken, shelving her for the remainder of the season.
Biddeford won its first four games this winter, lost three in a row, including a 44-39 home decision to Scarborough in the teams’ lone meeting back on Dec. 28, then won 10 of its final 11 to go 14-4 and earn the No. 5 seed.
Last year, in the semifinals, the Tigers upset the Red Storm, 32-29.
This time around, Scarborough took care of business.
Early on, the Red Storm were flat and Biddeford got off to a good start.
Twenty seconds in, senior Aimee Michaud hit a jumper for a 2-0 Tigers’ lead. Thirty-five seconds later, she hit another. With 5:17 left in the quarter, senior standout Lauren Rousseau made a pair of foul shots and Seavey called timeout.
Sixteen seconds later, a 3 from senior Brittany Ross got Scarborough on the board, but junior Amehtyst Hersom made a jumper and senior Jacklyn McCurry hit a pair of foul shots for a 10-3 lead. After senior Christy Manning fed Morin for a layup, the Tigers answered with another Michaud jumper, then, with 2:04 to go in the period, Michaud buried another deep jump shot for a 14-5 lead, forcing Seavey to call timeout again. After returning to action, Morin buried a jumper and that was it for first period scoring.
The Red Storm hit their stride in the second quarter.
After two free throws from Grigware restored a nine-point bulge, senior Sarah Moody drained a 3 to make it 16-10. Grigware made another foul shot with 4:32 to go in the half and Manning finally got involved on offense, grabbing an offensive board, putting it home while being fouled and completing the old-fashioned three-point play with a free throw. Moody added a jump shot and with 2:52 remaining in the half, Morin scored on a putback to tie the score.
“We were really nervous at the beginning and not playing our game,” Morin said. “Once we tied it, we knew we were in it. Our defense intensified. Everything came together.”
“We’ve been resilient all year long,” Seavey added. “These kids are competitors. We started out playing not to lose. I called timeout and said settle down. We started to get in the flow of the game and did nice things. Good team basketball.”
With 2:06 left, Morin hit a baseline jumper and Scarborough was up for the first time. With 41.3 seconds to go, Hersom got fouled and missed the first attempt before ending the 9-0 run by hitting the second. After a Red Storm turnover, Biddeford had a chance to take the lead and did so when McCurry took a pass from Rousseau and hit a baseline jumper as time expired, putting the Tigers (who made just one field goal in the quarter and gave the ball away six times) a 20-19 lead.
Scarborough only attempted one foul shot in the half and had eight turnovers. The Red Storm did hold Grigware and Rousseau without a field goal.
The game remained tight throughout the third.
Biddeford missed a pair of nice opportunities on its first possession of the second half, when McCurry had a pair of layup looks, but missed both. With 4:57 left in the third, Grigware hit a foul shot to push the Tigers lead to two. Then, with 3:37 to go, Rousseau finally drained a field goal and made it worth the wait, as it was a 3 to make it 24-19.
Biddeford’s momentum was shattered with 2:51 left, when Grigware picked up her fourth foul.
Nineteen seconds later, the Red Storm struck as sophomore Carly Rogers scored on a putback, ending a 7:34 drought. With 1:21 remaining, Manning grabbed an offensive rebound on the left wing, set and drained a 3 to tie the score, 24-24, which is how things stood entering the fourth, where Scarborough finally put it away.
Early in the fourth, after trading turnovers, the Red Storm had a great chance to go back on top, but Rogers and Morin both missed in close. After a Michaud miss at the other end, Moody missed for Scarborough, but the rebound caromed out of bounds and stayed with the Red Storm. Then, with 6:16 left, Morin drew a foul and made the one of two. Biddeford then turned the ball over and Ross raced in for a clutch bank shot while being fouled. Her ensuing free throw gave Scarborough its biggest lead, 28-24, with 5:48 remaining.
With 4:24 left, Grigware returned. The Red Storm had outscored the Tigers 9-0 in her absence.
Biddeford had ample chance to cut into the deficit, but failed to do so. With 2:53 remaining, Manning pushed the lead to 30-24 with a layup.
With 2:18 to go, Grigware drove for a layup, ending an 11-0 run and a 9:19 drought. Rousseau then stole the ball and raced in for a layup to cut the deficit to two, 30-28, with 2:02 left.
