Falmouth holds on to edge Cape, advance to regional final

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Falmouth senior Thomas Coyne is mobbed by his teammates after the Yachtsmen’s 52-49 win over Cape Elizabeth in Wednesday’s Class A South semifinal. Coyne had a game-high 18 points and the Yachtsmen advanced to meet Brunswick in Saturday’s regional final.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Falmouth 52 Cape Elizabeth 49

CE- 10 12 17 10- 49
F- 14 8 16 14- 52

CE- Hewitt 5-2-12, Bowe 3-5-11, Guerette 4-1-9, Bottomley 3-0-6, Donnelly 2-1-5, Peterson 2-0-4, Ingalls 1-0-2

F- T. Coyne 7-2-18, Skop 3-5-11, C. Coyne 4-0-9, Wuhlbrecht 3-1-7, J. Bryant 2-1-5, Walsh 1-0-2

3-pointers:
F (3) T. Coyne 2, C. Coyne 1

Turnovers:
CE- 8
F- 13

Free throws
CE: 9-11
F: 9-13

PORTLAND—Six years was well worth the wait.

Wednesday evening at the Cross Insurance Arena, the Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth boys’ basketball teams squared off in the postseason for the first time since 2010 and produced a game so evenly matched and so palpitating, it took until the final second to determine a winner.

With a trip in the Class A South Final on the line, the first half was as close as you could imagine, as the teams were tied nine different times, the lead changed hands seven times and four points was the biggest lead, a 14-10 Yachtsmen advantage after one quarter.

Cape Elizabeth fought back in the second half to take a late lead, but a leaner from Falmouth sophomore Colin Coyne sent the teams to the break deadlocked, 22-22.

The Capers got out to a fast start in the second half, producing a 9-2 run to lead, 31-24, but out of a timeout, Falmouth, behind its senior standout Thomas Coyne, rallied and when senior Sam Skop scored on a putback late in the third quarter, the game was tied again.

A free throw from senior Justin Guerette gave Cape Elizabeth a one-point lead heading to the fourth period, but the Yachtsmen, thanks to a runner in the lane from Colin Coyne, a putback from Skop and a floater from Thomas Coyne, took a 46-41 lead.

Again, the Capers responded, and when junior Quinn Hewitt scored on a layup with 2:47 to play, Cape Elizabeth had a 47-46 lead.

Colin Coyne gave Falmouth a one-point advantage with a pullup jumper 16 seconds later and Thomas Coyne drove for a layup, but Hewitt answered with two foul shots to again make it a one-point contest heading for the final minute.

There, Colin Coyne missed a free throw, but Skop came up big with an offensive rebound, was fouled and hit both attempts to produce some breathing room.

The Capers would get one last look and got the ball in the hands of their most dangerous 3-point shooter, sophomore Finn Bowe, but with time winding down, Bowe was swarmed by Thomas Coyne and senior Matt Wuhlbrecht and his game-tying bid was well short, allowing the Yachtsmen to win a thriller, 52-49.

Falmouth got 18 points from Thomas Coyne and 11 from Skop, improved to 16-4, ended Cape Elizabeth’s season at 15-5 and advanced to meet No. 4 Brunswick (15-5) in the Class A South Final Saturday at 9 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena.

“It was fun,” Falmouth coach Dave Halligan said. “If you’re a basketball fan, you enjoy a game like that. Every possession was important. Kids made plays and didn’t quit. They went ahead and we came back. We went ahead and they came back. To beat a good team made it extra special.”

Fight to the finish

Falmouth had a solid 14-4 regular season, losing by a point each at Greely, at home to Lake Region and at Waynflete and by 10 at home to Greely. As the No. 2 seed, the Yachtsmen had no trouble advancing in Saturday’s quarterfinals with a 61-33 victory over seventh-ranked Westbrook.

Cape Elizabeth, the defending Class B champion, now in Class A due to the statewide reclassification, also went 14-4 this year, losing twice to Falmouth and once each to Greely and Lake Region. As the third seed, the Capers also had a relatively easy time of it in the quarterfinal round, ousting No. 6 York, 59-43.

