PORTLAND—Some how, some way, Scarborough’s girls’ basketball team made history Saturday night.
Down by seven points with under six minutes remaining, generating virtually no offense and hoping against hope that senior standout Christy Manning could remain on the floor one foul away from disqualification, the top-ranked Red Storm got a huge break when Deering junior Kayla Burchill fouled out. Scarborough then turned to its phenomenal defense, championship heart, the sensational shooting of unheralded senior Sarah Moody and a clutch, last second layup from Manning to rally past the two-time defending Class A state champion Rams, 37-34, in the Western A Final at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Red Storm will meet Skowhegan in the Class A championship game Saturday at 4:05 p.m., in Portland.
Moody’s first 3, with 1:38 to go, gave Scarborough its first lead, 29-28. After Deering senior Claire Ramonas converted a three-point play at the other end, Moody struck again, this time with a 3 from the right wing, putting the Red Storm ahead by two, but after Rams junior Britni Mikulanecz went coast-to-coast for a layup and the teams traded turnovers, senior Heather Carrier spotted a wide-open Manning under the hoop and Manning scored the biggest points of her life as Scarborough, barely, held on and went on to win a regional championship for the first time in program history.
“I’m at a loss for words thinking about what happened out there,” said Scarborough coach Jim Seavey. “I’m in awe. We were pinching each other in the locker room to make sure it was real and not a dream.”
The first time
The Red Storm lost to Biddeford in last year’s regional semifinals, but entered 2009-10 as a co-favorite with Deering. Scarborough rallied from a 12-point, second half deficit to down the Rams, 52-50, back on Dec. 11, and passed every other test en route to a first-ever undefeated regular season and top seed. In the tournament, the Red Storm’s defense smothered No. 9 South Portland in the quarterfinals, 40-22, but they lost senior stalwart Jenn Colpitts to a wrist injury in the process. Friday night, a late surge led to a 39-29 victory over No. 5 Biddeford in the semifinals.
Deering started the year 1-2, but won its final 15 regular season contests to grab the No. 2 seed. The Rams defeated No. 7 Thornton Academy, 44-30 in the quarterfinals and rallied past No. 3 McAuley, 45-35, in the semifinals Friday.
The teams met just once in the regular season and had no prior history.
They certainly produced some memories Saturday.
Deering had an opportunity to break it open in the first quarter, but Scarborough hung around.
A pair of Ramonas foul shots broke the ice 23 seconds in. Burchill added a bank shot for a 4-0 advantage before Carrier scored on a putback. Sophomore Ella Ramonas made two free throws for the Rams, but senior Brittany Ross cut the deficit to one with a 3-pointer. Burchill then stepped up and nailed back-to-back 3s to go up 12-5, but after a timeout, senior Ellie Morin got to the line and made two free throws to stem the tide. After Burchill made a contested jumper in the final minute of the first period, sophomore Carly Rogers answered with a pair of free throws and it was 14-9 Deering heading for the second.
“I was ready,” said Rogers, who filled a bigger role with Colpitts injured. “We practiced really hard. We try not to put all the pressure on one person. We rallied around Jenn. I knew I had to rebound. That’s what we needed. They’re strong in the post. We knew we could get it done.”
Ross made a free throw and Manning sank two to make it 14-12, but Burchill answered with two foul shots and Claire Ramonas made a left-handed hook shot for an 18-12 advantage. Rogers answered with a jumper and Ross made a free throw, but senior Maria Salamone hit a foul shot and Claire Ramonas converted a driving layup for a 21-15 lead. A late free throw from Manning pulled the Red Storm back within five, 21-16, at the break.
The Rams let a great chance slip away. While Scarborough was stumbling around for much of the first half, Deering didn’t bury the Red Storm and down the stretch, the two-time defending champs would pay a steep price.
“The same things happened last night too,” Seavey said. “Biddeford had a chance to knock us out early, but these kids won’t quit. They never say die. The going got tough and these kids got going.”
“There was some non-traditional basketball being played at both ends for a lot of the game,” Deering coach Mike Murphy said. “They came back and knocked down foul shots. We got stagnant. We have five possessions in a row at the end of the first half where we didn’t even get shots off. We let their defense dictate. That, to me, was a telling sign in the game. There were too many empty trips.”
In the third period, the teams combined for eight turnovers and just 10 points.
A Moody leaner (her first points) pulled Scarborough within three, but an Ella Ramonas jump shot made it 23-18.
