Falmouth beats Yarmouth in battle of unbeatens
FALMOUTH—Something had to give when the Falmouth and Yarmouth boys' basketball teams did battle Tuesday evening.
Both the Clippers and Yachtsmen had turned heads in the early stages of the 2011-12 season by winning their first four outings, but someone's unbeaten run had to come to an end.
That someone would be Yarmouth, as Falmouth avenged a pair of losses to the Clippers from a year ago, rallying from an early nine-point deficit to go on to a 46-42 victory as the Yachtsmen continued to stake their claim as the best team Western Class B has to offer.
Falmouth drained four 3-pointers in the second half as it gradually pulled away. Seven different Yachtsmen scored in the victory. Senior Matt Packard led the way with 14 points. Classmate Jack Cooleen added 10, while junior Tom Wilberg came off the bench and provided some huge minutes and clutch play.
"We adjusted on the fly," said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. "The veterans helped the younger guys. We had to get the right combination in there. Once we found the right combinations we were able to go. The defense kept us in the game and gave us a chance to work things out. That's a terrific team over there. There's no quit in (Yarmouth). We respect them and I think they respect us. It's always hard fought."
Both rivals entered the game having been battle tested.
Falmouth, which fell short of the playoffs in 2010-11 with an 8-10 record (the first time the Yachtsmen missed the postseason since 1984), opened with a 60-37 home win over defending regional champion Cape Elizabeth, then had their way at Fryeburg, 66-37. After rallying past host Greely, 55-48, Falmouth held off Poland Saturday, 61-58.
Yarmouth made it to the regional final a year ago for the first time since 1974, finishing 16-5 after a loss to Cape Elizabeth. This year's team is continuing the program's recent winning ways. After opening with a 70-34 romp at Gray-New Gloucester, the Clippers dominated visiting Lake Region, 85-40, and Wells, 57-33. Saturday, Yarmouth went to preseason favorite York and despite trailing by 12 points in the third period, saved its best for last to prevail, 49-48.
While Falmouth once beat Yarmouth with regularity, the Clippers have become a consistent contender in recent years under coach Adam Smith and are no longer a sure win for the Yachtsmen.
In fact, last winter, Yarmouth took both meetings, 50-33 at home and 63-58 (in OT) at Falmouth.
Tuesday, the Clippers threatened to extend their win streak in the series to three, but the Yachtsmen responded.
Yarmouth set the tone off the opening tip when sophomore Nathaniel Shields-Auble knocked the ball to streaking senior Josh Britten, who laid it in just three seconds into the contest. Britten added another layup 28 seconds later after junior Adam Wriggins' steal.
Falmouth got on the board on a 3 from Packard, but Shields-Auble scored on a bank shot, then added a jumper and with 3:47 remaining in the first quarter, junior Christian Henry stole the ball, fed senior Sam Torres and Torres made a layup while being fouled and added the free throw for an 11-3 advantage.
After the Yachtsmen responded with a jump shot from senior Matt Kingry, Henry drained a 3-ball from the right wing and the visitors were up, 14-5.
Compounding matters, Packard was whistled for his second foul, but Wilberg (along with junior Grant Burfeind) came off the bench and provided a spark.
Falmouth began a run when junior Charlie Fay made two free throws. Senior Alex Cattell added a layup and with 19.7 seconds to go, Wilberg made a layup while being fouled and added the free throw to cut the deficit to 14-12.
"I was injured for awhile, but I knew I could come in and contribute," said Wilberg. "I went out and did what I could. I played my role and things went well. I did what I could with my minutes."
As time expired in the first, Burfeind turned heads on the defensive end, racing in from behind to block a sure layup by Yarmouth sophomore David Murphy.
It didn't take long in the second quarter for the Yachtsmen to complete the comeback.
Just 33 seconds in, Cooleen made a layup to forge the game's first tie, 14-14. A mere 24 seconds later, Kingry made a layup and Falmouth was on top for the first time, 16-14. On the play, a Clipper was given a technical for hanging on the rim and Packard added a pair of technical foul free throws to make it 18-14 Yachtsmen.
"We weren't really worried because we usually come out slow," Cooleen said. "We picked it up with our defense and we were back in it."
With 6:14 left before halftime, a jumper from Shields-Auble ended the 13-0 Falmouth run and a 4 minute, 38 second scoring drought. The next time down the floor, Shields-Auble drained a 3 over Cooleen's outstreched hand and Yarmouth was back ahead, 19-18.
After Burfeind countered with a 3, Packard added one of his own and the Yachtsmen suddenly had a 24-19 advantage, but the Clippers got an old-fashioned three-point play from Britten and a Britten 3-ball from behind the arc to go on top, 25-24, a score that stood heading into the break.
There was one tie and four lead changes in the first half. Falmouth was hampered by 11 turnovers.
In the second half, the Yachtsmen would turn up the defensive pressure and hit enough clutch shots to prevail.
Yarmouth struck first in the second half when Shields-Auble hit a 3 for a 28-24 lead, but senior Jeremy Lydick answered with a 3 at the other end, Cooleen put Falmouth on top with a layup, then added another for a 31-28 advantage with 4:06 remaining in the third quarter.
