The Falmouth Yachtsmen go wild with joy at the final horn of Saturday’s 59-28 win over Oceanside in the Class A state final. Falmouth won its eighth Gold Ball with a simply overwhelming performance.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
O- 3 5 7 13- 28
F- 15 8 19 17- 59
O- Sprague 2-0-6, Atwood 2-0-5, Hendricks 2-0-5, Raye 2-1-5, Mazurek 1-0-3, Norton 1-0-2, Straka 0-2-2
F- T. Coyne 6-3-16, Wuhlbrecht 5-4-14, C. Coyne 3-4-11, Skop 4-2-10, Chamberlain 1-0-2, Walsh 1-0-2, Whitmore 1-0-2, N. Wissemann 0-2-2
O (5) Sprague 2, Atwood, Hendricks, Mazurek 1
F (2) C. Coyne, T. Coyne 1
PORTLAND—Every team wants to save their best for last.
Falmouth’s boys’ basketball squad managed to do that Saturday afternoon in the Class A state championship game at the Cross Insurance Arena, as the Yachtsmen’s last was nearly perfect, golden in fact, and as a result, Falmouth is once again a boys’ basketball state champion.
The Yachtsmen had their way with Cinderella Oceanside in a tidy 70 minutes in the Class A state final and added another triumphant chapter to their storied legacy.
It took the Yachtsmen little time to seize control of this one, as they scored the final 11 points of the first quarter and held the Mariners scoreless the final 6 minutes, 40 seconds to lead, 15-3, after eight minutes.
Falmouth’s defensive effort remained top-notch in the second period and by halftime, the Yachtsmen led, 23-8, as senior big men Sam Skop and Matt Wuhlbrecht had their best games at the most ideal time and Oceanside only made 3 of 25 field goals.
The Mariners opened the second half with a 3-pointer, but Falmouth put the game away with a 17-2 surge, highlighted by baskets from Skop and Wuhlbrecht, as well as the expected excellent play from senior Mr. Maine Basketball finalist Thomas Coyne and his junior brother, Colin Coyne.
By the end of three periods, the Yachtsmen’s lead was 42-15 and the final stanza was a mere formality as coach Dave Halligan pulled the starters midway through and Falmouth’s reserves put the finishing touches on a dominant 59-28 victory.
Thomas Coyne had a game-high 16 points, Wuhlbrecht added 14 points, Colin Coyne 11 and Skop 10 as the Yachtsmen’s defense produced the best state game performance in 66 years, allowing Falmouth to cap its season at 18-4 and end Oceanside’s run at 16-6 in the process.
“It was a fantastic defensive effort,” Halligan said. “Defense is hard work and discipline and that’s what these guys had. It was fun to watch it. Our goal is always to get better as the season goes along and I thought we did that.”
Regardless of where they’ve been assigned over the years, the Yachtsmen have won, won and won some more.
Falmouth’s first state title came in Class C in 1986, when the Yachtsmen defeated Hodgdon to win the championship. The next winter, Falmouth repeated with a state game victory over Calais. Cooper Higgins (now the school’s athletic director) coached those teams.
It took a decade for the Yachtsmen to return to the pinnacle (they lost to John Bapst in 1990 and to Hodgdon in 1996), but Halligan led Falmouth to Class C crowns in 1997, 1998 and again in 1999, before the Yachtsmen moved up in class again, to Class B.
Falmouth knocked on the door for several years in Class B before breaking through in 2010, edging Camden Hills in an overtime thriller at the old Bangor Auditorium. Three years ago, the Yachtsmen won a second Class B championship behind a transcendent effort in a 23-point victory over Medomak Valley.
The Yachtsmen played their traditional Western Maine Conference schedule in 2014 and 2015, but moved up to Class A for the tournament. Falmouth held its own, but was ousted by Bonny Eagle by a single point in the 2014 Western A semifinal, then lost to Portland in last year’s regional final.
