Falmouth's upset bid falls short vs. Lake Region
FALMOUTH—The Falmouth girls' basketball team was seeking a signature victory when it welcomed unbeaten Lake Region Tuesday night.
The Yachtsmen came oh so close to getting it.
In its best performance of the season, Falmouth clicked on offense in the first half, took a five-point lead to the fourth period and even had a shot to win the game at the end of regulation, but went to overtime tied at 41-41.
There, the Lakers grasped their second chance, rode the dominance of sophomore post standout Tiana-Jo Carter and rediscovered their clutch shooting acumen as they went on to the 51-46 victory to improve to 11-0, dropping the Yachtsmen to 6-5.
Falmouth's superb team-wide effort wasn't enough to stop Carter, who led all scorers with 22 points and hauled in a mindboggling 26 rebounds, but the Yachtsmen figure to only get better going forward.
"It's very much a half-full situation," said second-year Falmouth coach Mari Warner. "It shows what we're capable of doing. I love coaching when there's strategy involved. It was the loudest I've ever heard. That's what you want here at Falmouth."
Cream of the crop
Lake Region, which lost to York in last year's semifinal round, entered the game winners of 10 straight beyond a staunch defense and a solid inside-outside offensive game. The Lakers had enjoyed victories over Poland (48-26), Yarmouth (67-25), Waynflete (45-36), Freeport (49-25 at home and 63-59 on the road), Gray-New Gloucester (59-26), Cape Elizabeth (50-18), Greely (40-27), Wells (52-44) and York (51-37).
Falmouth, which fell just short of the playoffs in 2010-11 with an 9-9 mark, opened this winter with wins at Cape Elizabeth (48-38) and at home over Fryeburg (50-10). After a 37-30 home loss to Greely, the Yachtsmen closed the 2011 portion of their schedule with victories at Poland (50-44), Yarmouth (33-27) and Traip (47-39). The new year hasn't been as kind to Falmouth. It opened with home losses to York (43-41) and Freeport (49-36). After edging host Gray-New Gloucester (38-36), the Yachtsmen fell at Greely Saturday (43-37).
Over the past 10 years, Falmouth went just 3-18 against Lake Region, which included playoff losses in the 2003 preliminary round (59-43), 2005 quarterfinals (51-39), 2007 regional final (42-25) and 2008 regional final (37-33).
Last year, the Lakers prevailed at Falmouth (46-30) and at home (49-33).
This game was originally scheduled to be played last Thursday, but poor weather moved it to Tuesday, where fans discovered it was worth the wait and they got a little bonus basketball thrown in.
A jumper from senior Nicole Rogers 17 seconds in put the Yachtsmen on top, but Lake Region grabbed a 3-2 lead on a 3-ball from senior Abby Craffey. After promising freshman Ally Hickey fed senior Laney Evers for a layup to put the hosts back on top, Carter first made her presence felt with a putback. Falmouth retook the lead, 6-5, when Hickey scored on a bank shot, but the Lakers would get the next six points.
First, junior Sydney Hancock fed Carter for a layup. Craffey then assisted on a layup by junior Kelsey Winslow and with 4:11 to go in the first quarter, Carter had a nice interior feed to Winslow for another layup and an 11-6 advantage.
Undaunted, the Yachtsmen roared back as Hickey hit a 3 and Evers scored on a transition layup. The Lakers answered as Carter made two foul shots after an offensive rebound, then made a layup. After Falmouth freshman Dayna Vasconcelos made a bank shot, Carter scored on a putback. A steal from junior Meg Palombo led to an Evers layup, but Hancock's free throw with 10.5 seconds to go gave the visitors an 18-15 lead after an exciting initial eight minutes.
The game remained intense and fast paced in the second period.
After senior Jackie Doyle scored on a putback to pull the Yachtsmen within a point, Carter made a free throw, then scored on a putback to make it 21-17. Junior Anna Hickey made a layup for Falmouth, but again, an offensive rebound led to a basket for the Lakers as Winslow finished for a 23-19 advantage.
