Yarmouth's run comes to an end
PORTLAND—The Cinderella Clippers of Yarmouth High School played their final game of the 2011-12 girls' basketball season Tuesday evening at the Portland Exposition Building, losing to top-ranked Lake Region, 60-34, but that was only part of the story.
Long after the final score fades from memory, the way this group came together and not only got back to respectability, but competitiveness, will be hailed.
One season after winning a single game (by a single point), the Clippers improved exponentially, won a playoff game for the first time in seven years and advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in six.
Tuesday, however, they just ran into a better team.
The Lakers broke open a close game with a 19-4 second quarter run and ended all doubt by outscoring Yarmouth, 19-10 in the third. Lake Region sophomore Tiana Jo-Carter was unstoppable at times, scoring 14 points and grabbing 19 rebounds and the Clippers just couldn't execute consistently on offense, committing 32 turnovers.
The Lakers (17-2) advanced to meet defending state champion Leavitt in Thursday's semifinals (4:30 p.m., at the Cumberland County Civic Center), while Yarmouth's season came to a close at 9-11.
"These kids were discounted," said Clippers first-year coach Jay Lowery. "We gave it everything we could, six, seven days a week. The bottom line is that we accomplished a lot in a short period of time. The three coaches (Lowery was assisted by Craig Curry and Amy McMullin) worked very hard to try to make that happen. There's a lot to be proud of."
In the preseason, Lowery felt his team was capable of posting a winning record, which sounded implausible at best.
While that didn't quite happen, Yarmouth showed tremendous improvement from November to February.
The Clippers took awhile to hit their stride, dropping their first two games (50-39 at home to Gray-New Gloucester and 67-25 at Lake Region). Then, they won at Wells (42-39) to snap a 19-game losing streak. After a hard-fought 40-35 home loss to top contender York, Yarmouth fell to 1-4 with a 33-27 home loss to Falmouth, but a 32-28 victory at Fryeburg closed 2011 on a high note.
The new year brought consistent improvement, but up and down results. Losses at Freeport (53-52) and at home to Greely (48-18) were followed by a 44-43 win at Poland. Inconsistency continued with a 41-39 home loss to Cape Elizabeth, followed by an impressive 49-33 home win over Western C contender Waynflete. After losing at Gray-New Gloucester, 55-41, the Clippers downed visiting Traip (55-48) and Freeport (46-37) and after a 56-43 loss at Greely, they handled visiting Poland, 49-34, as senior standout Morgan Cahill hit the 1,000-point milestone. In the final week of the regular season, Yarmouth was upset at Cape Elizabeth, 52-33, but closed with a 55-43 win at Falmouth, giving it an 8-10 record and the No. 8 seed for the playoffs.
That set up a home preliminary round game last Wednesday against rival No. 9 Falmouth and the Clippers rolled, 53-33.
As for Lake Region, which was ousted by Leavitt in last winter's semifinals, it looked like the best team in the region for most of the season, winning 13 straight to start the year, highlighted by victories over York, Wells, Greely and a 51-46 overtime triumph at Falmouth. The string was snapped with a 44-37 loss at York, but the Lakers bounced back and downed visiting Falmouth, 56-34, before falling again, this time in the waning seconds at Greely, 39-37. Lake Region closed with a 54-50 win at Fryeburg and a 35-26 home victory over Gray-New Gloucester to wind up 16-2 and first in the Heals.
Yarmouth won the first three postseason meetings between the schools: 59-30 in the 2002 quarterfinals, 52-40 in the 2004 quarterfinals and 45-43 in the 2005 regional final, before the Lakers rolled, 60-34, in the quarterfinal round of 2006.
Since they'd improved so much since the original meeting on Dec. 13, the Clippers hoped to stay close and perhaps even spring an upset, but it wasn't to be and the game ended with an identical score from that last playoff encounter six years ago.
Yarmouth showed nerves early and fell behind 4-0 as Lake Region got a transition layup from junior Sydney Hancock (assisted by senior Rachel Wandishin) and another from senior Abby Craffey (set up by Hancock).
With 4:40 left in the first, Cahill got a pass from freshman Lane Simsarian and made a jump shot to break the ice.
A jumper from Lakers sophomore Jordan Turner was answered by a Cahill layup and in the final minute, Cahill set up her sister, Sean, a sophomore, for a layup and despite nine turnovers, the Clippers were even with the Lakers after one quarter, 6-6.
"I'd say in the first quarter, the girls weren't themselves," Lowery said. "We started rough. We settled down and tried to keep the ball in the seniors' hands."
Lake Region ended all doubt in the second period.
After a Carter spinning leaner was answered by a Morgan Cahill putback, Carter (from Craffey) made a layup to put the Lakers ahead to stay. Senior Allison Clark added a 3 and Carter scored on a putback to make it 15-8.