The game then turned with 4:02 to go in the quarter, as first Burchill, then Manning picked up their third fouls. Burchill stepped out for a 3 with 1:31 left in the period, but an up-and-under layup from Morin and a free throw from Ross pulled Scarborough back to within five, 26-21, with eight minutes to play.
With 7:07 to play, Claire Ramonas set up Ella Ramonas for a jumper and a 28-21 lead, but 12 seconds later, Ella Ramonas picked up her fifth foul and the game’s complexion changed even more when in the next minute-and-a-half, Burchill and junior Britni Mikulanecz both earned their fourth.
Burchill’s fourth foul sent Rogers to the line and she made one attempt to make it 28-22. With 4:26 to go, Manning was whistled for her fourth. Offense disappeared entirely for three minutes until the pivotal sequence of the game.
With 2:35 remaining, Morin got an offensive rebound, went up and was fouled by Burchill, her fifth. Compounding the problem for Deering, Burchill was whistled for a technical foul and suddenly Scarborough came to life.
“I think tonight, when Burchill fouled out, it gave us a huge confidence booster,” Moody said.
“Kayla’s the best player in the state,” Ross said. “For her to foul out was huge for us.”
Deering was suddenly left shorthanded.
“I think the big one was Ella’s fifth foul,” Murphy said. “We were talking about moving her off Ross and she picked up her fourth and fifth fouls within a few seconds. We didn’t have time to adjust there. Burchill then got her fifth.”
Morin made two of the four free throws and the Red Storm retained possession. With 2:16 to play, Morin made a layup and suddenly it was a two-point game, 28-26.
Things went from bad to worse for the Rams when they turned the ball over and Scarborough had a chance to go ahead.
With 1:38 to go, she got the ball up top and with a defender closing in, launched a 3 that hit the rim, hung there momentarily, then dropped through as those clad in red in the crowd exulted.
Red Storm 29 Rams 28.
Scarborough was up for the first time.
“I didn’t look to get open enough earlier in the game, but I knew at the end of the game I needed to help my team out,” Moody said. “I came up. I saw the top was open. Christy set a screen and I shot it and it went in. It felt short. It hit the front of the rim, but I got a shooter’s roll. I didn’t think it was going in.”
“We’ve always told Sarah that shooters keep shooting,” added Seavey. “She didn’t even look for her shot until late, when it counted.”
Claire Ramonas wasn’t about to give up without a fight, however. She raced in and made a layup while being fouled, then added the free throw with 1:26 remaining.
Undaunted, the Red Storm responded.
This time the ball came to Moody in the right corner and again her bomb was true, putting Scarborough back on top, 32-31.
“I thought her first one, we were in the neighborhood, but the second one, when we went to a zone, we lost track of her in the corner,” Murphy said. “She made it. Credit to her.”
Deering promptly turned the ball over and Carrier was fouled. She made the second of two attempts and it was 33-31.
This time, the Rams responded as Mikulanecz raced down and tied the score with a layup with 38.2 seconds to go. The Red Storm turned the ball over and it looked as if Deering would get a chance to win it, but the Rams gave the ball back and with 11.7 seconds remaining, Scarborough raced downcourt and Carrier spotted Manning all alone under the hoop, passed her the ball and Manning scored the biggest basket in her school’s history.
“I think they went to double team the ball and I just had an open look to the basket,” Manning said. “I was wide open and Heather got me the ball.”
Red Storm 35 Rams 33.
Deering still had a chance to rally, but with 3.1 seconds to go, the Rams gave the ball away again. The Red Storm only had to get the ball in and run out the clock, but the inbounds pass went out of bounds, giving Deering the ball under its basket with one final chance.
The ball came into junior Aarika Viola, who was fouled with 1.7 seconds to go. Her first shot just missed, but she made the second.
This time, Scarborough managed to get the ball in to Moody and she was fouled with 0.5 seconds to go. Moody went to the line, sank both free throws and that did it.
As of 8:30 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010, the Red Storm had a championship to celebrate.
“No one gave us a chance coming in since Deering has so much experience, but we’ve played together since sixth grade and we wanted to do it,” Ross said.
“We always play to win and we pulled it out in the last quarter,” Manning said. “It’s awesome. Scarborough basketball never went undefeated. It’s awesome to win against the two-time state champions. I think they started to get frustrated at the end. We hit foul shots and our open looks.”