The hosts then retook the lead as Ally Hickey made a 3, then took a pass from junior Maddie Inlow and banked home a shot for a 24-23 lead. An old-fashioned three-point play from Carter and a free throw from senior Rachel Wandishin put Lake Region ahead by three, but a jumper from Ally Hickey got the Yachtsmen within 27-26 at halftime.
The Lakers committed 16 turnovers and made just 6 of 14 foul shots, but thanks in large part to Carter's 13 points and 14 rebounds, clung to the lead.
Ally Hickey paced Falmouth with 12 points, but the Yachtsmen were hindered by 11 turnovers.
The scoring pace diminished in the second half, but the excitement didn't wane.
A putback from Winslow opened the second half scoring, but Evers made a jumper, Rogers converted a bank shot to put Falmouth back on top and Anna Hickey nailed a 3-ball for a 33-29 lead with 3:28 to go in the third quarter.
With 3:01 left, Carter grabbed yet another offensive rebound, made a layup while being fouled and sank the free throw to cut the deficit to one point, ending a 7-0 Yachtsmen run.
Falmouth closed the period strong, as Evers somehow got a tough angle leaner to fall and senior Ashleigh Burton made a jump shot for a 37-32 lead with eight minutes to play.
The Yachtsmen were on the brink of a big upset, but didn't score again until 1:17 remained in the game.
First, a layup from freshman Sarah Hancock and a clutch 3 from senior Allison Clark allowed Lake Region to tie the game at 37-37.
Ally Hickey ended Falmouth's drought when she made a layup (she was fouled and had a free throw for a three-point play but missed), but 10 seconds later, in transition, Sydney Hancock set up Winslow for a layup to tie the score, 39-39.
Wtih 58.4 seconds to play, the Yachtsmen took the lead one final time when Inlow made a short jumper. The advantage lasted all of eight seconds as Sydney Hancock raced up the court and made a layup to make it 41-41.
Falmouth ran the clock down to 15.5 seconds and Warner called timeout. The Yachtsmen worked for a last shot and after Rogers somehow managed to retain possession with a nice, athletic play, they got the look they wanted when Anna Hickey had an open jumper, but it was no good. Carter grabbed the rebound and it was on to overtime.
"We got into I don't want to say panic, but we rushed," said Warner. "Our cuts weren't as strong. If we simply ran our offense and ran it hard, we'd get open looks. We got open looks and missed. The shots were there.
"We wanted Ally to come off the screen and curl hard and I wanted Anna right on her coattail to get a 15-footer. If she wasn't comfortable, I told her to pull it out. Then, I just wanted us to go to the hole since I don't think they wanted to foul."
The Lakers had somehow earned another chance.
"Without question, we felt we were playing with house money going into overtime," said Lake Region coach Paul True. "I told them they're the luckiest group of kids and if we can't take care of this in four minutes, we don't deserve to win the game."
Falmouth had its chances early in the extra session to take a lead, but turned the ball over twice.
"In the first half, our defense was absolutely not acceptable," True said. "I thought we played much better defense in the second half (and overtime)."
Then, with 3:05 to go in the four-minute OT, Sydney Hancock fired from behind the arc and sank a 3 to give the Lakers the lead for good, 44-41.
Eight seconds later, Evers went to the line for a one-and-one, but missed the front end. At the other end, Carter showed a nice move, then drove for a left-handed layup. She was fouled on the play and hit the free throw to complete the three-point play and stretch the lead to 47-41 with 2:40 left.
"I do think our defense went south in overtime," Warner said. "We didn't do what we were supposed to do in overtime. They hit a couple outside shots so our kids were afraid to hedge. We overlooked what was supposed to be our focus the whole game, the defensive end."
The Yachtsmen's next two possessions resulted in a turnover and a missed shot and with 1:12 to go, sydney Hancock was fouled and made the second of two attempts for a 48-41 lead.
A jumper from Ally Hickey with 1:03 left cut the deficit to five and after Sarah Hancock made a free throw, Anna Hickey buried a 3 with 29.4 seconds to go to make it 49-46, keeping Falmouth's slim hopes alive.
Lake Region managed to milk the clock down to 18.5 seconds before Sydney Hancock was fouled. She missed the first shot, but made the second for a 50-46 advantage.
