Greely’s girls’ basketball team celebrates after beating recent nemesis Brunswick, 66-49, in Saturday’s Class A South Final. The Rangers will meet Hampden Academy in the state final Thursday.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
G- 10 20 13 23- 66
B- 15 12 9 13- 49
G- Clement 9-4-25, DeWolfe 7-5-19, Obar 6-4-18, Martel 1-1-3, Spoerri 0-1-1
B- Armstrong 3-2-11, Groat 4-0-10, Guptil 4-1-9, MacMillan 4-0-9, Sachs 3-0-8, Burrows 1-0-2
G (5) Clement 3, Obar 2
B (8) Armstrong 3, Groat, Sachs 2, MacMillan 1
PORTLAND—Dropping last year’s regional final to Brunswick was cause for heartbreak and doubt for Greely’s girls’ basketball team.
Losing to the Dragons again in late December, on an improbable buzzer-beater no less, was cause for Rangers’ frustration.
But the third time proved to be charm Saturday evening at the Cross Insurance Arena, as Greely was able to leave that agonizing recent history behind and deliver a delicious slice of revenge, once which sends the Rangers on to the biggest stage of all.
In a Class A South Final rematch, second-ranked Greely, which hadn’t lost since it left the floor at Brunswick High School in disbelief just before 2017 turned into 2018, met a top-ranked Dragons squad which hadn’t dropped a single game all winter and in a highly-anticipated showdown, neither team disappointed.
But one proved superior.
The first eight minutes suggested that Brunswick would continue to have its way with the Rangers, as it rallied from an early 8-3 deficit and closed the first quarter on a 12-2 run to lead, 15-10, thanks in large part to the sharpshooting of senior standout Sabrina Armstrong, whose long-range acumen matched a fast start from Greely freshman sensation Camille Clement.
Rangers junior standout Anna DeWolfe began to take over in the second period, first sparking a quick 6-0 run with four points to put Greely back on top, then, with the Rangers trailing by a point in the waning seconds, driving for a basket, then stealing the ball and scoring again to make it 30-27 Rangers at the break.
Greely had two girls score in the first half, but a third, sophomore Brooke Obar, joined the party in the second half and Greely began to pull away.
Obar would score 10 points in the third quarter and the Rangers broke a 34-34 tie by scoring nine of the final 11 points of the frame to take a 43-36 advantage to the final stanza.
There, Greely turned to its oft-maligned defense to close it out and the offense never let up as the Rangers broke it open and went on to a 66-49 victory.
Clement scored a game-high 25 points, DeWolfe added 19 and Obar finished with 18 as Greely improved to 19-2, extended its win streak to 15 games, handed Brunswick its first loss in 21 contests and in the process, advanced to battle Hampden Academy (19-2) in the Class A state final Thursday at 6 p.m., at Cross Insurance Arena.
“This is a lot better than last year,” said Rangers second-year coach Todd Flaherty. “I was saying to our assistants in the second quarter, they were holding us below our average, but we tend to score our points. We were hoping for a spurt and we got one and the shots started going in.”
A year ago, Greely appeared bound for the Class A state final when it had a double-digit second half lead against Brunswick, but the Dragons roared back to stun the Rangers, 54-51, in the Class A South Final.
The teams have been on a collision course all winter and even did battle once in one of the most memorable games of the season.
On Dec. 29, a 3-pointer from junior Marley Groat at the horn gave Brunswick a 65-63 win over Greely in a game which the Rangers were without DeWolfe.
“We realized how important it is to play until the very end,” Clement said. “In a way, it was better we lost that game because we were ready for them tonight.”
“At the time, that hurt a lot, but I thought that it was the best thing that could happen to us in the big picture,” Flaherty said.
Greely lost just one other contest, at eventual Class AA South top seed South Portland, and closed the regular season on a 12-game win streak to finish second in Class A South (see sidebar, below, for links to previous stories).
After dominating No. 7 Leavitt, 83-40, in the quarterfinal, the Rangers rode a fast start to a 66-50 win over No. 3 Marshwood in the semifinals.
Brunswick passed every test this winter and as the top seed, ousted No. 9 Falmouth, 74-25, in the quarterfinal and beat No. 4 York, 52-23, in the semis.
Saturday, the teams showed why they had no peer in the region, but it would be the Rangers’ stars who sparkled the brightest.
It looked like Greely was in great shape early, as DeWolfe drove for a layup and after Armstrong hit a 3 for the Dragons’ first points, Clement drained consecutive 3-pointers for an 8-3 lead, but Brunswick would close the first quarter on a 12-2 run.