Falmouth went 14-4 this year, but could have easily wound up 17-1, losing one-point decisions at eventual Class A South top seed Greely and Class C South champion Waynflete and at home to eventual Class B champion Lake Region. A 10-point home loss to Greely in the regular season finale relegated the Yachtsmen to the No. 2 seed in Class A South, but Falmouth proved to be the region’s best squad, eliminating No. 7 Westbrook, 61-33, in the quarterfinals, holding off No. 3 Cape Elizabeth, 52-49, in the semifinals, then downing No. 4 Brunswick, 58-44, in the regional final.
Oceanside, a combination of the former Georges Valley and Rockland high schools, had never played in a state game. The Mariners weren’t supposed to be in this one either, but after a 13-5 regular season, they beat No. 4 Messalonskee (64-51) in the quarterfinals, shocked the world by upsetting top-ranked, undefeated, defending Class A champion Hampden Academy (66-63) in the semifinals, then shot their way past No. 3 Medomak Valley (59-45) in the regional final.
Saturday, in front of a large crowd, Falmouth left no doubt that it’s the best Class A team in the state.
Thomas Coyne made his presence felt just six seconds in by scoring on a leaner to put the Yachtsmen ahead for good.
A minute later, Wuhlbrecht grabbed two straight offensive rebounds and was fouled after the second. He hit both free throws for a quick 4-0 lead.
“In this tournament, we wanted to get out to a hot start each game and control the tempo,” Wuhlbrecht said. “It was important to take a lead and keep it the whole game.”
Oceanside got on the board as senior Keenan Hendricks buried a long 3, but Colin Coyne answered with a 3 and after Skop blocked a shot at the defensive end, Thomas Coyne fed Wuhlbrecht for a layup and a 9-3 advantage and Mariners coach Matt Breen had to call timeout.
It didn’t help, as Thomas Coyne passed to Wuhlbrecht in the lane and Wuhlbrecht unselfishly set up Skop for a layup and after Skop’s third blocked shot of the opening frame, Thomas Coyne drove for a 13-3 advantage with 1:56 remaining, forcing Breen to call timeout again.
“We knew they were very good, so we knew having a hot start was crucial for us to win,” Colin Coyne said. “We got a hot start and they didn’t and we took advantage.
“(Sam and Matt) were impressive. They practiced all season on capitalizing and they did.”
“Sam and Matt have been huge,” Thomas Coyne said. “They stepped up big-time in the tournament. Me and Colin have the trust to give them the ball.”
Again, the timeout didn’t get the desired result, as Oceanside didn’t score the rest of the first period and a Skop putback with 6.5 seconds to go capped a nearly perfect frame and gave Falmouth a commanding 15-3 advantage.
“Watching the (Class A) girls’ game (a thrilling one-point victory by York over Lawrence), I felt like a caged animal,” Skop said. “I had pent up energy. I just wanted to get out on the court and play.”
In the second quarter, little changed.
After jumper in the lane from junior Sean Walsh pushed the Yachtsmen’s lead to 14, the Mariners finally snapped the 13-0 run and a 7 minute, 41 second drought when junior Nate Raye scored on a runner, but Skop scored on a putback while being fouled and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play and with 4:30 left before halftime, Colin Coyne set up Thomas Coyne for a short bank shot and a 22-5 lead and Breen had to call timeout once more.
This time it had a slightly positive effect, as Raye drove for a leaner while being fouled and added a free throw for the three-point play, but again, Oceanside wouldn’t score the rest of the quarter, going the final 2:41 without a point.
With 2:15 left, Skop made one free throw and while Falmouth was a bit sloppier in the second period, the Yachtsmen still had a 23-8 advantage at the break.
In the first half, Skop led the way with eight points, five rebounds, three blocks and a steal. The Mariners made only 3 of 25 field goal attempts.
Oceanside tried to rally in the third quarter, but the Yachtsmen didn’t let it happen.
A 3 from senior Riley Sprague got the Mariners started in the second half, but they couldn’t draw closer and after Thomas Coyne set up Wuhlbrecht for a layup, Colin Coyne made two free throws, Wuhlbrecht fed Skop for a reverse layup and with 4:55 left in the frame, Colin Coyne’s long pass led to a Wuhlbrecht three-point play and a 32-11 advantage.
Oceanside got a layup from sophomore Michael Norton, but Colin Coyne again set up Wuhlbrecht for a layup, Thomas Coyne hit a bank shot, Thomas Coyne threw a touchdown pass to Colin Coyne for a layup and Wuhlbrecht scored on a putback for a 40-13 lead.
