A high school basketball season that gets more compelling by the day has passed the halfway pole and is heating up. The tournament is less than a month away.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the 10 local teams, where they stand and what’s to come.
The Western Class B boys’ story has been one of twists and turns. Just when we think we have a handle on the contenders, stunning results ensue.
For instance, Greely won at Yarmouth, but lost at home to Cape Elizabeth, which beat Falmouth. Falmouth has lost to Poland and Wells and Yarmouth was upset at home by Gray-New Gloucester.
We’ll start with the defending state champion Yachtsmen, who, as expected, have struggled a bit this winter with almost an entirely new lineup. Falmouth did win four of its first five games, but has now lost four of five to drop to 5-5 on the season. If the playoffs started today, the Yachtsmen would be on the outside looking in. They’re currently 10th in the Western B Heal Points standings, but only nine teams qualify for the playoffs.
Falmouth suffered a hard-fought 55-48 home loss to Cape Elizabeth last Tuesday (despite 16 points from junior Jack Cooleen and 15 from classmate Matt Packard), bounced back to trounce host Fryeburg, 61-17, Thursday (Cooleen had 13), then lost, 52-40, at Wells Monday (the Yachtsmen only scored 14 first half points and were led by eight apiece from Cooleen and senior Michael Lafond). Falmouth is idle until it goes to York Friday and hosts Fryeburg Saturday. It welcomes Yarmouth Tuesday. Big Heal Points-rich games remain with Greely and Cape Elizabeth.
The Rangers of Greely were considered by many to be the preseason favorite. After a 55-41 home loss to nemesis Cape Elizabeth on Jan. 4, the Rangers have won four straight to improve to 10-1 (which currently tops the Heals). Last Tuesday, Greely defeated visiting Wells, 49-28 (senior Sam Johnston had 18 points). Two nights later, the Rangers enjoyed an impressive 63-47 triumph at York (behind 30 from Johnston and 15 from junior Liam Maker). Saturday, Greely dispatched host Gray-New Gloucester behind a strong second half, 50-39 (Johnston led the way with 21 points and senior Tanner Storey added 16). The Rangers are home with Lake Region Friday, then go to Cape Elizabeth (the team which has eliminated them from the past three postseasons) Tuesday.
Yarmouth appeared as if it might be the team to beat after wins over Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth, but the Clippers lost back-to-back games, capped by a stunning 57-54 home loss to Gray-New Gloucester last Tuesday (junior Josh Britten did have 23 points in defeat). Saturday, Yarmouth bounced back with a 58-24 home win over North Yarmouth Academy (Britten led the way with 17). The Clippers (sixth in the region) went to Lake Region Tuesday, visit Freeport Friday, host Poland Saturday and go to Falmouth Tuesday of next week.
Freeport is still seeking its initial victory and is getting close. The Falcons sandwiched close home losses to Old Orchard Beach (61-48) and Poland (49-45) around a one-sided loss at Cape Elizabeth (89-32) last week. Senior Kyle Strozewski had 12 points, freshman Chandler Birmingham and junior Mitch Loeman each had 10 in the loss to the Seagulls. Birmingham had 14 points and junior Josh Weirich a dozen versus the Knights. Birmingham added nine points in the loss to the Capers. Freeport (0-10 and 16th in Western B) hosts Yarmouth Friday, goes to Gray-New Gloucester Saturday and visits NYA Tuesday.
In Western C, the Panthers entered the week 3-6 and 16th in the standings. NYA lost last week to visiting Gray-New Gloucester (65-54, despite 19 points from senior Andrew Esancy and 17 from senior Eli Leavitt) and host Yarmouth (58-24, junior Asad Dahia led the team with 11). The Panthers were home with Hyde Wednesday, visit Gould Saturday and welcome Freeport Tuesday.
Work to do
On the girls’ side, Greely remains the best local team, but still can’t solve its nemesis, York, the defending Class B champion. The Rangers won, 39-29, at Wells last Tuesday (senior Megan Coale had a team-high 16 points), but Thursday, the Wildcats came to Cumberland and humbled Greely, 48-22 (seniors Chelsea Bridges and Sara Warnock each had five points).
