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Falmouth junior Nikko DePatsy, left, and seniors Sean Walsh and Ben Simonds celebrate the Yachtsmen’s 43-38 win over Cape Elizabeth in Wednesday’s Class A South semifinal. Falmouth will face Greely in the regional final Saturday night.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—When you’ve won nearly 500 high school basketball games as a coach, it’s not very often that you’re surprised.
Rarer still that you’re pleasantly surprised.
Wednesday evening at the Cross Insurance Arena, longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan looked like a proud father at times as his Yachtsmen pulled off one of the most inspirational victories in their illustrious history.
Facing ancient rival Cape Elizabeth in a Class A South quarterfinal, it took only a couple of minutes for Falmouth to be dealt an enormous dose of adversity, as senior standout Colin Coyne went down with a serious leg injury.
With their season on the line and boasting virtually no players with much tournament experience to speak of, it appeared the Yachtsmen were doomed, but instead, they made their coaches and community proud with a heroic effort.
The third-ranked Capers took a 9-7 lead after one period, but needing someone to step up and lead the way, second-seeded Falmouth got surprising efforts from freshman Michael Simonds, who hit a pair of 3-point shots, and sophomore Sam Manganello, whose free throw just before halftime produced a 22-14 advantage.
Not surprisingly, Cape Elizabeth made a run in the third period behind a surprising sophomore of its own, Andrew Hartel, and after pulling within a point, 26-25, heading for the fourth quarter, the Capers opened the final stanza by getting a putback from Hartel and a runner from senior Quinn Hewitt to seemingly garner the momentum.
But the Yachtsmen refused to wilt.
A layup by Manganello tied the score and a Manganello free throw put Falmouth on top to stay before a clutch 3-pointer from senior Sean Walsh somehow found its way into the net to produce some breathing room.
Down the stretch, Cape Elizabeth drew within three late, on a driving layup from senior Marshall Peterson, but with 36.1 seconds to go, Simonds coolly buried a pair of free throws and the Yachtsmen held on for a 43-38 victory.
Falmouth got 12 points apiece from Manganello and Simonds and 11 points from Walsh as it improved to 15-5, ended the Capers’ season at 12-8, reached the regional final for the third year in a row and set up a delicious showdown versus top-ranked, undefeated, rival Greely (20-0) Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena.
“This means a lot because of the way we did it,” said Halligan, who now has 497 victories. “We could have easily folded and made an excuse, but we didn’t. We went out and played the best we could. We have a great team. We played through it, which is really tough, especially against a team like Cape who is so well prepared. They made a run at us, but we played great defense. It’s so rewarding to see the guys experience that success. We can feed on that in the future.”
Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth have played meaningful games dating back decades and while that could change in the future with Falmouth poised to join the Southwestern Maine Activities Association, it wasn’t a big surprise to see the rivals squaring off Wednesday.
The Yachtsmen, the defending Class A champions, were competitive all year and went 13-5, good for the second seed in the region, then downed No. 7 Biddeford, 48-34, in the quarterfinals Saturday (see sidebar, below, for previous game stories).
The Capers were nomads in the preseason and the early going in the regular season due to the floor at their home gym having to be replaced, then they had to play without injured junior standout Finn Bowe the second half of the regular season, but they still managed to go 11-7 and earn the No. 3 seed before edging No. 6 Brunswick in a thrilling and controversial overtime classic, 50-49, on a Bowe free throw after time expired, in their quarterfinal Saturday.
The teams split during the regular season, as a Bowe buzzer-beater gave Cape Elizabeth a 40-37 win in a game played at the Portland Exposition Building, and Falmouth prevailed at home, 60-44.
The Yachtsmen won four of the previous six playoff meetings, including last year’s 52-49 triumph in the Class A South semifinals.
Wednesday, Falmouth did it again, even though the victory came at quite a price.
The Capers scored first on a free throw from Hartel, then got a layup after a steal from senior Jacob Allen, but Falmouth suddenly had bigger concerns than a three-point deficit.
After landing on another player’s leg, Coyne dropped to the floor and after staying there for a few seconds, got up and hobbled to the bench, where he was looked at by athletic trainer Rob Sullivan and taken to the locker room for a further examination. It was later announced that Coyne had suffered a serious leg injury and that he wouldn’t return.
The Yachtsmen got on the board when senior Ben Simonds drove for a layup, but Hartel answered with a hook shot.