“Were we up 15 at halftime?” Halligan said. “I thought we were up by one. That’s how we approached it. They’re a dangerous team if they hit 3s. They could get back in it, but we had discipline and took control of the pace of the game.”
The Mariners got a bank shot from junior Sam Atwood, but a floater in the lane from Colin Coyne made it 42-15 Falmouth heading for the fourth quarter.
There, the Yachtsmen put it away and enjoyed their coronation.
Wuhlbrecht started the final stanza with a free throw. Oceanside then got consecutive 3s from senior Nick Mazurek and Sprague, cutting the deficit to 43-21, but Thomas Coyne answered with a free throw.
With 6:05 to go, Atwood buried a deep contested 3 from the corner, but Thomas Coyne returned to the line and this time hit both attempts for a 46-24 lead.
Hendricks countered by driving for a layup, but Thomas Coyne did him one better by driving and finishing a layup with the left hand. Colin Coyne added two free throws and a 3 from Thomas Coyne spelled a 53-26 advantage and the end of the day for the starters, who came out to a rousing ovation.
Down the stretch, Falmouth senior Nick Wissemann made two free throws, senior Alex Whitmore scored on a putback and senior Drew Chamberlain, the football standout, took a pass from Wissemann and drove for a highlight reel layup to fittingly finish the Yachtsmen’s scoring.
Oceanside senior Christian Straka hit two free throws with just under a minute to go and Falmouth ran out the clock from there and celebrated its emphatic 59-28 victory.
“It’s a special last win for the seniors,” Skop said. “You want to have your last game be a win. I’m very happy we were able to achieve that.”
“It’s awesome,” Wuhlbrecht said. “We worked hard all week preparing. I had all the confidence in the world with this team. We had tough losses, but that told us we just needed to finish games. It’s really special to win with these guys.”
“We knew A South was wide open, so we knew any team could win,” Colin Coyne said. “We knew if we practiced hard and focused and played our game, we could be the last team standing. We have good chemistry. We gained a lot of trust in each other. We meshed well.”
“This is special,” Thomas Coyne said. “Senior year, going out with a bang. I’ve played with the other seniors for a long time. We were battle-tested. We lost tough games. We were a few seconds from being undefeated. We played top teams and that helped us.”
“We knew (the Mariners) were a perimeter oriented team, not a big team,” Halligan added. “We thought we could get it done inside and take the perimeter away. We knew they’d make some 3s, but we didn’t want them to make a good percentage.
“We didn’t skip any steps this year. We knew it was a process. We had to avoid the high highs and low lows and learn. We had losses because we played the toughest schedule.
“Every championship is special, but winning in Class A is unique. I can’t rank them. They’re all something I’ll always remember.”
The Yachtsmen featured a balanced attack that the Mariners simply couldn’t contend with.
Thomas Coyne, who played a key role in Falmouth’s last championship, scoring 14 points as a freshman, led all scorers with 16 points. He also had five rebounds and four assists as he capped his stellar high school career in style (the Falmouth student section on several occasions chanted, “Mr. Basketball” in his direction).
Coyne, who missed most of his junior season with a foot injury, got to bow out in style.
“It was a great ride,” Coyne said. “Last year was tough. When I came back, I wasn’t at my best. I didn’t realize what it took to get back to where I was. I used the (regional final) loss to Portland last year as motivation to work hard all summer and get better. It’s been special. I’ve been part of great teams all four years. I’ve had great teammates and coaches. I’ll miss it.”
“I’ve been a much better coach (with Thomas),” Halligan said. “We’ve been blessed to watch him play for four years. If you’re a high school basketball junkie, this is the type of player you want to watch.”
Wuhlbrecht bowed out with a sterling 14-point, six-rebound performance.
“Thomas and Colin drove and got me the ball,” Wuhlbrecht said. “I had to get to an open spot and when I got the ball, I had to finish. We knew we needed to take pressure off Colin and Thomas. They do a lot for the team. It opens the offense a lot when we’re scoring.”
