YARMOUTH—Yarmouth’s girls’ basketball team might just arrive a year ahead of schedule.
The Clippers, a rare varsity squad devoid of a single senior, demonstrated in Saturday night’s regular season opener that it’s either unaware or unconcerned about its youth and inexperience.
Hosting Kennebunk at Jack Stroud Memorial Gymnasium, Yarmouth never trailed, rode the early hot hand of freshman Jessica Kirk and the pinpoint passing and opportunistic defense of freshman point guard Sara D’Appolonia to a 12-6 advantage after one quarter.
The Clippers would hold the Rams scoreless for 6 minutes, 10 seconds and opened up a commanding 20-8 lead at the break.
Yarmouth, behind a terrific defensive effort which ultimately forced 33 turnovers, never let up and in a promising team-wide performance, went on to a decisive 47-24 victory.
Kirk led the way with 18 points, sophomore Cory Langenbach added nine and D’Appolonia stuffed the stat sheet.
While it was only game one of 18 and while far more imposing foes await, for one night at least, the Clippers have good reason for optimism.
“I love starting out like this,” said Yarmouth second-year coach Christina Strong. “I told the team I wanted to get a quick 10 or 15 points and go from there. I wanted to put some pressure their ballhandlers and try to get some conversion points. We have the quickness and the ability to do that. That was important.”
Yarmouth won just four games in 2013-14, then graduated four seniors and lost two other girls who decided not to play this winter. That left Langenbach as the only returner who was with the varsity team from the beginning last winter.
For most programs, such turnover would be a kiss of death, but the Clippers like the youth they have coming up the pipeline. It only needs seasoning.
Last winter, Yarmouth opened with a 57-25 win at Kennebunk. The Clippers enjoyed a similar auspicious beginning Saturday.
It took Kirk all of 34 seconds to make her presence felt, taking a pass from Langenbach and making a layup to put Yarmouth on top to stay. Kirk added a jumper, finishing a feed from D’Appolonia, the coach’s daughter, before the visitors got on the board on a layup from senior Sarah Bradley.
After the Clippers got a putback from sophomore Alison Clark, Bradley pulled her team back within two after hitting a jumper.
Langenbach answered with a transition jumper (set up by Kirk), but Kennebunk pulled within 8-6 when junior Emily Moore banked home a shot with 1:47 to play in the first period.
The Rams wouldn’t score again until the game neared halftime.
Eighteen seconds later, D’Appolonia, who was so impressive during the soccer season, showed her athleticim on the court by driving into the lane before banking home a shot with her left hand for her first varsity points. D’Appolonia then set up Clark for a layup and Yarmouth had a 12-6 lead after the first quarter.
The Clippers didn’t let up in the second.
After a D’Applonia steal, the point guard set up Kirk for a layup. Sophomore Johanna Hattan added a free throw and Clark set up sophomore Isabel Bates for a layup and a 17-6 advantage.
Finally, with 3:37 to go before the half, Kennebunk ended the 9-0 Yarmouth run and a 6:10 drought as sophomore Gabby Fogg buried a long jumper.
That would be the visitors’ only points of the stanza, however, as Langenbach, finishing a give-and-go with Hattan, made a leaner and junior Sophie Harrison added a free throw to make it 20-8 Clippers at halftime.
In the first 16 minutes, Yarmouth got six points from Kirk, four from Clark and two points, five steals and three assists from D’Appolonia. The Rams were hindered mightily by 19 turnovers.
Little changed in the second half as the Clippers poured it on.
After Langenbach opened the third period with a jump shot, Kirk made two free throws. Kennebunk junior Stephanie Sullivan answered with a 3, but D’Appolonia set up Clark for a transition layup and Hattan sank two free throws. After Moore got a point back at the line for the Rams, Kirk set up Langenbach for a jump shot. Fogg made a layup, but D’Appolonia again set up Kirk in transition for a layup. Moore got a point back at the line, but Yarmouth took a 32-15 lead to the fourth quarter.
There, a hook shot from Rams sophomore Anna Cressey was answered by a baseline jumper from Kirk. After Cressey scored on a putback, Kirk made two free throws, D’Applonia made a layup after a steal, Kirk hit a jumper and Clark set up sophomore Ella Antolini for a layup and a 42-19 lead.