Falmouth got an old-fashioned three-point play (basket, foul, free throw) from junior Jack Bryant, then took its first lead when Michael Simonds drove for a layup, but senior Marshall Peterson made a layup and Hartel drove for another to put Cape Elizabeth on top, 9-7, after eight minutes.
In the second period,the Yachtsmen heated up from outside to grab the lead.
A 3-pointer from the corner by Michael Simonds put Falmouth on top, Walsh added a 3 and Simonds hit another, from NBA-range for a 16-9 advantage.
“It was a big stage, but it was really fun,” Simonds said. “My brother helps a lot. Having him on the floor helped keep me calm. We always run through the offense in practice, so I know what to do.”
Bowe’s first (and what proved to be his only) point, from the foul line with 4:49 to play in the half ended a 9-0 run, but Manganello scored on a putback and Manganello set up Walsh for a layup.
Peterson countered with a layup for Cape Elizabeth after Allen grabbed an offensive rebound and fed him underneath. After Walsh got a point back at the line for Falmouth, Allen set up Hartel for a layup, but with 3.6 seconds left, Manganello’s free throw made it 22-14 Yachtsmen at the break.
The Capers shot just 24 percent in the first half and missed all five 3-point attempts. Hartel kept them in the game with seven points, six rebounds and two blocked shots. Michael Simonds’ eight points and five rebounds and Walsh’s six points helped Falmouth open up a lead.
In the third quarter, the Capers roared back.
Allen sparked the rally, stealing the ball and feeding Peterson for a layup. After a Peterson hit a free throw, Hewitt stole the ball and fed Allen for a layup. Then, with 4:04 remaining, Allen buried a 3 from the corner to tie it, 22-22.
Manganello put the Yachtsmen back on top with consecutive layups, but Hewitt made the first of two free throws and despite missing the second, Peterson was there to score on the putback to cut the deficit to 26-25 heading for the fourth period.
There, Cape Elizabeth took the lead, as after a Bowe steal and Hewitt miss, Hartel put in the rebound.
Hewitt then banked home a runner before Manganello made two free throws.
Hartel pushed the lead back to three with a short jumper, but Bryant made a free throw, then, with 5:10 to go, Manganello drove for a layup to tie it, 31-31.
“Sam stepped up,” Michael Simonds said. “He’s a great kid. He’s a scorer. He scored tonight when he needed to. That was a big help.”
A Manganello foul shot put Falmouth back in the lead and after Bowe and Hewitt both missed 3s, at the other end, Walsh got a 3 to hit the rim and bounce in for a 35-31 advantage with 3:54 to go.
“It felt good coming off my hand,” Walsh said. “It hit the rim, it sat on the rim and I was pretty sure it would go in.”
Allen answered 19 seconds later, scoring on a layup while being fouled, then hitting the free throw to cut the deficit to one, but with 3:12 remaining, Michael Simonds sank a jumper for a 37-34 lead.
With 1:35 to go, Bryant sank two free throws and after a Peterson miss and a Michael Simonds rebound, Ben Simonds set up Walsh for a layup and a 41-34 advantage with 1:06 showing.
Hewitt drove for a layup to get two points back for the Capers and after a Peterson steal, Peterson drove for a layup to make it a one-possession game, 41-38, but Cape Elizabeth wouldn’t get any closer.
With 36.1 seconds to play, Michael Simonds was fouled and with icewater in his veins, he calmly knocked down both attempts.
“There was a lot of pressure, but we focus on making free throws because they’re free,” Simonds said. “I just took my time.”
The Capers then committed an inbounds violation, giving Falmouth a chance to clinch it, but Ben Simonds missed two free throws and Cape Elizabeth still had faint life.
Hartel had a look at a 3, missed and after Hewitt got the offensive rebound, Hartel tried again, but again, his shot was off target and with 9.7 seconds left, Ben Simonds got the rebound and was fouled again.
Simonds missed the free throws, but the Capers couldn’t respond and the Yachtsmen had shown their championship heart and character once and for all with a 43-38 victory.
“Colin went down, but there was never a doubt we could still win it,” Walsh said. “Coach always tells us crazy things happen in the tournament. It was unfortunate, but everyone stepped up. All the seniors had experience last year. Having that experience and knowing how to handle different situations really helps. We’re a very close team. We didn’t want the season to come to an end.”
“We kept our composure,” Michael Simonds said. “It hurt seeing Colin go down, but we talk about how anything can happen and that somebody else will have to step up. We kept playing hard. Our defense kept us in the game.”