The Yachtsmen won both regular season meetings, 69-66 at home Dec. 8 and 44-42 in Cape Elizabeth Feb. 2.

Falmouth entered the game having won three of five prior playoff meetings. The most recent came in the 2010 Western B Final (a 53-40 Falmouth victory).

This time, in a game featuring two coaches with a combined 782 victories coming in (Halligan with 479 and Cape Elizabeth’s Jim Ray with 303), the Yachtsmen got it done again, but the victory wasn’t locked up until the final horn.

Both teams made shots early.

Thomas Coyne got things started with a runner 11 seconds in. Hewitt then made a layup after a steal and a driving layup from senior J Bottomley gave the Capers a 4-2 lead.

After Falmouth senior Sean Walsh drove for a layup, Bowe made two free throws to put Cape Elizabeth up, 6-4.

Thomas Coyne fed Skop for a layup to tie the game for a third time and off an inbounds set, Colin Coyne passed to Thomas Coyne for a layup and an 8-6 Yachtsmen advantage.

Hewitt tied the game with a leaner, but a Skop free throw put Falmouth up by a point.

Bottomley gave the Capers the lead with a jumper, but Colin Coyne buried a deep 3 and Thomas Coyne, from the free throw line in his own end, lofted a pinpoint pass into the arms of sophomore Jack Bryant for a reverse layup.

That breathtaking play gave the Yachtsmen a 14-10 advantage after one quarter.

In the second, there was little separation.

Bottomley set up junior Marshal Peterson for a layup and Bowe hit a short jumper to tie the game for the fifth time, 14-14.

Cape Elizabeth went back on top courtesy a breathtaking no-look pass from Bowe to Peterson for a layup, but two Skop free throws made it 16-16.

With 4:17 to go in the half, Capers senior Nate Ingalls scored on a short bank shot, but Bryant, the football standout, looked more like a defensive back intercepting a pass and going the other way than the quarterback he is, when he pilfered a pass and made a layup to make it 18-18.

Bryant then set up Wuhlbrecht for a layup, but after a nice move, Guerette finished at the rim and Hewitt, after a spin move, hit a short leaner to put Cape Elizabeth back on top.

Fittingly, Falmouth forged the ninth and final tie of the half when Colin Coyne made a leaner with 1.8 seconds showing and the teams went to the locker room deadlocked at 22-22.

In addition to the ties, neither team led by more than four points and there were seven lead changes in the first 16 minutes.

Hewitt led the Capers with six points, while Bottomley, Bowe and Peterson all had four. Cape Elizabeth turned the ball over seven times and missed all six of its 3-point attempts.

Falmouth was paced by five points apiece from Colin Coyne and Skop, but the Yachtsmen were hindered by eight turnovers.

The third quarter was more of the same.

Bowe got the scoring started nine seconds in by driving for a layup. He then scored on a reverse layup putback while being fouled and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play and the biggest lead of the game to that point, 27-22.

Thomas Coyne answered with a floater, but senior Marcus Donnelly got a jumper to rattle in and Guerette put home a miss for a 31-24 advantage, forcing Halligan to call timeout.

It helped, as Wuhlbrecht converted a three-point play and after Guerette hit a jumper, Thomas Coyne buried a 3 and Bryant made a free throw (after Bowe was whistled for his third foul) to make it a two-point game.

“That (timeout) was a momentum changer,” Skop said. “They were getting on a run. We slowed down their tempo by doing that.”

“We didn’t play the way we wanted to start the second half,” Thomas Coyne said. “We needed to answer. Coach told us to spread the floor. They were keying on me and Colin, so other guys had to make them pay.”

“I just told them to calm down and stop getting caught up in the excitement of the game,” Halligan added. “We worked with a purpose and things worked out for us.”

Hewitt countered with a driving layup and Bottomley got a leaner to fall to push the lead back to six, but Thomas Coyne made an NBA-range 3 and Coyne followed with two free throws to make it 37-36 Cape Elizabeth.

