By Michael Hoffer
Falmouth earned some major basketball bragging rights over the weekend with a pair of victories over fierce rival Yarmouth.
Friday night, in Yarmouth, the Yachtsmen boys erupted for 14 unanswered points late in the first half to turn it around, then parlayed a pair of 8-0 second-half surges to a 65-48 victory.
Twenty-four hours later, in Falmouth, the Yachtsmen girls got a much-needed victory in a game which never saw them trail. Falmouth broke open a tight game in the fourth period and went on to a 47-32 win.
The Falmouth boys were looking for their first season sweep of Yarmouth (something that was once a regular occurrence) since 2005-06. The Yachtsmen, who started 9-0 this winter, took a 10-1 mark into the game. On Dec. 13, Falmouth had no trouble with the visiting Clippers, winning 52-33.
Yarmouth, which just saw senior Johnny Murphy ascend to the top spot in school scoring history, took an 8-3 record into the contest.
A back-and-forth first period ended with the Clippers ahead 18-17. When Yarmouth senior Andrew Totta made two free throws with 3:51 to go in the first half, the hosts led 27-21. The hosts had ample chances to extend their advantage, but couldn’t do so, and they soon absorbed the full fury of the Falmouth offense.
Freshman Jack Cooleen got the run started with a layup with 2:33 to go before halftime. Junior standout Stefano Mancini followed with a long jump shot and Cooleen hit two free throws to tie the game. With 1:34 to go in the half, Mancini gave the Yachtsmen the lead for good with two free throws. Cooleen, junior Sam Horning and junior Ryan Rogers all made layups in the final minute, 16 seconds to give Falmouth a 35-27 advantage at the break.
“We started attacking the basket,” Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan said. “The first quarter was sort of like Lake Region (Falmouth’s only loss). Once we got organized and relaxed a little bit we were fine. It was a big game, a good atmosphere.”
“We knew they’d come out hard since we beat them by 20 last time,” Rogers added. “We knew we had to come out strong and keep up the intensity. We knew if we didn’t come out intense, we’d be behind. We looked up at the scoreboard and we were down six. We didn’t want to lose the game. Coach said to cut it to one or two at half. That wasn’t good enough. We wanted to take the lead.”
Yarmouth got as close as three, 35-32, early in the third, and was within four, 37-33, with 4:59 to play in the period, but the Clippers wouldn’t score again in the quarter.
Falmouth got the final eight points of the period, as junior John Roberts made a layup, Rogers converted an old-fashioned three-point play, Mancini hit a foul shot and Rogers made a driving layup for a 45-33 lead with eight minutes to go.
“Coach did a good job preparing us to counter their pressure,” Rogers said. “We got fast breaks and I was open.”
“(Ryan’s) a good player,” Halligan said. “He’s our sixth man. He can drive to the basket, hit the outside shot. He’s actually one of our leading assist guys off the bench.”
With 6:18 left in regulation, Murphy made one of two free throws to pull Yarmouth back within 10, 49-39, but the hosts would get no closer. Rogers canned a 3, Horning made a jump shot, then followed with a rebound putback. With 4:06 left, Mancini hit the second of two foul shots and it was 57-39. The Clippers got no closer than 16 the rest of the way and Falmouth went on to the 65-48 victory.
“I thought it was the defensive end that did it for us,” said Halligan. “We started to play team defense instead of individual defense. Once we did that, we were fine.”
Mancini (20) and Rogers (14) combined for 34 points, Roberts added 10, Cooleen had eight.
“We have a lot of balance,” Rogers said. “Stefano’s a great player. Teams play him real hard. He’s very unselfish. We usually have five guys on the floor who can hurt you at any given time. Anyone can beat anyone on a given night. We definitely have a target. We have to bring our ‘A’ game every night.”
The Yachtsmen (12-1 and first in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) go to St. Dom’s Friday and host Poland Saturday.
Yarmouth was led by Murphy’s 17. Senior Rob Highland was next with seven points.
The Clippers (8-4 and sixth in the Heals) don’t play until Saturday when they host Waynflete. Saturday, they go to Gray-New Gloucester.