At the other end, Rogers missed from in close, but Manning grabbed the game’s biggest offensive rebound, was fouled and made both attempts to make it 32-28. After a Biddeford turnover, Ross was fouled and sank both ends of a one-and-one for a six-point advantage. After a Tigers miss, Scarborough appeared pinned in the corner, but Manning found a streaking Ross, who passed to Rogers, who was fouled. She made both free throw attempts for a 36-28 lead. Rousseau was off on a 3, but Biddeford got the ball right back on a steal and Hersom was fouled, but she missed the first free throw before making the second, to cut the deficit to 36-29.
The Tigers couldn’t get any closer as Rousseau fouled out with 36.8 seconds to go and Ross hit a foul shot. Ross then made a layup with 21 seconds to go to put the exclamation point on Scarborough’s 39-29 victory.
The Red Storm turned to their championship experience in sports like softball and field hockey and won one for Colpitts.
“After losing Jenn, we didn’t know where to go from here,” Morin said. “We’ve worked so hard to play as a team that when we lost her, we were scared for the first minute, but we knew we could do this. Winning tonight, shows we can do it. We’re going to go all the way, hopefully. We want this more than anything. I don’t think we’ll give it up easily.”
“We had to get used to playing without Jenn,” said Ross. “We’ve all played together since sixth grade. She brings a whole different aspect. We turned our defense up. Heather (Carrier) fouled out and Jenn obviously couldn’t play and they took Christy out of the game and we knew we had to step it up. We need to keep our momentum up and fight through the difficulties. We know the feeling from field hockey so we want that feeling for basketball too.”
Ross led all scorers with 11 points. Manning added 10, Morin nine, Moody five and Rogers four. The Red Storm did turn the ball over 20 times, but were clutch from the charity stripe, draining 8-of-10 free throw attempts.
“Carly, Ellie, Maria (Philbrick), all those kids stepped up big,” Seavey said. “We have to replace Jenn by committee and we did it tonight. We’ll see if we can do it two more times. You can’t replace your leader in assists and steals and top defender with one kid. We have to do it by committee.”
Michaud led the Tigers (15-5) with eight points. Rousseau added seven and Grigware had six, but the dynamic tandem managed just three combined field goals in the game.
“They did a nice job neutralizing Christy, but we did an even better job neutralizing Grigware and Rousseau,” Seavey said. “They scored a combined 32 points in our regular season game. Today, they combined for 13. They were our focus. We pride ourselves on defense. It’s always been that way and the kids have bought into that.”
Hersom and McCurry both had four points. Biddeford turned the ball over 24 times and made 10-of-14 foul shots.
Tomorrow at 7 p.m., at the Civic Center, Scarborough and Deering (18-2), the preseason favorites, will meet with the Western A title at stake.
On Dec. 11, the Red Storm rallied for a 52-50 win over the Rams in the lone regular season meeting. The teams have never squared off in the playoffs. Scarborough’s only previous trip to a regional final came in 1999 when it was still known as the Redskins and played in Class B. Scarborough lost that game to Gorham, 62-53.
This time around, the Red Storm aim to win and set up a date with Skowhegan in the Class A Final Feb. 28.
“We’ll be fired up and ready to go,” Morin said. “Deering’s a great team. It’s going to be a tough game. Our team will find a way to get it done. A lot of field hockey girls play basketball, so after winning states, we know anything can happen. We want the same feeling for basketball.”
“Deering’s an all-around good team,” Ross said. “They have a lot more experience than we have. It’ll be a great game.”
“We have to play our game,” Seavey added. “It’s going to be a great matchup. It could be an epic. It’s uncharted waters for Scarborough. We’ll go out with nothing to lose and everything to gain. We haven’t been there and Deering’s been there repeatedly.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Scarborough senior Ellie Morin, playing a crucial role with teammate Jenn Colpitts shelved for the rest of the playoffs, drives to the hoop for two points Friday night. Morin finished with nine.
Scarborough senior Brittany Ross wasn’t quite able to get this shot over the long arm of Biddeford senior Lauren Rousseau.
Scarborough senior Brittany Ross and Biddeford senior Lauren Rousseau do battle for a loose ball.
Scarborough senior Brittany Ross leaps into the arms of teammate Heather Carrier as classmates Ellie Morin (13) and Christy Manning (44) also exult over Friday night’s 39-29 win over Biddeford in the Western A semifinals. The victory propels the Red Storm to their first Western A Final.