BOX SCORE

Wells 49 Cape Elizabeth 36

CE- 8 5 16 7- 36
W- 13 10 8 18- 49

CE- Mullen 6-4-20, Concannon 2-1-5, Swift 1-2-5, Bassett 1-0-2, Bowe 1-0-2, Thornton 1-0-2

W- Leighton 8-0-16, Chandler 4-6-14, Fazzina 2-3-8, Corey 0-4-4, Price 2-0-4, Woodward 1-0-2, Dufort 0-1-1

3-pointers:
CE (5) Mullen 4, Swift 1
W (1) Fazzina 1

Turnovers:
CE- 11
W- 15

FTs
CE: 7-18
W: 14-25

PORTLAND—Last winter, the Cape Elizabeth-Wells boys’ basketball regional final came down to the final second.

Tuesday evening at the Portland Exposition Building, the Capers and Warriors squared off again, this time in a Class B South semifinal and this time, Wells, which lost last year’s meeting by a single point, made sure it made a powerful statement from the onset.

That statement came courtesy senior Nate Chandler, who blocked the game’s first shot, then scored the game’s first basket.

The sixth-ranked Warriors opened up a 13-8 lead after one quarter, then went ahead, 23-13, at halftime.

Wells added a free throw to start the second half, but to the surprise of no one, proud Cape Elizabeth, the No. 7 seed, roared back and behind junior Nate Mullen, drew as close as two, 31-29, heading for the fourth period.

There, the Warriors sealed the deal, pulling away behind their size and foul shooting acumen and they would knock off the defending regional champions, 49-36.

Junior Gavyn Leighton led the way with 16 points, Chandler added 14 and Wells evened its record at 10-10, ended the Capers’ season at 8-12 and in the process, set up a Class B South showdown versus top-ranked Maranacook (18-2) Friday at 3:45 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena.

“Give Wells credit,” said longtime Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray. “They did a good job game planning for our personnel. They were physical and tough and they deserved to win. Their size and the athleticism of their size made a big difference.”

A rite of winter

Cape Elizabeth and Wells have each represented Class B South in a state final the past two years, but only after getting past the other.

In 2018, it was the Warriors prevailing in the regional final, 40-35. Last season, the Capers eked out a 39-38 decision in that round to improve to 5-4 all-time versus Wells in the tournament (see sidebar, above, for previous results).

Much of this season has been a struggle for both teams, however, but when it mattered most, Cape Elizabeth and Wells stood tall.

The Capers won just seven regular season games and were relegated to the No. 7 seed in Class B South, but Friday night in the quarterfinals, they eliminated second-ranked Spruce Mountain (44-35), behind 15 points from sophomore Will Bowe and 11 from Mullen.

The Warriors, meanwhile, won eight regular season games before handling No. 3 Lisbon, 61-36, in Friday’s quarterfinal.

The Capers and Warriors split this year, with each winning on the road, Wells, 52-47, Jan. 14 at Cape Elizabeth and the Capers, 53-38, Jan. 31 in Wells.

Tuesday, the Warriors came out fired up and that set the stage for them to emerge victorious.

Chandler set the tone early by blocking a shot at the defensive end, then scoring the game’s first points on a bank shot.

“That block was a motivator and got everyone ready to go,” said Chandler.

“Nate knew it was do-or-die tonight and he knew we needed an inside presence,” said Wells coach Troy Brown.

After Cape Elizabeth drew even on a leaner off the glass from junior Will Thornton, Leighton scored his first points on a floater.

After Senior Will Concannon drew the Capers even again with a runner off the glass, but a putback from Leighton and a leaner from senior Aaron Price put Wells up four.

After Mullen sank two free throws, Leighton scored on a leaner and after junior Dylan Swift made two foul shots for Cape Elizabeth, Chandler drove for a layup while being fouled and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play and a 13-8 advantage after eight minutes.

Both teams struggled for offense for the first half of the second quarter, but the Warriors rediscovered theirs in time to extend their lead at the half.

It took 3-minutes, 24-seconds for the first points of the frame to be scored and Mullen did the honors by banking home a 3-pointer.

With 4:03 remaining, sophomore Brayden Fazzina set up Price for a layup to snap Wells’ 4:06 drought.

Fazzina then scored his first points, taking a pass from junior Caleb Corey and making a layup.

After Mullen banked home a shot with his left hand, the final six points of the half went to the Warriors, more specifically to Fazzina, who made the first of two free throws, missed the second, but got the rebound and was fouled again, then hit both attempts before sinking a 3-pointer with just under a minute to go to produce a 23-13 halftime advantage.

“(Brayden) stepped up when he needed to,” Chandler said. “It was key to have someone like that step up off the bench.”