“Our bigs got better through leaps and bounds in the second half of the season,” Halligan said. “The guards got them the ball in places where they could handle it and score.”
Colin Coyne had 11 points and five boards. He also got to win a state title with his brother.
“We’ve played together our whole life,” Colin Coyne said. “It’s a fairy tale ending to win a championship together.”
“It’s awesome to win with Colin,” Thomas Coyne said. “It’s been a great year. It will probably be the last time we played together.”
Falmouth has been blessed by several transcendent brother combinations (Barrs, Mastropaolos, etc.) and Halligan said that Colin and Thomas Coyne belong in the discussion of the finest.
“They’re right up there,” Halligan said. “They’re all special, great basketball families and supporters of each other.”
Skop capped his strong tournament by scoring 10 points, adding five rebounds and three blocks.
“You could see how much of a team effort it was,” Skop said. “Everyone said we were a two-man team, but it was a team effort today.”
Chamberlain, Walsh, Whitmore and Wissemann all added two points.
Falmouth enjoyed a 34-21 rebound advantage, made 21 of 48 shots from the floor and overcame 2 of 14 3-point shooting with excellence (15 of 18) from the free throw line and terrific ball handling (just seven turnovers).
Ultimately, it was the Yachtsmen’s defense which garnered the biggest kudos as they held Oceanside to the fewest team points in a Class A or AA state final since Millinocket put up only 23 in a five-point loss to Portland in the 1950 contest.
“We knew they were a good 3-point shooting team, so we took that away,” Thomas Coyne said. “We controlled the pace on offense. We built a lead and never let up.”
“We were really doing a lot of watching film on them and got to know their offense well and it showed,” Skop said.
“Our great defense was the difference today,” Wuhlbrecht said. “It’s been our backbone and today it showed.”
The Mariners got six points from Sprague, five apiece from Atwood, Hendricks and Raye, three from Mazurek and two each from Norton and Straka.
Oceanside made just 10 of 46 shots and 5 of 20 3-pointers. The Mariners made all three of their free throws and turned the ball over 14 times.
Falmouth hasn’t repeated as state champion at any level since winning Class B three years in a row from 1997-99.
The Yachtsmen will be hard hit by graduation. Replacing Thomas Coyne is hard enough, but Skop, Wuhlbrecht and six others also depart.
With that said, Falmouth will build around Coyne, Walsh, sophomore Jack Bryant and junior Ben Simonds. That core will be joined by the program’s usual crop of incoming talent, so don’t be surprised if the Yachtsmen are among the last teams standing a year from now.
“I’d like to do it again,” Colin Coyne said. “It would be a good feeling. We have a solid core coming back and good freshman. It’s wide open again. Any team from the South or North can win it. It’ll be fun.”
“We’ve got good kids coming up who have paid their dues,” said Halligan, who needs 18 more victories to reach the lofty air of 500 for his career. “We’ll prepare to play in this game again.”
Falmouth senior Thomas Coyne, who led all scorers with 16 points, eyes the basket.
Falmouth senior Sam Skop, who had a terrific postseason, leans in and takes a shot.
Falmouth junior Sean Walsh lines up a shot.
Falmouth junior Colin Coyne shoots over Oceanside senior Riley Sprague.
Falmouth senior Matt Wuhlbrecht floats a shot over an Oceanside defender. Wulhbrecht excelled with 14 points and six rebounds.
Falmouth senior Thomas Coyne waves the net in celebration following the win.
The younger Coyne brother, Colin, gets a net of his own.
Falmouth junior Colin Coyne, left, and his brother, senior Thomas Coyne, show off the Gold Ball.
The joy was palpable among the Falmouth student section as well.
2013 Class B
Falmouth 62 Medomak Valley 39
2010 Class B
Falmouth 72 Camden Hills 65 (OT)
1999 Class C
Falmouth 58 Penquis 36
1998 Class C
Falmouth 78 Washington Academy 61
1997 Class C
Falmouth 83 Narraguagus 56
1996 Class C
Hodgdon 77 Falmouth 71
1990 Class C
John Bapst 46 Falmouth 38
1987 Class C
Falmouth 65 Calais 62
1986 Class C
Falmouth 76 Hodgdon 59