February Madness has arrived-Northern edition

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Falmouth’s Nicco Pitre floats for a shot during the Yachtsmen’s 54-50 loss at Kennebunk in last week’s regular season finale. Falmouth will be the No. 3 seed for the Class A South tournament.

Catherine Reid and her North Yarmouth Academy teammates are looking for big things in the Class C South girls’ tournament.

If you’re a high school basketball fan, this is your time of the year.

The tournament is underway and there are an abundance of compelling story-lines to follow.

Five contenders

Greely’s boys’ team has won the past two Class A state titles and while the Rangers’ three-year, 46-game win streak came to an end in December and two more setbacks followed, Greely wound up 15-3 and first in Class A South after closing with home wins over York (75-60) and Fryeburg Academy (56-41). Against the Wildcats, as the Rangers avenged an earlier loss. Andrew Storey scored 26 points, Logan Bagshaw added 21 and Zach Brown finished with 15.

“It did mean a lot,” Storey said. “It’s our homecourt, so we’re just trying to protect it at all costs. Just get out there and look for revenge. It’s a big game going into the playoffs, too.”

In the win over the Raiders, Storey led the way with 27 points, Bagshaw had 12 and Brown added 11.

Greely will face either No. 8 Mt. Ararat (9-9) or No. 9 Morse (4-14) in the Class A South quarterfinals Friday at 7:45 p.m., at the Portland Exposition Building (see theforecaster.net for game story). The Rangers didn’t play either team this year and have no postseason history with the Eagles or Shipbuilders.

Falmouth wound up 13-5 and third in Class A South after closing with a 68-37 home win over Westbrook and a 54-51 setback at Kennebunk. In the victory, Mike Simonds had 20 points. In the loss, Sam Manganello had 19 points, Nil Hester added 14 and Simonds finished with 10. 

“(Kennebunk) made some shots when they had to and it came down to one possession at the end,” said Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. “It was a great game to get ready for the tournament because you see, in this game, every possession was important.”

The Yachtsmen will meet No. 6 Brunswick (9-9) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 7 p.m., at the Expo (see theforecaster.net for game story). Falmouth handled the visiting Dragons, 64-36, Dec. 14. The teams have played just once in the tournament, a 58-44 Yachtsmen victory in the 2016 Class A South Final.

In Class B South, Freeport completed its best season in 11 years at 12-6 after closing with wins over visiting Wells (67-35) and host Gray-New Gloucester (63-52). Toby Holt went off for 26 points against the Warriors on the Falcons’ Senior Night, in a game that was capped by a basket from longtime Falcons’ manager Leo Li.

“We just spread the energy around to everyone,” said Holt.

“The starters did a great job of getting us going,” said Freeport coach Bill Ridge. “We ran some good pressure in the first quarter and got some buckets in transition. Obviously we kind of fed off the energy in the gym and it carried us through.”

In the finale, Gabe Wagner scored 20 points and Holt added 19. 

Despite their record, the Falcons finished with just the sixth in the region and have the daunting task of battling No. 3 Cape Elizabeth (11-7) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 10 a.m., at the Expo (see theforecaster.net for game story). On Jan. 15, Freeport let a big lead slip away in a 46-43 home loss to the Capers. The teams have played just one before in the tournament, a 57-50 Cape Elizabeth victory in the 2008 Western B Final.

Yarmouth saved its best basketball for the end of the season, winning three of its final four games, including home victories last week over Poland (53-41) and Lake Region (52-36) to wind up 8-10 and seventh in Class B South. Jon Torres led the way with 19 points against the Knights and Torres scored a game-high 24 against the Lakers.

The Clippers earned their 13th straight playoff berth and will meet No. 2 Maranacook (16-2) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 11:30 a.m., at the Expo (see theforecaster.net for game story). The teams have met in three of the past six postseasons, with Yarmouth holding a 2-1 edge. Last year, in the Class B South quarterfinals, the Clippers prevailed, 43-33.

“We’re just trying to get better each and every time we take the court, whether that be a practice or a game,” said Yarmouth first-year coach Jonas Allen. “If we play our brand of defense and play unselfish offense, we can compete in the playoffs. We believe that our best basketball is still in front of us.”

