BOX SCORE

Greely 38 Brunswick 35

G- 9 7 10 12- 38
B- 5 7 11 12- 35

G- Graiver 6-7-19, Kelman 2-2-6,Wright 2-1-6, Delisle 2-0-4, Ippolito 1-0-3

B- Brown 3-1-9, L. Morin 2-5-9, S. Morin 2-3-7, Foster 2-0-5, Carlton 1-2-4, Sullivan 0-1-1

3-pointers:
G (2) Ippolito, Wright 1
B (3) Brown 2, Foster 1

Turnovers:
G- 21
B- 15

FTs
G: 10-16
B: 12-17

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PORTLAND—For several years, Greely’s girls’ basketball team made championship runs with the likes of Ashley Storey, Anna DeWolfe, Camille Clement and Brooke Obar leading the way.

Those teams were expected to win.

The 2021-22 Rangers were not.

But these Rangers have perfect the art of winning as a team and Saturday afternoon at the Portland Exposition Building, second-ranked Greely capped a stirring regional playoff run by doing just enough to hold off top-seeded Brunswick in the Class A South Final.

Thanks to key performances from players expected and unexpected.

The Rangers stymied the Dragons from the start and thanks to seven points from senior standout Chelsea Graiver, held a 9-5 lead after one quarter.

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Brunswick came back and took a momentary lead in the second period, but Greely closed on a 5-0 run, capped by two Graiver free throws, for a 16-12 halftime advantage.

Offense picked up slightly in the third quarter and after the Dragons opened the second half with six consecutive points to go back on top, Greely settled down, went back ahead and took a 26-23 lead to the fourth period.

There, the Rangers opened up a 32-24 advantage on a runner from Graiver, but proud Brunswick roared back and when senior star Logan Brown got a 3-pointer to rattle home with 2:43 on the clock, the game was deadlocked.

But Greely saved its best for last, as senior Kaiyla Delisle scored a go-ahead basket, Graiver added two free throws and after the Dragons missed a chance to go ahead with under 15 seconds on the clock, sophomore Asja Kelman made a foul shot for some insurance before stealing the ball to clinch it and the Rangers held on for a 38-35 victory.

Graiver led all scorers with 19 points as Greely improved to 16-4, ended Brunswick’s terrific season at 18-3 and advanced to the Class A state final, where it will battle powerhouse Skowhegan (21-0) Saturday at 1 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

“I thought this might be possible maybe halfway through the season if the stars aligned,” said Rangers coach Todd Flaherty. “We started off rough, but I could see a path even if it was a wild dream. I can’t believe the way the girls hung in there and played so tough.”

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Familiar sight

Prior to 2017, Brunswick and Greely had never met in a regular season game, not to mention a tournament contest, but that year marked the first of three in a row that the Dragons and Rangers squared off in the Class A South Final (see sidebar for previous results).

This season, Brunswick was on a championship game course from the get-go, while Greely hit its stride as the season progressed.

The Dragons won their first 15 games, lost at home to Falmouth in overtime and after downing Morse, closed with a loss at Mt. Ararat, but Brunswick lived up to billing as the top seed in the region, eliminating No. 9 Biddeford (72-21) in the quarterfinals before holding off No. 4 Mt. Ararat in an overtime in Wednesday’s semifinal round, 43-38.

The Rangers, meanwhile, started 2-2, then took off and went 11-2 down the stretch (see sidebar for links to previous stories). Greely made quick work of No. 7 Marshwood, the reigning Class A champion, in the quarterfinals (49-27), then held off No. 3 Falmouth in a thrilling semifinal Wednesday, 52-47.

“We’ve battled all year and came back strong and it continued into playoffs,” Graiver said. “I always believed in us. We were just young. We lost seven seniors last year, so we just needed to build some momentum. We played as a team and I’m really proud of us.”

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The teams met once this year, way back on Dec. 14, when Brunswick came to Cumberland and beat the Rangers, 54-40.

Saturday would prove to be a very different story.

