Falmouth edges Kennebunk in thrilling semifinal, gives LeBel 100th win

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Falmouth’s boys’ lacrosse team celebrates a goal during Saturday’s 10-9 victory over Kennebunk in a Class B South semifinal. The Yachtsmen advanced to the regional final for the eighth year in a row, where they will face three-time defending state champion Cape Elizabeth.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Falmouth 10 Kennebunk 9

K- 4 4 0 1- 9
F- 2 3 4 1- 10

First quarter
3:34 F Russell (Norris)
1:56 K Beveridge (C. Connor) 
1:22 F Mainella (Scribner)
:39 K Lovejoy (unassisted)
:21 K Beveridge (unassisted)
:01 K D. Connor (unassisted) 

Second quarter
9:59 F Scribner (unassisted)
8:47 F Mainella (Scribner)
6:48 K Gassman (Whitten)
4:50 F Scribner (unassisted)
3:53 K C. Connor (Whitten)
3:14 K Beveridge (Whitten)
2:02 K D. Connor (Lovejoy) 

Third quarter
10:02 F Russell (Scribner)
7:59 F N. Farnham (Norris) (MAN-UP)
5:11 F Russell (Scribner)
1:28 F Gilbert (Norris) (MAN-UP) 

Fourth quarter
7:47 K Whitten (C. Connor)
1:26 F N. Farnham (Norris) 

Goals:
K- Beveridge 3, D. Connor 2, C. Connor, Gassman, Lovejoy, Whitten 1
F-Russell 3, N. Farnham, Mainella, Scribner 2, Gilbert 1

Assists:
K- Whitten 3, C. Connor, Lovejoy 1
F- Norris, Scribner 4

Shots on cage:
K- 27
F- 23

Saves: 
K (Ross) 13
F (Tucker) 18

FALMOUTH—With its season on the line and its mental fortitude being challenged, Falmouth’s boys’ lacrosse team dug deep and produced its finest hour Saturday evening.

Trailing red-hot Kennebunk, a team which had beaten the Yachtsmen a couple weeks prior, by three goals at halftime of the teams’ Class B South semifinal, Falmouth could have packed it in and put an up-and-down season behind it, but instead, the Yachtsmen made a powerful statement, riding a dominant defensive effort to spark the comeback, giving their coach a landmark victory in the process.

And as a result, they find themselves just two wins from a state title.

Falmouth, the No. 2 seed in Class B South, fell behind in the first period, when third-ranked Kennebunk scored three times in the final minute to grab a 4-2 lead.

The Yachtsmen tied the score twice in the second quarter, the second time when junior Jack Scribner scored unassisted with 4:50 remaining, but the Rams scored again scored three straight goals to take an 8-5 advantage to halftime.

Falmouth re-dedicated itself to defense in the second half and shut Kennebunk out in the third quarter, allowing the Yachtsmen’s potent offense to respond. Goals from junior Devin Russell, sophomore Nick Farnham, Russell again and senior George Gilbert put the hosts on top, 9-8.

Kennebunk wasn’t about to make it easy, however, and in a microcosm of its season, played its best late, tying the game with 7:47 remaining, as junior Brenden Whitten beat Falmouth junior goalie Liam Tucker, who wouldn’t surrender another goal.

The  Yachtsmen went on top for good with just 1:26 left, as Farnham scored, and down the stretch, Tucker made two huge saves and Falmouth’s defense denied one final Rams’ chance as time expired and the Yachtsmen held on to advance, 10-9.

Falmouth snapped a two-game skid, improved to 10-3, gave coach Mike LeBel hit 100th victory with the program, ended Kennebunk’s season at 9-5 and advanced to meet top-ranked, three-time defending state champion Cape Elizabeth (13-0) in the Class B South yet again, Wednesday in Cape Elizabeth.

“We changed the way we did things defensively and stepped it up and shut them out in the third quarter,” LeBel said. “To let up eight goals in one half won’t ever win a game. The kids showed a lot of heart. I knew it was possible.” 

Back on track

Falmouth looked title-worthy most of the season, winning nine of its first 10 games, but the Yachtsmen closed with losses at Kennebunk and at home to Cape Elizabeth to create some doubt.

Kennebunk, meanwhile, started 1-3, then was as good as anyone down the stretch, winning seven of eight to finish 8-4, then having no trouble with No. 6 York in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round, romping, 21-5.

The teams split during the regular season, as Falmouth won at home, 10-5, April 27 and the Rams did the same exactly a month later, 9-8.

