FREEPORT—All eyes were on Freeport High School Friday night as the host Falcons and neighboring Yarmouth Clippers were the only teams to play their scheduled games after a snowstorm wiped the slate virtually clean.
Each rival managed a dose of bragging rights as the Freeport girls opened the festivities with a 42-31 victory, their fourth in succession.
The boys then took the stage and Yarmouth dominated from start to finish and rolled to a 92-31 triumph.
On the right track
Freeport’s girls’ team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005 and went 5-13 a year ago. This winter, the Falcons have a new coach in Jen Chon and of late, the program has shown promising signs of life. After dropping its first seven games this winter, Freeport won three in a row, a 43-38 victory at Old Orchard Beach, a 41-36 home upset of Cape Elizabeth and a 56-35 triumph at Poland.
Yarmouth, meanwhile, also has a new coach in Mandy Peaslee. The Clippers beat Poland in their opener, but haven’t won since despite the emergence of one of the finest freshmen in the state, Olivia Smith, whose skills would be on display throughout Friday night.
The host Falcons never trailed, taking the lead for good on a layup from sophomore Leigh Wyman. Smith got a point back for Yarmouth, but Freeport’s emotional sparkplug, sophomore Aubrey Pennell made a layup. After Smith made two foul shots, junior Morgan Brown scored on a putback, senior Katee Poulin made a layup, Brown made a layup, Brown hit a foul shot, Pennell made a layup and Wyman added two free throws for a 15-3 lead.
A putback from Yarmouth freshman Sean Cahill ended the 11-0 surge and proved to be the Clippers’ first field goal. Smith then added a foul shot to make it a 15-6 contest after one quarter.
Yarmouth continued its comeback at the start of the second quarter as senior Olivia Harrison knocked down a 3-pointer and a jumper and Smith scored on a driving layup, but Pennell turned the tide by driving for a layup to end the 10-0 run.
“It’s my favorite thing to do, get people pumped up and the crowd excited and make it an exciting game,” Pennell said.
“Aubrey’s enthusiasm brings up the team and motivates them,” said Chon. “She’s a very good athlete. She’ll keep on doing it.”
Freeport pushed its lead back to 10, 23-13, behind a free throw from Poulin, a Poulin layup after a steal and a 3 from senior Erin Hall.
Smith stemmed the surge with two foul shots, but Hall hit another 3. After Smith scored on a leaner, Brown converted a putback to make it 28-17 Falcons at the half.
Neither squad could do much in the third period, but the hosts managed to extend their lead.
After Pennell scored on a pretty scoop shot, Cahill had a putback for the Clippers. Hall made two foul shots, Wyman hit one and sophomore Alexandra Mitch made a layup to give Freeport a 35-19 lead after three.
Yarmouth crawled back within 14, 35-21, on single free throws from freshman Grace O’Donnell and senior Danielle Torres, but Wyman answered with a putback. A pair of Smith free throws, an O’Donnell putback and two more Smith foul shots got the Clippers within 10, 37-27, but Falcons senior Allyson Fuehrer made a free throw and Poulin added a layup. After junior Maddy Wood made two free throws, Mitch hit a jumper for Freeport’s final points. A short jumper from Smith accounted for the 42-31 final score.
“It’s all about teamwork,” Pennell said. “We’re all working together now. In the beginning, it was kind of stressful. Teams can have drama, but we’re coming together. Our turnovers are starting to go down and our offense is kicking up. We’re doing way better than we were.”
“It was ugly, but we pulled through,” said Chon. “We hadn’t played in a week. If we can score, we definitely can play. Once our offense is on, it’s kind of scary how good we can be. It was a rough seven games, but we’re enthusiastic, ready and motivated.”
Pennell and Hall led the Falcons with eight points each, Brown, Poulin and Wyman had seven apiece, Mitch finished with four and Fuehrer had one.
For Yarmouth, Smith was sensational, not only leading all scorers with 16 points, but adding 16 rebounds, blocking seven shots and stealing the ball twice.
“Olivia’s an unreal player,” said Chon. “I didn’t know how good she was. We went 2-3 (zone) to try to stop her from getting it inside. But she completely took over, so I boxed-and-one her, then tried man. We tried to contain her as much as possible.”
Harrison had five points for the Clippers, Cahill four, O’Donnell three, Wood two and Torres one.
Yarmouth dropped to 1-11 Saturday with a 57-45 loss at Poland (Smith had 21 points). The Clippers (17th in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) are at Falmouth Tuesday and visit unbeaten, defending Class B champion York Friday.
Freeport’s streak ended Saturday with a 34-30 home loss to Gray-New Gloucester (Poulin had a team-high eight points). The Falcons are 11th in the region (the top nine teams qualify for the postseason). They host North Yarmouth Academy Tuesday and go to Lake Region Thursday.
“We have to make foul shots and get our offense together,” said Pennell. “We need to work on defense a little bit, but if we keep it up and make shots, I think we’ll do great. (Winning) is way more fun. We hope to make playoffs.”
“We’re going for that ninth spot,” added Chon. “We’re excited.”
Yarmouth hosts Freeport in the rematch on Feb 1.
The boys game followed and Yarmouth made quick work of Freeport.
The Falcons entered the game seeking their first victory.
The Clippers had been very impressive at times this season, but they’d struggled at others in winning seven of their first 10 (none more impressive than a 84-61 romp at Cape Elizabeth on Dec. 21). Back-to-back losses at York and to visiting Gray-New Gloucester served as hiccups, but entering Friday, Yarmouth had won two straight in easy fashion, over visiting NYA (58-24) and host Lake Region (93-40).
