Even teams with state titles on their resume aren’t immune from nerves.

The Cape Elizabeth boys’ basketball team was out of sorts early in its Class A South quarterfinal against York on Saturday, so Coach Jim Ray called a quick timeout. He wasn’t happy with the way his Capers were defending Wildcats forward Trevor LaBonte. He thought the offense was unusually stagnant.

Both problems were quickly corrected. Third-seeded Cape Elizabeth dominated the second quarter and coasted to a 59-43 victory at the Portland Expo.

Sophomore guard Finn Bowe scored 13 of his game-high 19 points in the first half to lead the Capers, who won the Class B state title last year.

“To start a playoff game, I think the first quarter is always the hardest, but then we just settled down and waited for the shots to come to us and buckled down on defense,” said Bowe, a reserve on last year’s team who attempted 14 first-half shots Saturday.

“A few plays were designed. And I hit one, so we ran the same play again.”

Bowe hit back-to-back 3-pointers to close out the first half with Cape Elizabeth leading 34-23. Ray said those points were key in allowing his team to relax.

“Our goal was to attack the rim. It’s nice when we hit those outside shots, but we don’t want to live with them the whole game,” he said.

As for his young guard putting up nearly half of his team’s shots in the first half, Ray said he wasn’t surprised.

“If you know the Bowe family at all, it’s kind of in their DNA,” he chuckled.

LaBonte scored seven points as sixth-seeded York (9-10) took a 12-6 lead. The 6-foot-5 junior finished with 11. Payton Small also had 11 points for the Wildcats.

“(LaBonte’s) name came up,” Ray said of that first-quarter timeout. “His name came up all week. It was just how we were stepping up on him and allowing, you know, 5-10 guys trying to block his shot, it’s not going to work.

“Everyone’s trying to play team defense and a big problem is we get caught ball-watching. You’re giving too much help to the ball, you’re not respecting your man and your man’s moving, so when he gets it that’s when he’s dangerous. Someone of his caliber, if he doesn’t get it he’s not going to hurt us. So let’s do a better job on the ball so we don’t have to worry so much about the help off the ball.”

Cape Elizabeth (15-4) forced 25 York turnovers, outscoring the Wildcats 36-18 in the middle two quarters. Next up is a semifinal match at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Falmouth.

Ray said this year’s group of Capers is still trying to find its identity. Saturday’s methodical dismantling of a solid York team was a good step on that path.

“They’ve been getting better and now we’re going to see if they can step up. It’s just that natural progression. Hopefully it keeps coming along,” Ray said.

“The quarterfinal game is always an extremely tough game for everybody.”


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