PORTLAND—Falmouth’s time has arrived.
After losing in their previous three trips to the Western Class B Final, including last winter, the Yachtsmen finally got over the hump Saturday afternoon at the Cumberland County Civic Center, holding off rival and nemesis Cape Elizabeth, 53-40, in the regional title tilt.
Senior Stefano Mancini led the way with 24 points, but Falmouth got key contributions from several sources as it pulled away in the third period, fought off a Capers’ surge in the fourth and moved on to meet defending champion Camden in the Class B Final Friday at 9:05 p.m., at the Bangor Auditorium.
“It feels really good,” said Yachtsmen senior Ryan Rogers. “The seniors have been talking about this sixth grade. We hadn’t gotten over the hump.”
“It’s about time,”said longtime Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan with a big smile after the game. “I feel good for the kids. They’ve worked hard over the past four years to get here.”
Fourth time’s a charm
Falmouth entered the season at the favorite and played like it, winning its first 17 contests before falling at home to Cape Elizabeth in the regular season finale. The Yachtsmen slipped to the No. 2 seed, but were able to advance in the tournament with wins over No. 7 York (59-49) and third-ranked Mountain Valley (67-37).
The Capers also went 17-1 in the regular season and dispatched No. 9 Lake Region (53-37) and No. 4 Greely (51-43). In the latter contest, Cape Elizabeth senior Conor Moloney suffered an ankle injury, which hampered him against Falmouth.
In last year’s playoff meeting, the Capers held on for a 58-48 regional final victory. The teams also met in the 2004 quarterfinals (No. 8 Cape Elizabeth upset the top-ranked Yachtsmen 44-42) and the 2006 semis (a 60-45 Falmouth win).
On Jan. 5, at home, the Capers lost 62-55 to the Yachtsmen. A month later, in the regular season finale, Cape Elizabeth spoiled Falmouth’s quest for a perfect season with a 48-45 triumph.
The Yachtsmen, who won Class C championships in 1997, 1998 and 1999 prior to moving up in class, lost in the Western B Final in 2005 (to Gorham), 2006 (to Mountain Valley) and last year.
Saturday, everything fell Falmouth’s way.
Junior Theo Bowe got things started with a 3 16 seconds in, but after senior Jahrel Registe’s layup got the Yachtsmen on the board, the Capers turned the ball over three straight times. Two of them were steals and layups by Mancini for a 6-3 lead. A layup from junior Cam Brown cut Cape Elizabeth’s deficit to one before senior John Roberts made a foul shot to make it 7-5. Bowe got a point back at the line, then sank another 3 for a 9-7 lead with 1:51 remaining in the quarter. Senior Ben Brewster added a layup and it was 11-7 Capers after one.
Falmouth heated up in the second quarter, but Cape Elizabeth answered.
A Rogers 3 pulled the Yachtsmen within one before senior Andrew Dickey made a foul shot. Mancini then drained back-to-back 3s and Falmouth had a 16-12 advantage. A jumper from Brown got the Capers back within two, but Mancini fed Registe for a layup, making it 18-14.
With 3:34 left, Dickey scored on a spin move and at 2:14, Bowe made another 3 to put Cape Elizabeth back on top, 19-18. After sophomore Jack Cooleen missed two foul shots, Mancini scored on a nice drive on the baseline and the Yachtsmen were up for good and had a 20-19 advantage at the half.
After a quiet first half, Roberts gave Falmouth a spark early in the third, making two foul shots, then converting a three-point play for a 25-19 advantage. Rogers raced down for a finger roll before a jumper from Dickey ended the 9-0 run and a 5:22 drought.
Mancini and Moloney then traded 3-pointers, but Horning fed Roberts for a layup and a 32-24 lead with 3:36 left in the period. Mancini added a floater to push it to 10, then, with time winding down, buried a contested dagger of a 3-ball to give the Yachtsmen a 37-24 advantage heading for the fourth.
“At halftime, coach said we were up one and calmed everyone done,” Rogers said. “He told us to run our stuff and said that if we did, they couldn’t beat us.”
There, Roberts completed a 9-0 run with two free throws.
Cape Elizabeth then rattled off 10 straight to get back in it.
A leaner from Brewster, a Brewster putback, a floater from Brown and a Brown jumper with 4:44 remaining made it 39-32. Dickey and Moloney both had good looks to cut the deficit to four with 3-pointers, but both shots were off. Then, with 3:18 to go, Moloney scored on a spinner to cut it to 39-34.
“It brought back last year,” said Rogers. “It shows you can’t fall asleep against anyone, especially a good team like Cape.”
“The toughest part about them is that it’s not just one guy,” Mancini added. “They don’t skip a beat. We focused on team defense and made them adjust to us.”
The Capers would get no closer.
After a miss, Registe grabbed a rebound and fed Mancini for a layup with 2:55 left. After a steal, Rogers was fouled intentionally (Moloney fouled out on the play) and made the second of two attempts.
With 1:56 to go, after a steal, Dickey was fouled by Mancini, but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Cape Elizabeth did pull within six on a jumper from Bowe with 1:32 remaining, but Mancini restored the bulge to 44-36 with a runner at the 1:19 mark. Two Bowe free throws 11 seconds later again pulled the Capers within six, but Rogers hit two foul shots.
Wth 48.1 seconds to go, senior Matt Donovan hit a baseline jumper, but Rogers answered with two more foul shots and a 48-40 advantage.
“I got to the line once and missed the front end of a one-and-one,” Rogers said. “I was mad. I wasn’t going to miss again.”
Two Horning free throws, two more from Roberts and one from junior Brendan McDonnell brought the curtain down on Falmouth’s first Western B title, 53-40.
