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Falmouth’s bench players erupt with joy during the Yachtsmen’s palpitating 62-56 double-overtime win over York in Friday evening’s Class A South quarterfinal. Falmouth advanced to face rival Greely in the semifinals Wednesday.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
Y- 11 7 10 19 4 5- 56
F- 8 15 10 14 4 11- 62
Y- B. Cummins 4-4-13, C. Cummins 4-3-11, Linn 4-0-9, T. MacDonald 3-0-7, Nickerson 2-3-7, Zinkevicz 2-0-4, Hynes 1-0-3, W. MacDonald 1-0-2
F- Manganello 4-7-15, Pitre 4-6-15, Bryant 2-9-13, Hester 5-2-12, Marcotte 2-0-6, Douglas 0-1-1
Y (4) B. Cummins, Hynes, Linn, T. MacDonald 1
F (3) Marcotte 2, Pitre 1
PORTLAND—After a regular season where nothing came easily, advancing in the tournament in a mere 32 minutes wasn’t in the cards for Falmouth’s boys’ basketball team when it met York in a Class A South quarterfinal Friday evening at the Portland Exposition Building.
The fourth-ranked Yachtsmen, who have been decimated by injuries but have persevered all winter, got pushed to the brink of elimination by fifth-seeded York, but thanks to clutch contributions from players both expected and unexpected, they survived and advanced.
Falmouth fell behind early, 11-5, but freshman Nicco Pitre gave the Yachtsmen a spark, hitting a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to three points after one period.
Falmouth seniors Jack Bryant and Alex Marcotte and junior Nik Hester and Sam Manganello took it from there and led the Yachtsmen to a 23-18 halftime advantage.
Falmouth tried to pull away in the third quarter, but the Wildcats wouldn’t buckle and a late layup from Bryant restored the five-point edge, 33-28, heading for what most on hand expected would be the game’s final eight minutes.
The Yachtsmen went up by as many as seven, 39-32, on a pair of Manganello foul shots, but York, behind freshman Brady Cummins, crept back and when Cummins hit a pair of free throws with 1:14 left, the Wildcats had a 44-43 lead.
A jumper from Hester put Falmouth back on top, but junior Chris Cummins gave York the lead again on a floater and added a free throw to make it 47-45, but with 5.2 seconds remaining, Bryant was fouled and he calmly sank both attempts to tie it, 47-47, and send the game to overtime.
In the four-minute OT, the Wildcats twice took the lead, but a pair of Pitre free throws tied the game again and after Bryant and Hester each missed a pair of chances to win it just before the horn, the game went to a second overtime tied at 51-51.
There, the Yachtsmen finally pulled it out.
York twice took a one-point lead, but with 3 minutes remaining, two Marcotte foul shots gave Falmouth the lead for good. Pitre added three free throws, Manganello hit a pair and after the Wildcats drew within four on a Cummins layup, Manganello and Hester each added a foul shot and the Yachtsmen prevailed, 62-56.
Manganello and Pitre each had 15 points, Bryant added 13 and Hester finished with 12 as Falmouth improved to 10-9, ended York’s season at 11-8 and advanced to face rival and top-ranked Greely (19-0) in the semifinals Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., at Cross Insurance Arena.
“We just kept at it,” said Bryant. “When things didn’t go our way, we kept playing hard.”
Falmouth looked like it would be a top threat in Class A South this winter, but prior to the start of the regular season, both Nikko DePatsy and Michael Simonds were lost to injury and the Yachtsmen had to make the best of a tough situation.
It certainly didn’t look good at the start as longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan thought he and his charges were going to be in for a very long year.
“The first three minutes against Marshwood, we were down something like 8-2 and (Dave) looks at me and says, ‘We aren’t going to win a game all year,’ said Falmouth assistant coach Jamie Hilton.
Falmouth won that contest, later gave Halligan his 500th career victory and managed to split its 18 regular season games (see sidebar, below, for links to previous stories), highlighted by a victory over Class AA South top seed Scarborough, and earned the No. 4 seed for the Class A South tournament.
York, meanwhile, went 6-1 to start the year and wound up 11-7 and fifth in the region. One of the Wildcats’ victories was a 55-46 home win over Falmouth Dec. 30. In that one, Chris Cummins and junior Riley Henriques both had 11 points and sophomore Will MacDonald finished with 10. The Yachtsmen were led by Manganello’s 11 points.
The teams had met three previous times in the tournament, with Falmouth taking all three. The most recent was a 67-46 Yachtsmen victory in the 2013 Western B Final.
Friday, Falmouth won again, but not without a lot of anxious moments.
The Wildcats broke the ice 47 seconds in on a floater from sophomore Riley Linn. Senior Tim MacDonald added a baseline jumper before a 3-pointer from Marcotte got Falmouth on the board.
York then got a floater from senior Alex Nickerson and a 3 from Tim MacDonald to make it 9-3, forcing Halligan to take timeout.
