By Michael Hoffer
PORTLAND — The Greely girls’ basketball team, deemed a year away from championship contention, defied the odds and earned an opportunity to play for the Western Class B championship Saturday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
There, the dream came to an end as the Rangers were done in by poor shooting and the 23-point, 12-rebound performance of York standout sophomore Nicole Taylor in a 49-30 setback to the undefeated Wildcats.
Greely finished 18-3.
“I hate to see it end like this, shooting 7-for-41,” said Rangers first-year coach Billy Goodman. “No guards made a shot until the fourth quarter. If we could have made some earlier, it might have helped. We didn’t make shots and we turned the ball over.”
Goodman inherited the Rangers last summer and knew he had some talent to work with, but few expected Greely to emerge as quickly as it did.
The Rangers lost early to visiting York and late at Falmouth, but still won 16 games to earn the No. 2 seed for the Western B tournament.
Smothering defensive efforts, combined with excellent play from a diverse cast of characters, allowed Greely to dispatch three-time defending regional champion No. 7 Lake Region 39-27 in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Mountain Valley 49-27 in the semifinals.
Top-ranked York had its way with No. 8 Wells in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Falmouth (please see story, page ?) in the semis.
The teams met Dec. 18 and York enjoyed a 47-34 victory in Cumberland. The last playoff meeting came two years ago, a 54-40 Greely triumph in the quarterfinals.
Saturday, the post battle between Taylor and Greely junior Abby Young took center-stage early.
Just 44 seconds in, Taylor was fouled and made one of two free throws. At the other end, Taylor picked her first foul on a play that ended with Rangers junior Megan Grondin scoring on a left-handed layup.
Taylor quickly atoned with a bank shot to put the Wildcats on top for good. A jumper from senior Meredith Reid made it 5-2. Taylor then made two free throws and Reid made a layup for a 9-2 advantage, but with 2:37 to go in the first, Taylor picked up her second foul and Young made two free throws to end the 8-0 run.
With 1:50 left, Young hit a jumper from the top of the key and Greely was within, 9-6, after one.
The Rangers had several open looks and four offensive rebounds, but four turnovers prevented them from closing the gap.
Fouls dominated the second period and the Wildcats slowly stretched their lead to 22-14 at the break.
York seized control for good in the third.
Taylor started it with a leaner. On the next possession, after a 3-point miss, Taylor swooped in for the rebound and made a layup. With 5:31 left, senior Elaina Yeomelakis made a layup after a steal and it was 28-14.
Yeomelakis hit a baseline jumper at 4:15. Thirty-seven seconds later, Taylor, who went two quarters between her second and third fouls, buried two free throws to make it 32-14.
Finally, with 3:06 to play in the third, Young hit a jump shot to end a 10-0 York run and a 5:26 second Rangers’ drought.
Greely hit four straight free throws from Grondin. However, with 50 seconds to play in the quarter, Reid made two foul shots give the Wildcats the 34-20 lead after three.
“We tried to exploit (Taylor’s) two fouls,” Goodman said. “It just wasn’t our day. In the locker room, I wanted to cut it to four, but they came out and got a layup. The girls had their energy up, but the shots just didn’t go in and we turned the ball over a lot. We tried to attack. It just wasn’t our day.”
After Taylor hit a jumper to start the fourth, Young converted a three-point play for the Rangers to make it 36-23, but that’s as close as they would get, as York rolled to the victory.
“Greely’s a great team,” Wildcats coach Rick Clark said. “They’re young, they’ll be back full tilt next year. I’m sure we’ll see them again next year.”
Taylor led all scorers with 23 points and won the Mike DiRenzo Award as the region’s most valuable player.
For Greely, Young led the way with 13 points. Grondin added eight.
“It’s tough,” Goodman lamented. “I wish we’d played a little better. You have to play your best game to beat York.”
The Rangers only graduate two players, Danielle Slocum and Jen Seavey. They’ll have a great shot at getting back and finishing the job next winter.
“I can’t wait for summer,” Goodman said. “We’ll work on our weaknesses. I didn’t know these girls nine months ago. Now, I can’t wait to coach them again. We’ll get another shot next year.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Greely junior Nicole Faietta went all out to save the ball during the Rangers’ loss to York in Saturday’s Western Class B Final. (Jason Veilleux photo).