After sophomore Grace O'Donnell hit a jumper with 4:28 to go before the half, Yarmouth wouldn't score again as Lake Region ended the second period on a 10-0 run.
Junior Kelsey Winslow made a layup, freshman Sarah Hancock scored on a putback, Carter made a free throw, took a pass from Turner and made a layup while being fouled and added the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play and with 43.4 seconds left, Carter's putback made it 25-10 Lakers.
In the first 16 minutes, the Clippers gave the ball away 19 times, were outrebounded 24-16 and missed all eight free throw attempts.
Carter had 12 points, 14 rebounds (10 on the offensive glass) and two blocks in the half.
Still, Lowery said in the locker room that a comeback was possible.
"The message was we had to start to execute," he said. "We had to go to the basket and run the floor. In a lot of cases, we just didn't look down the floor. We had people down there. Our only chance to come back was run the floor and get to the bucket."
Things didn't get better in the second half.
Winslow made a layup and Craffey did the same. After a putback from Yarmouth senior Jeanna Lowery, Sydney Hancock made two free throws, Sarah Hancock hit a 3 and after a coast to coast layup from Morgan Cahill, Hancock made another 3, then hit a pullup jumper for a 39-14 lead.
Sean Cahill responded with a layup, but Clark hit a 3. After Morgan Cahill made two free throws, Carter scored on a short leaner. A Cahill pass resulted in a Lowery layup with 4.8 seconds left, but the Clippers were still down 44-20 heading for the fourth period.
With the game out of reach, Yarmouth's future was on display in the final stanza.
After Winslow made a layup and Sarah Hancock hit a free throw, Clippers freshman Shannon Fallon made her presence felt with a three-point play and a jumper.
Sydney Hancock answered with two free throws, before Morgan Cahill hit a pair. Sarah Hancock's layup was answered by a Cahill bank shot, which proved to be the final points of her high school career, making the score, 51-29.
After Craffey hit two foul shots for the Lakers, Fallon made a free throw and Lowery did the same before Lake Region senior Shannon VanLoan made a layup and junior Kate Cutting knocked down a 3. A foul shot from junior McKenzie Gray, one from O'Donnell and another from Fallon gave Yarmouth its final points. With 12 seconds to go, Cutting scored on a putback and that brought the curtain down on the Lakers' 60-34 victory.
"A lot of it was self inflicted," Lowery said. "We played pretty good defense. We wanted to contain them to the outside. We did a pretty good job there, but we just didn't execute. We fell back into thinking we could post up one-on-one. We wanted to get a mismatch on offense against Carter. We felt if Sean could come across the middle and drop a screen on her, we had a big mismatch, but we weren't disciplined enough and it didn't happen. I think our legs started going in the third a little bit. We weren't staying with them."
Morgan Cahill finished with a team-high 14 points, 10 rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. After spending her junior season at Cheverus, Cahill's return gave Yarmouth immediate legitimacy and in addition to her scoring prowess, her leadership helped the Clippers rapidly improve.
"I said to Morgan in the locker room, 'Here you are,'" Lowery said. "'You were a big part of leading the way and supporting the younger kids.'"
Fallon had seven points (all in the fourth quarter). Jeanna Lowery added five (and five rebounds), Sean Cahill four (with two steals), O'Donnell three (along with seven boards) and Gray one.
The Clippers turned the ball over 32 times and only made 10-of 24 free throw attempts. They also failed to make a 3-pointer, which was par for the course this winter.
Yarmouth didn't sink a single shot from behind the arc all season.
The Lake Region story was highlighted by Carter's 14 points, 19 rebounds and two blocks, but Sarah Hancock played a big part as well, scoring 13 points and adding three steals. Clark, Craffey, Sydney Hancock (five boards and five steals) and Winslow (seven rebounds and three steals) all scored six points, Cutting added five, while Turner and VanLoan each had two.
The Lakers finished with 16 steals and a 43-32 rebounding edge (a whopping 28 of those came on the offensive glass). They committed 17 turnovers, but made 9-of-13 foul shots.
Not the last time
Morgan Cahill's departure will leave a big hole (Jeanna Lowery and Maddy Wood also graduate), but this program has turned the corner and will remain competitive.
Next winter, Sean Cahill Fallon, O'Donnell and Simsarian will make up the foundation and the Clippers will be starting from a much better place.
"Hopefully things have turned in the right direction," Lowery said. "We have our work cut out for us, but we'll come back at it next year. We have four kids to work with, O'Donnell, Shannon, Lane and Sean. We need to find a fifth, sixth and seventh. It'll have to come over the summer. We'll play a lot of summer ball, send kids off to summer camps to try to vault them to another level. I look forward to continuing this on a year by year basis until we straighten it out. I don't think this is the last time we'll be here."