After a Groat steal, junior Charlotte MacMillan made a layup, Groat tied the game with a 3, Armstrong put the Dragons on top with a 3-ball and after DeWolfe fed Clement for a layup, Brunswick sophomore Alexis Guptil made consecutive layups for a 15-10 advantage.
In the first eight minutes, Armstrong led the way with six points, while the Rangers, who turned the ball over nine times, were paced by eight points from Clement.
In the second period, the back-and-forth fun continued.
A driving layup from DeWolfe got things started. After Clement hit two free throws, Obar stole the ball and fed DeWolfe for a layup and a 16-15 lead.
The Dragons answered, as Armstrong threw a long pass to Groat for a layup and Groat added a 3.
Back came the Rangers, as DeWolfe set up Clement for a layup after a steal and with 2:56 on the clock, Clement drove for a layup to tie it, 20-20.
Twenty-one seconds later, Brunswick retook the lead, as MacMillan set up senior MacKenzie Burrows for a layup.
DeWolfe countered with a free throw, but Armstrong sank a corner 3.
After DeWolfe got an offensive rebound and set up Clement for a 3, Guptil answered with a putback, but the final six points of the half would go to Greely.
More specifically, to DeWolfe.
With 41.9 seconds remaining, DeWolfe hit a runner.
Then, after the Rangers got the ball back, DeWolfe drove for a layup and the lead with 5.9 seconds on the clock and after stealing the ensuing inbounds pass, DeWolfe hit a short jumper with 1.2 seconds showing and just like that, Greely had a 30-27 halftime advantage.
“That was big,” DeWolfe said. “It boosted our confidence and gave us the lead at half.”
“We fought through kind of a not great first half, but Anna’s play at the end of the half helped us,” Flaherty said.
In the first half, both teams shot well, as the Rangers made 12 of 25 field goals and 3 of 8 3-pointers, while the Dragons made 5 of 13 3s.
Greely only had two scorers, but they put up huge numbers (Clement 17 points, DeWolfe 13), while Brunswick was paced by nine points from Armstrong and eight from Groat.
In the third period, Obar got going offensively and the Rangers extended their lead.
After Groat opened the second half with a runner, Obar drove and banked home a shot for her first points.
A layup by Brunswick junior Rian Sachs was countered by an Obar leaner, but with 4:42 to go, Guptil took a feed from Groat and converted a three-point play to tie it, 34-34.
The rest of the frame belonged to the Rangers.
With 4:15 left in the third, Obar made a layup after a steal to put Greely on top for good.
“It was a rough first half, but we got in the locker room and Anna pumped me up and told me I could do it,” said Obar. “That first shot I took in the second half, I made it, it gave me confidence and my teammates found me.”
Seventeen seconds later, Obar sank two free throws and with 2:01 to go, Obar took a pass on the fastbreak from DeWolfe and made a layup for a 40-34 advantage.
MacMillan got two points back with a putback, but after a steal, DeWolfe fed Clement for a layup and with 3.9 seconds left, junior Emma Spoerri hit a free throw for a 43-36 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
There, the Rangers finished the job.
Obar started the final stanza with another huge shot, a 3-pointer, and after a pair of Armstrong free throws, Clement hit a jumper and DeWolfe made two free throws.
A Sachs 3 with 5:47 to play cut the deficit to 50-41, but Obar countered with a 3 from the corner.
MacMillan made a layup, but DeWolfe made two free throws, DeWolfe pulled up and hit a jumper and with 2:31 on the clock, junior Julia Martel scored on a putback while being fouled and added the and-one free throw for an insurmountable 60-43 advantage.
Sachs banked home a 3-pointer, but Clement made two free throws, Clement finished a feed from Martel for a layup and after a long 3 from MacMillan gave Brunswick its final points, a pair of Obar free throws clinched Greely’s 66-49 victory.
“We picked up the intensity on defense and that led to our scoring,” said Obar. “We wanted (Brunswick). We knew this season would be where we got revenge. We wanted it so bad. They’re long and they have good shooters, that’s why they’ve been so tough.”
“It feels really good,” Clement said. “There’s no team I’d rather do it with. We’ve worked on defense a lot. We knew it was our weakness, but we stepped it up.”
“Last year was in the back of our minds,” said DeWolfe. “We played our hardest and played the way we wanted to play. We talked in the locker room about the first few minutes of the third quarter being so crucial and I think that was where our momentum started.”
