By Michael Hoffer
Many pundits and fans have already handed another Gold Ball to the Deering girls’ basketball team, but the Rams had better pay attention to a potential roadblock in red and white.
The Scarborough Red Storm are enjoying their finest season in Class A and now, healthy and clicking on all cylinders, they have the skill and confidence to be a factor in the upcoming Western Class A tournament.
“We want to play our best basketball at the end of the season heading into the tournament and these kids have found a way to do that,” said Scarborough’s third-year coach Jim Seavey.
SUBHEAD-Steady progression
Seavey inherited a 5-13 team three years ago and led the Red Storm to an 8-11 mark and a trip to the preliminary round of the playoffs in 2006-07. Last winter, Scarborough won 13 games and reached the quarterfinals.
This winter, the Red Storm have dazzled.
After opening with wins over Marshwood and Sanford, Scarborough was upset at Windham. The Red Storm then won five straight (including a first-ever victory over South Portland) before hosting Deering Jan. 8. Scarborough hung tough throughout and made the defending champs sweat, but the Rams eventually held on for a 53-43 victory in a game that was closer than the final score indicated.
The Red Storm weren’t fazed, however, and have won eight in a row, capped by a dominating victory at Portland Monday.
Scarborough got the onslaught started when senior Reegan Brackett hit a 3-pointer in the opening minute. Midway through the first, junior standout Christy Manning made a layup for a 16-2 lead. By period’s end, it was 21-7.
The Red Storm rode a 13-0 run to a 29-7 lead and never let up, stretching their advantage to a mind-boggling 31, 43-12, at halftime, as Manning had 14 points, senior Abbey Pelletier added 12 and Brackett had eight.
“Every team’s focusing more on Christy because she’s pretty much unstoppable,” Brackett said. “That opens things up on the perimeter. We’re unselfish. We get the ball inside where Christy can finish. If not, we get the ball outside. We have a lot of weapons. You can’t stop just one player on our team.”
Portland would get no closer than 27 points in the third period and only chipped away at the deficit in the waning moments. Scarborough was never threatened and cruised home to the 64-46 triumph behind 19 points from Brackett, 16 from Manning, 14 from Pelletier and eight from junior Jenn Colpitts.
“The team’s playing as one,” Seavey said. “There’s no selfishness on this team. They’re all on the same page. It’s a great group that way. No one’s worried about who’s on the television highlights or who’s in the newspapers. They’re just worried about the playing the game.
“It seems like we have someone different every game. Reegan’s looking for her offense a little more. She’s so unselfish that she’s fallen off the radar offensively. She makes us so much tougher to defend. There’s a lot of good players out there. We found a way to get it done. I didn’t know if we could be this good.”
While Manning is a proven scoring commodity and is only getting better every time she takes the floor, other players have to be accounted for.
Brackett is the leader, a player who wants the ball in her hands in key situations. She also plays tenacious defense. Colpitts and junior guards Heather Carrier and Brittany Ross can knock down shots. Junior Sarah Moody has become a force inside and out and the return of Pelletier, who missed much of the season (including the Deering game) with injury, has simply made the team that much more formidable.
“We’re playing together pretty good,’ Brackett said. “We’re clicking at the right time with the playoffs coming up. We still have a couple things to work out, but nothing we can’t fix.”
Scarborough was scheduled to wrap up its regular season Thursday night (too late for this edition) with a home game against Biddeford. The Red Storm had a chance to post their best regular season record since going 16-2 31 years ago.
Then, the fun begins.
Scarborough will be the No. 2 seed for the tournament and will begin its quest for a first-ever regional and state title Feb. 16.
All eyes will be on Deering, but the Red Storm will take their chances.
“I think I’d rather fly under the radar at this point and let Deering have the pressure,” Brackett said. “It’s easier to play without pressure. We most definitely want another crack at them. We have a long way to go. The first time, we did pretty well. It would be a good game.”
“Deering’s getting the headlines and they should,” Seavey added. “They’re defending state champions and that’s the case until someone knocks them off. I like our chances. I think we played them well in the regular season without a key player in uniform. They’re very good.
“We’re in opposite brackets. We have to win two games just to get to them in the Western Maine Final. It would be a great match-up. There’s nothing wrong with being the underdog. We’ll get more of a target if we keep winning.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 105 or [email protected]