BOX SCORE

Greely 52 Falmouth 47

F- 15 11 9 12- 47
G- 16 16 7 13- 52

F- Ginevan 6-4-17, Lozoraitis 2-3-8, Turgeon 2-2-8, Abbott 3-0-7, Christman 2-0-4, Stucker 1-1-3

G- Graiver 7-4-24, Ippolito 5-4-19, Crocker 1-1-3, Delisle 1-1-3, Read 1-0-2, Kelman 0-1-1

3-pointers:
F (5) Turgeon 2, Abbott, Ginevan, Lozoraitis 1
G (11) Graiver 6, Ippolito 5

Turnovers:
F- 9
G- 14

FTs
F: 10-16
G: 11-22

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PORTLAND—Greely’s girls’ basketball team might have a different look this winter, but the Rangers are headed to a familiar place.

The regional final.

Wednesday afternoon at the Portland Exposition Building, the second-ranked Rangers, as expected, got pushed to the brink by rival and third-seeded Falmouth, but thanks to a long-range shooting display that harkened back to the glory days, Greely was able to do just enough to survive and advance.

Rangers junior Sophia Ippolito made three 3-pointers in the game’s first three minutes and senior standout Chelsea Graiver added another to help open up a six-point lead, but the resilient and valiant Navigators closed to within one, 16-15, when sophomore Emily Abbott made a late layup.

With Falmouth junior star Anna Turgeon sidelined with two fouls, Gravier’s 3 helped open up a 25-20 lead, but Turgeon returned to the floor and tied it up at 25-25, before picking up her third foul moments later.

That helped Greely close the half on a 7-1 run and behind 14 points from Graiver and 13 from Ippolito, it held a 32-26 halftime advantage.

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When Graiver made consecutive 3s midway through the third period and Turgeon was whistled for her fourth foul with 3:43 to go, it appeared the Rangers were going to pull away, but junior Sloane Ginevan’s basket kept the Navigators within four, 39-35, heading to the fourth period.

Where Greely did just enough to hold on.

A layup from senior Kaiyla Delisle with 4:18 left stretched the Rangers lead to seven, but even after Turgeon fouled out with three minutes to play, Falmouth drew within three points at 47-44, 49-46 and 50-47 before two Graiver free throws finally put it away and Greely prevailed, 52-47.

Graiver led all scorers with 24 points, Ippolito added 19 and the Rangers improved to 15-4, ended Falmouth’s season at 14-6 and advanced to meet top-ranked Brunswick (18-2) in the Class A South Final, tentatively scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena.

“It means so much to me to get to the regional final,” said Ippolito. “It’s a whole new team from my freshman year, so just knowing we got here and we’re going to the regional final is the best feeling in the world. Winning this one shows us that we’re capable.”

Semifinal showdown

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Greely is accustomed to going this deep in the playoffs, reaching the semifinals for the 15th year in a row, while Falmouth’s semifinal appearance two years ago was its first since 2009, but both teams have shown glimpses of being elite this winter and have saved their best for last (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

The Rangers went 2-2 to start the year, then caught fire and in Monday’s quarterfinal round, had little trouble with No. 7 Marshwood, the reigning Class A champion, in rolling to a 49-27 victory.

The Navigators had battled injury and COVID-related absences virtually the whole season, but an overtime win at previously undefeated Brunswick in the final week gave them confidence they could play with anyone. Monday, in the quarterfinals, Falmouth trailed much of the first three quarters before rallying for a 41-29 victory over No. 6 Morse.

The teams had split two prior playoff encounters (see sidebar).

Wednesday, Falmouth hoped to end a 12-game, eight-plus-year skid at the hands of the Rangers and beat them for the first time since Dec. 21, 2013 (53-45 at home), but instead, Greely made it 22 victories in the teams’ last 23 encounters.

But just barely.

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Falmouth junior Heather Stucker races into the front court as Greely sophomore Asja Kelman defends during the Rangers’ 52-47 victory in Wednesday’s Class A South semifinals. Hoffer photos.

Ippolito hinted at a huge game to come when she buried her first 3-pointer just 22 seconds in.

“I think a big thing for me and it always has been, is making that first shot,” Ippolito said. “That boosted my confidence and our energy. I was off last game, so I really focused on my arc. I’m so happy it worked today. My practice paid off.”

The Navigators got on the board on a Ginevan layup after a steal and with 6:09 to go in the opening stanza, a jumper from sophomore Maddy Christman gave Falmouth what proved to be its only lead.

Ippolito’s second 3-ball, 43 seconds later, gave the Rangers the lead back and after making a free throw, Ippolito took a pass from Graiver in transition and hit another 3, giving her 10 points and her team a six-point advantage.

“We knew we had to come out strong and it was great to watch (Sophia) knock down those 3s,” Graiver said. “I just love seeing her confidence. She just gives us so much energy.”

Falmouth responded, as Ginevan made a free throw, then Turgeon hit a 3 with 3:09 on the clock, but 43 seconds later, Turgeon fouled Delisle and had to sit the remainder of the quarter.

