THE PLAYOFFS Greely, Falmouth boys enjoy easy quarterfinal wins
Yarmouth falls in quarterfinals; NYA out in preliminary round
By Michael Hoffer
The start of the boys' basketball tournament provided plenty of excitement for local teams, two of which are heading to the semifinals.
In Western Class B quarterfinal round action Saturday at the Portland Expo, top-ranked Greely and No. 2 Falmouth did what high seeds are supposed to do: roll to easy wins in their first game. The Rangers dominated No. 8 Gray-New Gloucester 68-35, while the Yachtsmen never trailed in a 68-42 romp over No. 7 Lincoln Academy.
No. 5 Yarmouth wasn't as fortunate. The Clippers scratched and clawed, but ultimately missed too many free throws as their upset bid fell short against defending regional champion No. 4 Cape Elizabeth, 66-58.
In Western C, North Yarmouth Academy lost 63-42 at Traip in the preliminary round.
Greely won the final eight games of the regular season, including impressive triumphs at Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth, to wind up 16-2 and first in Western B.
The Rangers took on No. 8 Gray-New Gloucester, a team it rolled twice in the regular year: 60-27 in Gray Jan. 2 and 61-43 at home Feb. 3.
The teams most recently met in the second round of the 2001 playoffs, a 57-33 Greely win.
On Saturday it was apparent early the Patriots had few answers for the fired-up Rangers.
Gray-New Gloucester scored first, but its success was short-lived. Greely responded with a 13-0 run that spanned the first and second periods.
The Rangers slowly extended their advantage and a jumper from junior Sam Thompson in the final seconds to give the Rangers an insurmountable 39-14 lead at the half.
The Patriots never made a run in the second half. Greely led by as many as 39 points before cruising to the 68-35 triumph.
"The first game is always the hardest game," said Rangers coach Ken Marks. "I didn't want the kids to overlook them. They had all kinds of revenge going their way. I think we were too athletic. Everyone got to play at the end. I was just pleased to get through this one. We're doing some nice things, but it'll be different from now on."
Senior Chris Young led Greely with 15 points. Thompson had 12 and junior Trevor Tierney added 11, as 13 other Rangers made it into the scoring column.
The Rangers will meet No. 4 Cape Elizabeth (15-4) in the semifinals Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Greely lost to the Capers 72-64 at home Jan. 12, but won 59-46 at Cape Elizabeth in the regular season finale on Feb. 6.
The teams have met five prior times in the playoffs. The Rangers hold a 3-2 lead, but lost 40-31 to the Capers in last winter's semifinals.
"Cape's obviously a challenge," Marks said. "I honestly believe that if my guys bring everything to the table, we'll be hard to beat. Cape, Falmouth and Lake Region could beat us, but we have depth. They all know their roles. I like our chances."
Falmouth won its first nine games this season, but late-season home losses to Greely and Cape Elizabeth dropped the Yachtsmen to the No. 2 spot.
Falmouth doesn't play Lincoln Academy in the regular season. The Yachtsmen had beaten the Eagles in two of three prior playoff meetings, including a 57-42 quarterfinal round triumph two years ago.
Last winter, Falmouth left the Expo floor in agony after letting a 10-point lead slip away in the final minute-plus of the quarterfinals, as Greely's Erik Thayer hit a 3-pointer at the horn to send the Yachtsmen home.
This time, Falmouth was in control throughout the contest.
The game began auspiciously for Falmouth when its junior sharpshooter Stefano Mancini hit a jumper and junior Sam Horning followed with a 3-ball for a 5-0 lead. After the Eagles got on the board on a 3-pointer from junior Ben McLain, the Yachtsmen exploded for 16 straight points.
Lincoln Academy pulled within, 21-12, early in the second, but Falmouth got eight of the next 10 points and led 29-17 at the break.
The Yachtsmen ended any remaining suspense in the third.
A layup from junior Jahrel Registe got it started. After senior Matthew Poole made a layup for Lincoln Academy, Mancini hit a 3, then stole a pass and converted a layup to make it 36-19. Sophomore Everett Martin scored on a putback for the Eagles, but Mancini hit two foul shots and Registe converted a three-point play. After McLain made a three-point play for Lincoln Academy, Mancini answered with a long 3-point bomb to give Falmouth a commanding 44-24 lead.
"We decided we wanted to put them away in the first three minutes of the second half," said Mancini.
By the end of the third it was 53-32. In the fourth, the Eagles drew no closer than 21 points as the Yachtsmen rolled to the 68-42 win.
"The first game is always the toughest in the tournament," said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. "You don't know what to expect. These kids, even the underclassmen, were involved in last year's game, and they understand how important every possession is. They came out and did a great job in the first quarter. We didn't turn the ball over and executed. Even when the subs came in they did their job, which was nice to see."