It was clear early that offense would be at a premium, as it took nearly a minute-and-a-half for the Dragons to open the scoring, on a layup from junior Sophia Morin, set up by junior Kelsie Carlton.

Greely didn’t score until 3:40 remained in the opening stanza, when Graiver scored on a pull-up jumper.

Graiver then converted an old-fashioned three-point play (bank shot, foul and free throw) before Brunswick drew even on a three-point play from Brown.

Late in the frame, Graiver set up Delisle for a layup and Graiver hit a jumper in the lane for a 9-5 lead after eight minutes.

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Graiver had seven points and assisted on the other basket while also grabbing a pair of rebounds.

There wouldn’t be much offense in the second quarter either.

Foster hit a jumper to open the frame and after Graiver got an elbow jumper to rattle home, freshman Lexi Morin made two free throws for the Dragons, Carlton added two more, then senior Kelsey Sullivan made another with 2:21 to go before halftime for a 12-11 lead.

But Brunswick wouldn’t score again in the half and Greely rallied, as Graiver set up freshman Grier Wright for a 3-pointer and Graiver tacked on two foul shots for a 16-12 advantage at the half.

Gravier’s 11 points led the way and the Dragons made just 3-of-24 field goals in the first 16 minutes of action.

Brunswick then came out strong in the third period, courtesy Lexi Morin.

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A pair of Morin free throws got things going and Morin tied it on a putback before Brown found Morin for a layup and an 18-16 lead.

With 2:35 left in the third, Kelman scored her first points on a putback to end a 5 minute, 52 second drought.

Graiver then found junior Sophia Ippolito for her lone points of the night, a 3-pointer from the corner, to put the Rangers back in the lead.

After the Dragons drew even on a 3 from Brown, Graiver inbounded the ball to Kelman for a layup, then Wright scored on a runner.

Carlton countered with a driving layup, but a late free throw from Kelman sent Greely to the fourth period with a slim 26-23 lead.

The first minute of the final period saw Graiver make two free throws, then go coast-to-coast before finishing to stretch the advantage to seven.

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Lexi Morin got a point back at the line, but with 4:01 to go, Graiver’s runner in the lane put the Rangers up, 32-24, and put Brunswick on the ropes.

But the Dragons roared back, as Foster hit a clutch 3, Foster set up Sophia Morin for a layup, then with 2:43 to go, Brown’s 3 point attempt hit the rim, then dropped, and the game was tied, 32-32.

But Greely didn’t waver, as sophomore Kylie Crocker passed to Delisle for a short jumper and the Rangers were finally on top to stay.

“I just saw a ball and shot it,” Delisle said.

After a Brunswick turnover, Graiver weaved through the defense and was fouled, then hit both attempts for a 36-32 lead with 1:39 left.

The Dragons answered on two Sophia Morin foul shots, but with 46.7 seconds to go, Wright calmly sank the first of two free throws.

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“Grier is our secret weapon,” said Flaherty. “She’s a good little offensive player. She helped us a lot.”

Wright missed the second attempt and with 25.9 seconds showing, Sophia Morin made one of two foul shots to pull Brunswick within 37-35.

After Greely senior Jordan Bickford missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Dragons had a chance to tie or take the lead and Foster had a good look to do just that, but her 3-point shot missed and Kelman got the rebound and was fouled with just 9.3 seconds left.

Kelman made her first shot, which rolled around and around the rim before dropping.

“It was really nervewracking, with so many fans there, but I knew my team was behind me,” Kelman said.

Kelman had a chance to ice the victory with a second free throw, but it was off-line and the rebound went out of bounds to the Dragons, who had one final chance to tie.

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But Kelman atoned for her missed foul shot, stealing a long pass.

“It was discouraging to miss that, but I knew I had to do what I could to get it back,” Kelman said. “I saw the ball coming and I knew I could jump and I got it.”

Kelman quickly got the ball to Graiver and Graiver dribbled out the clock and at 5:18 p.m., the Rangers got to celebrate their 38-35 victory.

“We lost to them by 14 in the regular season, but we’re a completely different team now,” Graiver said. “A lot to credit to Brunswick. Their matchup zone was a extremely difficult to play against. It was the best feeling to hear the horn, especially after we lost in regional finals (to Marshwood in 2020).”

