PORTLAND—Scarborough’s girls’ basketball team built a big first half lead over South Portland in Wednesday night’s Class AA South semifinal at the Cross Insurance Arena.

And it’s a good thing the Red Storm had that cushion because the Red Riots nearly came all the way back in the second half.

Third-ranked Scarborough rode the hot hand of junior Ellie Rumelhart early and led, 6-2, after one quarter and 24-10 at the break.

When senior standout Caroline Hartley opened the second half with a 3-pointer, it appeared the Red Storm were going to run away and hide, but instead, second-seeded South Portland finally came to life, drawing within nine points on a three-point play from freshman Annie Whitmore before Scarborough got a desperation hoop from junior Emerson Flaker at the horn to produce a 33-22 advantage heading to the final stanza.

There, the Red Riots hit their first 3 of the night, courtesy sophomore Caleigh Corcoran, to make it a six-point game, with 5 minutes to go. South Portland then had opportunity after opportunity to draw even closer, but couldn’t do so and the Red Storm were able to hold on and advance, 36-31.

Scarborough improved to 15-5, ended South Portland’s fine season at 15-5 and advanced to battle top-ranked Gorham (17-3) in the regional final Saturday at 7 p.m., at the Cross Insurance Arena.


“That’s three times in a row we’ve beaten South Portland in the tournament and I can’t tell you how sweet that is,” said Red Storm coach Mike Giordano, who previously coached the Red Riots for 17 seasons.

Collision course

Scarborough and South Portland aren’t just neighboring towns, but frequent foes on the hardwood. Just last year, the Red Storm went on the road and knocked off the Red Riots in the quarterfinals to take a 5-2 all-time record in the postseason (see sidebar for results).

This year, Scarborough started fast, winning five straight, then struggled through a 3-5 stretch before closing on a five-game surge. As the No. 3 seed, the Red Storm handled No. 6 Massabesic with ease in the quarterfinals, 59-27 (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

“After that three-game losing streak in the middle of the season, I thought we could run the table and we did that and got the momentum back,” Giordano said.

South Portland, meanwhile, upset Gorham in the opener, then lost three in a row before catching fire and winning 11 games in succession before closing with a loss at Sanford. The Red Riots also rolled in their playoff opener, defeating No. 7 Bonny Eagle, 66-32, in the quarterfinals last week.


South Portland and Scarborough split during the regular season, with the Red Storm winning, 45-40, Dec. 15 on the road and the Red Riots returning the favor, 54-44, Jan. 15 in Scarborough.

Wednesday, the Red Storm never trailed and while there were some anxious moments, they took care of business and lived to play another day.

It took almost three minutes to open the scoring, while Rumelhart finally did on a runner with 5:25 on the first quarter clock. She was fouled on the play, then added the and-one free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play to put Scarborough ahead to stay.

After Rumelhart made another free throw, freshman Eva Alvarez sank a pair.

Finally, with 37 seconds on the clock, South Portland broke through, as sophomore Destiny Peter, who was tremendous off the bench, got a leaner to roll in and despite its struggles, the Red Riots were only down by four points, 6-2, after the first period.

The Red Storm missed an opportunity to open up a big lead in the opening stanza, but they would do so in the second quarter.


Just 15 seconds in, Hartley set up Rumelhart for a layup. After Whitmore fed junior Emma Travis for a layup, Rumelhart drove for a layup, Rumelhart made a jumper after a turnover, then Flaker made a free throw to make it 13-4 with 5:36 remaining in the half.

After Corcoran set up sophomore Nyeerah Padgett for a layup, Rumelhart passed to Hartley who buried a 3.

“We had energy to get out here,” said Rumelhart. “A fast start was important. We struggled with that in the past and we knew we had to push tonight.”

“Ellie has grown into such an amazing player,” said Hartley. “Since midseason, we’ve clicked and can read what each other is going to do. She was just what we needed tonight.”

Flaker then drove for a layup before a 3-pointer from the corner from Hartley pushed the lead to 15 points.

Whitmore momentarily stemmed the tide with two free throws, but sophomore Helena Bukarac answered with another 3.


In the final minute, Whitmore made two more foul shots, but South Portland was in a 24-10 hole at the half.

“I was hoping they wouldn’t shoot well, but in the first half, they knocked down some 3s,” lamented longtime Red Riots coach Lynne Hasson. “We got out on them, but not far enough if they were able to knock those down.”

Rumelhart not only led Scarborough with 10 first half points, she matched South Portland’s total for the first 16 minutes.

The Red Storm got out to a fast start in the third quarter as well, but the Red Riots started to come to life as the period progressed.

Hartley opened the second half with another 3-pointer, but Travis made a free throw, then Peter scored on a putback.

After junior Megan Rumelhart drove for a layup and a 29-13 advantage, Whitmore converted a three-point play and Peter hit two free throws.


After Hartley again connected with Ellie Rumelhart for a layup, Peter made a free throw (Hartley picked up her fourth foul on the play), then Whitmore again converted a three-play to cut the deficit to double digits, but after Travis blocked a shot just before the horn, Flaker pounced on the loose ball and heaved a shot off the backboard and in to make it 33-22.

In the final stanza, South Portland kept closing in, but the Red Storm was able to hold on down the stretch.

Padgett made a layup early in the frame, then with exactly 5 minutes remaining, Whitmore set up Corcoran for the Red Riots’ first and only 3 of the night, which cut the deficit to 33-27.