The Clippers ended any Falcons’ upset hopes in the opening moments.
A layup from junior Josh Britten gave Yarmouth the lead for good. Senior Luke Pierce added a layup, Britten hit a short bank shot and Pierce added a layup after a steal, forcing Freeport coach Nick Jewett to call timeout.
It helped momentarily as Falcons’ senior Kyle Strozewski converted an old-fashioned three-point play, but the Clippers and their two-man Britten/Pierce Show erupted for the next 11 points to take a 19-3 lead, as Pierce scored on a putback, Britten made a layup after a steal, then hit a jumper, Pierce made a layup and Britten sank a 3.
Freeport got its offense going a bit later in the quarter thanks to a jumper from freshman Chandler Birmingham, two Strozewski free throws, a Strozewski 3 and a jumper from sophomore Abrin Berkemeyer, but after one, Yarmouth was in command, up 25-12.
“I think we play with a lot of energy,” said Yarmouth coach Adam Smith. “I thought Freeport played with a lot of energy early and matched our intensity. That was good for us. I was impressed with the start that both teams had and their ability to get it up and down the floor with us. It made us work harder and push a little bit more.”
A Strozewski layup after a steal to start the second quarter made it an 11-point contest, but Yarmouth senior Aidan Sullivan made a bank shot, then a layup. After a pair of free throws from junior Mitch Loeman for the hosts, Pierce made a layup, than a free throw. Junior Josh Weirich made a foul shot for Freeport, but Pierce made a putback for a 34-17 advantage.
After a layup by Weirich, Pierce hit a pullup jumper, made a layup, then Sullivan hit a foul shot and scored on a putback. The hosts got a free throw from Strozewski, but Britten heated up, hitting a 3, then, after a layup and free throw from junior Sam Torres, Britten made a putback, then was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three attempts to give the Clippers a 52-20 lead at the half.
Freeport had 25 first half turnovers (and 40 for the game).
“That’s a snowball thing,” Smith said. “I thought Freeport handled the pressure early really well, then one turnover led to four or five. That’ll happen with a young team. We had to make sure to capitalize on our easy opportunities.”
In the first 1 minute, 38 seconds of the third quarter, Britten made three 3-pointers to push the lead to 41. With 2:46 left in the stanza, Britten hit a pullup jumper for a 66-24 lead and Smith pulled his starters. Yarmouth closed the third period up, 72-28 and went on to the 92-31 win.
“The boys have focused and feel good about themselves,” said Smith. “They’ve really come together as a team the last week-and-a-half or so. The focus has been really good. “
Britten led all scorers with 32 points, a career high.
“Josh has been shooting well lately,” Smith said. “He’s more comfortable in his role. He’s had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. He’s handled it really well. He enjoys playing with these guys. They look for him a lot.”
Pierce was also superb, scoring 20 points. Sullivan finished with 13, Torres eight, junior Alex Kapothanasis six, freshman David Murphy five, senior Campbell Belisle-Haley four and seniors Connor Ertz and Dustin McCrossin two apiece.
Freeport was paced by Strozewski’s 12 points.
The Falcons fell to 0-12 (and 16th in Western B) Saturday with a 77-53 loss at Gray-New Gloucester. Weirich had 13 points, Loeman 12 and Strozewski 10. Freeport is at NYA Tuesday and hosts Lake Region Friday.
Yarmouth improved to 9-3 (fifth in Western B) Saturday by beating visiting Poland, 68-47. Britten had 21 points, Pierce 19 and senior Matt Murphy 15. The Clippers, who have as much upside as any team in the region, are at Falmouth Tuesday, hope to avenge an earlier loss when they host York Friday, then welcome Freeport Feb. 1.
“Where we want to be, Heal Points won’t be part of it,” Smith said. “It’s how well we’re playing. We went through a bad stretch and we’ve pulled ourselves out of it. Hopefully down the stretch, we’ll play well and everything will take care of itself. We’ll concentrate on how we’re playing on both ends of the floor and things will work out well.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org
Yarmouth’s standout freshman Olivia Smith goes up for a shot over Freeport sophomore Aubrey Pennell. Smith stuffed the stat sheet Friday, scoring a team-high 16 points, adding 16 rebounds, seven blocks and two steals.
Freeport junior Alexandra Mitch tips the ball away from Yarmouth freshman Grace O’Donnell.
Freeport sophomore Leigh Wyman plays tight defense on Yarmouth freshman Olivia Smith.
Freeport senior Katee Poulin dribbles past Yarmouth junior Maddy Wood.
Yarmouth senior captain Danielle Torres is fouled by Freeport sophomore Leigh Wyman during fourth quarter action.
Freeport senior Kyle Strozewski goes to the hoop while Yarmouth junior Josh Britten presents a challenge. Britten scored a career high 30 points in just over two-and-a-half quarters of play.
Yarmouth senior Matt Murphy reaches for the hoop, but his shot comes up short.
Freeport junior Mitch Loeman floats a shot for two of his four points Friday.
Late in the contest, Yarmouth freshman David Murphy launches a shot over Freeport senior Adam Higgins.
Freeport’s energizer bunny, sophomore Aubrey Pennell skies to grab the ball before Yarmouth junior Maddy Wood can reach it during the Falcons’ 42-31 home win over the Clippers Friday night. More photos below.
Yarmouth senior Luke Pierce splits two Freeport defenders on his way to the hoop in the boys’ contest. The Clippers shot to an early lead and never looked back in their 92-31 victory. More photos below.