Mancini led all scorers with 25 points.
"The week off did a lot for us," said Mancini. "We had a lot of practice time. We did a good job running the offense today. We have a lot of people who can hurt you. You can't just take one thing away from us."
Falmouth advanced to take on No. 6 Lake Region (15-4) Thursday at 9 p.m. at the Civic Center in the semifinals. The teams split in the regular year. On Jan. 9, the Lakers shot to a 29-point lead at the half before winning 60-51. In the regular season finale, Feb. 6 in Falmouth, the Yachtsmen held on for a 55-49 win.
Falmouth's thrilled to be back afer last year's heartbreak and are desperately seeking another crack at Cape Elizabeth or Greely in the regional final.
"We got the monkey off our back," Halligan said. "Time to move on. We played (Lake Region) twice. They beat us up there and we beat them at home. It's the rubber match. They're a good team. A veteran team. We'll work hard over the next three or four days in practice and see what we can do."
"We have an understanding of them," Mancini added. "We've built a rivalry with them. Hopefully we don't start out flat and we can come out with a big win."
The Western B Final is Saturday at 3:45 p.m., at the Civic Center where Falmouth and Greely could possibly square off. The teams split in the regular season and have faced each other on three previous postseason occasions. Greely has won all three, including semifinal wins in 2003 and 2007 and the quarterfinal round thriller last winter.
The Class B state game is Friday, Feb. 27 at 9 p.m., at the Civic Center.
Just three years removed from a 1-17 season, the Yarmouth Clippers have established themselves as a consistent contender. Despite being hit by graduation after a 16-win season, the Clippers remained solid, and led by senior Johnny Murphy, recorded 14 victories, including a late-season overtime win at Cape Elizabeth.
Yarmouth, which also lost 64-48 at home to the Capers Jan. 10, finished fourth in Western B and earned another date with No. 5 Cape Elizabeth in the quarterfinals. It marked the first time since the mid-1970s that the Clippers had reached the quarters for three straight seasons.
The teams had just one previous postseason meeting, a Cape Elizabeth victory in the 2002 preliminary round.
This time Yarmouth missed its first 12 shots, but was back in the game after one period, trailing just 9-8 thanks to a pair of baskets from sophomore Mike McCormack.
The Capers went up as many as 12, 32-20, in the second before senior Andrew Totta tipped home a miss in the final minute to make it a 32-22 game at the half.
For most of the second half, the Capers tried to pull away while the Clippers stayed close enough to keep things interesting. Yarmouth pulled within five points four times. But down the stretch, the Clippers missed two many foul shots and Cape Elizabeth used its championship experience to make clutch plays and hold on for the 66-58 win.
Yarmouth finished 14-5 and lamented what if.
"We never recovered from going 0 for our first 12," said Clippers coach Adam Smith. "We never had a big run. Every time we were on the verge, something funky would happen. We had good foul shooters on the line, but missed. I wondered how we scored that many points. They had 32 points from behind the arc and the foul line. We had 14 and none from behind the arc. They had the big run in the second quarter. We got close, but we missed our 3's and free throws."
Murphy ended his career with 20 points. He'll graduate as the Clippers' all-time leading scorer.
"Johnny's helped elevate our practice intensity," said Smith. "He goes hard in games and in practice. His leadership is easy to follow because he works so hard. People came to watch him."
Sophomore Luke Pierce added 13 point, McCormack finished with 11.
"Our bench helped our turnaround," Smith said. "I brought Mike, Luke and (junior) Jeff Kuklewicz off the bench. They started playing well and lifted us up. I wasn't surprised at Mike's output. I was surprised he had to carry us in the first half.
"I think 14 wins is probably a little more than a lot of people thought we'd have going into the season. To play as well as we did and to pick it up at the end was nice for the guys and myself. It's always disappointing to lose, but we made huge strides our last six games."
NYA entered the 2008-09 campaign with a new coach, Mike Dutton, and just two players, seniors Andrew Gendron and Calvin Chicoine, with any substantial varsity experience. The Panthers still managed an 7-11 regular season and the No. 13 seed in Western C. That sent NYA to No. 4 Traip last Wednesday, to meet a team that defeated the Panthers twice in the regular season (58-41 in Kittery Dec. 5 and 44-29 in Yarmouth Feb. 3).
The third time wasn't a charm. NYA led 14-12 after one quarter, but Traip took a 30-25 advantage at the break and rode a 17-7 third period run to a 63-42 victory. Gendron closed his career in style with 25 points.
The Panthers wound up 7-12, but return several players who received trial by fire this winter. They should build on that experience in 2009-2010.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org