Donnelly momentarily stemmed the tide with a foul shot, but Skop tied it with a putback.

With 3.9 seconds left, Guerette was fouled after an offensive rebound and hit one free throw for a 39-38 Capers lead heading for the final stanza.

There, Falmouth finally did enough to close it out.

Thirty-one seconds into the fourth, Thomas Coyne cut through the defense and fed Wuhlbrecht for a layup to give the Yachtsmen their first lead of the half.

“It was nice to be up seven, but it’s never comfortable because they can put up points fast,” Ray said. “Thomas hit deep 3s. He can pass. He’s tough to cover. We struggled with it. Looking back, as coaches and players always do, I would have liked to try something different, but the game goes so quickly. When you’re that talented, you can make more than one guy guard you. Other guys stepped up for them and made plays when they had to make plays.”

Donnelly answered with a floater with 6:59 to go for a 41-40 lead, but 28 seconds later, Colin Coyne hit a runner in the lane.

Skop followed with a putback and with 5:27 to go, Thomas Coyne’s floater in the lane made it 46-41 and forced Ray to call timeout.

Bowe re-entered the game and set up Guerette for a jumper. A foul was called on Falmouth on the shot and Bowe went to the line for a one-and-one. He made both shots and just like that, the Capers were within a single point, 46-45.

With 3:37 to go, a Hewitt spinner hit the rim twice and fell off.

The next time down, after Guerette saved possession, Hewitt finished with his left hand, but the lead lasted only 16 seconds, as Colin Coyne got into the lane and hit a jumper for a 48-47 advantage with 2:31 remaining.

The Yachtsmen got a little breathing room with 1:40 to go, when out of a timeout, Thomas Coyne somehow got room on the baseline and drove for a layup.

Hewitt coolly cut the deficit to one by making both ends of a one-and-one with 1:23 to play.

Falmouth ran the lock down to 20 seconds, then Colin Coyne was fouled. He missed the front end of the one-and-one, but Skop came up with his biggest rebound to date and was fouled.

“It was just good position,” Skop said. “We do a lot of offensive rebounding drills in practice, especially the big men. That was half luck, half positioning. It was luckily a good bounce and they fouled.”

“It should have been a one-point game with us with the ball and that would have given us more options,” Ray said. “They came up with it and made the plays.”

Skop then hit two free throws with 18.3 seconds to go.

“I thought about practicing free throws and Coach saying, ‘practice the free throws like your season was on the line,'” said Skop.

“(Sam’s) a great athlete,” Thomas Coyne said. “Those were huge free throws.”

The Capers had one final chance to rally.

After a timeout, to no one’s surprise, the ball was inbounded by Bowe to Hewitt, who passed it back up top to Bowe, but Bowe was well guarded by Thomas Coyne and Wuhlbrecht and his desperation 3 as time wound down fell well short of the rim.

“(The defense) was just no layups, no 3s,” said Skop. “Thomas and Wuhlbrecht got in his face.”

“(Bowe) came off a screen and didn’t get a good look at it,” Thomas Coyne said. “We knew he’d get the ball. We wanted him to take a tough shot.”

Falmouth gambled by not fouling and it paid off.

“We saw Bowe take the ball out of bounds and we knew it would come right back to him,” Halligan said. “He got the shot up and luckily for us, it didn’t go in. In high school basketball, anything can happen. If we fouled him in the act of shooting a 3 and he made it, we’d lose. Our defense has been our bread and butter. We trusted the defense to come through and we did.”

“We got the ball into Quinn’s hands,” Ray said. “They had a tough matchup with him. He worked hard the whole game. He had his hands full defensively, trying to cover Thomas, and do what we were asking on the offensive end. Bowe had his hands full when he got the ball. They put Thomas on him, who’s older and stronger.”

Then, the Yachtsmen, after inbounding the ball with 0.1 seconds showing, celebrated their 52-49 win.

“I’m so happy to win,” Skop said. “Playing them twice and having beaten them twice, I was a little nervous. We came out a little slow, but in the second half, we really picked it up. It never felt comfortable.”