“Fazzina came off the bench and got us free throws and hit a 3,” said Brown. “That was big to get a lift from a sophomore.”

When Chandler opened the second half with a free throw, it appeared the Warriors might be on their way to an easy win, but Cape Elizabeth never rolls over and behind Mullen, got right back in the game.

Mullen first scored on a spin move, banking home a shot with his left hand.

Next, Mullen hit a pull-up 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 24-18.

“Mullen is a great player,” Brown said. “At the beginning, he wasn’t hitting 3s, so we laid off him because he got to the rim. Then, he started jacking 3s.”

Chandler countered with two foul shots, but Concannon scored on a leaner, then Mullen sank another 3 to make it a one-possession game, 26-23.

After Leighton banked home a shot for Wells, senior Jack Bassett drove for a layup for the Capers.

Leighton made a layup for the Warriors, but Mullen sank two free throws, then with 44 seconds left in the third quarter, Bowe drove for a layup and just like that, Cape Elizabeth only trailed by one, 30-29.

Corey sank a free throw just before the end of the period, but the Capers were within two heading for the final stanza.

There, Wells re-established control and put it away.

After a Corey foul shot to start the fourth quarter, Corey sank two more free throws, Chandler hit a pair, then with 5:33 on the clock, Leighton’s bank shot extended the lead back to nine, 38-29.

Swift countered with a 3 for Cape Elizabeth, but Chandler broke the press and made a layup, Leighton set up Chandler for a layup and with 3:10 to go, Leighton’s tip-in gave the Warriors a 12-point lead, 44-32.

That ended the competitive phase of the contest and down the stretch, sophomore Connor Woodward hit a jumper and senior Covy Dufort added a free throw for Wells, Concannon’s free throw ended a 4-minute, 40-second scoring drought for the Capers and after Leighton made a layup for the Warriors’ final points, Mullen made one final 3 just before the horn to account for the 49-36 final score.

“It’s great,” Chandler said. “I was thinking about last year’s guys. Some of them were here watching, so it was great to get the win for them. It’s nice to be able to step into roles of guys I looked up to. (Cape’s) a good team and they fought the whole way and we respect that.”

“We’re pretty jacked up,” said Brown. “I’m so proud of how we came out off the bat and played hard from the word go. We might not be great basketball players, but we’re a team. Our defense was awesome and we withstood the rush we knew would come.

“It’s always good to beat a good team and a well-coached team. A lot of times at practice when we’re not scrapping, I say to the kids, ‘What do you think Cape Elizabeth’s doing right now? Cape Elizabeth’s scrapping and if we don’t scrap, we can’t match that.’ I look up to Coach Ray and consider him a good friend.”

Wells was paced by Leighton, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“Gavyn told me he could get to the rim, so we tried to clear it out for him and let him get to the basket,” Brown said. “He’s an athlete.”

Chandler added 14 points, while Fazzina had eight, Corey (four assists) and Price finished with four apiece, Woodward had two and Dufort one.

The Warriors had a 30-19 edge on the glass, overcame 15 turnovers and made 14-of-25 free throws.

They also played their usual gritty defense.

“The game plan was to sag off Mullen and stay in the paint,” Chandler said. “Gavyn played great defense on Bowe and limited his shots.”

Wells now battles a Maranacook squad which edged No. 8 Freeport in the quarterfinals, then dominated fifth-seeded Lake Region, 64-40, in Tuesday’s semifinals, avenging a loss from earlier this season.

The Warriors and Black Bears didn’t meet this winter.

Wells will be the underdog Friday, but this squad has embraced that role.

“We were 8-10 and had lost our last three, then we had a week to get our bearings straight,” Brown said. “We’re as happy as can be to be here. We wanted to get to the Final Four, where anything can happen. Now, who knows? Maybe we can win again and go play Caribou, who I think is going to win the North. Why not?”

Pride

Cape Elizabeth got a game-high 20 points from Mullen. Concannon and Swift each added five, while Bassett (five rebounds), Bowe and Thornton had two apiece.

The Capers only turned the ball over on 11 occasions, but missed 11 of 18 foul shots.

“We got it to a one-possession game and I’m proud of that,” Ray said. “Playing from behind is difficult for us. It’s better to play with a lead, but we were unable to do that.”

The Capers finished with their fewest victories since the 2011-12 squad wound up 7-12, but they fought hard throughout and would up in the semifinals for the sixth straight season.

“It was up-and-down this year, more downs than ups, but at the end of the day, I told them they’ve been one of the best teams I’ve had,” Ray said. “They got knocked down more than just about anybody, but every day, they got back up and came to practice and worked toward the goal of getting here and seeing what would happen. You can’t take that away. That was a good achievement.”

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

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