FALMOUTH—Falmouth’s girls’ basketball team has shown flashes of brilliance this season, but the latter part of this week has proved frustrating for the Yachtsmen.
Two days after a close loss at rival Greely, Falmouth played host to the up-and-coming Poland Knights Saturday afternoon and at times, appeared in control.
The Yachtsmen led 9-4 early and after a 14-2 Poland run, retook command by closing the first half on a 17-4 surge, capped by a long 3-pointer at the horn by senior Anna Hickey, good for a 28-22 lead.
Falmouth would led by as many as eight points in the second half and with just under four minutes to play in the third quarter had a 36-29 advantage, but couldn’t hold on.
The Knights roared back to within a point, 36-35, after three and went ahead early in the fourth quarter on a left-handed runner from junior Emily Bolduc and a 3-pointer from sophomore sharpshooter Michaella Arsenault.
The Yachtsmen got a jumper from Hickey and a layup from sophomore Ally Hickey to tie the score, 40-40, with 2:35 to play, but Poland closed the game on a 7-0 run, hitting key free throws, getting clutch rebounds and shutting down Falmouth’s attack.
A layup by junior Lindsey Theriault with just under two minutes to play put the Knights ahead to stay and they hit five late free throws to go on to a 47-40 victory, improving to 2-2 and dropping the Yachtsmen to 2-2 in the process.
“We were up six in the third quarter against Greely too,” lamented Falmouth coach Mari Warner. “So far every game we’ve played, we start off well, but we’re still learning what we’re doing.”
Poland is a program on the rise. Last year, the Knights reached the preliminary round of the Western B tournament. This season, Poland almost upset reigning regional champion and preseason favorite Lake Region in the opener, but went down to a 49-38 home defeat. After winning, 52-46, at Wells, the Knights almost downed another traditional power, visiting York, but lost Thursday, 48-39.
Falmouth was also ousted in last year’s preliminary round, by Yarmouth, and got off to a good start this winter by winning 54-42 over visiting Cape Elizabeth and 59-49 at Fryeburg. The Yachtsmen entertained notions of a 3-0 start Thursday when they led in the second half at Greely, but the Rangers took control and won, 46-32.
Last year, Falmouth won both meetings, 50-44 at Poland and 52-36 at home.
The Yachtsmen got off to a fast start Saturday, but their finish wasn’t as satisfying.
Just seven seconds in, Anna Hickey made a layup. Senior Meg Palombo added a layup for a quick 4-0 lead before the Knights got on the board on a 3 from Arsenault. Falmouth senior Maddie Inlow made a layup, which was countered by a free throw from Bolduc, but Ally Hickey drained a 3-ball to make it 9-4 with 2:59 to go in the first period.
The visitors then came to life.
A layup after a steal by senior Brittina Maheux, a layup after a steal by Arsenault and a pair of Arsenault foul shots gave Poland its first lead.
Just inside the final minute, Maheux drained a 3-ball, but with time winding down, a layup from Yachtsmen junior Erica Pugley snapped the 9-0 Knights’ run and pulled Falmouth within two, 13-11.
Poland started fast the second quarter, getting a bank shot from Bolduc, followed by a Bolduc 3 for an 18-11 advantage, capping a 14-2 surge.
Then, it was the Yachtsmen’s turn to go on a run.
Ally Hickey got the rally started with a 3. Junior Emma Powers made two free throws, Anna Hickey made one and after Bolduc answered with a runner, Anna Hickey buried a 3 with 3:46 left in the half to make it a 20-20 game.
Falmouth retook the lead, 22-20, on a jumper by Pugsley, Powers made two free throws and Ally Hickey sank one for a 25-20 advantage.
Poland senior Kayla Yirrell answered with a jumper, but just before the horn sounded (or in the minds of some, after the horn), Anna Hickey launched a long 3 which banked home for a 28-22 halftime lead.
When Inlow made a jumper 17 seconds into the second half, the Yachtsmen appeared on the verge of pulling away, but Poland never wavered. A 3 from Maheux allowed the Knights to creep back to 30-25. After Ally Hickey made a layup after a steal, Arsenault sank a jumper and Bolduc made a layup after a steal to make the score 32-29.
Falmouth answered as Inlow hit a jump shot and Anna Hickey made a runner for 36-29 lead with 3:46 left in the third quarter, but the Yachtsmen wouldn’t score again for over eight minutes and soon found themselves behind.
The Knights’ rally began with a 3-ball from Bolduc. Maheux then banked home a shot, was fouled and made the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play, pulling Poland within a single point, 36-35, heading for the fourth quarter.
For nearly three minutes of the final stanza, neither team could put the ball in the basket. The Knights had a chance to retake the lead when senior Melora Lavoie went to the line with 6:42 left, but she missed both attempts.
Then, with 5:05 to go, Bolduc made a runner (left-handed no less) for a 37-36 advantage, Poland’s first lead since 20-17.