In Class C South, North Yarmouth Academy finished eighth with a record of 10-8 after a 67-53 home win over Sacopee Valley and a 68-17 home loss to Waynflete. In the victory, Te’Andre King scored 30 points and added 13 rebounds, while Chris Hamblett finished with 22 points and eight steals. Hamblett, Miles Chapman and Bryce Poulin all had four points in the setback. The Panthers host No. 9 Dirigo (7-11) in a preliminary round contest Wednesday night. The teams didn’t play this year. The Cougars won the lone prior playoff encounter, a 42-23 victory in the 2008 Western C quarterfinals.

If NYA advances to the quarterfinals Tuesday at 9 p.m., at the Augusta Civic Center, it will face top-ranked Winthrop (17-1). The teams didn’t play in the regular season. The squads have only met once before, a 52-29 Ramblers’ victory two years ago in the semifinals.

Looking ahead, the Class A South semifinals are Wednesday of next week at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, the Class B South semifinals are Thursday of next week in Portland, while the Class C South semifinals are Thursday of next week in Augusta.

In the mix

On the girls’ side, Greely enters the tournament as perhaps the most prohibitive favorite in any class.

The Rangers capped an 18-0 regular season last week with wins at York (71-33) and Fryeburg Academy (75-41). Against the Wildcats, Anna DeWolfe had 27 points and Camille Clement added 16. In the win over the Raiders, Clement led the way with 17 points, while Katie Fitzpatrick finished with 14 and Madison Scott added 12.

Greely, riding a 34-game win streak, is the top seed in Class A South and begins its title run Monday at 7:30 p.m., at the Expo, against either No. 8 Fryeburg Academy (4-14) or No. 9 Leavitt (5-13) in the quarterfinals. The Rangers are 3-0 all-time against the Raiders in the tournament, with a 53-45 win in the 2005 Western B quarterfinals the most recent. Greely doesn’t play Leavitt in the regular season, but its 5-0 all-time against the Hornets in the playoffs, with an 83-40 victory in last year’s quarterfinal round the most recent.

Falmouth wound up 2-16 and 11th in the region (where only nine teams qualify for the postseason) after a 60-44 win at Westbrook and a 43-23 home loss to Kennebunk. In the victory, Chelsea Gravier had 23 points and Karley Piers added 18. In the finale, Allison Cunningham led the way with 10 points.

In Class B South, Freeport produced its second consecutive 14-4 regular season despite closing with losses at Wells (39-35) and at home to Gray-New Gloucester (59-26). Caroline Smith had 20 points against the Warriors. Rachel Wall finished with 11 in the loss to the Patriots.

“You always want to play the best,” said Freeport coach Seth Farrington, after losing to Gray-New Gloucester. “It’s a good measuring stick right before the tournament. We’ll look at what we need to work on and get better.”

The Falcons finished third in Class B South and will meet No. 6 Mountain Valley (13-5) in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 10 a.m. The teams have no playoff history.

Yarmouth earned the No. 4 seed in Class B South after a 12-6 campaign, which ended with wins at Poland (44-17) and defending regional champion Lake Region (40-20). Margaret McNeil led the way with 15 points against the Knights, while Hope Olson added a dozen points. In the win over the Lakers, McNeil had a game-high 18 points.

The Clippers will face fifth-seeded Wells (12-6) in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 11:30 a.m., at the Expo. Yarmouth won both meetings this year, 44-32 at home Jan. 3 and 37-22 in Wells Jan. 25. The Warriors won the only prior playoff encounter, 41-36, in the 2002 Western B semifinals.

In Class C South, NYA finished 14-4, its best record in 20 years, after home wins over Sacopee Valley (54-39) and Waynflete (62-25). Against the Hawks, Catherine Reid led the way with 22 points and Serena Mower added 11. In the win over the Flyers, Reid scored 22 points and Maggie Larson finished with 20.

The Panthers will battle either No. 6 Monmouth Academy (14-4) or 11th-ranked Carrabec (7-11) in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 10 a.m., at the Augusta Civic Center. NYA has no history with Carrabec. The Panthers have lost both postseason meetings with Monmouth, with a 49-42 setback in the 1999 Western D Final the most recent.

Looking ahead, the Class A South semifinals are Wednesday of next week at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, the Class B South semifinals are Thursday of next week in Portland, while the Class C South semifinals are Thursday of next week in Augusta.

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

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