The Falmouth girls have had their share of ups and downs this winter. Regional finalists each of the past two seasons, the Yachtsmen had dropped three in a row prior to hosting Yarmouth and had fallen to 5-6 on the year. The departure of junior Alison DerHagopian made the challenge even greater.
Yarmouth, which entered the season with high hopes, was also 5-6, but had played tough almost every time out. On Dec. 12, the Clippers upset the visiting Yachtsmen 46-36 behind strong efforts from senior Michelle Moylan and freshman Morgan Cahill.
Saturday, Cahill got in early foul trouble, Yarmouth quickly fell behind and didn’t have an answer.
Falmouth took the lead for good 1 minute, 21 seconds in when senior Kelsey Graffam made two free throws. Senior Andie Doyle added two more before the Clippers got on the board on an old-fashioned three-point play from senior Lanier Bolmer. That would be Yarmouth’s only basket of the first quarter, however. Graffam and senior Haley Jordan made layups and senior Sara Bachman added a bank shot to give the Yachtsmen a 10-3 lead.
Trailing 15-8 in the second, the Clippers made things interesting when Cahill sandwiched a pair of layups around a layup from senior Catie Clarke to make it 15-14. After a timeout, Falmouth responded as junior Annalise Keeler hit a couple layups and Jordan scored on a driving layup. After senior Briana Bianchini made two foul shots for Yarmouth, Keeler hit another layup to give the hosts a 23-16 advantage at the break.
Early in the second half, Falmouth quickly went up 10, 28-18, thanks to five points from Graffam, but the Clippers got it back to five, 30-25, when Moylan made a layup (her only points) after a steal with 6:20 to go.
Undaunted, the Yachtsmen got the next nine points to essentially salt it away. After Jordan hit a long jumper, Graffam (who blocked a Cahill shot at the other end) made a layup, senior Charlotte Rogers did the same, Bachman hit a foul shot and Jordan drained two. Yarmouth got no closer than 11 the rest of the way and Falmouth went on to the 47-32 win.
“We needed this one,” said Yachtsmen first-year coach Kristi Ouellette. “I think we definitely, finally executed our game plan. It’s broken down a few times. We knew what to do, but didn’t show it on the court. We knew we could win, but we had to prove it. We finally did it.
“Stopping Cahill inside was what we’d talked about. We packed in our zone and didn’t let them get good looks. We took it to Cahill and got her in foul trouble. That’s what teams do to us.”
Jordan finished with 19 to lead all scorers.
“I’ve tried to get her to go to the hole a lot more and she did tonight,” Ouellette said. “She was successful tonight and I hope she keeps it up.”
“It was a really important game for us,” Jordan added. “Defense was our main thing to work on. That’s what we focused on. Getting Cahill in foul trouble helped a lot. Working as a team and defense helped us pull away. The team dynamic is a lot different from last year. At the beginning we were adjusting. Hopefully, this gives us confidence for the rest of the season.”
Graffam added 11 points and was huge on the boards.
“I think Kelsey’s a leader on the court,” Ouellette said. “People look to her to make stops defensively and score on offense.”
Clarke led Yarmouth with 12 points. Bolmer finished with eight. Cahill had six.
“Falmouth played really well,” said Clippers’ coach Nick Nash. “At our place, we managed to contain Jordan. Tonight, Jordan was the key to the game. She played like a senior should play. I didn’t think we had good ball reversal. We didn’t dribble penetrate at all. Credit to Falmouth. Kristi’s kids played well.”
Yarmouth (5-7) fell to the No. 11 spot in the Western B Heals (the top 10 make the playoffs). The Clippers are at Western C power Waynflete (which upset Falmouth earlier this season) Friday and host playoff nemesis Gray-New Gloucester Saturday. Undefeated York pays a visit Tuesday.
Needless to say, Yarmouth has its hands full in its quest to make it to the tournament.
“We’re in a tough spot now,” Nash said. “We have to win two of the next three games.”
Falmouth improved to 6-6 and moves into the No. 10 slot in Western B. The Yachtsmen are home with St. Dom’s Friday, go to Poland Saturday, then have a huge home test with Greely Tuesday.
“I hope we’ve turned the corner,” Ouellette said. “We’ll have to see after the (mid-term) break what we come back with. There will be a good team left out of the playoffs. Hopefully not us.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org