“We sustained our energy defensively,” added Flaherty. “Julia Martel did a great job disrupting their offense by guarding Groat tightly. They had a hard time getting into their offense. We had something to prove and the girls proved it tonight.”
The Rangers put on an offensive show, led by Clement’s 25 points. The younger sister of former Miss Maine Basketball, Allie Clement, and former McAuley star, Sarah Clement, has more than lived up to the family name in her first high school season.
“Camille is fearless,” Flaherty said. “She doesn’t play like a freshman, that’s for sure. She got us going early. Then, everyone else picked us up.”
DeWolfe dazzled in every way possible, scoring 19 points, grabbing five rebounds, dishing off six assists and registering five steals.
“Anna means everything to me,” Obar said. “She’s my best friend. We wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are without her.”
Obar saved her best for the second half, scoring 18 points, while also grabbing eight rebounds and producing five steals.
“Brooke was just fantastic,” Flaherty said. “That’s what she does. She picks up the slack when we need it. She played great.”
Martel added three points (and five rebounds) and Spoerri had one point.
The Rangers hit five 3-pointers, made nearly 50 percent of their shots (23 of 48), overcame 17 turnovers and sank 15 of 17 foul shots.
Brunswick had a balanced attack led by Armstrong, with 11 points (and three assists). Groat added 10 points (as well as five assists, four steals and three rebounds), Guptil had nine (to go with eight boards), MacMillan nine (to go with nine rebounds), Sachs eight (to go with five rebounds) and Burrows two.
The Dragons made eight 3-pointers and had a 28-26 rebounding advantage, but were just 19 of 48 from the floor, hit 3 of 4 free throws and committed a fatal 26 turnovers.
“Championship games, you have to make plays and finish,” said Brunswick coach Sam Farrell, the one-time Greely coach. “We made plays, but we didn’t finish. We had some bad turnovers. You can’t miss opportunities.
“They keep sending weapons at you. They have a three-headed monster and we have a three-headed monster and theirs outscored ours. DeWolfe is special. Charlotte gave everything she had, but their other kids stepped up. We needed to score with them, we couldn’t stop them.
“If you count the (KVAC Championship Game), we went 21-1. We’ll take that. It’s been a special year. The kids worked so hard. I’m not the easiest coach to play for, but they scrap. Our season was summed up by how we played together.”
The Dragons graduate three players, Armstrong, Burrows and Holly Black.
“Sabrina, since she was a freshman, has been a gamer,” Farrell said. “She wants to win. She wants to make plays. MacKenzie Burrows had a great second half of the season. Holly Black was a leader and did everything right.”
Brunswick has learned how to win and expects to remain a top contender in 2018-19.
“If we work as hard as we did this year next year and play as well together, the goal is to come back here and probably go through Greely again,” Farrell said.
Greely is 4-3 in previous state games, with a 56-36 win over Camden Hills three years ago the most recent.
The Rangers don’t see Hampden Academy during the season and the teams have no history, but Thursday’s contest will be a can’t-miss affair.
“We have to play our game and do what we know how to do,” said DeWolfe.
“(Winning) would be mean everything,” Obar said. “We have to go practice, work hard and we’re not done until we hopefully get the Gold Ball.”
“We have to keep the intensity up and be more aggressive,” Clement said. “It’ll start on defense.”
“We have to play offensively more efficiently,” added Flaherty. “We have to play fast. We can’t turn the ball over. Hampden is big. We have to figure out a way to handle their size.”
Greely junior Anna DeWolfe launches a shot over Brunswick sophomore Alexis Guptil.
Greely junior Julia Martel goes up for a shot as Brunswick junior Marley Groat defends.
Brunswick sophomore Alexis Guptil finishes at the rim.
Brunswick junior Marley Groat grabs a loose ball away from Greely junior Madison Scott, left, and sophomore Brooke Obar,
Greely freshman Camille Clement snares a rebound away from Brunswick junior Rian Sachs.
Brunswick junior Marley Groat goes up for a layup.
Greely junior Anna DeWolfe knocks the ball away from Brunswick junior Charlotte MacMillan.
Brunswick junior Rian Sachs keeps a close eye on Greely sophomore Brooke Obar, Obar had 18 second half points.
Greely senior Brooke Bickford waves the net in celebration following the win.
Greely junior Anna DeWolfe, left, and sophomore Brooke Obar receive the regional championship trophy.
Brunswick seniors MacKenzie Burrows, left, Holly Black and Sabrina Armstrong receive the runner-up trophy.