Arsenault added a 3-pointer with 3:07 to go, but 12 seconds later, Anna Hickey hit a jump shot (ending an 8 minute, 51 second drought) and with 2:35 showing, Ally Hickey converted a layup to tie the game, 40-40.
This was the type of situation in which the Knights had fallen short in their losses, but this time, Poland wasn’t about to let a big win slip away.
With 1:49 remaining, Theriault made a layup and the Knights were finally ahead to stay, 42-40, but there was plenty of ball left to be played.
Anna Hickey had a look to tie the score, but it was off target and Arsenault rebounded.
With 1:02 to go, Bolduc was fouled and went to the line for a one-and-one. She made the first, but missed the second, only to see Arsenault grab the offensive rebound.
Arsenault was then fouled and, still in the one-and-one, made both shots for a 45-40 lead. with 52.7 seconds showing.
“We’re all pretty good foul shooters,” said Bolduc. “It didn’t matter who went to the line. I believed in anybody who went to the line.”
With plenty of time to answer, Anna Hickey again was off target and Yirrell got the rebound. She missed the front end of her one-and-one, but a held ball on the rebound resulted in the Knights keeping possession due to the arrow fortuitously pointing in their direction.
With 35.2 seconds remaining, Arsenault made one of two foul shot attempts and after Anna Hickey missed a 3, Maheux brought the curtain down with one more free throw.
Poland 47 Falmouth 40.
“I think we played with a lot more confidence (today)” Bolduc said. “We slowed the game down a lot, which as beneficial to us. I feel like we’ve come so far as a team. Last year, we wouldn’t have been able to finish these kinds of games. We played really smart. We never trusted each other like we do this season. We’re like a family. It shows on the court.”
“It was good that we could finish,” said Knights coach Darren Littlefield. “I told the girls how proud I was of them. We were ahead against Lake Region and were close with York. We just made some bad decisions at the end of those two games. This is a big win for us. We answered when they came back and tied it up. I was nervous. I didn’t know if we’d step it up or if we’d get wild-eyed and not believe. I told them in a timeout we had an ability to finish it out and not win by one, but win by more than five.”
The Knights got a game-high 16 points from Bolduc. She also had four steals, four rebounds and a blocked shot. Arsenault added 15 points (to go with a game-high 11 boards, three assists and a steal), while Maheux had a dozen points and Theriault and Yirrell added two apiece. Theriault also grabbed seven rebounds, while Yirrell had five and Lavoie three.
Poland made 9-of-18 free throws and turned the ball over 22 times, but found a way to hold on.
The Yachtsmen were left to lament what-if.
“I give credit to Poland,” Warner said. “They’ve played every game close. They’ve lost tough ones. We’re trying to develop our bench and we’re trying to see who can play in what situation. We’re still in that mode. We’ve put in a new system and just put in a new defense. However, rebounding continues to be a huge issue for us. If we don’t get it because of losing the game because of that kind of stuff, what will it take? I come out of this thinking we shouldn’t have lost a game yet. I’m encouraged I feel that way.
“Depth, discipline and rebounding are my three points right now. It starts at practice. Our practices need to get so competitive that everybody is fighting for those nine, 10 positions.”
Anna Hickey paced the Yachtsmen’s offense with 13 points. She also had four rebounds and two steals. Ally Hickey added 11 points, seven boards, four steals and two assists. Inlow had six points (four rebounds and a steal), Powers and Pugsley four apiece and Palombo finished with two (along with four steals).
Falmouth made 6-of-8 foul shots, but committed 18 costly turnovers.
“We weren’t patient on offense in the second half,” Warner said. “We took quick shots. It’s one thing if you’re on and you’re putting up 50 or 60 points, but we had to recognize there was a lid on here. We had to get closer. We have to take better shots and work the offense. This isn’t summer league or fall ball, it’s the real deal. We have to show a heck of a lot more patience.”
Poland plays host to Fryeburg Wednesday and Greely Friday as it looks to continue to climb the Western Class B ladder.
“We had a big win against York last year which carried us into the playoffs,” Littlefield said. “We need to be and I think we can be in every game.”
As for Falmouth, it hosts Yarmouth Tuesday in an opportunity to avenge last year’s playoff ouster. The Yachtsmen also host Traip Friday prior to the holiday break.
This team will only get better and will figure out how to turn these tough losses into victories in the new year.
“Over Christmas, we play (Class A teams) Biddeford and Scarborough,” said Warner. “That’s always a nice time to develop and work on things.”
P- 13 9 13 12- 47
F- 11 17 8 4- 40
P- Bolduc 6-2-16, Arsenault 4-5-15, Maheux 4-2-12, Theriault 1-0-2, Yirrell 1-0-2
F- Anna Hickey 5-1-13, Ally Hickey 4-1-11, Inlow 3-0-6, Powers 0-4-4, Pugsley 2-0-4, Palombo 1-0-2
P (6) Arsenault, Bolduc, Maheux 2
F (4) Ally Hickey, Anna Hickey 2