Monday, the Rangers bounced back and improved to 9-2 with a 41-33 home win over Gray-New Gloucester. Greely got 15 points (including three 3-pointers from junior Haylee Munson) and overcame 20 turnovers to hold on down the stretch.
“That’s how it’s going to be this year,” said Rangers coach Billy Goodman. “We’ve turned it over all season. We have to get better against pressure. That’s our weakness. It’s no secret.
“We’ve had seven players score in double figures this year. On any given night, it could be anyone. We go with what we see. We stick with who’s confident. The defense is there every time. We fall back on that.”
Greely (third in Western B) faces a stern test at Lake Region Friday. They play a pivotal game at Cape Elizabeth Tuesday.
“Lake Region will be tough at Lake Region,” Goodman said. “They’ll pressure us. My girls are playing tough. I can’t ask for anything more. We know what we have to work on.”
Falmouth lost at home last week to Cape Elizabeth (31-25) and Fryeburg (46-44) to fall to 5-4 on the season. Junior Jenna Serunian led the Yachtsmen with 11 points versus the Capers. Against the Raiders, in a game Falmouth let a lead slip away, Serunian had 11 points and sophomore Maddie Inlow, 10. The Yachtsmen (eighth in the Heals) host York Friday, go to Fryeburg Saturday, then welcome Yarmouth Tuesday.
Don’t look now, but the Freeport Falcons have hit their stride. The Falcons lost their first seven games under new coach Jen Chon, but they bounced back to win three straight to get into playoff contention. Freeport got its first victory, 43-38, at Old Orchard Beach last Tuesday, then downed visiting Cape Elizabeth (41-36) and host Poland (56-35). Against the Seagulls, senior Katee Poulin had 18 points and classmate Erin Hall added nine. Poulin and sophomore Leigh Wyman both scored 12 points in the upset of the Capers. Poulin finished with 15 points, Wyman 14 and junior Morgan Brown 11 versus the Knights.
“Getting our first win was huge,” said Chon. “These girls can play with anyone if they have their minds to it, but they also needed the confidence that they can win and having our first win gave them this confidence. Our offense is now flowing more and we are working as a team. Our field goal percentage is getting better by every game. We were shooting only 20.5 percent in the first seven games. At OOB, it went up to 24 percent, then to 36 percent versus Cape, then to 62 percent versus Poland. Once we get our offense flowing, we score a lot more and in the last three games we have had a total of 140 points, when in the first seven games we were only averaging 26.7 points per game. It’s a huge difference when we get the ball in the net and mesh as a team. We know that if we can get points on the board we can play with anyone.
“Our guard play has been incredible and our senior Katee has been scoring for us. Her leadership and scoring has helped motivate our team and I think this has contributed to our success. Leigh and (sophomore) Aubrey Pennell have also started to pick up their offense and are scoring consistently for us. I think those things and these girls just starting to realize they are a good team are making a big difference. We hope to have continued success.”
Freeport (11th in the Western B Heals, where nine teams qualify for the playoffs) is home with Yarmouth Friday, Gray-New Gloucester Saturday and NYA Tuesday.
Yarmouth, after winning its opener, has dropped nine in a row, the latest losses to host Gray-New Gloucester (36-17), visiting Lake Region (58-27) and host NYA (50-46). Freshman Olivia Smith had nine points versus the Patriots, 12 against the Lakers and a dozen against the Panthers. Senior Olivia Harrison added eight against NYA. The Clippers (17th in the region) are at Freeport Friday, Poland Saturday and Falmouth Tuesday.
In Western C, NYA improved to 4-5 and 15th in the Heals after its win over Yarmouth (senior Blair Haggett had a game-high 21 points, junior Morgan Scully added 13 and senior Eliza Gendron finished with 12). Two nights prior, the Panthers lost to host Gray-New Gloucester, 63-30 (despite 11 points apiece from Gendron and Haggett). NYA was at Hyde Wednesday, visits Kents Hill Saturday and Freeport Tuesday.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org