N-sportsGB THE PLAYOFFS Falmouth, Greely girls' basketball thinking championship
NYA ousted in preliminary round; Freeport, Yarmouth fall short
By Michael Hoffer
Back in early December, all five local girls' basketball teams entertained playoff dreams.
Two months later, just three were able to advance and two retain championship hopes.
In Western B, Greely went 16-2 and earned the No. 2 seed behind undefeated York. Falmouth won six of its final seven contests to go from postseason uncertainty to the No. 4 seed.
Both the Rangers and Yachtsmen begin tournament play Tuesday at the Portland Expo.
Freeport (4-14) and Yarmouth (7-11) fell short this winter.
In Western Class C, North Yarmouth Academy went 6-12 and earned its first playoff berth in five years. The Panthers wound up the 15th and final seed to make the field and were promptly eliminated at No. 2 Jay, ?-?, in a preliminary round game Tuesday night.
SUBHEAD-Two to watch
Greely and Falmouth figure to be the biggest obstacles in undefeated York's quest for a title.
The Rangers welcomed new coach Billy Goodman this winter and produced a stellar 16-2 season. Greely only lost at home to York and at Falmouth and wound up ranked second.
"We've done pretty well," Goodman said. "Overall, I'm very happy. Hopefully we learned from our two losses. The girls have worked very hard. They have great attitudes."
The Rangers will face either three-time defending regional champion, No. 7 Lake Region (10-8), or No. 10 Fryeburg (10-8) in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at the Portland Expo. Greely swept both teams in the regular season, downing Fryeburg 50-38 and 55-36 and Lake Region 53-49 and 59-27.
Greely beat the Raiders in the 1998, 1999 and 2005 quarterfinals. The Rangers beat the Lakers in the 1998 regional final and the 2001 quarterfinals. They lost to Lake Region in the semifinals in 2005 and 2007.
"If we play Lake Region, we'll treat it like the first game that was close," Goodman said. "The second time was just our day. Normally, it's a tight game with them. They're a good team. They have very good shooters.
"York and Falmouth are playing the best ball right now. We've played well too. I don't know Lisbon or Mountain Valley too well. Gray's very good. Anyone can win. If we play good defense, we have a shot against anyone."
Two-time defending regional finalist Falmouth, under new coach Kristi Ouellette, was 5-6 after losing at Gray-New Gloucester Jan. 13, but closed the year with wins in six of seven games, including stirring victories over Greely and Lake Region.
The Yachtsmen shot all the way to the No. 4 seed and will battle No. 5 Lisbon (13-5) in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Expo. Falmouth doesn't play the Greyhounds in the regular year. The Yachtsmen beat Lisbon 62-35 in the 2007 quarterfinals in the only other playoff meeting.
SUBHEAD-One and done
North Yarmouth Academy hadn't made the playoffs since Eric Austin led the Panthers to the quarterfinals in 2004. This winter, the Panthers ended a four-year streak of going 3-15 and went 6-12 to earn the No. 15 seed in Western C.
NYA didn't play Jay in the regular year and had no prior playoff history with the Tigers, one of the top teams in the tough Mountain Valley Conference.
The Panthers' season came to a close at 6-13 with a ?-? loss. NYA graduates just two players and could be even stronger in 2009-2010.
SUBHEAD-Wait til' next year
A year ago, Yarmouth enjoyed a late-season surge that led to a playoff berth. This winter, the Clippers were hoping to return and were in good shape after beating Poland Jan. 13 to improve to 5-6. Yarmouth then lost at Falmouth and Waynflete (in overtime) and at home to Gray-New Gloucester and York to essentially fall out of the race. The Clippers did beat NYA and Freeport down the stretch, but wound up 7-11 and out of the postseason.
"We played great defense against the best teams in our conference, but we
were the poster child for '60 percent of all high school games are decided on the foul line,'" said Yarmouth coach Nick Nash. "We had two-point losses to Wells and Fryeburg, a four-point loss to Greely and an overtime loss to Waynflete. It seemed last year, everything fell our way. This year, despite how hard we'd play, with a deeper, taller and more talented team, we could never get that one key moment in a game to go our way. I really enjoyed working with this group of seniors who played every possession with intensity. Mostly I'll miss them just because they are really good kids."
Freeport, despite a pair of late-season wins, including a home upset over tournament-bound Gray-New Gloucester, finished 4-14.
"We had a strong finish," said Falcons coach Jay Harper. "It was especially nice to beat a good team in Gray. That showed the girls how they can compete against anyone if all play well at the same time. We were inconsistent this year and really struggled at the foul line.
"We'll try to build on our strong finish, but we lose two great players in Kristen Poulin, who is one of the best point guards we ever had, and Kari Oransky. We bring back three starters and will have our sights set on the playoffs."
Looking ahead, the Western B semifinals will be held Thursday, Feb. 19 at and 4:30 p.m., at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The Western B Final is Saturday, Feb. 21 at 72 p.m., at the Civic Center. The Class B state final is Friday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m., at the Civic Center.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com