Falmouth gets defensive, beats Biddeford in step one of title defense

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Falmouth sophomore Sam Manganello (32) congratulates junior Jack Bryant after Bryant scores a basket during the Yachtsmen’s 48-34 win over Biddeford in Saturday’s Class A South quarterfinals.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—Falmouth wasn’t its usual prolific scoring self Saturday evening, but fortunately for the Yachtsmen, their defense is still championship-caliber.

Falmouth, the defending Class A state champion, met Biddeford in a boys’ Class A South quarterfinal round contest at the Portland Exposition Building and for three quarters, the Yachtsmen absolutely smothered the Tigers’ attack.

Falmouth, the No. 2 seed, never trailed, and thanks to four points from junior Jack Bryant, held an 11-5 lead after one quarter.

Seventh-ranked Biddeford got as close as four in the second period before a 10-2 run, sparked by six points from senior Colin Coyne and four more from Bryant, helped open up a 25-14 halftime advantage.

When senior Sean Walsh hit a bank shot with 1:23 to go in the third quarter, the Yachtsmen appeared home free, up, 38-17, but late in the frame, Tigers junior Kyle Norton hit a 3-pointer and that gave his team life.

Twice in the fourth period, Biddeford pulled within 10, the last when sophomore Carter Edgerton hit a baseline jumper with 4:50 left, but Walsh and Bryant restored order and Falmouth’s defense clamped down from there as the Yachtsmen went on to a 48-34 victory.

Bryant led a balanced attack with 14 points, Walsh added 13 and Coyne finished with 11 as Falmouth overcame Norton’s 19 points and improved to 14-5, ended the Tigers’ season at 8-11 and advanced to meet No. 3 Cape Elizabeth (12-7) in the Class A South semifinals Wednesday at 6 p.m. across town at the Cross Insurance Arena.

“I’m not pleased, but I’m pleased that we won,” said Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan. “There are some things we need to take care of, like time and score situations. We kind of fell asleep and got lackadaisical. Teams don’t quit until the final whistle in a tournament game. The younger guys made some mistakes and hopefully they’ll learn from it. We can’t make those mistakes against Cape because it could cost us a game.” 

Catbird seat

Considering it’s the defending state champion, Falmouth isn’t getting a lot of attention going into the tournament and the Yachtsmen are happy to let top-ranked Greely handle that pressure.

Falmouth produced yet another solid regular season, going 13-5, good for the second seed in Class A South (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories).

Biddeford went 8-10 and wound up seventh in the region.

On Dec. 15, Falmouth won, 60-46, at the Tigers. The teams had no playoff history.

Saturday, the squads took the court moments after Cape Elizabeth’s stunning and controversial come-from-behind overtime win over Brunswick and while they couldn’t match that game’s intensity, the Yachtsmen were more than happy to win a relatively drama-free contest.

An old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) from Walsh 81 seconds in put Falmouth ahead to stay and the next time down the floor, Bryant drove for a layup and a quick 5-0 lead.

Biddeford got on the board with 5:03 to play in the quarter, when Norton knocked down his first 3.

Walsh then set up Bryant for a layup and Walsh banked home a shot for a 9-3 advantage.

After Tigers senior Patrick Pearl made two free throws, Yachtsmen senior Brock Welch countered with a driving layup for an 11-5 lead after eight minutes.

Falmouth opened it up further in the second quarter.

A floater from Edgerton started the frame, but Bryant countered with a bank shot and Coyne, who had been scoreless to that point by a face-guarding Pearl, hit a runner while being fouled, then added the free throw to complete the three-point play for a 16-7 lead with 4:14 to go in the half.

Norton countered with two foul shots, but Coyne knocked down a 3 and Bryant drove for a layup to make it 21-9.

Norton answered with a 3-ball, but Coyne set up Walsh for a layup.

After Pearl scored on a layup in transition, senior Ben Simonds’ two free throws put the Yachtsmen ahead, 25-14, at halftime.

In the first half of play, Bryant had eight points, Walsh seven and Coyne six to pace Falmouth, while Norton led the Tigers with eight points.

The Yachtsmen threatened to run away and hide in the third period, but couldn’t quite deliver the knockout blow.

Simonds made a layup to start the half and Coyne added a 3, freshman Michael Simonds hit a floater and with 3:54 to go in the third, Bryant made one free throw to cap a 10-0 run and extend the lead to 33-14.

