Girls basketball: Gray-New Gloucester stifles Greely, advances to A South semifinals

Feb. 20—PORTLAND — Gray-New Gloucester and Greely shook off their jitters in the first half and got down to business on defense in the second half of their Class A South girls basketball quarterfinal at the Portland Expo on Monday afternoon.

Gray-New Gloucester took advantage of Greely's extended drought on offense before the Rangers finally scored in the closing minute of the first half. The second half turned into a tough, physical tussle before the Patriots opened up on the Rangers and slipped away with a 39-25 victory.

The second-seeded Patriots (16-3) will face sixth-seeded Freeport (11-8), which knocked off third-ranked Mt. Ararat 58-53 on Monday, in Wednesday's regional semifinals at the Portland Expo at 1 p.m.

Sophomore forward Izzy Morelli led the Patriots with 15 points and Sophia Ippolito scored eight for seventh-seeded Greely (8-11).

"(Greely) is a really tough offensive team and we were just trying to shut them down — especially from (3-point territory)," Morelli said. "They are a great 3-point shooting team and I think that's what we did — especially in the first half.

"I think everyone was a little bit nervous. I mean, most of us played in this gym last year. We got into the flow of the game, I think, after the first quarter. I think we went out there more confident and I think we were more prepared, especially, like I said, on the defensive end trying to stop them from shooting 3s. ... And I think we shut them down, especially from the arc."

Both teams were plagued with numerous turnovers and struggled to score in the first half, but the Patriots squeezed out eight points in the first quarter for an 8-0 lead and then added another 10 in the second quarter.

With less than a minute left in the first half, Asja Kelman drove to the hoop and scored the Rangers' first two points. Cece Berthiaume then hit an off-balance, buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but the Patriots held the high ground with an 18-5 lead.

Both teams turned up the heat with their defenses, but Gray-New Gloucester took command even though the Rangers' shots also started to fall in a contested third quarter. Ippolito scored all of her eight points in the period and Berthiaume scored the rest of her seven.

Gray-New Gloucester senior forward Amber Fortin wasn't at all surprised at the Patriots' own second-half blitz on offense and defense.

"I think we really had it in us," Fortin said. "The whole season, we have been pretty well like that, and I think that we knew we had to come out strong because they were going to come out strong as well. I think our defense was really strong tonight — one of the strongest defensive games I have seen us play. I think we really shut them down."

Gray-New Gloucester coach Mike Andreasen said the defense helped bail out the Patriots.

"We were more confident, obviously," Andreasen said. "Early on, after we said to the kids, I was like, '(It's) 6-0. Wow, this could be 16.' I thought we missed some bunnies. Today our magical number was 32. We said we would keep it to 32 or less (points allowed and) we will look good. ... The defense was good."

Greely got within 28-20 in the third before Morelli made a key long-distance shot to give the Patriots a 31-20 lead after three quarters.

"(Izzy) made a 3-pointer late in the third quarter which kind of put a stamp on (the game)," Gray-New Gloucester coach Mike Andreasen said. "That kind of stopped the bleeding."

Gray-New Gloucester kept its distance by scoring six of its eight fourth-quarter points from the free-throw line. Morelli made both her foul shots and scored the Patriots' lone basket in the fourth, and Laney Farrar also made a pair of free throws as part of her eight-point output for the game.