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Delisle made one of two free throws, then Graiver sank her first 3.

After Ginevan made a layup, sophomore Kylie Crocker hit a short jumper for Greely, but in the final minute, junior Katie Lozoraitis drained a 3 and Abbott drove for a layup to cut the deficit to 16-15 after an exciting first period.

Ippolito had 10 points in the frame, while Ginevan kept the Navigators close with five.

The Rangers’ long-range shooting acumen continued in the second period, as Graiver got things started with a 3 and after Abbott banked home a 3 for Falmouth, Ippolito sank a 3 from the corner to make it 22-18.

Ginevan scored on a putback, but Graiver answered with another 3-ball to push the lead to five.

The Navigators then got Turgeon back and after Lozoraitis made a free throw and Abbott banked home a runner, Turgeon drew Ippolito’s third foul, then sank two free throws to tie it, 25-25, with 2:50 to go before halftime.

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It took only 11 seconds for the Rangers to answer and go ahead to stay, as junior Allie Read made a short jumper.

Then, with 1:51 on the clock, Turgeon fouled Graiver, her third foul, and Graiver sank two free throws.

Thirty-two seconds later, after sophomore Zada Smith kept possession alive with an offensive rebound, the ball came to Graiver again and she buried Greely’s eighth 3 of the half.

“I didn’t have a great first quarter and I wanted to win, so I had to hit some shots and step up for the team,” Graiver said. “(My teammates) did a great job getting me the ball.”

Ginevan made a free throw in the final minute, but the Rangers were on top at the break, 32-26, thanks to 14 points from Graiver and 13 from Ippolito.

The second half featured Greely trying to put it away and Falmouth answering, but never quite getting over the hump.

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Greely senior Chelsea Graiver looks for room as she drives into the lane.

Forty-five seconds into the third quarter, after junior Justine Means kept possession alive with an offensive rebound, Ginevan sank a 3, but Graiver said anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better by sinking consecutive 3s to give the Rangers their biggest lead, 38-29.

Lozoraitis got a point back at the line with 3:56 to go in the period and Turgeon returned to the floor, but in a mere 13 seconds, she was whistled for her fourth foul and had to return to the bench.

Her teammates kept fighting, as junior Heather Stucker converted an old-fashioned three-point play (basket, foul and free throw) and after Ippolito made one free throw, Ginevan hit a leaner in the lane to keep the Navigators very much in it, 39-35, heading to the fourth quarter.

Where Graiver, Ippolito and Company simply refused to lose.

Ippolito, who hadn’t made a 3-pointer in the second half, ended that drought 44 seconds into the fourth period on a play on which Graiver showed her athleticism, stumbling, but managing to pass the ball to Delisle, who found Ippolito for the shot.

Again, Falmouth answered, as Ginevan took a pass from Abbott and made a layyup, then Christman scored on a putback, but with 4:49 to play, Ippolito made two of three free throws and 31 seconds later, sophomore Asja Kelman set up Delisle for a layup and a 46-39 advantage.

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Turgeon then made one final shot, a 3, but with 3:02 to go, she fouled out of the game and Kelman made one of two free throws to make it 47-42.

Ginevan made it a one-possession game with two foul shots 13 seconds later, but Graiver wouldn’t be denied, driving for a layup to push it back to five.

With 1:05 left, Lozoraitis banked home a runner to cut the deficit back to three.

Graiver then missed the front end of a one-and-one, but she got her own rebound and with 34.8 seconds to go, Crocker went to the line for a one-and-one. Crocker sank the first attempt to make it a two-possession game, then missed the second.

With 21.2 seconds showing, Lozoraitis made the first of two free throws, but missed the second.

With 18.6 seconds on the clock, Graiver went back to the line and made one of two shots for some breathing room.

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Abbott then had a look at a 3 which could have made things very interesting, but she missed and Delisle got the rebound.

With 7.8 seconds to go, Graiver made one more free throw and that finally did it and at 2:22 p.m., Greely was able to celebrate its 52-47 victory.

Greely players rush the court to celebrate the victory.

“We were on fire today shooting,” said Ippolito. “We stayed in control and we picked up our rebounding. On defense, I thought we played really scrappy. Everyone out there contributed greatly. I think about how hard we work in practice and that got us here. We really wanted this win today. We make sure we’re all working together. We’ve really worked on our team chemistry, shooting, defense and it all translates to games. I’m so happy with the improvement we’ve shown.”

“It was definitely the game I was expecting,” Graiver said. “We beat them earlier and I knew they wanted revenge. We knew it would be a physical game. Leading from the beginning definitely helped. We just battled and hung on. It was definitely stressful missing those free throws because I normally make them, but we knew we had to play lockdown defense and give it everything we had.”