Entering play Saturday, the teams had played three times previously in the playoffs, with Kennebunk taking the first two (13-9 in the 2004 West Division quarterfinals and 10-9 in the same round the next year) and the Yachtsmen winning, 12-9, in the 2014 Western B semifinals.

Saturday’s game, as expected, was down to the wire, and Falmouth found a way to prevail.

Neither offense was able to get untracked early and it took until 3:34 remained in the opening quarter for Russell to break the ice, as he finished a feed from sophomore Lou Mainella.

The Rams drew even with 1:56 left, when senior Boden Beveridge finished a pass from junior Camden Connor, but 34 seconds later, Mainella took a pass from Scribner and beat Kennebunk senior goalie James Ross.

The visitors then erupted to close the quarter, as freshman Cameron Lovejoy scored unassisted with 39 seconds left, Beveridge scored an unassisted goal with 21 seconds remaining and with only 1.2 seconds on the clock, senior Donovan Connor scored unassisted to make it 4-2.

Falmouth battled back in the second period, as Gilbert scored unassisted with 9:59 left in the half and Scribner set up Mainella to tie it, 4-4, with 8:47 remaining. 

Kennebunk went back on top with 6:48 to go, as senior Patrick Gassman (from Whitten) scored, but with 4:50 left, Scribner fired a shot which Ross slowed but couldn’t stop and that made the score 5-5.

Like they did in the first quarter, however, the Rams closed the second period on a three-goal surge.

With 3:53 left in the half, Whitten set up Camden Connor for the go-ahead tally.

Thirty-nine seconds later, Whitten set up Beveridge for another goal.

With 2:02 remaining in the half, Lovejoy assisted on a goal by Donovan Connor and Kennebunk took an 8-5 lead to the break.

Where something changed.

That was clear at the start of the third period, as Falmouth turned up the defensive intensity, delivering hits, forcing turnovers and the Yachtsmen’s offense picked up the baton and did its job as well as the hosts won the quarter, 4-0, to take the lead.

With 10:02 remaining in the period, Scribner set up Russell to cut the deficit to 8-6.

With 8:23 to go, Gassman was sent off for interference and 24 seconds later, Farnham scored his first goal, man-up, from junior Henry Norris, to pull Falmouth within one.

The tying goal came with 5:11 to play, as in transition, Scribner fed Russell for a goal to make it 8-8.

Kennebunk coach Dan Seavey called timeout to stem the tide, but it didn’t work, as the Rams took another penalty and with 1:28 remaining, Norris set up Gilbert for a man-up goal and the Yachtsmen took a 9-8 advantage to the fourth quarter.

Where it took until the final horn to decide a winner.

Early in the final stanza, Gilbert’s bid to extend the lead hit the post.

With 8:30 to play, Tucker preserved the lead by robbing Kennebunk senior Spencer Thibodeau.

The Rams did pull even with 7:47 left, as one second after a penalty expired, Whitten took a pass from Camden Connor and scored to make it 9-9, ending an 18 minute, 15 second drought.

Kennebunk had all the momentum and pushed hard for the go-ahead goal, bu Tucker made three saves in 27 seconds to preserve the tie, first denying Lovejoy, then saving bids from Thibodeau and freshman Tripp Bush.

The Rams kept pushing and after Thibodeau sent a bounce shot just wide, Gassman was denied by Tucker and Beveridge shot wide.

With 2:15 to play, Kennebunk turned the ball over and Falmouth got the ball back with a chance to go ahead, but appeared to give it back on an over-and-back transgression. After a discussion, however, the officials said the ball was tipped by a Ram and the Yachtsmen retained the ball.

And they took advantage, as with 1:26 to go, Norris fed Farnham up top and Farnham’s shot eluded Ross and tickled the twine for a 10-9 lead.

“I asked George if he wanted the shot and he said I could take it,” Farnham said. “We had a play where he set a pick and I came around. I just looked to shoot it and it went in.”

Kennebunk won the ensuing faceoff, but turned the ball over.

The Rams got it right back and with 1:07 to go, Gassman had a good look, but Tucker made the save.

Falmouth then took a penalty, giving Kennebunk a man-up opportunity.

With 37.1 seconds left, Gassman had a look, but the shot was blocked by a defender.

The Yachtsmen then took another penalty, giving the Rams a two-man advantage, but their one good chance, a rocket in close from Donovan Connor, was stopped cold by Tucker.

The rebound deflected to the left wing, where a scrum ensued.

