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- The Forecaster
PORTLAND—Falmouth’s boys’ basketball team held the lead for all of 48 seconds in Monday morning’s Western Class A quarterfinal round game against underdog Westbrook, but the Yachtsmen reminded everyone that it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
And that all that matters is that you survive and advance.
No. 3 Falmouth couldn’t buy a basket in the first period, missing five layups and turning the ball over five times as they dug a quick 7-0 hole. A 7-0 run tied the game, but the 11th-ranked Blue Blazes hit back-to-back 3-pointers to go up, 13-7.
Westbrook twice went up by nine in the second period, but the Yachtsmen hung tough and trailed, 24-20, at halftime.
Falmouth tied the score late in the third quarter on a driving layup from junior Thomas Coyne, but the Blue Blazes scored the next four points. Late baskets from senior standout Jack Simonds and junior Matt Wuhlbrecht made it 31-31 heading for the fourth.
There, Westbrook remained on top most of the way, but couldn’t close the deal and when junior Sam Skop made a layup with 1:54 remaining, the Yachtsmen had their first lead, 43-41.
A jumper from senior Changkuoth Jany pulled the Blue Blazes even 25 seconds later, but Falmouth had the last shot and sophomore Colin Coyne looked to win it, but his NBA-range 3-pointer rimmed out and it was on to overtime.
There, Westbrook again took the lead, 47-43, but Thomas Coyne put home his own miss and after a steal, Simonds converted a three-point play with 27 seconds remaining. The Yachtsmen dodged a pair of bullets in the waning seconds and held on for a palpitating 48-47 victory.
Simonds led all scorers with 20 points and Thomas Coyne added 15 as Falmouth won its 12th game in a row, improved to 16-3, ended the Blue Blazes’ season at 9-11 and advanced to battle second-ranked South Portland (16-3) in the semifinals Friday at 8:30 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center (formerly the Cumberland County Civic Center).
“We don’t quit,” said longtime Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan. “These guys are competitors. We talk about leaving it all on the court and we did. Even if we lost, I wouldn’t fault the effort.”
Falmouth has overcome its share of challenges this winter, but entering the tournament, this team has as much talent as anyone and likes its chances.
The Yachtsmen opened by beating visiting York (52-43) and Wells (57-37). After falling at Poland (75-58), Falmouth prevailed at host Lake Region (54-46) and edged visiting rival Greely, 55-52. The Yachtsmen then dropped two in a row: 69-62 in overtime at Yarmouth and 50-45 at Cape Elizabeth. Falmouth turned it around and began an 11-game win streak by beating host York (50-45), visiting Fryeburg Academy (63-39) and host Greely (60-51). The Yachtsmen then closed by beating visiting Yarmouth (59-49), visiting Lake Region (66-42), host Fryeburg Academy (55-39), visiting Kennebunk (63-43) and Gray-New Gloucester (67-48), visiting Freeport (76-33), visiting Cape Elizabeth (69-62) and host Kennebunk (55-40).
Westbrook was just 8-10 in the regular season and earned the 11th spot in the region, but Tuesday, in the preliminary round, the Blue Blazes upset No. 6 Bonny Eagle, 66-61, to advance.
The teams had never met prior to taking the floor Saturday.
Falmouth struggled early and that’s an understatement, but never fell behind by double digits.
The Blue Blazes scored first 94 seconds in when junior Moses Abwoch took a pass from senior Derek Breunig and made a layup. Jany added a fadeaway jumper which rolled around and around and around the rim before falling in and with 4:22 to go in the first period, senior Blake Fillmore knocked down a 3, forcing Halligan to call timeout.
“We got the right shots, but we weren’t making them,” Halligan said. “That’s basketball.”
It did the trick, as 16 seconds later, Colin Coyne set up Thomas Coyne for a 3 to get the Yachtsmen off the schneid.
Thomas Coyne, who only played in four games during the regular season due to injury, then made two foul shots and Simonds managed to get a left-handed floater to drop, but Fillmore hit another 3 and inside the final minute, junior Curtis Knapton added one and Westbrook had a surprising 13-7 advantage heading for the second quarter.
There, the first basket was yet another Westbrook 3, this time from junior Bailey Ryan. Simonds then hit two foul shots, but junior Anderson Kavutse drove for a layup to make it 18-9.
