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Top-ranked Yachtsmen sail into semifinals

Sports

Top-ranked Yachtsmen sail into semifinals

PORTLAND—The powerhouse Falmouth boys' basketball team received a slice of humble pie the final week of the regular season, but it was clear Saturday afternoon that the Yachtsmen have learned their lesson and returned to form.

Top-ranked Falmouth, having watched No. 2 York, the regional co-favorite and the squad which blitzed the Yachtsmen by 26 points Feb. 5, romp over No. 7 Greely in emphatic fashion in its quarterfinal earlier in the day, came out and said, "Anything York can do, we can do better' in an obliteration of eighth-ranked Maranacook in a Western Class B quarterfinal round contest at the Portland Exposition Building.

Doing what a top seed hopes to do in in its first playoff test, Falmouth shot to a 5-0 lead and was up 13-4 by the end of the first period, thanks to strong play from seniors Charlie Fay and Tom Wilberg. The Yachtsmen went up by as many as 18, 26-8, midway through the second quarter, but the Black Bears, behind their talented 6-foot-8 senior behemoth Kyle Boucher, pulled within 13, 29-16, at halftime. Falmouth then ended all doubt in the third period, opening on a 12-4 run, capped by a monster follow-up jam from Fay, to pull away and go on to a 58-30 victory.

The Yachtsmen had a balanced attack, featuring 15 points from Fay, 13 from senior Grant Burfeind, 12 from freshman Thomas Coyne and 11 from Wilberg, as they improved to 18-1, ended Maranacook's season at 9-11 and advanced to meet No. 4 Mountain Valley (13-6) in the semifinal round, Thursday at 9 p.m., at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

"We just wanted to come out and play well and feel good and feel confident," said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. "A team that feels confident plays better than one who's struggling. We tried to take Maranacook's confidence away."

Wakeup call

Falmouth won its first 20 games a year ago, but suffered an agonizing 56-50 loss to Yarmouth in the Western B Final. This winter, the Yachtsmen roster featured plenty of talent, but it was viewed as untested.

That perception disappeared quickly as Falmouth steamrolled its first 16 foes. The Yachtsmen opened by winning at Cape Elizabeth (72-49), at home over Fryeburg (83-33) and Greely (63-45), at Poland (68-35), at Yarmouth (55-34) and at Traip (74-47) to close 2012.

After winning the Portland High Holiday tournament, crushing Class A teams along the way, Falmouth opened 2013 with a dazzling 71-51 home win over York to emerge as the clear favorite. The one-sided victories returned as the Yachtsmen defeated visiting Freeport (66-25), host Gray-New Gloucester (77-28), visiting Lake Region (92-41), host Greely (68-45), visiting Cape Elizabeth (53-41), host Wells (70-36), visiting Poland (67-42), host Lake Region (70-28) and visiting Wells (74-59).

Falmouth then tumbled from the undefeated ranks in a big way with a 65-39 loss at York, a setback that is now viewed as a turning point.

"At the moment, it felt horrible," Wilberg said. "You never want to lose that badly, but we were on the decline in motivation and effort. We needed that slap in the face."

"It motivated us and showed us we're not invincible," Fay said.

"We were getting kind of cocky and going through the motions," Halligan added. "We saw that we were good, but that we could get a lot better."

The Yachtsmen got back on track in the finale, 69-35, over visiting Yarmouth, to wind up 17-1 and earn the top seed in Western B for the second year in a row.

Maranacook, a perennial contender, went 9-9 in 2011-12 and missed the playoffs. This winter, the Black Bears overcame an 0-3 start with three straight wins, then dropped three more games to sit 3-6 at the midway point. Maranacook then continued its up-and-down ways, winning three in succession before falling in four straight games. Wins against Leavitt and Gardiner helped the Black Bears wind up 8-10 and earn the No. 8 seed in the region. Tuesday, against defending champion No. 9 Yarmouth in the preliminary round, Maranacook advanced, 72-65.

Prior to Saturday, Falmouth and Maranacook had no history on the hardwood (Halligan and his players who also play soccer in the fall are no strangers to the Black Bears on the pitch, however).

Saturday, the Yachtsmen came out and quickly ended any upset hopes so they could turn their attention to the next round.

Fay gave Falmouth the lead for good with a free throw. Sophomore Jack Simonds added two foul shots and Fay scored on a bank shot to make it 5-0.

The Black Bears would get more than half their offense from Boucher, who gave his team its first points with 4:15 left in the first quarter on a pair of free throws, but Burfeind found Fay for a layup, Fay hit a short jumper, Wilberg made a layup and a runner and just like that, the Yachtsmen had a 13-2 lead.

With 38.8 seconds left in the frame, Boucher made a layup for his team's first field goal, pulling Maranacook back within nine points.

Falmouth sizzled at the start of the second period as well as Burfeind scored on a driving layup, Wilberg scored on a putback while being fouled and hit the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play and Fay scored on a putback for a commanding 20-4 advantage.

After Boucher answered with a putback, Fay made a layup after a steal and after a Coyne steal, Burfeind raced in for another layup and a 24-6 lead, forcing Black Bears' coach Rob Schmidt to call timeout.

"A big start was huge," Burfeind said. "We knew if they hung around, they'd get confident and the crowd would get into it, so we just wanted to put them away early."

The timeout worked as Maranacook finished the half strong.

Boucher made a layup out of the timeout and after Simonds fed Coyne for a layup, Boucher hit a jump shot, senior Jesse Evans converted a three-point play and freshman Kent Mohlar knocked down a 3-ball to pull the Black Bears within 10, 26-16.