Hester hit a short jumper to cut into the deficit, but Chris Cummins countered with a leaner with 3:37 remaining in the quarter.
York wouldn’t score again for over six minutes.
After Pitre hit a 3 to pull the Yachtsmen within 11-8 after one period, Falmouth started the second with a layup from Manganello and a Pitre jumper for its first lead, 12-11.
With 4:51 to go in the half, a 3-pointer from freshman Teagan Hynes ended the Wildcats’ 6 minute, 46 second drought and the Yachtsmen’s 7-0 run, but Bryant made a free throw, Manganello scored on a putback and Manganello converted an old-fashioned three-point play (bank shot, foul, free throw) for an 18-14 advantage.
Chris Cummins got two points back with a driving layup and after Hester made a free throw, two foul shots from Cummins drew York within a point, but Falmouth closed the half with a free throw from sophomore Brady Douglas and a clutch corner 3 from Marcotte just before the horn to open up a 23-18 advantage at the break.
Manganello led all first half scorers with seven points. Marcotte added six and Pitre pitched in with five. The Wildcats were paced by six points from Chris Cummins and five from Tim MacDonald.
In the third period, the Yachtsmen continued to hold the lead.
Linn started the second half by finishing a spinner near the rim, but Hester countered with a jump shot.
After Cummins drove and finished a reverse layup, Falmouth got a driving layup from Hester.
Senior Alex Zinkevicz made a layup for York, but Pitre drove for a layup.
The back-and-forth continued, as Tim MacDonald made a layup for the Wildcats and Manganello and Pitre each hit a free throw for Falmouth.
Brady Cummins made two foul shots for the Wildcats, but in transition, Pitre fed Bryant for a layup and a 33-28 lead heading to the final stanza.
There, the Yachtsmen almost let it slip away before rallying to extend the contest.
A driving layup from Bryant 38 seconds in made it a three-possession game.
After Will MacDonald hit a leaner for York, Hester countered with a bank shot.
Nickerson made a layup and Brady Cummins appeared to make it a one-possession game with a layup-and-one opportunity to come, but Cummins was called for a charge and the basket was wiped away.
That loomed large, as Manganello sank two free throws to push the lead back to seven.
After Brady Cummins sank a 3 for the Wildcats to cut it to four, Bryant answered with two free throws, but Linn hit a clutch 3 and Brady Cummins stole the ball and made a layup to cut the deficit to 41-40 with 3:41 to go, forcing Halligan to call timeout.
It momentarily did the trick, as Bryant was fouled and made both attempts (with the second hitting the rim, soaring high into the air then coming down through the net) and after Zinkevicz missed two free throws, Nickerson was fouled after a steal and hit both attempts.
With 1:14 left, York took its first lead since 14-13 when Brady Cummins sank two foul shots, but with 51.2 seconds to go, Hester hit a baseline jumper to give him a double-double and Falmouth the lead back, 45-44.
Back roared the Wildcats again as Chris Cummins made a floater with 34.5 seconds on the clock and after a Yachtsmen turnover, Chris Cummins went to the line for a one-and-one with 13.5 seconds to go.
Cummins made the first shot, but missed the second, leaving the door open for Falmouth and the Yachtsmen took advantage, as with 5.2 seconds to play, Bryant was fouled and he came up huge in the clutch, hitting both free throws to tie it.
“I just tried to go through my normal rhythm and knock them down,” Bryant said. “It’s why I took all those free throws in practice, to not be nervous.”
“Jack is the guy we wanted there,” Halligan said. “He’s the senior captain. He’s the reason we’re here. He’s shown tremendous leadership. He never says anything bad about anybody.”
A last-second desperation heave by an off-balance Tim MacDonald was off the mark and the game went to overtime, tied at 47-47.
The first-four minute OT didn’t decide anything.
Falmouth got the ball first, but after Hester missed and Nickerson got the rebound, Brady Cummins drove for a layup to give York the lead.
After Pitre missed, the Wildcats had a chance to extend their advantage, but a 3 from Brady Cummins went in and out and after Pitre had a shot blocked by Zinkevicz, Bryant fed Manganello on the inbounds for a layup to make it 49-49.
Linn countered with a jumper for York with 1:51 to go and Marcotte missed at the other end, giving the Wildcats a chance to run clock and extend their lead, but Bryant drew a charge on Linn, getting the ball back.
Then, with 1 minute on the clock, Pitre was fouled and he sank both attempts to tie it again.
York turned the ball over and that gave Falmouth a chance to win it.
After a Hester shot was blocked out of bounds by Zinkevicz, the Yachtsmen held for the last shot and had four looks, but no satisfaction.
Bryant’s initial shot was off, Hester got the rebound and hit the back rim, Bryant tried to tip it home and at the horn, Hester missed a tip as well and the game went to the second overtime deadlocked at 51-51.
The Yachtsmen weren’t fazed, however.
“We do an offensive rebound drill in practice every day and we’re supposed to grab (the ball) with two hands and finish and we tipped it with one instead, so I was laughing that it came to that,” Bryant said. “I knew we’d keep playing and could win it in the second overtime.”
