SOUTH PORTLAND—What do you do when your opponent knows you well?

Throw them a curveball.

Wednesday evening at Beal Gymnasium, in a Class AA South quarterfinal, Scarborough’s girls’ basketball team paid South Portland a visit for the third time this winter and in the teams’ fourth encounter overall, the Red Storm employed an unexpected approach, a zone defense, which proved to be the difference.

The Red Riots started fast, as senior Anna Brown buried three 3s in the game’s first three-plus minutes, but an 8-0 run allowed Scarborough to take a 16-15 advantage to the second quarter.

There, the Red Storm’s defensive intensity, sparked by sophomore Emerson Flaker, held South Portland scoreless for over six minutes and the visitors were able to take a 26-19 lead to the half.

The Red Riots tried to answer in the third period, getting as close as two and the game went to the fourth quarter with Scarborough clinging to a 31-28 advantage.


But down the stretch, the Red Storm turned to junior standout Caroline Hartley, who scored 11 points, and Scarborough put the game away at the foul line, closing out a 50-34 victory.

Hartley led the way with 18 points, Flaker added a dozen and the Red Storm improved to 9-10, ended South Portland’s season at 9-10 and set up a semifinal round showdown versus top-ranked Thornton Academy (17-1) next Wednesday evening at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

“We try to put ourselves in the best situation to be successful,” said Scarborough coach Mike Giordano, who once spent 17 years leading the Red Riots. “I don’t think (Scarborough) expected tonight what we were doing defensively and we certainly kept them off balance. We normally play man-to-man and we played zone. We’re athletic, so whatever defense we’re in, we’ll make things difficult. We just gave them a different look and we rebounded really well too.”

Well acquainted

Scarborough and South Portland know each other very well after playing an uncommon three times during the regular season, a scheduling change necessitated when Massabesic wasn’t able to field a varsity team.

The Red Riots won twice, 49-35 at home and 45-31 in Scarborough, while the Red Storm won the second meeting in South Portland, 47-30.


South Portland, which showed glimpses of greatness during an up-and-down regular season, won its final three games to wind up 9-9 and fourth in the region (see sidebar, for links to previous stories).

Scarborough, meanwhile, was just 2-6 at one juncture before rallying to go 8-10, good for the No. 5 seed.

Entering play Wednesday, the teams had played six previous times in the tournament (see sidebar for results), with the Red Storm holding a 4-2 advantage. Scarborough took the most recent encounter, 35-25, in the 2019 Class AA South Final.

This time around, in front of a boisterous crowd, the Red Storm did it again, while also serving notice to the region’s top seed that they might just be saving their best basketball for last.

Scarborough junior Caroline Hartley drives past South Portland senior Samantha Duffy (5) and freshman Caleigh Corcoran for a layup early in the Red Storm’s 50-34 victory. Hoffer photos.

The Red Riots shot to a quick 5-0 lead behind a jumper from senior Ava Bryant and Brown’s first 3, but Scarborough settled in, as Flaker made a free throw, then Flaker set up Hartley for a 3-pointer in transition which bounced in to cut the deficit to one.

After Brown answered with her second 3, Hartley drove for a layup, but with 4:40 to go in the opening stanza, Brown took a pass from senior Samantha Duffy and canned a third 3-ball to make it 11-6.


But that’s as good as it would get for the home team, as Scarborough rattled off eight straight points to go ahead to stay.

After sophomore Ellie Rumelhart got things started with a free throw, Hartley set up sophomore Isabel Freedman for a 3-pointer in the corner, then with 2:09 on the clock, sophomore Megan Rumelhart sank two foul shots for the lead.

Flaker then added two free throws before sophomore Emma Travis’ runner in the lane ended a 3 minute, 19 second scoring drought for South Portland.

In the final minute, Ellie Rumelhart banked home a shot, but two free throws from freshman Caleigh Corcoran pulled the Red Riots within a single point, 16-15, heading to the second period.

South Portland’s offense deserted it for most of the frame and the Red Storm took advantage.

After Flaker took a pass from Megan Rumelhart and buried a 3, Flaker set up Ellie Rumelhart for another 3 to make it 22-15.


Finally, with 1:43 remaining in the half, a putback from freshman Destiny Peter ended the Red Riots’ 6:42 drought, but senior Julia Black and Ellie Rumelhart answered with free throws, then Ellie Rumelhart scored on a runner.

Two Travis free throws in the final minute pulled South Portland within seven, 26-19, at the break.

In the first half, Brown led the Red Riots with nine points, but she didn’t score in the second quarter. Ellie Rumelhart paced Scarborough with nine points.

South Portland senior Anna Brown is defended by Scarborough sophomore Ellie Rumelhart.

South Portland returned to its hot hand to start the second half, as Brown got the ball and stepped back and sank a 3. Peter then scored on a leaner in the lane to cut the deficit to just two, but after Ellie Rumelhart was fouled on an offensive rebound and made one free throw, ending the Red Riots’ 7-0 run, Brown missed a 3 which could have tied the score.

Black then drove for a layup and Hartley did the same, forcing South Portland coach Lynne Hasson to call timeout.

It helped, as the Red Riots closed the quarter strong, getting a 3-ball from Brown and a Brown free throw to cut the Red Storm’s lead to 31-28 heading for the final stanza.


Where Scarborough wouldn’t be denied.

Flaker started the fourth period by setting up Hartley for a layup.

After Travis got a point back at the line, Black fed Flaker up top and Flaker buried a 3 to make it 36-29.