“We just had to work together as a team,” Halligan added. “Not one player can replace (Colin). We had to play to our strength. We made some tweaks here and there and we took away their strengths.”
It’s doubtful that any one, anywhere would have predicted Falmouth would be led in scoring by Manganello and Michael Simonds, but they both had a dozen points. Simonds also had seven rebounds.
“Sam has worked really hard,” Walsh said. “He’s a great player. He had his chance to shine tonight and led us in scoring. I’ve known Michael since he was young. I knew he was a great player. I was surprised he took over the offense like Colin does.”
“(Michael’s) a freshman, but he’s prepared for this all season long,” said Halligan. “We tried to get him in some big games. We threw him in the fire. He made some mistakes, but he’s a basketball player. He has a good head on his shoulders. Sam always says he’s ready in practice and tonight, he was. That was nice to see.”
Walsh added 11 points, Bryant had six (to go with six rebounds) and Ben Simonds added two points.
Falmouth shot 14 of 33 from the floor (including 4 of 10 from 3-point land) and overcame 15 turnovers and 11 of 22 foul shooting.
Cape Elizabeth was paced by Hartel, who had a stellar game of 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“Andrew was such a bright spot,” Capers coach Jim Ray said. “He’s come such a long way. Good for him.”
Allen added 10 points and a pair of steals, Peterson had nine points and seven boards, Hewitt finished with seven points, five rebounds and three assists and Bowe had with one point.
“Finn did the best he could,” Ray said. “We wouldn’t have won the other night if he didn’t play. He was just sore.”
The Capers had a 31-27 rebounding advantage and turned the ball over a respectable eight times, but they shot only 16 of 52 from the floor (1 of 13 from the 3-point stripe) and made just 5 of 11 foul shots as their up-and-down season came to a close.
“(Falmouth) amped it up and we didn’t,” Ray said. “That was discouraging. We didn’t adjust. I take responsibility for not being able to make that in-game adjustment. The kids made some plays, but we didn’t string enough together. We made some glaring errors defensively. Unforced errors can’t happen. They’re great kids, it’s just frustrating sometimes.
“We did the best we could this year. There’s an awful lot more to learn than just basketball. They’ll look back and they’ll kick themselves. They know. I didn’t have to belabor it. We can’t come back tomorrow and work out the kinks for another game. There isn’t one.”
Cape Elizabeth will part with Allen, Hewitt, Peterson, Robert Dutton and Nat Spicer, but will be back again looking to win a title in 2017-18.
“We want to get back here” Ray said. “Always.”
Falmouth was happy to let Greely’s wear the bulls-eye this postseason and despite being 0-3 all-time against their rival in the playoffs (a 50-49 quarterfinal round loss in 2008 was the most recent) and losing both regular season meetings (55-54 at home in overtime and 61-43 in Cumberland), the Yachtsmen know they only need to beat the Rangers once and they believe that Saturday will be that once, even though they’ll be a decided underdog.
“Greely is a great team, but all the pressure’s on them,” Simonds said. “We want to go in, play hard and pull out a win.”
“We’ll prepare like we do for every game and we’ll play hard,” Walsh said.
“We’ll go out and give it our best shot,” Halligan added. “We’ll try to keep it close and see what happens.”
Falmouth sophomore Sam Manganello is sandwiched by Cape Elizabeth junior Finn Bowe, left, and senior Marshall Peterson.
Cape Elizabeth senior Quinn Hewitt shoots over Falmouth senior Brock Welch.
Cape Elizabeth senior Marshall Peterson and Falmouth junior Jack Bryant fight for a loose ball.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Andrew Hartel and Falmouth sophomore Sam Manganello battle for a rebound.
Falmouth junior Jack Bryant beats the Cape Elizabeth press.
Falmouth freshman Michael Simonds goes up for a shot as Cape Elizabeth senior Jacob Allen, left, and senior Quinn Hewitt defend.
Cape Elizabeth senior Jacob Allen goes up for a layup.
Falmouth senior Sean Walsh exults after a critical fourth quarter basket.
2016 Class A South semifinal
Falmouth 52 Cape Elizabeth 49
2010 Western B Final
Falmouth 53 Cape Elizabeth 40
2009 Western B Final
Cape Elizabeth 58 Falmouth 48
2006 Western B semifinal
Falmouth 60 Cape Elizabeth 45
2004 Western B quarterfinal
Cape Elizabeth 44 Falmouth 42
1965 Class L quarterfinal
Falmouth 84 Cape Elizabeth 63