Cape Elizabeth senior Andrew Hartel handles the ball between Freeport junior Gabe Wagner (22) and senior Shea Wagner during the Capers’ 46-43 victory Tuesday. 

Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald photos.

More photos below.


Cape Elizabeth 46 Freeport 43

CE- 4 8 20 14- 46
F-  11 15 8 9- 43

CE- Morse 6-0-14, Hartel 6-0-12, Mullen 3-3-10, Hagos 2-1-5, Smith 1-0-3, Conley 1-0-2

F- G. Wagner 6-0-15, Shea 4-0-10, Ngoal 2-1-5, Holt 2-0-4, Cockburn 1-0-3, Helie 1-0-2, Thomas 1-0-2, S. Wagner 1-0-2


CE (4) Morse 2, Mullen, Smith 1
F (6) G. Wagner 3, Shea 2, Cockburn 1

CE- 18
F- 18

Free throws
CE: 4-11
F: 1-3

FREEPORT—Heart and trust.

Two elements that are critical to the Cape Elizabeth boys’ basketball program.

And two elements that have been missing at times this winter and were absent in the first half of Tuesday evening’s contest at Freeport.


But those elements returned with a vengeance in the second half and the end result was a thrilling, perhaps season-altering victory.

The Falcons, seeking their first win over the Capers in 11 years, grabbed an 11-4 lead after one quarter, as Cape Elizabeth, which was already playing without senior Tanner Carpenter, who was sidelined by illness, was further hampered when senior big man Andrew Hartel picked up two fouls in just over two minutes.

In the second period, Freeport’s Wagner brothers controlled play at both ends, as junior Gabe Wagner scored inside and out and senior Shea Wagner forced turnovers and produced a jawdropping blocked shot, helping the hosts open up a 26-12 halftime advantage.

When Gabe Wagner drained a 3-pointer 33 seconds into the second half, the Falcons appeared home free, but the Capers, sparked by a halftime pep talk from senior Aman Hagos and the return of Hartel, erupted and made it a game.

Cape Elizabeth, thanks in large part to four Hartel layups, went on a 17-0 run to tie the score.

Freeport seemingly restored control when it went up, 34-29, but just before the third quarter horn, sophomore Nate Mullen banked home a 3 and the Capers only trailed by two and took momentum to the fourth period.


Where 13 seconds in, a 3-ball from sophomore Quinn Morse put Cape Elizabeth ahead to stay.

The Capers eventually produced a run of 13-0 to take control and when Hartel made a layup with 1:44 left, the lead was 46-37, but the Falcons didn’t quit, drew within three and even had a chance to tie it at the horn, but senior Eriksen Shea’s game-tying bid was just off-target and Cape Elizabeth prevailed, 46-43.

Morse had 14 points, Hartel added 12 and Mullen finished with 10 as the Capers evened their record at 6-6 and in the process, dropped Freeport to 8-3.

“This was a good experience,” said longtime Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray. “I tell the guys, ‘You get knocked down and you get back up and you do it with pride and confidence.’ We’ve been struggling and these guys deserve a good win like this, on the road, down by 14 at halftime. We hung with it and played tough. They gutted it out. I’ll remember this one.”

Turning point

Cape Elizabeth and Freeport are both very much in the Class B South title hunt this season.

The Capers opened with losses at two-time defending Class A champion Greely (74-62) and Fryeburg Academy (41-39). After a 74-29 home win over Old Orchard Beach, the Capers evened their record by edging host Gray-New Gloucester, 62-55. After a 53-52 home loss to Waynflete, Cape Elizabeth fell at home to Kennebunk, 71-64, and to Falmouth in a game played at the Portland Exposition Building, 54-25. The Capers then won at Westbrook (60-46) and at Brunswick (60-54) and after falling at Yarmouth (46-44), they beat visiting Lake Region last Thursday, 57-40.


Freeport started with wins at Sacopee Valley (65-27) and Yarmouth (45-41). After a 57-56 home loss to Gray-New Gloucester, the Falcons defeated visiting Traip Academy (62-51), host Morse (82-51), visiting Lincoln Academy (76-33), visiting Old Orchard Beach (95-50) and host Poland (67-49). After its win streak was snapped last Thursday at Greely (75-61), Freeport rebounded with a hard-fought 49-44 home victory over Mt. Ararat Saturday night.