Falmouth went out and did just that.
After Nickerson made a foul shot 12 seconds in, Pitre hit a floater for the lead.
With 3:09 left in the frame, Zinkevicz made a layup to give the Wildcats their final lead, 54-53.
Nine seconds later, Marcotte was fouled and hit both attempts and the Yachtsmen were on top for good.
After a York miss, Pitre was fouled and with 1:43 on the clock, he sank one of two attempts.
Brady Cummins missed a 3 for the lead and Pitre got the rebound and was fouled.
With 1:17 remaining, Pitre made both attempts to push the lead to four.
“We’ve worked in every practice on shooting free throws,” Pitre said. “It showed and it paid off.”
After a Hester block, Bryant got the rebound and was fouled and even though Bryant missed both attempts, Falmouth got the ball back and with 37 seconds on the clock, Manganello calmly hit two free throws to make it 60-54.
The Wildcats held on to slim life when Brady Cummins drove for a layup with 29.6 seconds showing, cutting the deficit to four, but seven seconds later, Manganello made a free throw and after a Hester steal, Hester made another foul shot to bring the curtain down on the Yachtsmen’s 62-56 victory.
“It’s a credit to the kids who worked hard every day,” Halligan said. “The seniors get on the younger guys in practice in a positive way.”
Falmouth used just one reserve (Pitre) in a 40-minute contest and got key contributions from all six players.
Manganello and Pitre (five rebounds) led the way with 15 points apiece.
“Six periods is a lot,” Pitre said. “I started cramping in my calves. We knew the pressure was coming and as the point guard, I tried to slow everything down.”
“(Nicco) played awesome,” Bryant said. “He did whatever he had to do. lf he can play like that, I think we’ll be tough to beat.”
“We made a commitment to the younger players earlier in the year to get them playing time,” Halligan added. “Nicco’s playing time progressed as the season went along. This is the most he’s played. He’s a young kid and you don’t want to put the load on his shoulders, but I’m sure teams haven’t prepared for him. When they cheated off him, he made them pay. He’s a sparkplug. He’s a good ballhandler. That’s all we ask him to do is handle the ball and play defense. Scoring is a plus.”
Bryant was his usual calm, cool and collected self, scoring 13 points, grabbing six rebounds and also producing three assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
“(Jack is) what a team like this needs,” Halligan said. “He’s been in big games. If he showed signs of panic, the younger guys would have panicked.”
Hester went off for 12 points, 17 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Marcotte added six points and Douglas had one.
“We start conditioning in the offseason and the kids know what to expect, so if they have to play the whole game, they play the whole game,” Halligan said.
Falmouth had a 36-24 rebounding advantage, overcame 17 turnovers and hit 25 of 38 free throws.
For York, Brady Cummins led the way with 13 points off the bench. Chris Cummins had 11 points, Linn nine (to go with eight rebounds), Tom MacDonald and Nickerson (five rebounds, three steals) seven apiece, Zinkevicz four (to go with five blocked shots), Hynes three and Will MacDonald two.
The Wildcats made just 10 of 18 free throws and committed 14 turnovers.
Falmouth lives to play another day and at this point, is playing with house money going against a Greely squad wearing the bulls-eye after extending its win streak to 41 games after downing No. 8 Fryeburg Academy, 68-53, in its quarterfinal Friday.
Falmouth lost its regular season meeting with Greely, 51-40, Dec. 21 at home (Bryant, Manganello and Marcotte all had eight points). The Rangers have won all four prior playoff encounters, including last year’s Class A South Final, 47-26.
The Yachtsmen, despite the odds, will enter the contest confident.
“(Greely’s) obviously a very talented team who can do a lot of things, but we’re not intimidated by them,” Bryant said. “We know we’ll have to play a really good game to beat them.”
“I think we’re ready for it,” Pitre said. “We have nothing to lose. All the pressure in on them.”
“We had nine games this year when we didn’t have a game to prepare and a young team like this has to prepare, but we have a few days to prepare for Greely,” Halligan added. “Last time we played them we couldn’t even practice first.
“It’s a rivalry game. You can throw out the records. They deserve to be where they are. They’re the best team. We’ll come out and give it our best shot.”
Falmouth junior Nik Hester leans in for a shot as York senior Alex Zinkevicz defends. Hester had a double-double in the victory.
Falmouth freshman Nicco Pitre tries to steal the ball from York freshman Brady Cummins.
York sophomore Riley Linn snares a rebound away from Falmouth junior Sam Manganello.
Falmouth senior Jack Bryant goes up for a shot.
Falmouth senior Alex Marcotte is defended by York freshman Brady Cummins.
Falmouth freshman Nicco Pitre smiles at the conclusion of the victory.
2013 Western B Final
Falmouth 67 York 46
2012 Western B semifinals
Falmouth 49 York 45
2010 Western B quarterfinals
Falmouth 59 York 49