FREEPORT—You couldn’t ask for a better start than the one enjoyed by the Cape Elizabeth girls’ basketball team in both the first and second halves Monday evening at Freeport.

And while the Capers weren’t able to sustain it over 32 minutes, the jump they got carried them to a victory.

Senior Hannah Sawyer sparked matters, scoring the first six points of the game, as Cape Elizabeth shot to an 8-0 lead in less than three minutes. Thanks to the dazzling athleticism and playmaking of junior Montana Braxton, the visitors poured it on and after one period, the Capers led, 22-6, but the young Falcons settled down in the second quarter and pulled within 37-23 at halftime.

Then, Sawyer struck again, scoring the first seven points of the third period as Cape Elizabeth broke it open, leading by as many as 25 before taking a 53-30 lead to the final stanza.

There, Freeport fought hard to the end, but never drew closer than 15 and the Capers went on to a 62-47 victory.

Braxton had herself a night, scoring 21 points, adding nine assists, seven steals and six rebounds, junior Maddie Bowe added 15 points and Sawyer finished with 13 as Cape Elizabeth improved to 2-1 on the young season, dropping the Falcons to 0-4 in the process.

“It was a great start,” said Capers coach Chris Casterella. “Montana created so much. When she gets into the paint, she’s a great passer. Hannah got the first three baskets. They were easy buckets. That was huge for us.”

Works in progress

Both teams missed the playoffs last winter and both look to improve this season.

Freeport welcomed a new coach in Mike Hart. The Falcons lost their opener, 43-28, at Poland, then fell at home versus Greely (62-26) and at Fryeburg Academy (74-36).

Cape Elizabeth began with a 50-47 win at Wells, then dropped its home finale, 64-46, to Gray-New Gloucester.

Last winter, the Capers beat the visiting Falcons, 48-36.

Monday, Freeport sought its first win over Cape Elizabeth since Dec. 13, 2011 (61-40), but the Capers instead made it three in a row over the Falcons, quickly seizing control of the contest.

Just 11 seconds in, Sawyer put back a miss and the visitors were on top to stay.

The next time down the floor, Braxton drove into the lane and delivered a gorgeous, no-look, left-handed bounce pass to Sawyer for a layup.

With 5:49 to play in the first quarter, off an inbounds set, Braxton set up Sawyer for a jumper and it was 6-0 Cape Elizabeth.

“Montana did a good job of getting me the ball,” Sawyer said. “I just got open shots and they seemed to fall.”

When Braxton scored her first points on a putback 43 seconds later to make it 8-0, Hart called timeout to settle his players.

It worked initially, as senior Lauren Cormier knocked down a jumper, but Braxton hit a pullup jumper, Braxton drove for a layup, Bowe hit a jumper and Braxton made a layup after a steal for a 16-2 advantage.

“I just had to keep moving,” Braxton said. “It was a game where I always had someone on me. I had to move to get open and break the press and look around to pass when the defense stepped it up. I knew I had to come out fired up. I just came out to play tonight.”

Hart again called timeout, but off the ensuing inbounds pass, Mo Lavallee stole the ball and fed Braxton for another layup.

“Mo is like a mini-coach out there,” said Casterella. “We need her stabilizing us.”

A runner from freshman Megan Cormier ended Cape Elizabeth’s 10-0 run and a driving layup from freshman Taylor Rinaldi cut the deficit to 18-6, but the Capers got a jumper from junior Kate Breed and another from Bowe for a 22-6 advantage after eight minutes.

In the first quarter, Braxton had 10 points, four assists and two rebounds and she was just getting started.

Early in the second, Braxton set up Lavallee for a layup and Cape Elizabeth’s biggest lead to that point, 24-6, but Freeport would play much better the remainder of the half.

First, senior Mackenzie Ackley hit a bank shot. Junior Morgan Karnes then scored on a putback and sophomore Regan Lynch hit a jumper to cut the deficit to 24-12.

After Braxton scored on a putback and Bowe hit a pullup jumper, Karnes answered with a bank shot. Braxton made one free throw, but Megan Cormier (off a feed from junior Kayla Belanger) made a layup and Lynch banked home a shot to make it an 11-point contest, 29-18.

Just inside of two minutes to go in the half, Capers senior Ashley Tinsman made a jumper, but Rinaldi sank a 3 to cut the deficit to 10.

Freeport would get no closer, however.

A jumper from Cape Elizabeth junior Carter Harvey ended a 9-2 Falcons’ run. Braxton was then fouled after a steal and sank both free throws. After Megan Cormier made a leaner, Sawyer set up Harvey for a layup to give the Capers a 37-23 advantage at the break.

After not scoring for over 13 game minutes, Sawyer rediscovered her touch in a big way to start the second half.

Just 12 seconds in, Sawyer hit a jumper. Thirty seconds later, she made another. Then, just 57 seconds into the third period, Sawyer sank a 3 and Cape Elizabeth had a 44-23 lead.

“It’s really important to not have a third quarter lull,” Sawyer said. “We’ve experienced that in the past. We had to come out of the locker room and just go for it like we did in the first quarter.”

Bowe added a driving layup and Braxton made a layup after a steal for a 48-23 advantage with 5:30 to go in the third.

At that point, Freeport could have packed it in, but instead, the Falcons fought hard until the final horn.

Rinaldi gave her team some life with a jumper. Rinaldi then made a layup, was fouled and sank the free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play. Harvey countered with a putback, but Belanger set up Megan Cormier for a layup, In the waning seconds, Bowe took a pass from Braxton, made a layup, was fouled in the process, and hit the free throw for a 53-30 lead entering the fourth quarter.