“I didn’t want (the season) to end,” Thomas Coyne said. “It’s an emotional win for us. We played tough down the stretch. They played great and had a few runs and hit shots, but we answered well. We played every game tight against them this year, down to the wire. We didn’t think we’d blow them out. It was back and forth. We kept battling and answering. We got everyone involved and played well as a team.”

Thomas Coyne led all scorers with 18 points and had seven rebounds, three assists and a steal.

“Great seniors can carry a team on their shoulders and Thomas is one of them,” Halligan said.

Skop had a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds. He also blocked a shot.

“Sam’s a kid who’s come along and worked hard,” Halligan said. “He’s come through the system and he’s being rewarded for all his hard work.”

Colin Coyne finished with nine points, Wuhlbrecht had seven, Bryant five and Walsh two.

Falmouth committed 13 turnovers, shot 48 percent from the field, made 3 of 10 3-pointers, hit 9 of 13 foul shots and finished with a 26-21 rebounding advantage.

Champions no more

Hewitt was the Capers’ top scorer with a dozen points. He also had three steals. Bowe added 11 points and three assists. Guerette bowed out with nine points and eight rebounds. Bottomley had six points in his swan song. Donnelly finished his high school career with five points and five rebounds. Peterson added four points off the bench and Ingalls had two.

Cape Elizabeth committed just eight turnovers and made 9 of 11 free throws, but missed all 14 of its 3-point attempts.

“Layups, foul shots and offensive rebounds were the difference,” Ray lamented. “We weren’t fluid offensively in the first half. We started out better in the third quarter. It came down to possession basketball.”

Despite having to fill some mighty big holes, the Capers managed to win 15 times and get to the semifinals.

“These guys make coaching basketball fun,” Ray said. “When I have guys show up who are willing to work hard, that’s when you perform. It’s difficult to play as many guys as I’d like to play. I had a big group of seniors this year. The commitment they made over their four years has been tremendous. This season was a tribute to them and what they accomplished. I hope they reflect back that as tough as it is to lose that they enjoyed the experience this year. They made coaching for me very fun.”

Bowe, Hewitt and Peterson are top returners and Cape Elizabeth will build from there. Expect another strong team in 2016-17.

“We’ll get the young guys back,” Ray said. “The JV did a nice job. The freshmen have been indoctrinated into what we do. Hopefully we’ll have guys step up and fill slots and get stronger over the summer.”

Surprise finalist

After the win, Falmouth expected to get a third shot at Greely in the regional final, but then Brunswick went out and sprung the upset.

As a result, the Yachtsmen will play a team that they’ve never faced in the postseason, one they beat, 61-51, in Brunswick back on Dec. 17. In that one, Thomas Coyne had 21 points, Colin Coyne 13 and Skop 12.

Falmouth’s title hopes get more legitimate by the day, but the Yachtsmen know nothing will come easily.

“This is awesome,” Thomas Coyne said. “We’re excited to get the win and we’ll see what happens Saturday. We have a lot of experience. Sam, Colin, me, Wuhlbrecht, we’ve been here before. We have to play through adrenaline. They might hit big shots, but we have to play through it. I think it’ll be a great game.”

“All the teams left can win it,” Halligan said. “We’ll try to come in and impose our will on them. They’re a good basketball team and so are we. It should be another good game.”

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

Falmouth senior Sam Skop and Cape Elizabeth senior Matt Graham battle for the ball.

Falmouth senior Matt Wuhlbrecht goes up for a shot.

Cape Elizabeth junior Quinn Hewitt drives past Falmouth senior Sam Skop en route to the basket.

Falmouth junior Colin Coyne dribbles away from Cape Elizabeth senior Marcus Donnelly.

Cape Elizabeth senior Justin Guerette, sandwiched by Falmouth junior Colin Coyne (front) and senior Sam Skop, attempts to get to the basket.

Cape Elizabeth sophomore Finn Bowe leans in for a shot as Falmouth junior Sean Walsh defends.

Falmouth sophomore Jack Bryant defends Cape Elizabeth senior Marcus Donnelly on a drive to the basket.

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