South Portland couldn’t draw any closer, however, as Whitmore missed a layup, then was off on a 3-pointer. Lawrence then had a 3-point attempt go in-and-out.

After Flaker missed two free throws, Travis missed a shot and Hartley was fouled with 1:20 left.

Hartley missed both free throws, however, and the Red Riots still had life, but Whitmore and Peter missed shots before Travis’ 3-point attempt was off the mark. Travis then tried again, but Ellie Rumelhart blocked the shot.


With 38.9 seconds on the clock, Hartley went back to the line and this time, she made her first attempt to make it a three possession game and end a 7 minute, 22 second scoring drought.

“I knew I had to get my touch back and hold my form,” Hartley said.

Hartley missed the second attempt, but after Whitmore missed a 3 at the other end, Flaker was fouled and with 27.8 seconds remaining, she iced the victory with two free throws.

After Peter scored on a putback with 18 seconds to go, Peter scored on another putback with 2.4 seconds showing, but it was too little, too late and at 8:24 p.m., Scarborough was able to celebrate its 36-31 victory.

“We were really motivated to win tonight,” said Ellie Rumelhart. “We really wanted another shot at (South Portland). We wanted to show them we had what we needed. We knew we were going to face adversity and we had to push through it. We had to rely on our defense to get us going.”

“I’ve thought about this game over and over again since I knew we were going to play South Portland,” Hartley said. “That last game against them wasn’t our game and this was our game and we showed what we wanted to prove. We knew they’d come back. It was kind of the same game we had in the first game we played. Anything we gave up on offense we knew we had to get back on defense. Thankfully we got the stops to get through the game.”


“Holding them to 10 points in the first half was huge and we got in the 20s, but we knew they’d make a run,” Giordano added. “We wanted to win on the defensive end. We knew none of their kids had played here and it’s tough to shoot here.”

The Red Storm were paced by Ellie Rumelhart’s 12 points, as well as six rebounds.

“The energy on the bench helped push me through,” Rumelhart said.

“(Assistant) Coach (Dick) Whitmore watched some film and we felt they’d have a hard time guarding (Ellie) on the perimeter and we took advantage of that tonight,” said Giordano.

Hartley, the lone senior on either roster, contributed 10 points, seven rebounds and three steals.

“It’s so much fun,” said Hartley. “Last time we won here was when I was a sophomore and I’m glad I could go through it again.”


“We all wanted to win for Caroline,” Giordano said. “We know how hard she works and how much she dedicates to our program. Caroline picked up her fourth foul and we had to change our defense. I had her play the whole fourth quarter with four fouls and it’s the first time she did it.”

Flaker finished with seven points, seven rebounds and three steals, Bukarac had three points and Alvarez and Megan Rumelhart added two apiece.

Scarborough made four 3-pointers to South Portland’s one, hit 8-of-15 free throws and overcame 13 turnovers.

Just getting started

South Portland got a strong effort from Peter off the bench, who had a team-high 11 points and a game-high 15 rebounds, good for a double-double.

“I thought Destiny coming off the bench was huge for us,” Hasson said. “She rebounded and played hard. She was the difference in the second half.”


Whitmore added 10 points, five rebounds and two assists in her first game on the big stage. Padgett had four points, Corcoran three and Travis three (to go with eight rebounds and three assists).

The Red Riots only turned the ball over 11 times and made 10-of-15 foul shots, but just couldn’t hit outside shots when they had the opportunity.

“We didn’t execute our offensive sets and I thought we had some good ones tonight,” Hasson said. “Our shooters got some looks, but they didn’t drop. Annie and Mya got good shots. They did a good job double- and triple-teaming inside.

“There was no point that I was really worried and didn’t think we could come back. We went a long time without scoring and so did they, so I thought we had a chance. I thought when Hartley got in foul trouble, we had a chance. We battled back and we ran out of time.

“Scarborough seems to be the wall we hit every year and we have to find a way to get through them. I thought tonight was our night and we’d get to Saturday. There’s no question in my mind if we executed better we would have won, but we don’t get a do-over unfortunately.”

The silver lining for South Portland is that everyone returns and next year, if the Red Riots get to the Cross Insurance Arena, they’ll have tournament experience.


“We learned some hard lessons tonight and we’ll take them to next year,” Hasson said. “We don’t lose anyone and we’ll be pretty motivated.”

Third time a charm?

Scarborough lost twice to Gorham this winter, 43-32 on the road Jan. 6 and 53-35 at home Jan. 19.

The teams have split four prior playoff encounters, with the Rams taking the most recent, 49-26, in the 2022 regional final.

Gorham impressed in its semifinal Wednesday, pulling away in the second half to down Sanford, 52-34.

The Red Storm will have their hands full with the two-time reigning champions Saturday, but they like their chances.

“I’m really excited,” said Ellie Rumelhart. “We just have to come together as a team. We know we have to do our best.”

“I just want to play as a long as I can with this team,” Hartley said. “I’m played with almost all of them for years. They mean the world to me. I hope we can go as far as we can. It will come down to our defense.”

“We’re going to be ready Saturday,” added Giordano. “Gorham’s a really good team. They’ve beaten us twice. Gorham has tradition. Those kids have won here and it will be a tall task, but the pressure’s on them and I like my kids.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. For game updates and links to game stories, follow him on Threads: @foresports2023

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