Sophomore Eliza Bartlett made a jumper for Kennebunk, but Kirk hit two foul shots for her final points and after a steal, Kirk returned the favor, passing to D’Appolonia for a layup. A 3-ball from Fogg accounted for the Rams’ final points and a late free throw from Langenbach brought the curtain down on the Clippers’ 47-24 triumph.
“This really gives everyone on the team confidence,” Kirk said.
“A fast start (to the season) was very important,” said D’Appolonia. “This sets the stage for us. I think we’ll go into every game confident. We have potential. I watched varsity games last year. Coach has said we’re 100 times better this year. Hopefully it stays that way.”
“We’re young and inexperienced, but we’re really athletic and I think we’re jelling as a team,” Langenbach said. “Not many people are talking about us.”
“The whole system feels better and I think everyone knows what the expectations are this year,” Strong added. “I’ve coached this freshman class in previous years. I know them. They know me. We’re more efficient in practice. We’re jelling. The girls like each other and we’re having fun.”
Kirk announced her arrival as a player to watch by hitting six field goals and adding six free throws for a game-high 18 points. She also had six rebounds and four assists.
“There was a lot of passing on our team,” Kirk said. “No one was being selfish. Great teamwork led to all the points. I got most of my points on passes from (Sara).”
“Jessica is awesome,” D’Appolonia said. “I can always rely on her.”
“Jessica played amazing tonight,” Strong added. “She was feeling it tonight and played well. Her teammates found her tonight. I think with this team, there will be opportunities for different players to have nights like this.”
D’Appolonia added six points, but more importantly, produced nine steals and had six assists (and easily could have had more had her teammates converted some of her pinpoint passes).
“(Jessica and Sara are) amazing,” Langenbach said. “They help everywhere on the court. They’ve done a good job filling the hole at guard. That’s important.”
“I feel very confident in our guards’ composure,” Strong said. “They handle the ball and pressure well. We just need to find the post players and we’re not finding them yet. “
Langenbach finished with nine points, four rebounds and two steals. Clark added six points (to go with five rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals), Hattan had three, Antolini (who also had seven rebounds and two blocks) and Bates two apiece and Harrison one.
Yarmouth did turn the ball over 22 times.
“We have to learn to take better care of the ball,” Strong said. “We push the ball, so we’ll have more turnovers, but I’d like to rein it in a little bit.”
The Clippers did hit 11 of 17 free throws and enjoyed a 33-30 advantage on the glass.
For Kennebunk, Fogg led the way with seven points. Bradley, Cressey and Moore each had four points, while Sullivan had three and Bartlett added two. The Rams were doomed by 33 turnovers and made just 2 of 10 foul shots.
While Kennebunk returns to action Tuesday when it hosts Poland, Yarmouth has the daunting task of going to Falmouth, a much more formidable foe. It then faces Poland, preseason favorite Greely, Fryeburg Academy and Cape Elizabeth before Christmas.
But if you think the Clippers might be intimidated, guess again.
“I don’t feel like this team has a lot of fear,” Strong said. “They know we’ll have tough games, but they’re not afraid to play tough teams and play tall teams. They like the challenge.”
The fun is just beginning.
Yarmouth sophomore Ella Antolini plays keep-away from a Kennebunk defender.
Yarmouth sophomore Alison Clark pulls up for a shot.
Yarmouth junior Sophie Harrison shoots a free throw.
Yarmouth sophomore Cory Langenbach dribbles through the Kennebunk defense.
A frightening sight for Kennebunk Saturday, Yarmouth freshman point guard Sara D’Appolonia racing down the court looking for an open teammate.
Something you rarely see. In the fourth quarter Saturday, a Kennebunk free throw didn’t go in or fall off. It found the back of the rim and stayed there.
Yarmouth freshman Jessica Kirk goes up for two of her 18 points during the Clippers’ 47-24 win over Kennebunk in Saturday evening’s regular season opener.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
Yarmouth 47 Kennebunk 24
K- 6 2 7 9- 24
Y- 12 8 12 15- 47
K- Fogg 3-0-7, Bradley 2-0-4, Cressey 2-0-4, Moore 1-2-4, Sullivan 1-0-3, Bartlett 1-0-2
Y- Kirk 6-6-18, Langenbach 4-1-9, D’Appolonia 3-0-6, Clark 3-0-6, Hattan 0-3-3, Antolini 1-0-2, Bates 1-0-2, Harrison 0-1-1
K (2) Fogg, Sullivan 1