“I was pretty confident in our team,” Kelman said. “We dig deep every game. I knew we’d come out strong and do what we do best. We had a lot of up-and-down games, so I was confident we could battle back.”

“I think a big thing for us is trusting each other,” said Delisle. “We’ve all built friendships and knowing we have each other’s back brought us back. Winning is beautiful. I texted Chelsea last night and said, ‘There’s no way we’re losing. We can’t.’ I sprained my ankle last time we played (Brunswick) and we had some girls out with COVID, so we knew coming in this time that we had the upper hand.”

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“Everybody contributed,” Flaherty added. “I’m really proud of the girls. It feels good, it really does. We don’t have marquee names, other than Chelsea, but the others all pitched in.”

Graiver, who was named the regional tournament’s most valuable player, had 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

“I just tried to get to the basket and get fouled,” said Graiver, who is bound for Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts next year. “I knew I could create some offense for us.”

“Chelsea showed everyone how special she is,” Flaherty said. “They made it tough on her and double-teamed her, but she played her (tail) off.”

Kelman added six points, seven rebounds and the biggest steal of her life. Wright had six points, Delisle four and Ippolito three. Ippolito also played stellar defense, yet again.

“I have to give so much credit to Sophia,” Graiver said. “She’s been our best defender all year. She shut Logan down. We knew we’d have to play our best defense to win this game.”

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“We put Ippolito on Brown and thought she could do a good job on her and she did,” Flaherty said. “She’s done that all year-long against the other team’s best player.”

The Rangers overcame 21 turnovers by holding a 30-27 advantage on the glass and hitting 10-of-16 free throws (Greely was 13-of-36 from the floor, including 2-of-11 from 3-point land).

“We wanted to out-fight them for rebounds,” Flaherty said. “They’re aggressive and strong in the lane, but we held our own.”

Oh so close

Brunswick got nine points apiece from Brown and Lexi Morin (eight rebounds). Sophia Morin added seven points, Foster had five, Carlton four and Sullivan one.

The Dragons shot just 10-of-45 from the field, made only 3-of-15 3-pointers and hit 12-of-17 free throws, while committing 15 turnovers.

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“We just couldn’t hit shots,” Brunswick coach Sam Farrell lamented. “Both teams played great defense. We took away what they wanted to do and they took away what we wanted to do, but we had great looks. Missing some layups made a difference in this one. I don’t think anyone would have believed this would end up 38-35. The difference last time was we hit those shots. We got stops and rebounds, but come tournament time, you have to make buckets. We had some loose balls we couldn’t get to and that might have changed things. We weren’t on anybody’s watch list, so to be the number one seed and come a bucket short of extending this, I can’t be too upset.”

Brunswick graduates Brown, Foster, Sullivan and Blake Austin.

“We celebrate our four seniors,” Farrell said. “They’re four of the best kids to ever come through Brunswick High School. There was never a day when I didn’t want to go to practice and that says everything about these kids.”

The Dragons do return their share of talent and will be in the regional title hunt again next winter.

“There were times we played with two freshmen on the floor in the tournament,” Farrell said. “We’ll try to go one step further next year.”

Back to states

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Greely and Skowhegan have no history.

The River Hawks are led by the favorite for Miss Maine Basketball, Jaycie Christopher, and will pose a mighty challenge, but rest assured that the Rangers will be ready next weekend.

Even if no one else outside their inner circle believes in them.

“I can’t even explain how amazing this feels,” Delisle said. “We have to trust each other and believe we can do this.”

“We’ll work off each other and do what we do best,” said Kelman. “We’ll keep our heads up the whole time.”

“I don’t really think anyone expected us to get this far,” Graiver said. “We’ll play like we don’t have anything to lose, since we’re the underdogs. This is just the best feeling ever.”

“Skowhegan’s very good,” Flaherty added. “We have a big problem in Christopher. We’ll have to prepare, but we also have to play our game. Having this extra week together will be really nice.”

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

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