Last year, Cape Elizabeth easily handled visiting Freeport, 63-37.

Tuesday, the Falcons sought their first win over the Capers since Dec. 18, 2007 (53-51 at home), but instead, Cape Elizabeth earned its 13th straight victory in the series.

But it sure didn’t come easily.

Freeport started fast, as junior Heath Cockburn made a 3-pointer 19 seconds in and with 5:36 remaining in the first quarter, Hartel picked up his second foul and had to sit for the remainder of the half.

The Falcons got a 3-ball from Gabe Wagner, but missed several other shots which could have made it a double-digit lead and the Capers answered behind a runner from Morse, which rolled around and around and around and in and a leaner from Hagos to cut the deficit to 6-4.


Wagner added another 3 and in the waning seconds, sophomore Elias Thomas made a layup for an 11-4 Freeport lead. 

The Falcons then opened up an even bigger advantage in the second period, but thanks to Hagos, Cape Elizabeth, which turned the ball over eight times in the first eight minutes, was able to stay within hailing distance.

Early in the frame, Shea Wagner set up senior Toby Holt for a layup, Gabe Wagner made a floater, Holt grabbed an offensive rebound and fed senior Charlie Ngoal for a layup and with 5:46 left in the half, Ngoal made a leaner for a 19-4 advantage.

A Morse leaner snapped Freeport’s 13-0 run and a 5-minute, 38-second drought, but Gabe Wagner made a layup, then Wagner made a layup after a steal to push the lead to 23-6.

Hagos got a point back at the foul line and junior Nolan Smith added a 3 for the visitors, but Shea countered with a 3 before a Hagos jumper pulled the Capers within 26-12 at the break.

“We had a pretty pointed practice yesterday on what to expect, but we were knocked out of synch when Tanner went home sick and Andrew got two fouls,” Ray said. “Good for the other guys to hang in there close enough in the first half.”


In he first half, Gabe Wagner’s 12 points set the tone and Cape Elizabeth was hindered by Hartel’s fouls and 13 turnovers, but behind Hagos’ five points and four rebounds, the Capers’ cause wasn’t lost.

And Hagos played an even bigger role in the locker room.

“I was telling the team we could still do it,” Hagos said. “Down 14 wasn’t anything we couldn’t come back from. I told them I believed in them.” 

“(Aman) was the energy-bringer the whole game,” Hartel said. “He brought us together at halftime. He was big.”

When Gabe Wagner knocked down a 3-pointer 33 seconds into the second half, Freeport was on the brink of pulling away, but by the next 17 points went to Cape Elizabeth.

Hartel scored his first points on a putback with 5:52 left in the third and after a Morse steal, Hartel made a layup.


The Capers were just getting started, as Mullen hit two free throws, Morse made a layup and consecutive Hartel layups cut the deficit to 29-24.

“We just gathered ourselves in the locker room and talked about digging ourselves out and we did that,” Hartel said. “I was chomping at the bit. When I got back in, we changed our defense around and that changed our energy as a team and that definitely helped us. I was just going for the ball.”

“Andrew does everything and he’s a really good player,” Hagos said. “When he’s off the floor, it’s different. We had to work through it.”

With 1:41 on the clock, senior Matt Conley scored on a putback for the visitors and as play moved to the other end of the floor, the whistle blew and Gabe Wagner was called for a technical foul.

Wagner came off the floor, not to return, and Mullen made one of two free throws.

The ensuing possession saw Mullen drive and get a leaner to roll in to complete the comeback and tie the score.


With 56.3 seconds left, a jumper from Shea Wagner put Freeport back on top and Shea added a 3-pointer to seemingly give the Falcons the momentum back, but just before the horn, Mullen threw up a 3-point prayer that banked home and heading for the fourth quarter, Cape Elizabeth was only down by two, 34-32.

“The place went silent when that (3-pointer) happened,” said Freeport coach Bill Ridge. “That wasn’t a horrible defensive possession, but we had a breakdown and the shot went in.” 

“That bank was big,” Hartel said. “It changed our momentum going into the fourth quarter.”

There, it took all of 13 seconds for the Capers to take the lead for good, as Morse buried a 3.