A late 3 from Burfeind sent Falmouth into the half with a 13-point advantage.

The Yachtsmen put on another show to start the third, one which was punctuated by Fay doing what he does best.

Wilberg got the run started with a steal and a layup.

"(Tom's) our offensive lineman," said Halligan. "He does all the dirty work. On other teams, he'd be the primary scorer, but for us, he does the dirty work. We wouldn't be successful without guys like Tommy."

"I do what I need to do for the team," said Wilberg. "If I need to score, I step up. If I need to rebound and or play defense, I do that."

Boucher answered with a layup, but Coyne knocked down a 3. After a Boucher putback, Burfeind hit a leaner, Burfeind set up junior Justin Rogers for a 3-ball and after Burfeind missed a layup following a steal, Fay soared in from nowhere to powerfully slam home the rebound, bringing the Falmouth cheering section to its feet and giving the Yachtsmen a 41-20 advantage.

"I'm always trying to time that," Fay said. "It gets the team going and gets my confidence up too."

"Charlie's been huge for us this year," said Burfeind. "He's just exploded this year. I hit the floor and I wasn't really looking, but when I did, Charlie was (hanging on the rim). I've gotten used to that."

After Maranacook junior Caleb Jackson made a free throw, Coyne was fouled while shooting a 3 and made all three free throws. Black Bears sophomore Kodey Solmitz answered with a 3, but Simonds made a leaner and Falmouth was up, 46-26, heading for the fourth quarter.

There, the Yachtsmen started quickly once more, getting a putback from Wilberg, two free throws from Coyne, a layup after a steal from Burfeind and two more Coyne foul shots for a 54-26 advantage.

Down the stretch, Maranacook junior Taylor Wilbur scored on a finger roll, Fay scored on a putback and Burfeind took a pass from Fay and made a layup on the fastbreak for Falmouth's final points before Boucher culminated the 58-30 decision with a layup as time expired.

"We took care of business," said Wilberg. "We couldn't go out there and be lackadaisical. We couldn't take anything for granted. We just went out there and focused and executed. We were intense and talking from the start."

"We knew we'd have to play as a team to win," said Fay. "When we play as a team, we thrive. We worked the ball well and talked. Swinging the ball and showing patience worked on offense. We got what we could get."

Fay continued his breakout season with a team-high 15 points, a game-high 12 rebounds, as well as two blocked shots and a steal.

"Charlie plays a huge role on our team," Wilberg said. "On offense and defense. It's hard to prepare for him."

"Charlie's a senior," Halligan said. "He played in the tournament last year. He got a taste of it. He's a key leader this year."

Burfeind, who's earned the nickname "Mr. Clutch" for his heroics on the soccer field, has also been among the league's finest on the hardwood and he added 13 points and a pair of steals to help the effort.

Coyne, who doesn't play like a freshman, had 12 points and two steals.

"Most freshmen you just try to get on the floor to get experience, but he really competes," Halligan said.

Wilberg had 11 points (six boards and two steals), Simonds four (to go with seven rebounds and three steals) and Rogers three.

Falmouth finished with a 37-28 rebounding advantage, 12 steals, forced 21 turnovers while committing 16 and made 11-of 16 foul shots.

For Maranacook, Boucher certainly made his presence felt with 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.

"He's definitely a big boy," Fay said, of Boucher. "He makes it tough on the boards. You have to work a lot harder."

"We were talking about him the whole time we were prepping for the game," said Wilberg. "We have four great bigs of our own. That's a comfort."

"We knew they had the big kid and we tried to limit him," Halligan added. "Every time he touched the ball, we had a couple guys on him. We played great defense on their perimeter guys. We took their outside away."

Evans, Mohlar and Solmitz (three steals) had three points apiece, Lachance and Wilbur both had two and Jackson added one. Sophomore Cameron Brochu grabbed seven rebounds.

The Black Bears made 4-of-9 free throws.

Off to the Civic Center

Falmouth will face another (somewhat) unfamiliar foe in the semifinals. No. 4 Mountain Valley (which beat fifth-ranked Spruce Mountain in its quarterfinal) is a team the Yachtsmen don't play in the regular season. The schools do have a playoff history. Three years ago, en route to the Class B championship, Falmouth blew past the Falcons in the semifinals, 67-37. Mountain Valley had defeated the Yachtsmen in the 2006 regional final, 47-40. 

Falmouth will be a heavy favorite, but while confident, don't expect the Yachtsmen to overlook the Falcons.

"We've come into the tournament with a lot to prove and we still have a lot to prove," said Burfeind. "(Mountain Valley's) a good shooting team. They play good defense."

"They're a good team," Fay said. "We can't take them lightly. If we play like we did tonight, we should be all set. We know if we don't play like a team, we don't win. If we do, we can beat (York) like we did during the season."

"Mountain Valley's a hard working team," Halligan added. "We better bring our 'A' game. They'll bring it for the full 32 minutes."

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

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Maranacook freshman Kent Mohlar has no chance against Falmouth senior Charlie Fay as Fay goes up for two of his team-high 15 points.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth sophomore Jack Simonds shoots over Maranacook sophomore Camerone Brochu.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth senior Tom Wilberg, who helped key the Yachtsmen's fast start, looks to shoot over a defender.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth's promising freshman Thomas Coyne shoots for two of his 12 points.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth coach Dave Halligan instructs his charges during a timeout.