Bryant kept hope alive for South Portland with a 3 of her own with 6:32 to play, but Hartley made a foul shot, Hartley drove for a layup, then, at the midway point of the frame, Hartley sank another free throw for a 40-32 lead.

“I can always hear Coach from the bench telling me to put it in,” Hartley said. “I know I have great support from my rebounders if I miss them.”

With 3:52 remaining, Brown hit a runner in the lane, but the Red Riots wouldn’t score the rest of the way.


The Red Storm then put it away at the charity stripe, as Flaker sank two free throws, Hartley added two more, Black hit a pair, then, after Hartley and Flaker each made one attempt, two Hartley foul shots with 59 seconds to go brought the curtain down on Scarborough’s 50-34 victory.

Scarborough celebrates at the final horn.

“It feels really good,” said Flaker. “We just came in confident and excited. Knowing them well helped us prepare. We’ve played them a lot and we knew what we had to do to do well against them.”

“This win meant a lot to us,” Hartley said. “The returning players know how it feels to be underestimated, but we know we can come out on top.”

“These kids are resilient,’ Giordano added. “We lost a triple-overtime game at Edward Little, then we came back the next game and beat Sanford. We lost an overtime game at home to Deering to finish, but we came over here and won. We had our chances against each other all season. To come over here with a great crowd and having the kids experiencing that tournament feel was very special.”

Hartley came alive late and led all scorers with 18 points, while also grabbing eight rebounds, blocking three shots and producing four steals.

“It was pretty even scoring tonight, which is great, since I love when my teammates score with me,” Hartley said.


Flaker, who just four days ago sprinted her way to victory in three events at the Southwestern Maine Activities Association indoor track championship meet, added 12 points and added five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I like to focus on defense because that’s where I can be consistent,” said Flaker. “It’s so much fun to do all the sports that I can. It’s hard, but I love it.”

“It’s so good to have Emerson out there,’ Hartley said. “I can count on her to give everything she has. I think we work so well with her having the speed and defensive mentality and I can translate that into our offense.”

“(Emerson’s) an unbelievable athlete,” Giordano added. “We’re just blessed she stuck with basketball. I feel bad for the kids in practice who have to play against her. I tell them they get better playing her in practice than they will playing in a game.”

Ellie Rumelhart had a solid effort as well, finishing in double figures with 10 points, to go with four rebounds.

Black had a key contribution off the bench, scoring five points and grabbing a team-high nine rebounds.


“Julia had a great game on the glass,” said Giordano.

Freedman contributed three points and Megan Rumelhart finished with two points and four rebounds.

“It’s got to be more than just Caroline,” Giordano said. “She’s done a great job for us offensively, but for us to go anywhere, we have to have a supporting cast.”

The Red Storm made 21-of-34 foul shots and only turned the ball over six times in a hostile gym in the crucible of the postseason.

Frustrating finish

South Portland got 18 points from Brown, who also had three rebounds and two steals.


“We didn’t find Anna, which we should have,” said Hasson. “We should have gotten her the ball every time she was open and we didn’t.”

Bryant added five points (and five rebounds), as did Travis (who snared six rebounds and dished out two assists). Peter had four points (and a team-high nine rebounds) and Corcoran finished with two points (and eight boards).

The Red Riots had a slim 36-35 edge on the glass, but only made 11 field goals, hit just 6-of-11 free throws and committed 18 turnovers.

“Unfortunately, we allowed (Scarborough) a lot of second opportunities,” Hasson said. “We weren’t aggressive or strong enough on the defensive glass and we didn’t get many second opportunities on the offensive glass. We needed to attack their zone, but we were too passive. We talked about where to attack the gaps, but for whatever reason, we just passed the ball around the perimeter. The zone worked for them because we didn’t attack it.

“I thought we had a good chance and I thought if we won, we had a good shot against TA, but it’s tournament game and if you don’t play a good game, you go home. It’s the hardest thing to look at these four seniors and see them heartbroken and know if we played really well and lost, that’s OK, but since we didn’t play well in our last game it’s tough.”

South Portland made positive strides over the course of the season and despite graduating Brown, Bryant, Duffy and Talia Bradbury, the program has a lot of young talent and could be even better in 2023-24.


“We did some good things this year,” Hasson said. “We were the only team in the South to play with TA and make it a game. We beat Gorham and we beat Scarborough and we beat Sanford, so there wasn’t anyone above us we didn’t beat.

“I will miss our seniors. They were great kids and great basketball players, but we have a great core coming back and some strong eighth graders coming through the system. I think we’ve started on our way back.”

Tall task

Last year, the Red Storm beat the Golden Trojans, 40-31, in the semifinals to take a 2-1 all-time edge in the postseason series.

Next week, Scarborough hopes that history repeats itself, but the Golden Trojans will go into the game confident, having defeated the Red Storm twice this season, 58-33 in Saco and 52-42 at Scarborough.

Don’t bet against the Red Storm, however, as they believe they can keep the good times rolling.

“Playing at the Civic Center is a whole different game, but it’s a great place to play,” Hartley said. “The court and atmosphere are so much different. We just have to adjust to that. We have experience playing there and I think we have a chance to go out there and play well.”

“We’ll go in loosy-goosy,” Giordano said. “We’ve played on that floor. We have a tournament game under our belt. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain and we’ll play that way. They have five kids who can score. You usually try to take one or two away, but they have so many options. We’ll have to play really good defense, limit them to one shot and hope the ball bounces our way.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at

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