As the clock wound down, Falmouth was called for yet another penalty and the time was re-set to 1.3 seconds, giving Kennebunk an opportunity to throw the ball in front and perhaps get a shot off in time to force overtime.

But it didn’t happen, as a defender knocked the ball away and time expired, allowing the Yachtsmen to celebrate their 10-9 victory.

“Just getting back to the basis, throwing and catching, smart passes and general hustle, got us back in it,” Farnham said. “We were all pretty confident. We know we’re better than those two losses. We wanted to come back and make a statement and we did.”

“We realized if we didn’t start picking it up, it would be our last game and we didn’t want it to be our last game, so everyone started hustling more, especially for the seniors, because no one wanted it to end for them,” Tucker said. “It was pretty tough knowing they might have one more shot, but we tried to hold them tight and pressure the ball. We were excited when we won. It’s our biggest win of the year. They’re a great team.” 

“I knew we’d score more goals, but my biggest worry was could we stop them? LeBel added. “We didn’t panic. We did what we practiced. It wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the day, we got the win.”

Tucker, who missed a big chunk of the season with a hand injury, was at his best Saturday, making 18 saves.

“My defense definitely helped,” Tucker said. “They were a huge part of the second half boost. They gave me shots I could see.”

“I was confident in the defense and Liam was incredible today,” Farnham said. “He saved us several times.”

“The defense stepped up and Liam made some unbelievable saves,” LeBel added. “If he wasn’t in the cage for us today, we wouldn’t have won the game.”  

Offensively, Falmouth got three goals from Russell, two apiece from Farnham, Mainella and Scribner and one from Gilbert. Norris and Scribner both had four assists.

After the win, LeBel got a celebratory cold water bath from his players, then reflected on what 100 wins meant to him.

“This helps me remember all the great players that have gone through this program and the parents, the support from the community,” LeBel said. “It’s been great. I think about how many people had influence on our success. It’s pretty neat. It allows me to remember way, way back, all the people who were there when times weren’t necessarily great. It’s been a fun ride.”

Kennebunk was led by Beveridge’s three goals. Donovan Connor scored twice and Camden Connor, Gassman, Lovejoy and Whitten all had one goal. Whitten finished with three assists and Camden Connor and Lovejoy both had one. Ross made 13 saves and the Rams finished with a 27-23 advantage in shots on frame, but they went down to a painful defeat.

Falmouth-Cape, Act VIII

Wednesday, for the eighth year in a row, the Yachtsmen and Capers will square off in the regional final. Cape Elizabeth has won five of the past seven, including a 12-4 decision a year ago.

The Capers won both regular season meetings this spring, 11-9 at home and 13-5 at Falmouth in the finale, but the Yachtsmen believe they’ll play their best game on the biggest stage and take a step closer to their first championship since 2012.

“Hopefully we’ll play like we did today in the second half against (Cape),” Tucker said.

“I think if we play our best and we don’t let anything get in our heads and we just play our game and take our good shots and play our good defense, I think we’ll have a good chance,” Farnham said.

“We played well over there the first time, but we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times,” LeBel added. “It’s going to come down to who is going to want it more. Two talented teams, two potent offenses. It’s what defense steps up, what goalie steps up. I know (Cape Elizabeth goalie Alex Narvaez) will step up because he always does against us. I really, really believe we have a chance.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter:@foresports.

Falmouth sophomore Lou Mainella fires through the Kennebunk defense for one of his two goals.

Falmouth sophomore Brendan Hickey smothers Kennebunk senior Spencer Thibodeau.

Falmouth senior George Gilbert looks to shoot as Kennebunk junior Brenden Whitten defends.

Falmouth junior Devin Russell scores one of his three goals.

Falmouth sophomore Emmett Zinn defends Kennebunk senior Boden Beveridge.

Falmouth junior goalie Liam Tucker prepares to deny Kennebunk freshman Dante DeLorenzo for one of his 18 saves.

Falmouth senior George Gilbert fires a shot past Kennebunk senior goalie James Ross for a 9-8 lead.

Previous Falmouth-Kennebunk playoff results

2014 Western B semifinals
Falmouth 12 Kennebunk 9

2005 West Division quarterfinal
Kennebunk 10 Falmouth 9

2004 West Division quarterfinal
Kennebunk 13 Falmouth 9 

Previous Falmouth stories

Season Preview

@ Falmouth 21 South Portland 10

@ Cape Elizabeth 11 Falmouth 9

Falmouth 12 @ Yarmouth 7

Cape Elizabeth 13 @ Falmouth 5

Previous Kennebunk story

Kennebunk 15 @ Greely 5

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.