“It feels so good,” said Roberts. “We’ve been working on this since last year. We really, really wanted to beat them after last year. It feels good to be on the other side this year. Coach really stressed at halftime to pound the ball inside and not take jump shots. I used my size to our advantage. The team really worked well together.”
“That’s the way it is with these two teams,” Halligan said. “We felt each other out in the first half. We were a little tentative. We tightened up our defense and got out on their shooters more. Our big guys played exceptional in the second half. We got to the line and made foul shots. The separation in the third quarter was the difference in the game.”
“They were better tonight, no question,” Ray said. “We didn’t generate any consistent flow on offense. That’s what we’ve struggled with. Credit their defense. They always play tough defense. It just didn’t go our way. The kids made a run. A couple breaks might have made a difference. We had to play well. Their talent is probably a little deeper, but our kids have a tremendous amount of heart. We just didn’t play as well as we could have offensively and we turned the ball over. It stings a little bit more when you don’t feel good about how you play the game. I don’t think that’s as well as we would have liked to have played.
In the end, the regular season finale had a big effect on both teams.
“It was a good thing,” said Rogers. “It was motivating to come out here and get revenge. We wanted this one pretty bad.”
“I think we did a good job of not making the game bigger than it was,” Mancini said. “Obviously it had big implications. Last time, at our place, we had other things on our mind like 18-0. This time, it was just us versus them. We never like to lose, but we used that loss in a positive manner and learned from it.”
“You play to win, but I told the kids that game meant nothing,” Ray said. “It was for position. What it did for us was put us in a tougher bracket.”
Mancini led all scorers with 24 points.
“He hit big shots,” Ray said. “He’s one of the best in the state. He doesn’t lose his composure. He’s not afraid to go down and take a shot. He doesn’t worry about missing. He thinks about making. That’s the attitude scorers have. He’s had some bad shooting nights, but down the stretch, he’ll shoot it. Everyone knows it.”
Roberts added 12 points. Rogers had 10, Registe four , Horning two and McDonnell had one.
“That’s been our m.o. all year, everybody, not one guy,” Mancini said.
“Stefano did a good job and the other kids stepped up and made things happen,” Halligan said. “At crunch time, Stefano was there.”
Despite wearing the bullseye all winter, Falmouth delivered the goods.
“We felt a lot of pressure going in undefeated through the season, but once we lost to Cape, it relieved a lot of pressure for us,” said Roberts. “It united us. The pressure seemed to go away. We took care of business.”
“I think we embrace the pressure,” said Mancini. “We like it. We have a swagger.”
“Pressure’s relative,” Halligan added. “Fortunately, we have a veteran staff and a veteran team. Pressure’s something you put on yourself. We talk about focusing on little things and the big things will take care of themselves.”
For the Capers, Bowe led the way with 14 points. Brown had eight points, Brewster six, Dickey five and Donovan two.
Moloney finished with five and was clearly not 100 percent.
“He’s not himself,” Ray said. “That’s his strong foot. There was no way he’d miss it. We taped it up tight and he gave it a shot. He’s a tough kid.”
Cape Elizabeth wound up 19-2, but enjoyed a fine a three-year run as anyone.
“Different guys stepped up this year and carried on the tradition,” said Ray. “A guy like (senior) Tanner Garrity. He’s patient, played JV junior year. He didn’t play in the second half against Greely and I told him, “it wasn’t anything you did or didn’t do.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Coach, no problem.’ Our seniors really set the tone and attitude for this group of guys. They know what a great job they did.”
With the likes of Bowe, Brown and Joey Doane returning, the Capers should be right back in the hunt.
“Every year is a new year,” Ray said. “The three juniors and three sophomores have time to think about lessons learned from this year. They have a tremendous amount of character. I’m fortunate to have such great kids in our program. Top to bottom through our youth program, they recognize and appreciate it.”
On to Bangor
Falmouth and Camden didn’t meet in the regular season. The Windjammers won the championship in undefeated fashion last winter. They’ve fallen twice this year, but rolled through the regional tournament and will be a tough foe.
The Yachtsmen are up for the challenge.
“We played them a couple times in fall league,” Rogers said. “We match up well. They’re obviously a good team. We’ll prepare hard for them.”
“I’m excited,” said Roberts. “Camden’s good. They’ve got size and quickness. We have heart and we showed it tonight. We’re ready to play.”
“This is what we wanted since the beginning of the year,” “Mancini said. “It feels good to have it, but we’re not satisfied. We want one more. We’ll be prepared. We have a whole week to get ready for them. They have a whole week to get ready for us. It’s a new atmosphere. I’m sure it’ll be awesome. We’ll have a good time and hopefully, we’ll bring home a Gold Ball.”
“We’ll show up,” Halligan added. “These kids have been pretty successful. We’ll give it our best shot and see what happens. They’re very talented and they have to be the favorites going in, but that’s OK, we like our blue uniforms. If we’re going to win it, that’s the place to win it.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Falmouth senior Jahrel Registe grabs a rebound during Saturday’s contest.
Cape Elizabeth junior Theo Bowe shoots over Falmouth senior John Roberts in the first half. Bowe was hot early, but the Yachtsmen pulled away to win, 53-40.
Cape Elizabeth senior Ben Brewster gets in the face of Falmouth senior John Roberts. The game was a defensive battle.
Cape Elizabeth senior Conor Moloney shoots over Falmouth senior Sam Horning. Moloney played with an injured ankle and scored five points.
Falmouth senior standout Stefano Mancini, the regional tournament’s most valuable player, cuts down the nets after the regional championship was locked up.
Falmouth seniors Ryan Rogers (left) and Stefano Mancini pose with their prize after the game.
A plaque that was a long time in coming was cherished by the Falmouth boys’ basketball team Saturday afternoon after the Yachtsmen beat Cape Elizabeth in the Western B Final.