Greely High is one of the three unbeaten boys’ basketball teams remaining in southern Maine.
The Rangers have had to work overtime to keep it that way.
On Tuesday, Greely fell behind 20-3 out of the gate, recovered, coughed up a fourth-quarter lead, then needed three thrilling overtimes to get the 82-74 victory at Yarmouth. The week before, the Rangers never led in the second half at Falmouth, rallied from an eight-point deficit and won in overtime.
“This is a great learning experience for us,” Coach Travis Seaver said after the Yarmouth win. “It’s important to take pieces from this game that can make us better. It’s great to be on the winning side of a game like this but we can point to 10 things that we still need to do better.”
Greely and the rest of the contenders out of the Western Maine Conference will have no shortage of quality tests before the playoffs.
Seven of Greely’s nine remaining games are against teams that had winning records entering Friday night. That includes rematches against always tough rivals Cape Elizabeth (7-2, six straight wins) and Falmouth (7-2).
Also left on Greely’s schedule are several teams – Biddeford (5-4), Fryeburg Academy (7-3), York (6-4) and Westbrook (7-3) – that are improved compared to last season. Greely is at Biddeford on Saturday.
“That’s the great thing about our league. There are so many competitive teams,” Seaver said.
Matt McDevitt of Greely and Alek Medenica of Yarmouth, two 6-foot-7 seniors, combined to make 13 3-pointers in the game, seven for McDevitt. The two friends relished playing in front of an increasingly frenzied crowd in cramped John C. Stroud Gymnasium.
“Those are some great moments. I’m going to remember those forever, honestly,” McDevitt said.
Medenica, in his second season with Yarmouth, grew up in Belgrade, Serbia, where his father (and current Yarmouth assistant coach) Jagos Medenica was a professional player.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to find something like this in the playoffs. This was above and beyond just because of the atmosphere and how crazy it was, and the shots that were being made and the level of play,” Medenica said. “My ears were still ringing when I came out. I came from Serbia where you go to a basketball game, when you come out you can’t hear. It was just like a little flashback to being in Serbia.”
THE OTHER undefeated boys’ teams in southern Maine are Thornton Academy (9-0) in Class AA South and Medomak Valley (10-0) in Class A North.
Thornton won its first eight games by an average of 19.9 points. The Golden Trojans met their first serious challenge Thursday with a 56-53 win against Deering, handing the Rams their second loss. Thornton hosts South Portland (8-1, eight straight wins) next Friday in AA South’s premier game of the season, then is at Portland (8-1) the following Tuesday.
“Those are the games that everyone needs to play in,” said Thornton Coach Bob Davies. “Those games help us work on things. (Against Deering) we get up by 10 and then we give it back. It’s about being able to make a shot or get a rebound we should have got.”
Thornton has been led offensively by seniors Austin Boudreau (30 points on 10 3-pointers in a 61-40 win against Gorham) and Evan Christensen, and junior David Keohan. But it’s the team’s depth and chemistry that pleases Davies.
“The kids like playing basketball together and that’s a big part of it,” Davies said.
Medomak Valley has won eight games by more than 10 points. Six of its remaining eight games are against teams it has beaten.
THE DEERING GIRLS suffered a big loss when senior forward Amanda Brett was shut down for the season about two weeks ago. Brett, Deering’s best inside presence, is out with a broken femur.
Coach Mike Murphy said Brett had been complaining of numbness in her leg and went for an MRI, which revealed a weakness in the bone. Brett was told to stay off the leg for 6 to 12 weeks and is using crutches.
“It’s a huge loss,” said Murphy. “In her mind there’s a chance she’ll come back. She’s doing everything they tell her. Basically she’s coaching kids off the bench right now.”
Sophomore Victoria Garand has stepped into the starting position, but Murphy said all his players have stepped up.
“The effort level has gone way up,” he said. “The kids are just playing harder, all the individuals, to make up for the lack of rebounding and leadership Amanda provided.”
Deering is 7-3 and ranked third in Class AA North.
Murphy said doctors will take another look at the leg on Feb. 1. Brett is hopeful she can play in the tournament, so she’s trying to stay in shape by swimming.
YORK, THE GIRLS’ defending Class A champion, began the season with three losses, although one was by a point and another by two, both games decided in the final seconds. Since then the Wildcats have run off seven consecutive wins and are ranked fourth in Class A South entering Saturday’s game at Westbrook.
“We hope to keep it going,” said first-year head coach Steve Freeman. “Every game we play is a big game. The league is so equal. Except for the top (Greely), anything can happen on any night.”
Freeman said the Wildcats’ success has been based on defense and maturity. On any given night, the Wildcats will have a different leading scorer. But their defense has really improved.
“The girls have come together, they believe in each other and they believe in what we’re trying to do,” he said.
Seniors Maddie Cogger, Reilly Smedley and Lily Posternak have been instrumental in the streak, said Freeman, as has freshman guard Nina Howe. “She’s really showing what she can do now,” Freeman said of Howe. “She’s so quick and determined. She’s not very tall but she goes to the glass as hard as any 6-footer.”
Howe, Cogger, Posternak and senior Morgan Chapman give York a nice four-player rotation at guard that allows the Wildcats to keep up the defensive pressure.
THE THORNTON ACADEMY girls got a much-needed 44-40 home win over Deering on Thursday. The Trojans had lost three games in a row – by a total of 17 points – entering the game.
Besides the valuable Heal points the Trojans picked up, Coach Eric Marston said, “More than anything, psychologically it was a big one. We had lost those three in a row, all to quality teams, but I think we were at the point of ‘Can we do it?’ We’ve been focusing all year on getting better every game. But at some point you’ve got to win.”
The win lifted the Trojans to 6-4 and into fourth place in Class AA South.
Thornton’s home game Saturday at 5 p.m. against Bangor – its third game of the week against a team nicknamed Rams – will be its Hoops for Hope game, a fund-raising event for cancer treatment. Last year’s Hoops for Hope raised around $20,000.
The team will hold an auction in the Linnell Gymnasium lobby during the game as well as a raffle. Students in grades 5-12 involved in basketball also have been raising money through collections. The Trojans will wear pink uniforms. “We do this to provide hope for cancer patients and their families,” said Marston.
DEFENDING CLASS C boys’ champion George Stevens Academy is one of the state’s other eight unbeaten teams. On Jan. 6, Eagles junior guard Taylor Schildroth scored 61 points in a 97-69 win against then-unbeaten Lee Academy. Schildroth scored 27 points in the first quarter. His previous career high was 32, set in last season’s Class C North championship game. Schildroth made 20 of 36 shots overall, 12 of 21 3-pointers and 9 of 9 free throws.
No official records are kept but the website Maine High School Sports shows Schildroth’s 61 points tied for sixth all-time among Maine boys. The unofficial record of 82 points was set in 1921.