“We made just enough plays,” Greely coach Todd Flaherty added. “It was nerve-wracking. We had missed free throws and unforced turnovers, but we survived it. That was a good tournament game. This was the game I was expecting. Turgeon’s foul trouble helped us, but the rest of her team played very, very well. It was physical for awhile. Our Marshwood game prepped us to fight through that, so I’m proud of the girls. I think there’s been an emphasis to let the girls play a little more physically. We like that and I think it’s good for the game. We gave some of their players open 3s, to be honest. They shot with confidence and we were lucky they didn’t go in.”

Graiver didn’t just have a game-high 24 points, she also had seven rebounds and a pair of assists.

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“It’s so much fun to play with Chelsea,” said Ippolito. “She definitely makes me a better player. I enjoy how she sees the floor and allows everyone to contribute. Her attitude is something I look up to.”

“Chelsea did her thing,” said Flaherty. “Next year, I’ll actually have to diagram some kind of press break. We just get the ball to her and let her go.”

Ippolito was sensational on both ends of the floor, scoring 19 points, grabbing five rebounds, dishing out three assists and spending the majority of the game guarding either Ginevan or Turgeon.

“For me, it’s just making sure that I stay on top of them and not letting them catch the ball,” said Ippolito, of her defensive approach. “Playing tough, deny defense is always super-key. That does get in their head. That’s what I keep in mind when I guard the best players.”

“(Sophia’s) been our defensive leader all year long,” Flaherty said. “She always gets the toughest assignment. She did a great job and she hit some bombs early. She’s our best shooter percentage-wise and in practice. She got us started, then she hit a big one at the end.”

Crocker and Delisle (who had a game-high 13 rebounds) both finished with three points, Read added two and Kelman had one (to go with four rebounds and a couple assists).

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Greely made 11 3-pointers to Falmouth’s five, draining 11-of-24 attempts, enjoyed a 46-36 rebound advantage, went 11-of-22 from the foul line and overcame 14 turnovers.

Wait ’til next year

Falmouth was paced offensively by Ginevan, who had 17 points, as well as nine rebounds and two steals. Lozoraitis (four rebounds, two steals) added eight points, as did Turgeon in her limited time on the floor.

“Unfortunately, that’s been a problem for Anna this year,” said Navigators coach Dawn Armandi. “She plays hard. Sometimes because she plays hard, she winds up on the bench. It’s tough not having her. She’s our number one. She’s played outstanding all year long and (Greely) got her on the bench and it made it very hard for us to do what we do best.”

Abbott finished with seven points, Christman had four (to go with 12 rebounds and three blocked shots) and Stucker finished with three.

The Navigators only turned the ball over nine times, but shot 16-of-59 from the floor, including 5-of-23 from behind the 3-point line, and 10-of-16 from the free throw line.

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Despite the myriad challenges, Falmouth fought to the bitter end.

“I think we’re the better team, I really do,” said Armandi said. “We didn’t play like the better team today, clearly, but I love this team. They work hard. We’ve struggled through a lot of adversity this year and we wanted it. We don’t give up. We tried, but the ball just didn’t go in the hoop for us.

“Kudos to (Greely). They shot unbelievably well. Considering all the 3s they made, we were still in it. Their game is getting to the rim and to the free throw line and we took that away. We knew Sophia was a shooter. Chelsea’s the best player in Class A South, no doubt about it. Our game plan was to not let them speed up the game, which they like to do. They like to run and dribble-drive and we took that away. We took a chance from the 3-point line and kudos to them for hitting them.”

If there’s a silver lining for Falmouth, it’s the fact that every player on the roster will return next year, meaning the Navigators will likely be the favorite in Class A South.

That’s a bulls-eye they’ll welcome.

“I said to the girls in the locker room that we have a unique opportunity,” Armandi said. “We don’t lose anybody, but we have to put in the work and people have to show up in the summertime. The summer’s for fundamentals and the season’s for strategy. I think the girls want it and next year, we should hopefully dominate.”

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Trophy time

The Class A South Final is supposed to be contested Friday night, but it’s likely to be moved to Saturday due to impending bad weather.

Regardless, the Rangers will have their hands full.

Greely lost at home to Brunswick, 54-40, way back on Dec. 14 in the season’s second game. The Rangers are 2-1 all-time versus the Dragons in the playoffs, falling in the 2017 Class A South Final (54-51) and winning in the 2018 Class A South Final (66-49) and the 2019 Class A South Final (54-33).

“Playing in a state final is a dream of mine,” said Ippolito. “I got to the team just after the (2018 and 2019) state championships. We made it to the regional final my freshman year. We just have to keep up our defense, competitiveness and attitude and work together.”

“It means the world to get back to a regional final,” Graiver said. “It just shows you don’t need a ton of talent to get there, you just need to be scrappy and have heart. We just need to bring energy and work hard and scrap. Brunswick’s a very good team. We’ll just have to battle.”

“This is a scrappy group, but we pride ourselves on being scrappy and tough,” Flaherty added. “This group has improved more than any group I’ve had at Greely. They’ve really improved a lot. I think we can beat anybody, but we have to play well. We can’t play average or below average. We’re not stacked with super talent anymore, so we’ll have to play our best game of the tournament.”

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

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