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Moody. “Deering’s a really good team. We knew we could come back and win. We wanted to have it.”
“I’m so proud of these kids,” Seavey added. “It’s very gratifying. I have a great group of kids who have bought into the system. We believe in each other. They work hard. Talk about resiliency again. Last night, not many people gave us a shot with the Colpitts situation, but nobody gave us a chance tonight against Goliath. I told the kids, remember what the one stone did. They stepped up again. There’s no quit in this group. Ever.”
The Rams were ultimately done in by the fourth period sequence of events.
“Our primary ballhandler wasn’t on the floor,” Murphy said. “We’ve struggled all season long when the ball wasn’t in Ella’s hands and that happened again. We had unforced errors and didn’t play with composure. The winning basket by Manning, she was all alone. That came back to bite us.”
Deering (18-3) got a game-high 15 points from Burchill. Claire Ramonas bowed out with nine.
“Claire’s the rock of the whole program,” Murphy said. “She’s solid on both ends of the floor. She made the big three-point play when everyone thought we were dead. We’ll miss her.”
Ella Ramonas had six points, Mikualencz two and Salamone and Viola one point apiece.
Scarborough got 10 points from Moody, eight from Morin, six from Ross (who was chosen the regional tournament most valuable player), five each from Manning and Rogers and three from Carrier.
“It starts with the Energizer Bunny, Brittany Ross,” Seavey said. “She energized the whole team. Christy was quiet, but had a big bucket late. We talk about team basketball and team defense all the time. You can’t take one piece of us away since someone else will hurt you. Sarah’s been clutch for us on several occasions this year. We talked when Jenn went down about replacing her by committee. We did it again tonight with Ellie and Sarah and Carly Rogers. We knew it would be a knock-down, drag-out. They’re the two-time defending champions. We liked the underdog role tonight. We lived to play another week. We’ll see what happens.”
Scarborough (21-0) and Skowhegan (21-0) have no history on the hardwood, but know each other well from other sports. Back in June, the Red Storm beat the Indians in the Class A softball final. On Halloween, Scarborough edged Skowhegan on Morin’s overtime goal for a first-ever field hockey championship.
Now, the Red Storm seek to cap their finest ever basketball season with a first Gold Ball.
“It seems like in every sport that’s who we play in the final,” Moody said. “They’ll be out to get us. We have to come out to play.”
“I think we have a great chance to win,” Rogers said. “After beating Deering for just the second time ever, we’re really ready for (Skowhegan).”
“I think it’s awesome,” said Ross. “I love intense games like that. Since it’s Skowhegan, it’s even better. I know some of those girls from field hockey. It should be a great game.”
“That’s the way it’s supposed to play out,” added Seavey. “Two 21-0s. It could be an epic. Scarborough and Skowhegan have done battle in softball and field hockey. They’re good and very athletic. We live to play another week. We’ll try to put the kids in a position to be successful. We’re playing with a lot of confidence. We’ll come out and give our all for 32 minutes a week from tonight.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Deering sophomore Ella Ramonas drives to the hoop in the first half. Ramonas and junior Kayla Burchill both fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Scarborough sophomore Carly Rogers drives against Deering junior Kayla Burchill in the second half. Rogers played some key minutes and had five points.
Scarborough senior Sarah Moody shoots over Deering junior Aarika Viola with sophomore Ella Ramonas looking on. Moody hit two incredibly clutch 3s in the waning moments to lead the Red Storm to victory.
Deering junior Kayla Burchill goes up for a shot under pressure from Scarborough sophomore Carly Rogers (35) and senior Christy Manning. Burchill had a game-high 15 points, but fouled out in the fourth quarter, changing momentum.
Scarborough senior Heather Carrier drives past Deering senior Maria Salamone in the second half.
Two of the best post players in the state, Deering senior Claire Ramonas and Scarborough senior Christy Manning were in the middle of the action throughout the game Saturday.
Scarborough senior Ellie Morin finds herself in a precarious position during the second half Saturday, surrounded by Deering’s Claire Ramonas (left) and Kayla Burchill. Late in the contest, Morin drew Burchill’s fifth foul and the Red Storm went on to an improbable win.
At game’s end, Scarborough seniors Heather Carrier and Brittany Ross celebrate the historic victory.
Scarborough senior Heather Carrier and her teammates show off their hardware after winning the Western Class A girls’ basketball crown for the first time.