The Yachtsmen then got their long-range game going.
After Skop put home a missed 3, Colin Coyne buried a long 3. Abwoch drove for a layup, but Simonds buried a 3 from the corner to cut the deficit to 20-17.
When Colin Coyne fed Wuhlbrecht for a layup, Falmouth was within one, but Jany drove for a bank shot and after Thomas Coyne made one of two free throws, Knapton set up Breunig for a layup and a fast-paced first half ended with the Blue Blazes on top, 24-20.
Falmouth’s 3-point shooting and 13 forced turnovers kept it close.
The Yachtsmen continued to play from behind in the third period, before finally pulling even.
After two scoreless minutes, Jany made a free throw and Breunig made a bank shot for a 27-20 lead. Simonds then hit two foul shots, Thomas Coyne drained a 3 in the corner and Thomas Coyne drove for a layup to tie the score. After Jany hit an elbow jumper, Breunig spun and made a layup to make it 31-27, but Falmouth finished strong, getting a leaner from Simonds and as time expired, Thomas Coyne fed Wuhlbrecht for a layup which made it 31-31.
In the fourth quarter, the Yachtsmen finally got over the hump, but couldn’t win it in regulation.
First, Jany put home his own miss and Abwoch drove the baseline for a floater, but Simonds hit a 3 from the corner to cut the deficit to one. Undaunted, Jany scored on a floater. Skop’s putback made it 37-36 with 5:11 left, but Abwoch scored on a putback and Jany took a pass from Fillmore and made a layup for a 41-36 advantage with 4 minutes to go.
With its season on the ropes, Falmouth roared back.
First senior Luke Velas stole the ball and got it to Thomas Coyne, who made a layup. Then, with 2:30 to play, Simonds said, “tie ballgame” with a 3, as he took an inbounds pass from Thomas Coyne and drained a bomb from the corner.
With 1:54 to go, the Yachtsmen went ahead for the first time when Velas set up Skop for a layup, but Jany tied the score 25 seconds later with a jumper from the foul line.
After holding for the final shot, Falmouth called timeout with 11 seconds left and set up a play which resulted in a great look for Colin Coyne just beyond the NBA 3-point line.
Colin Coyne had beaten Greely with a buzzer beating 3 in the regular season and this shot was on target and appeared to be the dagger, but it rimmed out and Breunig snared the rebound, sending the contest to overtime.
“It looked really good,” Colin Coyne said. “I was a little deep, but I missed it. I was still confident going into OT. We’d been behind a lot, so I knew we could do it.”
“I thought he had another one,” Thomas Coyne said. “That would have been crazy.”
“We wanted to hold for one shot,” Halligan added. “They had fouls to give, but they didn’t give them. We made the extra pass. Jack had a look and it wasn’t there. Thomas had a look and it wasn’t there and they found the open man. It just didn’t drop.”
In Maine high school boys’ basketball, teams play a four-minute OT session.
There, the Yachtsmen finally disposed of the pesky Blue Blazes.
Westbrook won the opening tip and the ball came to Abwoch, who drove for a layup. After Colin Coyne and Simonds both missed 3s, Fillmore sank both ends of a 1-and-1 for a 47-43 lead.
With 1:20 left in OT, Thomas Coyne missed a 3, but got the rebound and laid it in to snap a 4 minute, 34 second drought, ending a 4 minute, 34 second drought and cutting the deficit to two.
“That was his heart,” said Halligan. “That was a heart play. Physically, he might not be there yet, but there’s no question he has his heart.”
And the fun was just beginning.
After the Blue Blazes turned the ball over with a 10-second violation, Thomas Coyne tried to get to the basket, but was whistled for an offensive foul.
Westbrook again turned the ball over, however, as Simonds tipped it away and got it ahead to Thomas Coyne, who roared in to try and tie it.
Jany got back to block the shot, but with 23.9 seconds showing, the rebound came to Simonds, who laid it in to tie the score and drew a foul on Breunig in the process.
Simonds stepped to the line and calmly sank the free throw to put Falmouth up one.
“No way this was going to be my last game,” Simonds said. “We missed every shot, but I knew we’d get it going eventually. Coach told us to pressure the ball to see if we could get a steal. I got a tip, got it to Tom, but Jany is a top shot-blocker in the SMAA. He swatted it. I got it and made it and got hit. I shot the free throw just like I do in practice.”
