Greely edges Falmouth in OT instant classic
CUMBERLAND—It turns out the defending Class B state champion Falmouth boys' basketball team isn't invincible after all.
And the Greely Rangers might be on their way to becoming something special.
What we do know for sure is that the teams' showdown Saturday afternoon at Greely High School was one for the ages and required more than 32 minutes to determine a victor.
The highly touted Yachtsmen hadn't been pushed for a whole game since February, but they quickly found themselves in an uncomfortable predicament as the fired-up Rangers closed the first quarter on a 13-0 run to take a 19-7 lead.
Greely pushed its advantage to as much as 16 in the second period and enjoyed a 14-point bulge, 32-18, at halftime, thanks to a spirited defensive effort, keyed by senior Connor Hanley, who held Falmouth sophomore standout Thomas Coyne without a single point.
But not surprisingly, the Yachtsmen roared back in the second half and things got very interesting.
Trailing, 36-21, with just under five minutes to go in the third quarter, Falmouth reached that gear which only it possesses and a 15-0 run, culminated by a Coyne 3 just 13 seconds into the fourth period, tied the score, 36-36.
A 3-pointer from senior Nick Burton gave the Yachtsmen their first lead since the first quarter and when senior Matthew Tseng made two foul shots with 4:14 to play, Falmouth was on the verge of a knockout punch, but the Rangers somehow rose off the deck.
After Hanley cut the deficit to three with a layup, Hanley truly played the hero by draining a 3 with 48.7 seconds to go, tying the game, 43-43.
Falmouth would have a final look, but a long 3 from junior sharpshooter Jack Simonds was off line and the game went to overtime.
There, Greely, which had all the momentum, took the lead on a 3 from senior Bailey Train 21 seconds in and tacked on four more points to cap a 12-0 run. The Yachtsmen would eventually get as close as three, 56-53, on a Coyne three-point play, but Train hit a clinching free throw and the Rangers held on for a palpitating 57-53 triumph.
Hanley and senior Michael McDevitt both had 13 points and Train added 11 as Greely improved to 6-0 and handed Falmouth its first loss in six outings this winter and its first loss in 11 games overall.
"It was a lot of fun," said Hanley. "We circle (this game) on the calendar every year. Falmouth's the team we want to play. They're our rival. Everyone said they could be one of the best teams in the state and we think we can be too. It gives us a lot of confidence. Last year we thought we could compete, but we couldn't pull it out. This year, we know we can do it. "
Living up to billing
After winning the 2012-13 Class B title, its second in four years, Falmouth moved up in class (at least for the postseason) this winter, but hadn't missed a beat in the early going, dominating host York (70-42), visiting Yarmouth (84-65), host Wells (80-26), visiting Poland (90-52) and visiting Lake Region (79-54).
Greely, meanwhile, opened with wins over visiting Gray-New Gloucester (82-46), host Freeport (92-31), visiting Kennebunk (50-45), visiting Yarmouth (57-49) and host Poland (67-44).
Falmouth entered Saturday's game having beaten the Rangers four straight times, including twice last winter (63-45 at home and 68-45 in Cumberland). Since the start of the 2001-02 season, the Yachtsmen held a 14-11 advantage (please see sidebar, below).
Saturday, however, Greely was bound and determined to carry the day and did so.
The game started with both teams red-hot.
Just five seconds in, Train set up Hanley for a layup. After Simonds made a jump shot, Hanley hit a jumper. Burton tied the game with a jump shot, but senior Patrick O'Shea kissed home a runner off the glass to give the Rangers a 6-4 lead.
Falmouth then went on top for what would be the only time in the first three quarters when Simonds sank a 3, but a baseline jumper from O'Shea started a Greely run.
McDevitt kept the good times rolling with a reverse layup while being fouled and he added the free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play. A putback from senior Kyle Wood forced longtime Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan to call timeout, but it didn't help as Hanley passed to McDevitt for a reverse layup, O'Shea scored on a fastbreak floater and McDevitt drained a long jumper to cap a 13-0 run and end the first period with the Rangers on top, 19-7.
"Sometimes we do come out flat, but against a team like (Falmouth), you have to come out strong," said Hanley. "We did and we executed. We played our game, we didn't let them play theirs."
Falmouth didn't score the final 5 minutes, 19 seconds of the quarter and started the second stanza with another 1:47 of scoreless ball as McDevitt hit a leaner to stretch the Greely lead to 21-7.
Finally, with 6:13 to play in the first half, a Simonds floater ended the 7:06 drought and a 15-0 Rangers' run, but O'Shea made a leaner and Hanley set up Wood for a layup for a 25-9 advantage, causing Halligan to try another timeout.