There, Freeport got a putback from junior Bailey Karnes, a free throw from Belanger, a leaner from Lauren Cormier and two foul shots from Megan Cormier to pull within 53-37 with 5:59 to play.

After Bowe made two free throws to end a 7-0 Falcons’ run, Belanger made two foul shots. Braxton set up Bowe for a layup, but Ackley sank a free throw. Braxton countered with a layup, but Rinaldi hit a 3 and Lynch sank a long jumper to cut the deficit to 61-45.

Problem was, less than a minute remained.

Down the stretch, after Elise Mullen made a free throw for Cape Elizabeth’s final point, Lynch made a pair to account for the 62-47 final score.

“Freeport really kept it going,” Bowe said. “They tried to stay in it. We had to score ourselves. We couldn’t sit on our heels.”

“Freeport played tough,” Casterella said. “It’s good they pressured us because I saw some things we need to work on.”

Braxton continues to elevate her already sensational game and might have produced her all-around best stat line (21 points, nine assists, seven steals and six rebounds).

“She’s tough and she seems to be a very good kid,” Hart said. “She’s aggressive and she plays hard. I love her game. She makes you say, ‘Wow!'”

Bowe quietly put up 15 points, to go with seven rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and a steal.

“Maddie played nearly 32 minutes,” Casterella said. “I needed her on the floor. She rebounds and sees the floor well.”

Sawyer had 13 points, all coming in those surges at the start of each half. She also collected a game-high 10 boards and blocked three shots.

Harvey added six points, Breed, Lavallee (four rebounds, two assists and a steal) and Tinsman (six rebounds) all finished with two and Mullen had one.

The Capers turned the ball over 22 times and made just seven of 13 free throws, so Casterella wasn’t completely thrilled at game’s end.

“Had we finished shots, we would have pulled away much earlier than we did,” she said. “We have kids playing roles they’re not used to playing. We have to shore up our defense. Last year, we were defense first. This year it’s different. We have a height advantage, but tonight you wouldn’t have known it.”

Freeport was paced by 13 points from Rinaldi. She also had three steals, three rebounds, two assists and a block. Megan Cormier had 10 points (three rebounds and two blocks), Lynch eight, Lauren Cormier and Morgan Karnes four apiece, Ackley and Belanger (three assists) three each and Bailey Karnes two.

The Falcons committed 21 turnovers and sank 9 of 11 foul shots.

There were some bright spots in defeat, however.

“There were a lot of positives we could build on tonight,” Hart said. “I can’t doubt the effort. The girls played really hard. I felt like we competed. We had lulls at the beginning of the game and the start of the second half. We have to get through the mental lapses and put bad possessions behind us. The kids are coming along. We’re learning a whole lot. Doing it on the floor isn’t like duplicating it from the chalkboard. We’re trying to perfect the things we do in practice.”

Say goodbye to 2014

Both teams play two games before the end of the old year.

Freeport is at York Thursday and hosts Wells Saturday.

The Falcons will continue to improve.

“We’re getting there,” Hart said. “It just takes time. We had mental mistakes that led to easy buckets for them. We have to get past that. When we make those adjustments, we’ll be tough to beat. It would be nice to get a win before break.”

Cape Elizabeth will host Yarmouth Saturday and closes at home versus Kennebunk on Dec. 23.

This is a team with a big upside, one which could beat anybody, but if they don’t come to play for 32 minutes, they could also lose to just about anyone.

“We’ll take each game as it comes and not look ahead,” Sawyer said.

“We have new people and people who are getting time who didn’t get as much last year,” said Bowe. “It’s been a transition, but we’re getting better as we go.”

“Last year, we were disappointed we didn’t make playoffs,” said Braxton. “This year, it’s going to come down to the fourth quarter every game. We can’t sit back on our heels. We want to keep pushing to gain extra (Heal Points) to make playoffs.”

“We find positives every game, but we have to keep getting better,” Casterella added. “We can’t look past anybody. “We can lay an egg like anybody else because if we do, we’ll lose. Hopefully by the end of the year, we’re a different team than we are now. There’s a lot to build on.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Freeport junior Kayla Belanger tries to dribble around Cape Elizabeth junior Montana Braxton.

Cape Elizabeth junior Montana Braxton looks to pass as Freeport junior Bailey Karnes defends.

Freeport junior Bailey Karnes dribbles up the floor as Cape Elizabeth junior Maddie Bowe falls down.

Cape Elizabeth junior Kate Breed looks to pass.

Freeport sophomore Regan Lynch launches a shot.

Freeport freshman Taylor Rinaldi, who led her team with 13 points, brings the ball up the court.

Sidebar Elements

Cape Elizabeth junior Montana Braxton races up the floor as Freeport freshman Taylor Rinaldi gives chase during the teams’ contest Monday night. The Falcons had no luck catching Braxton, as she had 21 points and nine assists, and the Capers prevailed, 62-47.

Ben McCanna photos.

More photos below.


Cape Elizabeth 62 Freeport 47

CE- 22 15 16 9- 62
F- 6 17 7 17- 47

CE- Braxton 9-3-21, Bowe 6-3-15, Sawyer 6-0-13, Harvey 3-0-6, Breed 1-0-2, Lavallee 1-0-2, Tinsman 1-0-2, Mullen 0-1-1
F- Rinaldi 5-1-13, M. Cormier 4-2-10, Lynch 3-2-8, L. Cormier 2-0-4, M. Karnes 2-0-4, Ackley 1-1-3, Belanger 0-3-3, B. Karnes 1-0-2

CE (1) Sawyer 1
F (2) Rinaldi 2

CE- 22
F- 21

CE: 7-13
F: 9-11