Biddeford junior DeSean Cromwell made a free throw to end his team’s 5 minute, 24 second drought and Norton followed with a bank shot, but Bryant made a free throw, Coyne drove for a layup and Walsh banked home a shot for a commanding 38-17 advantage.

Norton answered with a 3, but Falmouth seemed safe entering the final stanza, up, 38-20.

The Tigers would make a run in the fourth quarter, however.

A Norton 3 got things started and Pearl drove for a layup to make it 38-25 with 6:14 to play.

After Walsh made two free throws, senior Austin Dutremble hit a pair and with 5:15 to go, Norton’s final 3 pulled Biddeford within 10, 40-30.

Bryant answered with two free throws, but Edgerton hit a baseline jumper to again cut the deficit to 10.

And then, the Yachtsmen slammed the door, allowing just two points the rest of the way.

With 3:20 to play, after milking time off the clock, Falmouth got an easy basket, as Bryant set up Walsh for a layup.

Bryant added two free throws and Michael Simonds did the same and even though Pearl made one final layup, Falmouth went on to a 48-34 victory.

“It was a defensive game,” Walsh said. “We played really good defense. They’re a good shooting team. They hit some shots in the fourth quarter and heated up, but our defense kept us in the game. We would have liked to have gotten our offense going more, but there were some nerves in our first tournament game. When we went into the locker room, we talked about how there was never a point in the game where we thought they couldn’t come back. We treated it like a tie game all the time and we didn’t take a play off.”

“We live on our defense,” Halligan said. “If the offense isn’t working, and it wasn’t tonight, the defense will keep us in the game.”

Bryant led the Yachtsmen with 14 points. He also had eight rebounds, two steals and two assists. Walsh finished with a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds. Coyne added 11 points, Ben Simonds and Michael Simonds had four apiece. 

“That’s a big stage for Michael,” Halligan said. “He was playing eighth grade basketball last year at this time. I don’t like to put a freshman in that situation, but in the long run, he’ll benefit from it.”

Welch wound up with two points.

Considering that only Coyne and Walsh had ample postseason experience, Falmouth handled its first playoff test pretty well.

“All the players on our team have gotten experience throughout the season and everyone on the team is a good player,” Walsh said. “They just have to calm their nerves and get out there and play.” 

The Yachtsmen had a 32-20 rebounding advantage, only turned the ball over eight times and made 14 of 21 free throws.

For Biddeford, Norton led all scorers with 19 points. Pearl added eight, Edgerton had four, Dutremble two and Cromwell one. Senior Caleb Ball didn’t score, but did haul down eight rebounds.

The Tigers only turned the ball over eight times and made 7 of 11 foul shots, but hit just 11 of 41 shots from the floor.

Rematch

Wednesday’s contest will be a highly anticipated affair, especially since Cape Elizabeth again has the services of standout junior Finn Bowe, who missed the second half of the season with a broken leg before returning to beat Brunswick with a free throw at the end of overtime of their quarterfinal round contest.

Falmouth split with the Capers this year, losing 40-37 on Bowe a buzzer-beater, and winning, 60-44, at home.

The Yachtsmen are 4-2 all-time against Cape Elizabeth in the tournament, including last year’s 52-49 triumph in the Class A South semifinals.

Expect another tight, emotional battle Wednesday, as the ancient rivals square off with a trip to the regional final hanging in the balance.

“I always like to think we’re the best team, that’s just my mindset,” Walsh said. “Cape and Greely and York are also great teams. (Cape’s) a good team and they have Finn back, which helps them. We have to prepare to go out there and play our game.”

“Historically, the semifinals are the best games to see,” Halligan said. “They’re usually four good teams who are confident who all have the same goal. These are the games you want to play in. (Bowe’s) a gamer. Just having him on the floor will make it a battle for us. It’ll be a challenge.”

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

Falmouth senior Colin Coyne goes up with the left hand as Biddeford junior DeSean Cromwell defends.

Falmouth junior Jack Bryant lofts a shot over Biddeford senior Caleb Ball.

Falmouth senior Brock Welch is stymied by Biddeford junior DeSean Cromwell.

Falmouth senior Sean Walsh goes up for a shot as Biddeford seniors Austin Dutremble (15) and Caleb Ball defend.

Falmouth senior Ben Simonds gets to the basket.

Falmouth freshman Michael Simonds gets past Biddeford senior Caleb Ball on a drive to the hoop.

Previous Falmouth stories

Season Preview

Falmouth 53 Westbrook 42

Cape Elizabeth 40 Falmouth 37

Greely 55 Falmouth 54 (2 OT)

Greely 61 Falmouth 44

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