This time it worked, as Simonds sandwiched a pair of 3-point shots around two Wood foul shots. Senior Justin Rogers made a free throw and Burton tipped home a miss to pull the Yachtsmen within single digits, 27-18, but Train set up Wood for a layup and Train buried a 3 to give Greely a comfortable 32-18 advantage at the break.
Not only did Hanley score four points in the first half, but more importantly, he held Coyne without a point.
"I take pride in defense, but it's definitely not just me," said Hanley. "It's a team effort. It's a chip on my shoulder. Shutting down great players."
"Hanley did a great job on Tom Coyne," McDevitt said. "(Coyne's) the catalyst. If he's not playing his best game and facilitating like he can, their offense can get stagnant."
"I give a lot of credit to our defense," Greely coach Travis Seaver added. "We held them to 18 points in the first half. Hanley did a tremendous job. He's gotten the job the last couple times to defend the other team's best guy and he's done a nice job. Coyne didn't have good looks."
While the Rangers appeared firmly in control, they knew Falmouth was far from done and sure enough, the game quickly tightened.
First, Greely pushed its lead back to 15 as, after Coyne finally got on the board with a 3 which rattled home, McDevitt hit a jumper and Train made a layup, but the Yachtsmen were about to respond with a vengeance.
A Burton layup got the comeback started. Coyne then made a 3, Simonds hit a leaner and after Burton missed a dunk, he got the ball back and put it home to cut the deficit to 36-30, forcing Seaver to call timeout.
Falmouth senior I.V. Stucker made a free throw after being fouled after a steal and a Simonds putback in the waning seconds pulled the Yachtsmen within three, 36-33, heading for the fourth and ostensibly final quarter.
"We just came out flat," said McDevitt. "We were fired up in the locker room, but it subsided a little bit. Then they got fired up."
Just 13 seconds into the fourth, Coyne buried a long 3 and just like that, Falmouth was even, 36-36.
"Coyne's a competitor and I'm sure he was upset with himself," Halligan said. "He came out (in the second half) and played hard."
Hanley answered with a baseline jumper to end the 15-0 run and a 6:02 drought, but with 4:29 to play in regulation, Burton made a 3 to make it 39-38 Yachtsmen, their first lead since 7-6.
Fifteen seconds later, Tseng was fouled after a steal and made both free throws.
After Wood missed two foul shots, Simonds scored on a leaner with 3:16 to go, making it 43-38 Falmouth, but despite having the Rangers on the ropes, the defending champions weren't able to ice the win.
Thirty seconds later, after Wood grabbed an errant shot, Hanley took a pass and made a layup to end a 22-2 run and cut the deficit to three, 43-40.
"Basketball's a game of runs," Seaver said. "I knew Halligan would make adjustments and he did and we didn't counter them well. We became complacent and stopped reversing the ball. Eventually, if you make shots, the game becomes easier. This group is pretty amazing. They're very positive. They work together. They're unselfish. We make sure everyone's involved. When we go away from that, that's when we get in trouble."
Falmouth then turned the ball over for the first time all quarter and Greely improbably still had life.
With 48.7 seconds left, junior Gabe Axelsen found Hanley in the left corner and Hanley didn't hesitate, throwing up a 3 which found its target and the Rangers had risen from the dead to tie the score, 43-43.
"Good teams always make runs and we understood that, so bouncing back is the key," said Hanley. "You have to be able to do that. We have plenty of guys who can take that shot, but I was open. It was my turn. It felt good."
"Connor's a good shooter," Seaver said. "Everyone, me included, expected Bailey to shoot, but we found the open guy. We have trust that Connor will shoot it with confidence.
Instead of calling timeout, Halligan let the Yachtsmen hold for the last shot and Simonds got a look, but his long 3 was off target, Axelsen grabbed the rebound and it was on to overtime.
In Maine high school basketball, teams play four minutes to determine a winner and it was clear that with all the momentum, Greely had every intention of completing its comeback.
"To be honest, I think we'd lost all our energy," Train said. "A lot of us were really flat. No one had much energy, but when Hanley made that 3-pointer, we got all our energy back and we carried that into overtime.
"The message was to continue doing what we do and that's being disciplined on offense and focus on defense," Seaver said.
Just 21 seconds into OT, Train took a pass from McDevitt and buried a long 3 to put his team ahead to stay.
"It was a defensive breakdown," said Train. "It was my first good look of the game and I knocked it down. I hadn't shot well all game, but that felt good. If you want to win in overtime, you have to get off to a hot start."
"I got the ball baseline, found Bay opposite side for a 3 and that sparked us," said McDevitt. "Hanley's 3 at the end got us fired up."
There was still 3:39 to play, a veritable eternity, but the Rangers now had a little margin for error.