The Yachtsmen raced down looking to answer, but Ally Hickey's 3 was no good and Carter rebounded and passed to Sarah Hancock, who was fouled.
With 5.4 seconds to go, Hancock made the first of two free throws and the Lakers held on for the 51-46 victory.
"I said in the locker room that we have no excuse to play any less than we did tonight," Evers said. "I think it was really, really good for our team because we realized our potential. I feel like this was the first game where we just clicked. Something clicked and it started to work. We've been waiting for that all season. Obviously, it would have been nice to have the 'W.' Going into overtime, we had to look at it like a new game. Overall, I'm really proud of us. We've definitely turned the corner. There's nowhere to go but up."
"I thought honestly that we were pretty much in control the whole second half until the three minute mark," Warner added. "There's a fine line being tentative and holding the ball and sometimes you just have to play. It's a learning experience."
Falmouth was paced by Ally Hickey, who had 16 points, four rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot. Evers finished with 10 points, five boards and a steal. Anna Hickey added eight points, Rogers four (along with a team-high 12 rebounds), Burton, Doyle, Inlow and Vasconcelos (who had a game-high three steals) two apiece.
The Yachtsmen utilized most of their roster and every girl who saw the floor contributed in some form.
"A lot of girls did good things," said Warner. "Even those who went in for two or three minutes, I thought they played their roles really well. The bench was phenomenal. It deserves a lot of credit."
Falmouth did commit 23 turnovers and only got to the line for three free throw attempts, missing them all.
For Lake Region, the story was Carter. She scored eight field goals and five came after offensive rebounds. Add in six free throws and she finished with 22 points. That was only part of the story, as she had a staggering 26 rebounds, 10 of which came at the offensive end, and three blocked shots.
"She's just a quiet kid who works her tail off every day in practice," True said. "Every day's an opportunity for her. She keeps getting better. I'm proud of her."
The Yachtsmen were certainly impressed.
"She's an incredible force to reckon with," said Evers. "All we could do was have good help side defense. We tried to stop everything she was doing in the paint."
"She's quick off the floor, so she's got an edge on you," Warner added. "If you look at our scouting report, it said don't give up second chance points and we did."
Winslow added 10 points (and eight rebounds), Sydney Hancock had eight (along with three steals), Sarah Hancock four, Clark and Craffey three each and Wandishin one.
"I brought Allison back in the fourth quarter. She had struggled a little defensively and I told her I needed a big shot from her, True said. "She's our 3-point shooter. She came in without a conscience and hit a big shot and Syd did at the end of the game as well."
Lake Region had an uncharacteristic 24 turnovers and made only 12 of 30 free throws, but found a way to survive.
"We escaped," True said. "That's a good way to put it. I told their coach after the game that their kids deserved to win the game, no question about it."
Lake Region (second to Leavitt in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) returns to action Friday at Poland. Monday, the Lakers host Fryeburg. A showdown at York looms next Thursday.
Lake Region had the best of all worlds Tuesday, getting pushed to the wire, but still coming away with a win. The Lakers should continue to improve.
"I'm not a huge believer in losses being a good thing," said True. "We love the close, competitive games. We won't overlook anybody and know anyone can beat us on a given night. I think this year's tournament, more than ever, literally one through eight will have the ability to win three games. Playing under this kind of pressure will be beneficial."
As for Falmouth (seventh in the region), it plays Friday (home against Cape Elizabeth) and Saturday (at Wells).
The Yachtsmen project to be a team no one will want to face in February.
"We're trying to fix our imperfections," Evers said. "We've worked really hard on defense in our practice. We put an emphasis on defense and I think it showed. I think we can come back even stronger. We have a huge emphasis on communicating. Everything's coming together, so we're really happy. We'll improve on every fundamental of the game. It comes down to fundamentals. We've realized that going through game tape. That's what we're going to focus on."
"We have no business playing anything less than this going down the stretch," Warner added. "The kids now know that. We've set the bar a little higher now. I'm very proud. We'll keep building on this. The loss doesn't hurt us. A win would have helped us tremendously. We have to come ready to play for everyone else. We play teams above us. From here on in, every game is big. We just have to come to play every day."
The teams meet again Jan. 31 in Naples.