WESTBROOK–Blaze Michael Connolly led all scorers with 25 when Cape Elizabeth dropped in on Westbrook on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 29. Still, despite keeping pace with the Capers through the first quarter, Connolly & Co. couldn’t get it done in the end. Nate Mullen, Tanner Carpenter and Quinton Morse all hit double-digits to propel Cape to victory 60-46.
Blazes head coach Dan Legage expressed his admiration for the opposition. “They shot well tonight,” he said of Cape. “They’re a good team. [Jim Ray] is a good coach. They do a lot of good things on offense, they do a lot of good things defensively, they’re aggressive. They just do a nice job.”
Westbrook kicked the action off right, jumping to a 4-0 lead: Brayden Demers dished to Matt Eugley and Eugley dished to Connolly for Connolly’s first bucket of the day. After a Cape travel, Blaze Kyle McKone knocked down another two for the home team. Connolly followed up with a huge rejection at the net on Carpenter, but Cape recovered momentarily, with Morse sinking a three.
McKone then hashed a pair from the line, 6-4. Matt Conley, though, answered with a Capers spin-jumper in the key, and Carpenter hit a three, securing for the visitors their first lead of the afternoon. First, and last: They would never trail again.
Demers to Connolly to Chuil Bayak tied things up at 8-8, but Andrew Hartel and Carpenter nailed consecutive twos to close the quarter out on a Capers high-note.
Westbrook played hard all game, and had a lot of clever ideas – sharp, unexpected passes, for instance. But they were often out-of-synch, meaning they often couldn’t build on each other’s cleverness to earn baskets. One thing the lineup clearly needs, then, is just more time playing together, which will come to them in due course. It’s also important to note that many of them are comparatively new to varsity play.
“Young guys,” Legage said. “There’s a lot of young being asked of a lot of young players right now. Guys that would normally be playing freshman and JV basketball are being asked to do a lot. We’ve just got to keep working.”
“As they get older, as they gain more experience,” Legage said, “those passes will be caught, and they’ll finish around the rim, and they’ll learn to play defense together better, they’ll learn to play offense together better.”
Eugley began the second with an offensive rebound for two, but then Cape launched into a back-breaking run. Morse hit a two, Mullen turned an o-reb into two and a steal into two more, and Jack Bassett assisted Conley in making it 20-10.
Westbrooker Tyler Hethcoat then added an o-reb plus two; he shortly added a baseline two as well, but the Capers were rolling and rolling hard: They moved from a 30-14 lead to 36-20 at the break.
“It’s a tough way to learn,” Legage said of his young roster’s early-season trial-by-fire. “But sometimes teams have to go through this. Freshmen and sophomores have to go through this to understand what it takes to be successful at the varsity level.”
The Blazes fell behind by as much as 23 in the second, trailing 52-29 at the start of the third. They battled, though, and won the quarter 17-8: Eugley, McKone and especially Connolly led the charge. So while Westbrook lost the contest, they were able to take some positives away in the end.
Legage nodded to Connolly’s efforts: “Mike’s always there, he’s working hard. We’re asking a lot of him, and he’s doing all that he can, trying to rebound, be a presence defensively.”
The Blazes, now 1-4, host Marshwood on Wednesday, Jan. 2, and travel to Fryeburg on Friday the 4th. Cape (3-5) visits Brunswick that same night.
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
Mike Connolly turned in an impressive, 25-point performance for the Blazes.
Ethan Richardson defends against a Capers opponent.
Matt Eugley battles underneath for the Blazes.
Westbrooker Brayden Demers hovers over a Capers opponent, tracking the progress of a foul attempt.
Kyle McKone played a solid game for the Blazes.
Tyler Hethcoat fights inside for Westbrook.
Westbrook’s Caden Dow launches himself toward the net.