Gutsy Raiders give top-ranked, undefeated Greely major scare in quarterfinals

Oscar Saunders

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — When Zach Brown swished a pair of 3-pointers and 6-foot-8 center John Kane unloaded a thunderous dunk to put undefeated Greely up 13-2, Raider Coach Sedge Saunders just hoped his team could weather the storm.

Fryeburg Academy shot just 1-for-8 from the field and had just four Oscar Saunders free throws on the board with 1:21 left in the opening of last Friday’s Class A quarterfinal.

Despite the bad start, the Raiders believed they could push the 18-0 Rangers to the limit.

And, they did.

Eighth-seed Fryeburg erased a 14-point halftime deficit with a barrage of 3-pointers, great ball movement and stingy defense to stun Greely by moving within a bucket entering the final eight minutes of play at the Portland Expo.

But, the magic ran out for Fryeburg as the Rangers went on an 8-0 run to start the fourth period to pull away for a 68-53 victory.

Tucker Buzzell

The Raiders finished the season at 9-11.

“I will miss coaching this team possibly more than any other team because they epitomized what basketball is all about,” FA Coach Sedge Saunders said. “They worked hard, they played together, and they never quit. Just a great group of young men, who represented the school as well as any team ever had.”

Fryeburg had a tall task taking on the Rangers, trying to defend the paint against Kane, while still limiting open looks behind the arc by Brown and Logan Bagshaw.

“The defensive emphasis was to not let Bagshaw get cooking from behind the arc, not let Kane catch it close to the hoop, and limit their transition hoops and second chance points,” Coach Saunders said. “Our halfcourt defense was excellent. Greely scored in transition and/or off turnovers, rarely in the half court.”

Brown provided the offensive spark Greely looked for in the opening quarter, scoring 11 points, including three 3-pointers as the Rangers were 6-of-13 from the field.

After junior guard Nathan Knapp seemingly took the lid off the hoop with a corner 3-pointer to end the first quarter, FA senior Joe LeBrun provided a needed spark to mount a rally, hitting consecutive shots, including a trey as the Raiders closed the gap to 20-14.

Nathan Knapp

Greely’s other killer B — Bagshaw — surfaced over the final 5:34 of the quarter, canning four 3-pointers to answer the Raider run and restore the double-digit lead.

The sting could have felt worse, but Caleb Bowles gave FA a lift with a nifty reverse layup, and LeBrun sank a baseline jumper to close out the half.

“I thought the bounces went their way early and there were some bad breaks for us. They also hit a ton of threes. When Brown is hitting threes, there’s not whole lot you can do. I thought we had some good looks in the first half that just didn’t fall. Thankfully, Joey (LeBrun) and Nate (Knapp) hit a few shots that kept us in it,” Coach Saunders said. “I told the guys that as poorly as we shot, as well as Greely shot, and as many bounces went their way, we weren’t in bad shape because things would turn around for us in the second half. I told them that if we moved the ball like we had and continued to get good looks, our shots would drop. Sure enough, they did in the third quarter. We also knew that Greely would keep firing away and they weren’t going to take time off the clock, which would give us a chance to get back in it if we could limit them to one shot and pressure them a little bit more.”

Fryeburg pulled a shocker. Greely scored just seven points, not recording a field goal until the 2:11 mark when Kane tipped away a pass and rumbled down the court for a layup. He was fouled on the score, and added a free throw.

Ryan Hewes

The Raiders, meanwhile, played their game resulting in a 19-7 run and just a 43-41 deficit heading into the fourth.

“The third quarter was the epitome of team basketball and what had defined us as a team this year. We moved the ball well. We shot aggressively and we pressured the heck out of them,” Coach Saunders said. “It was the best quarter of basketball I’ve seen all year by anybody. I thought everybody played to their strengths and we really had them rattled going into the fourth.”

Junior guard Oscar Saunders triggered the rally with a baseline jumper and 3-pointer. Scott Parker followed with an offensive rebound and putback. Knapp drilled two 3-pointers that had Raider fans on their feet, while a hush fell over the Greely sideline. LeBrun then threaded a bounce pass inside to Tucker Buzzell, whose hoop with 43.4 seconds left had FA within 41-38.

Brown answered with a strong take to the rim, but FA senior Ryan Hewes kept the Raiders rolling with a 3-pointer from the right corner to close out the period.

Scott Parker and Joe LeBrun

Lady Luck seemingly winked at the Raiders, but turned her smile to Greely.

LeBrun launched a 3-pointer that rattled the rim and bounced out.

Greely, however, was right on target as Brown scored twice and quickly the Ranger lead swelled to 10.

Saunders pulled a quick trigger on a trey from the wing and LeBrun also canned a 3-pointer to twice slice the Ranger lead to seven. A 6-0 Greely run highlighted by a Kane dunk following a Raider turnover extinguished any late FA heroics.

Greely closed the door on a fantastic FA finish by outscoring the upstart Raiders 25-12 in the fourth.

“The start of the fourth was rough. If I had to do it over again, I would have had a few different play calls knowing that Greeley was going to be over aggressive. That and I think we were just so tired from having to claw our way back into it, that it was tough for us to make plays,” Coach Saunders said. “Give our guys credit, they came back, after going down double digits again. All in all, it was a great season and a great effort against Greely. I think had we been matched up against anybody else, we would have moved on to the semis.”

Joe LeBrun

Greely advanced to play fourth-seed Falmouth, which had its own scare before dispatching fifth-seed York in double overtime.

Stat Lines

FA scorers: Oscar Saunders 17, Joe LeBrun 10, Nathan Knapp 9, Caleb Bowles 6, Scott Parker 4, Tucker Buzzell 4, Ryan Hewes 3.

Greely top scorers: Zachary Brown 17, Jack Kane 16, Logan Bagshaw 14, Andrew Storey 11.

Free Throws: FA 9-14, Greely 14-14

Field Goals: FA 17-41, Greely 23-46

Turnovers: FA 22, Greely 15

Out: Raider senior Cody Gullikson was unable to play due to injury.

Coach Saunders’ final thought: “We had some outstanding performances Friday night, but everybody on that team played a vital role this year. They all came to practice ready to go, ready to compete and they genuinely got along and respected each other. I’d like to single out Ryan Hewes, who was a great leader this year. Despite having a stomach virus Friday night, Ryan gave it everything he had. He played with as much courage as anybody I’ve ever coached.”

 

 

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