PORTLAND — Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey saw a struggle raging in his athlete’s eyes during a Class B South boys basketball quarterfinal at the Portland Expo.

No. 2 Phoenix’s uncontested shots weren’t falling and Friday night became a long struggle against seventh-ranked Cape Elizabeth, which came away with a 44-35 victory.

Cape Elizabeth goes on to face No. 6-Wells (9-10) on Tuesday.

“It is Cape Elizabeth. They are in your jersey,” Bessey said. “They are really good defensively. 

“It is those demons. I hate to keep saying that. You miss a couple of shots. You see the battles begin mentally and they are fighting it and they are fighting it. I feel it and you want to help so bad, and you are facing a good team to boot. You think you’ve gotten over it and the demon comes back and bites you again. It seems like we were fighting those all night.”

Both teams were both tough on defense, but the Phoenix’s run-and-gun offense started stale before they rallied in the second quarter.

Brandon Frey tossed in 11 points, but Cape’s defense contained the rest of the Phoenix (14-5), who finally started playing loose late in the fourth quarter. 

The Capers (8-11) owned the first quarter, going on a 9-2 run and building a 17-7 lead.

“The first quarter, we started off hard,” Cape Elizabeth guard Nathan Mullen said. “The first quarter we scored 17 points.  The second quarter we scored three points. That was so disappointing, but we did well defensively.”

Spruce Mountain turned it around in the second stanza with an 11-point outburst that brought the Phoenix to within two points. The Capers, who had five turnovers in that second quarter, went into the locker room with a 20-18 lead at halftime.

The Phoenix took a 21-20 lead after Frey hit a 3-pointer early in the third quarter, but that evaporated when the Cape Elizabeth went on a 27-21 run.

In the fourth quarter, the Capers erupted with 17 points.

Will Bowe led the Capers’ offense with 15 points and Mullen scored 11. Free throw shooting also made the difference for the Capers, who were 17 for 20 at the charity stripe.

Cape Elizabeth coach James Ray describe Spruce Mountain as strong, talented and tough kids. 

“In the first half, they were having their way with us getting the ball deep in the paint,” he said.

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