With 3:21 to go, Britten broke free for a breakaway layup attempt, but was fouled hard and hit his head on the floor upon landing. He had to momentarily leave the game and Murphy came in to shoot the foul shots. Murphy missed the first, but hit the second. With 1:52 to go in the stanza, Murphy hit a jumper from the free throw line and the game went to the fourth tied at 31-31.
It took the hosts all of 22 seconds to go on top to stay.
Cooleen did the honors, putting home a missed shot and Falmouth had a 33-31 lead.
"I started to look for my shots more in the second half and worked on getting in the middle of the seams," said Cooleen.
The Clippers got a point back on a Britten free throw, but with 4:45 to play, Kingry sank a clutch 3. After Henry set up Shields-Auble for a layup at the other end, Packard was true from 3-point range and Falmouth was on top, 39-34, with 3:26 remaining.
Shields-Auble hit a pullup jumper with 3:15 showing, but 20 seconds later, Packard drained another dagger of a 3 for a 42-36 lead.
"(Shooting 3-pointers) makes us dangerous," Halligan said. "We have an inside-outside game. We have size and we have shooters."
With 2:18 to go, Wilberg drove into the lane, drew a defender, then passed to Coolen, who made a layup to push the advantage to eight.
Yarmouth senior Chris Knaub finally found his 3-point shooting range with 23.1 seconds to go, but with 12.6 seconds showing, Wilberg went to the line and sank both ends of a one-and-one.
"You practice every day, but nothing compares to that," Wilberg said. "I was on the line and I did my best."
Knaub banked home a 3 with 8.1 seconds left, but that's as close as the Clippers would get as Falmouth went on to the 46-42 win.
"It's a lot better than last year," said Cooleen. "We would have lost these games last year. We're finishing games out this year. There's a lot more experience. We have four returning starters this year. That's crucial. Everyone else is getting better too. There's still a long way to go."
"I was concerned because Yarmouth's so difficult to prepare for," Halligan said. "They play a zone, a trap and we haven't had two straight days of practice in three weeks. It's a work in progress and we're making progress."
The Clippers weren't too bothered by falling just short.
"There's going to be runs in games," Smith said. "You upset the beast and we upset Falmouth with that run and they came out and rededicated themselves to their game plan and stuck to their game plan. The game leveled out and was back and forth as we suspected it would be. Both teams struggled at times. In the second half, Falmouth had the run they were looking for. They stepped up and made their run count. The senior leadership they have showed tonight. It was a learning experience for us. We'll take a lot out of what we learned tonight on the offensive and defensive ends. They didn't give us any good looks."
Offensively, Packard had 14 points for the Yachtsmen, including four 3-pointers. Cooleen added 10, Kingry seven, Wilberg five, Burfeind and Lydick three apiece and Cattell and Fay two each.
Wilberg's effort off the bench really turned heads.
"We weren't going to rush (Tom) back," Halligan said. "He was a big part of last year's youth movement and did a terrific job. He'll make us better. He's another piece. He's a good athlete who can play inside or outside, shoot the ball, take it to the hoop. He's a good defender."
Falmouth only had five second half turnovers, giving it 16 for the game. The Yachtsmen made 7-of-11 free throws.
Yarmouth got 16 points from Shields-Auble, who is new to the program this year.
"I suspected he would get better and better," Smith said, of his new addition. "Tonight, he got points outside of the offense and created for us. He had to do that for us tonight. We have to have five guys playing together on the offensive end."
Britten had 10 first half points, but was frustrated in the second half when he only managed one.
"(Falmouth) ran two guys at him," Smith said. "You have to. The guys learned they have to step up and can't always rely on Josh."
"We tried to double (Britten) and get the ball out of his hands as much as possible," Wilberg said. "(Senior Ryan MacDonald) and Kingry did a great job playing defense on him. It was a team effort, but those two guys did really well."
"You can't stop him," Halligan added. "We just hoped to control him. It was a team effort. It wasn't one guy. It was all five guys working together."
Knaub added six points and Henry, Murphy and Torres scored three apiece.
The Clippers turned the ball over 15 times and went 4-of-7 from the charity stripe.
"I don't think tonight was an aesthetically pleasing game, but that's what you'll get in the conference this year," Smith said. "Our guys played a few minutes of each quarter well tonight. Falmouth played four quarters better. In the second half we had guys receive the ball who weren't ready to penetrate and take the shot. We were on our heels. The shots we gave up, (Falmouth) knocked down. We didn't take the shots or forced shots. It's a learning experience."
Each team has one game remaining before the holiday break.
Falmouth (5-0) hosts Traip Thursday then will compete in the annual holiday tournament at the Portland Expo next week.
"I'm pleased where we are right now," Halligan said.
Yarmouth (4-1) welcomes Fryeburg Thursday, then will also take part in the holiday tournament before looking to continue to improve in the 2012 portion of its schedule.
"I knew this stretch would be difficult because we didn't have the practice time to correct anything that was going on," Smith said. "I'm looking forward to the break so we can get back together and have some gritty practices where we get after it and get better. We've gained confidence back."
The rivals meet again in the regular season finale, Feb. 9 at Yarmouth.