With Freeport unable to answer, Cape Elizabeth got layups from Mullen and Morse and with 4:11 to play, a 3-pointer from Morse to cap a 13-0 run for a stunning 42-34 lead, capping a 30-5 surge.

A Shea jumper snapped a 5:37 drought, but Hartel countered with a putback and after Ngoal made a free throw, Hartel’s layup with 1:44 on the clock stretched the Capers’ lead to 46-37 and seemingly ended all doubt.


But just when they appeared doomed, the Falcons refused to go quietly.

After sophomore Alex Helie scored on a putback, Mullen missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Shea made a layup with 28.4 seconds on the clock to cut the deficit to five.

After Hartel missed a free throw, Holt made a short jumper and with 14.2 seconds remaining, Freeport was within one possession.

Hartel went back to the line with 6.3 seconds to go with a chance to ice it, but again, he missed the front end of a 1-and-1.

The Falcons got the rebound, pushed the ball to the frontcourt and got it to Shea on the left side behind the arc.

Shea had time, had room and lined up his shot, but it was just short, caromed off the rim and the buzzer sounded, giving Cape Elizabeth the 46-43 victory.


“We’ll take that look given the circumstances,” Ridge said. “It just didn’t go in.”

“I watched it the whole way and I trusted it wasn’t going in,” Hartel said. 

“I knew my team was determined and I knew we could beat them,” Hagos said. “We had it in our hearts and I’m proud of our team. We played good defense and did what we do in practice. We kept shooting. Quinn and Nate hit shots. We played like a team.”

“To battle back was really special,” Ray added. “We’ve been struggling. We’ve been in most games, but the kids showed guts and they showed courage and that helps them to believe.

“After the Kennebunk game, I put the word ‘trust’ on the board. I said, ‘You have to trust us and you have to trust your teammates.’ Tonight, the guys had to trust themselves and they had the ability do get it done under pressure.”

Morse had a team-high 14 points to lead the Capers.


Hartel added a dozen points, to go with 12 rebounds and six steals.

Mullen scored 10 points.

Hagos had just five points, but added five rebounds and two steals and his contributions couldn’t be quantified.

“(Aman’s) leadership has been tremendous,” Ray said. “Aman has an I-don’t-know-to-describe-it ingredient. He really stepped up tonight. Someone had to and he didn’t hesitate. He was pretty special.”

Smith added three points and Conley (eight rebounds) had two.

Cape Elizabeth had a 36-28 rebounding advantage and overcame 18 turnovers (just five in the second half) and 4 of 11 foul shooting.


Freeport was led by Gabe Wagner’s 15 points, but Wagner didn’t see the floor in the fourth quarter.

Shea had 10 points, Ngoal five, Holt four, Cockburn three and Helie, Thomas and Shea Wagner (five rebounds, four steals) two apiece.

The Falcons took just three free throws, making one, and turned the ball over 18 times, a dozen of which came in the second half.

“We’re immature and we’re inexperienced and that came through big-time today,” Ridge lamented. “We didn’t execute. We know Cape. We know they’re always good and we know that Coach Ray is as good as it gets. We knew they had a big man who hardly played in the first half and would make a difference. We talked about what we wanted to do in the second half, but we couldn’t do it.”

More showdowns loom 

Freeport (now fourth in the Class B South Heal Points standings) welcomes Yarmouth Friday and plays at Class C South power Waynflete Tuesday of next week.

“We have a boy-girl doubleheader with Yarmouth Friday and I assume the place will be packed,” Ridge said. “Hopefully it’ll be good energy for these guys and a good one for us to come back and get after a tough loss. Hopefully tonight is a good learning experience.”


Cape Elizabeth (fifth in the region) is home Thursday versus York, then welcomes Yarmouth Monday.

“With our schedule coming up, this win helps us get momentum going into that stretch,” Hartel said.

“I think this is a good momentum builder for us,” Hagos said. “We’re on to the next. We can do it if we play like a team.”

“This is huge for us,” Ray added. “Our goal is to get into the tournament. This will help us a lot.”

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

Cape Elizabeth sophomore Quinn Morse makes a layup for two of his team-high 14 points.

Freeport junior Gabe Wagner drives to the basket. Wagner led all scorers with 15 points.

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