March 2, 2013

For Scarborough seniors, the last game's bittersweet

It's a moment many high school athletes face - stepping onto the court one final time.

By Gillian Graham ggraham@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — In the minutes after Courtney Alofs walked off the court and out of the bright lights of the Cumberland County Civic Center, a message popped up on her phone that brought her to tears.

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Six seniors on the Scarborough girls basketball team – from left, Marisa O’Toole, Grace Farnkoff, Maria Philbrick, Taylor LeBorgne, Courtney Alofs and Mary Redmond – walk onto the court for their semifinal game against Catherine McAuley High School at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland on Feb. 22. Because Scarborough lost, it would turn out to be their last game together, “but we gave everything we had,” Farnkoff said.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Scarborough senior Mary Redmond maneuvers around Jaclyn Welch of McAuley during their semifinal game last month. Redmond, who transferred to Scarborough before her junior year, became the team’s leading scorer.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Tournament coverage:

“Congratulations on a great career,” read the short text message from her father.

Emerging from the locker room a few minutes later, she walked past a section of waiting fans and greeted her mother in a teary embrace.

“Seeing her on the stairs in her Scarborough Storm T-shirt, I realized this was the last time I’d be there,” Alofs said.

It was the last time she’d play high school basketball. The last time she’d spend months practicing with her best friends. The last time she’d chase the gold ball.

Scarborough had just lost 47-38 to McAuley, which came into the Western Class A girls’ semifinal match-up with a 45-game win streak. It was a close game for a McAuley team that regularly beats opponents by 30 or more points.

For most of the six seniors on the Scarborough varsity team, it was the last time they would play competitive basketball. It was a familiar, bittersweet scene that played out across the state as the basketball season drew to a close and players – most of whom won’t play college ball – walked away from the court forever.

“It was a great ride,” Alofs said. “I wouldn’t have done it with any other girls.”

Five of the Scarborough girls – Alofs, Taylor LeBorgne, Maria Philbrick, Marisa O’Toole and Grace Farnkoff – began playing basketball together as early as elementary school. By sixth grade they were on the same travel team and won a state championship title. To celebrate, they ran through the halls singing “We Are the Champions,” a sudden burst of excitement that they laugh about now.

Alofs said that early taste of victory fed their competitive drive.

Mary Redmond, who had played travel basketball with a couple of Scarborough players, transferred to the school before their junior year. She said her teammates made the transition easy.

In the two years since, the seniors have focused on improving their skills and adapting to new coaches and playing styles. Even in the waning days of their high school career, with the odds stacked against them, their goal was to end the same way they started: as state champions.

They would save their tears for graduation.

‘OUR UNFINISHED BUSINESS’

As the basketball players arrived at the high school for their last practice on Feb. 21, they walked past the team’s last gold ball, perched in a trophy case overflowing with the school’s trove of championship trophies and plaques.

Some of the seniors were on the varsity team that hoisted that gold ball in celebration in 2010.

Alofs, a forward who played varsity her freshman year, said the focus of this season was the same for all players, whether they were on the court back in 2010 or not: “We want to bring the gold ball back.”

Redmond, the team’s leading scorer, said the playoff game had extra meaning because McAuley knocked Scarborough out of the playoffs last year. Earlier this season, Scarborough fell to McAuley 65-42.

“It’s our unfinished business this year,” Redmond said.

At practice, Coach Ron Cote gathered his team on the court to discuss how he wanted them to approach the game. Most people in the civic center will expect Scarborough to lose, he said.

“You need to believe you can beat them. We have nothing to lose,” Cote said. “It would bother me if you don’t compete. I do not look at you guys as athletes who give up. I would think you’d compete from the first second to the last second, no matter what the score is.”

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Members of the Scarborough team bring gear to a storage room at the school after handing in their uniforms Feb. 27, the date of their last team meeting. “We had a tremendous year,” Coach Ron Cote said.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Senior Courtney Alofs is comforted by her mother, Carlene, far right, after the Scarborough High School girls basketball team played its final game Feb. 22. At left, senior Maria Philbrick talks with her family members.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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From left, seniors Maria Philbrick, Taylor LeBorgne and Mary Redmond return to the court after halftime in their semifinal Feb. 22 against McAuley. McAuley won, 47-38, ending Scarborough’s season and its quest for the gold ball. But senior Marisa O’Toole said, “I think we played our hearts out.”

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer



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