Greely, Yarmouth Unified teams thriving in second season

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Yarmouth’s Jack Prato is all smiles as he’s congratulated by teammate Liz Clark after making a basket during the Clippers’ 48-34 win at Greely in Thursday’s Unified basketball contest.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

CUMBERLAND—As a rule, you don’t see a Greely basketball player get a rebound and give the ball back to a Yarmouth player to score an easy basket.

And everyone involved to be happy about it.

In Unified basketball, however, it’s a common sight and it’s one of the many factors that makes Unified basketball a unique experience.

And a sport that’s only getting bigger and better.

Unified basketball teams athletes with developmental disabilities with non-varsity partners without developmental disabilities. At least three athletes must be on the court at all times, and the partners may score no more than 25 percent of their team’s points.

After 17 teams competed in the first year of Maine Principals’ Association-sanctioned play last winter, 32 squads representing 34 schools are playing this year.

Thursday afternoon, Greely hosted Yarmouth in a late-season contest which highlighted the growth of both programs and hinted that they both could enjoy some postseason success.

Greely and Yarmouth are both second-year varsity programs and were meeting for the first of two times in six days to wrap up the regular season.

The Rangers came out strong, getting layups from Tyler Kane and Carnie Reynolds before the Clippers got on the board with a leaner from Jeanelle Davies.

When Greely stretched its lead to 8-2 on baskets from Olivia Davis and Charlie Saffian, it looked like it might be the Rangers’ day, but Yarmouth turned up its defense and got right back in it.

A bank shot from Keirstin Caldwell and a putback from Taylor Geiger cut the deficit to 8-6. After a bank shot from Greely’s Madison Conklin, Caldwell set up Bridget Parker for a layup which pulled the Clippers within two, 10-8, after one quarter.

Yarmouth’s offense roared to life in the second quarter and as a result, the Clippers took a lead to the break.

Thirty-seven seconds into the new frame, Davies tied the score with a putback. The Rangers took their final lead, 12-10, on a putback from Davis, but Yarmouth’s Emma Scott fed Hannah Sanborn for the tying basket and with 6:04 to go in the half, Davies’ bank shot put the Clippers ahead to stay, 14-12.

Sanborn then made a layup after a steal and while Greely got a layup from Jack Rosenblum, Yarmouth kept scoring, as Geiger made a layup and after a steal, Parker finished for a 20-14 lead.

The Rangers then got a driving layup from Saffian to pull within four, 20-16, at halftime.

The Clippers extended their lead in the third period.

Caldwell started with a layup and Will Morton set up Jack Prato for a jump shot and a 24-16 advantage.

Greely tried to answer, as Conner Hines made a bank shot and Kane scored on a putback, but on his fourth try, Prato hit another jumper (leading to a huge ovation) and the Clippers were up, 26-20.

Rosenblum countered with a jumper, but Davies made consecutive baskets, the second coming after a steal, and after another steal, Sanborn’s layup put Yarmouth ahead by double digits.

A Rosenblum jumper stopped the run, but just before the end of the quarter, after a Clippers’ miss, Greely’s Tate Porter got the rebound and instead of keeping it or passing to a teammate, he gave the ball to Sarah Bean for another try and she hit the short shot to put Yarmouth ahead, 34-24, heading for the fourth period.

That final play of the third quarter actually helped the Clippers extend their lead, but left everyone feeling good about the true spirit of amateur athletics.

“It’s nice to see a nice balance between kids competing and not getting too crazy competitive,” said Greely first-year coach Derek Soule, who has led the Rangers’ baseball juggernaut to four state titles. “You don’t always see that in high school athletics. Sometimes, parents and players get a little carried away.”

In the final stanza, Yarmouth made sure Greely didn’t make a serious run and put the finishing touches on its victory. 

Caldwell and Saffian engaged in an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better battle to start the fourth quarter.

After Caldwell scored on a putback, Saffian hit a jumper. At the other end, Caldwell scored on another putback, but Saffian answered with a bank shot.

Geiger broke up the duel by scoring on a putback, but Saffian made another basket to make it 40-30 Yarmouth with just over three minutes to play. 

After Bean made a leaner, Hines hit a bank shot to keep hope alive for the Rangers, but the Clippers salted away the victory as Bean made another shot and Geiger scored consecutive baskets. As time expired, Conklin scored on a putback for Greely, but it wasn’t enough as Yarmouth prevailed, 48-34.

“The kids know how to adjust from team to team,” said Clippers coach Ashley Marden. “Our motto is for everyone to get a basket. We all go in with the same philosophy. We want both teams have to a good time and the last three minutes, things pick up and you have an intense game.”

“The team grows every game,” added Yarmouth assistant coach Tim Reidman. “They’ve picked up concepts like screening, bounce passing, they understand zone and man-to-man. We can integrate all that into games.”

Davies and Geiger had 10 points apiece to pace the Clippers. Caldwell added eight, Bean and Sanborn had six each and Parker and Prato both finished with four.

Greely’s top scorer was Saffian, who had 10 points. Rosenblum finished with six, Conklin, Davis, Hines and Kane all had four and Reynolds added two.

“We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds and we got killed on the boards,” Soule lamented. “We have to work a little more on pressuring the ball. On the positive side, we had a nice, balanced attacked. All the athletes contributed.”

Future is now 

After meeting in the regular season finale Tuesday in Yarmouth, the teams will look ahead to the playoffs.

The Rangers know there is still room for improvement.

“Our offense is coming along, but we’re a little too nice defensively,” Soule said. “If we want to do anything in the playoffs, we’ll have to play a little tougher on the defensive side.”

The Clippers project to have at least one home playoff game and could be one of the last teams standings.

“I think we’re capable of being a top team,” Marden said. “If we have all our partners and everyone there, we’ll be competitive. If we make shots, we’re pretty good.”

While most varsity basketball teams focus on winning in the tournament and nothing else, everyone involved with Greely and Yarmouth’s Unified teams wants their season to continue for the opportunity to enjoy competition, each other’s company and individual success, however that is defined.

“Seeing them grow as players is a beautiful thing,” Reidman said. As a human being, I want to win, but I want everyone to score. This has taught me a lot about being compassionate.”

“It’s been fun, a non-stop joy,” Soule said. “I haven’t stopped smiling since we started.”

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

Greely’s Tyler Kane tries to get past Yarmouth defender Hannah Sanborn.

Greely’s Charlie Saffian shoots the ball as Yarmouth’s Keirstin Caldwell defends. Saffian led the Rangers with 10 points.

Yarmouth’s Bridget Parker tries to wrest the ball away from Greely’s Tate Porter.

Yarmouth’s Taylor Geiger takes a shot.

Yarmouth’s Jeanelle Davies goes up with the left hand.

Yarmouth’s Keirstin Caldwell goes strong to the basket as Greely’s Tyler Kane defends.

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