The Blue Blazes would get a look to steal it in the waning seconds, but Jany’s shot from up top was just long, Abwoch got the rebound with time winding down, dribbled out toward the 3-point line and looked to hit a buzzer-beater, but one of the Coyne brothers (both took credit after the game) blocked the shot and the horn sounded.
Falmouth 48 Westbrook 47.
“Thomas was guarding (Abwoch) and I saw he was driving the middle and I knew he had to shoot, so I defended,” Colin Coyne said. “A win’s a win. It’s our first playoff game. We survived and advanced.”
“We were down, but it’s never over,” Thomas Coyne said. “We knew we had to keep playing. We pressured the ball and caused turnovers and that kept us in the game. The difference in the game was us causing havoc in the backcourt. That helped us win the game. If they took care of the ball, they’d win going away. I don’t care if we win by one or 20.”
“We got a lot better during the season and got Tom healthy and we’d come back plenty of times, so we were used to it,” Simonds said.
“I thought our defense kept us in the game and gave us a chance at the end,” Halligan added. “We played great defense all game. We were late getting out to the shooters at the start. We were more at concerned with help-side defense. We had to get out on the perimeter. Once we did that, it opened it us for us.”
Simonds finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and two assists.
“Jack’s special,” said Halligan. “He’s someone special you ride. That’s what senior captains and leaders do.”
Thomas Coyne had 15 points, four assists, two steals and two rebounds.
“I feel good,” Coyne said. “I played four games in the regular season to try to get my body right and feel better. My shot wasn’t feeling good today. That happens. I tried to find another way to score.”
Colin Coyne finished with five points (to go with six steals), while Skop (four boards) and Wuhlbrecht (five rebounds) had four apiece. Velas didn’t score, but had a couple steals before leaving with ankle injury in overtime (he hopes to play Friday).
Despite the pressure of the moment and often frenetic pace, Falmouth only turned the ball over eight times. The Yachtsmen made 8 of 12 free throws.
For Westbrook, Jany led the way with 15 points. Abwoch had 10 points, Fillmore eight, Breunig six (to go with a game-high 15 rebounds and two blocks). Kavutse, Knapton (five rebounds, four assists) and Ryan all had three points.
The Blue Blazes had a 33-23 rebounding advantage, but committed 19 turnovers and made just 3 of 7 foul shots.
Falmouth figures to get a much tougher test from a big, strong, talented South Portland squad, which has only lost to Portland on a buzzer-beater and at Bonny Eagle and Gorham. The Red Riots advanced by downing No. 7 Cheverus, 65-45, in its quarterfinal Saturday.
Falmouth and South Portland have never played.
The first meeting could and should be memorable.
“We need to play better Friday,” Colin Coyne said.
“Obviously, we have to play better,” Thomas Coyne said. “We got our jitters out today.We have three days of practice.”
“We have to practice well and get some rest,” Simonds said. “South Portland’s a zone team. We have to hit shots. Don’t ever count Falmouth out.”
“All teams left are good teams,” added Halligan. “We’ll give it our best shot on Friday.”
Falmouth sophomore Colin Coyne looks to drive on a Westbrook defender.
Falmouth senior Jack Simonds leans in for a shot. Simonds led all players with 20 points.
Falmouth junior Thomas Coyne leans in for a shot.
Falmouth junior Matt Wuhlbrecht makes a layup to tie the score at the end of the third quarter.
Falmouth senior Jack Simonds is mobbed by his teammates following the final horn of the Yachtsmen’s thrilling 48-47, come-from-behind, overtime win over Westbrook in Monday’s Western A quarterfinals. Simonds’ three-point play with 23.9 seconds left in OT was the difference.
Jason Veilleux photos.
More photos below.
W- 13 11 7 12 4- 47
F- 7 13 11 12 5- 48
W- Jany 7-1-15, Abwoch 5-0-10, Fillmore 2-2-8, Breunig 3-0-6, Knapton 1-0-3, Ryan 1-0-3, Kavutse 1-0-2
F- Simonds 6-5-20, T. Coyne 5-3-15, C. Coyne 2-0-5, Skop 2-0-4, Wuhlbrecht 2-0-4
W (4) Fillmore 2, Knapton, Ryan 1
F (6) Simonds 3, T. Coyne 2, C. Coyne 1