After a Burton layup was blocked by McDevitt (he might have gotten away with goaltending, truth be told), Wood missed at the other end, but Tseng was short on a 3-ball.
With 2:13 showing, Wood made a layup while being fouled. He missed the and-one, but the Rangers were up, 48-43.
After a long Coyne 3 was off target, McDevitt got the rebound and passed to Wood, who was fouled. Wood missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Falmouth freshman Colin Coyne was short on a 3 and McDevitt got the rebound and was fouled.
With 1:46 to play, McDevitt hit both free throws and Greely's lead was 50-43.
Simonds was fouled on a 3 at the other end, but only managed to make one of three attempts.
After the teams traded missed field goals, Axelsen made a foul shot with 1:16 to go to push the advantage to 51-44.
After another missed 3 by Thomas Coyne, Train hit two free throws.
With 52.2 seconds left, Coyne came off a screen and hit a 3. After Train missed two free throws, Coyne made a leaner while being fouled and completed the three-point play with a foul shot to cut the deficit to 53-50 with 40 seconds remaining.
The hosts didn't panic, however.
Axelsen was fouled and made the first free throw for a 54-50 lead.
Then, after Coyne missed a 3, Wood set up Hanley for a fastbreak layup, making it 56-50 with just 16.1 seconds showing.
The Yachtsmen had one last ditch comeback effort as Coyne drained a 30-foot 3-pointer, but after Greely nearly turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds pass, the ball came to Train, who was fouled with 4.4 seconds to go.
Train went to the line with a chance to clinch it and after missing his first attempt, he sank the second.
"You never know, but once we scored the first seven points (in overtime), we felt confident and we had to carry it and make free throws," Train said. "When I went to the line, I was confident, but once I missed the first one, I focused on the next one. I knew I just had to make one."
After McDevitt delivered the punctuation mark with a block on Burton at the horn, Greely had itself an inspirational 57-53 victory.
"We hadn't beaten them since me and Bay were freshmen," McDevitt said. "There's nothing better than an overtime game against Falmouth, our biggest rivals. It's what we play for. I think it shows a lot about our team. I think it shows we can battle with the best. A lot of people have Falmouth as the favorite. Anytime you have a chance to play a team that's that good, you want to give them your best shot and we did that."
"You never feel comfortable with how those guys can shoot, but we felt confident going into overtime," Hanley said. "It was an even ballgame, a chance to start over and play our game again and come out like we did at the beginning of the game and we did. They came back again. They never make it easy."
"This is our biggest rivalry, so we really wanted to win," said Train. "It's our last game against them on our homecourt no matter what. We wanted to protect the house."
"It was a lot of fun," Seaver added. "That game makes coaching basketball a lot of fun. It's great for the program. It's great for the kids. It was nice to see the gym packed. This is what basketball's about.
"I think our guys are different. We're a year older. We pose a lot of matchup issues for a lot of teams and I think that showed. Falmouth has a ton of weapons and we were able to counteract that pretty well. It's a big win. We've tried to instill in our kids that we belong. Falmouth's super talented. I'm not going to lie, I'm glad we don't have to see them in the tournament."
Hanley and McDevitt both had 13 points, while Train (11) and Wood (10) also had double figures. O'Shea added eight points and Axelsen finished with two.
Greely had a 32-24 rebounding advantage, as Wood had a game-high 12. He also had a game-high four steals. McDevitt blocked six shots.
The Rangers only turned the ball over 14 times in 36 minutes and made 10 of 19 foul shots.
Falmouth was paced by Simonds, who led all scorers with 20 points. Thomas Coyne wound up with 18 points (all after halftime), while Burton had 11, Tseng two and Rogers and Stucker one apiece.
Burton had a team-high nine rebounds and three blocks, while Simonds collected seven. Stucker also had three steals.
The Yachstmen turned the ball over a mere 12 times and made 6 of 11 free throws.
"We haven't been tested and that's a very good team out there," Halligan said. "We couldn't do what we wanted to do. Once we did what we're capable of doing, it got better. We made youthful mistakes coming down the stretch, but I'm pleased we didn't quit. We fought to the end. Greely's a good, veteran team. They're one of the best teams. All their seniors stepped up tonight. We were passive. You have to have a steady diet of good competition to keep your edge."
Long before the teams meet again Jan. 11 in Falmouth, the Yachtsmen and Rangers will face their share of tests.
Falmouth will be pushed over the holidays by playing potential playoff foes Portland and Bonny Eagle at the Red Claws Christmas Tournament at the Portland Expo. The Yachtsmen's next countable game is Jan. 3, when they host another rival, Cape Elizabeth.
"I never like to lose," Halligan said. "We'll learn from it and move on. Those games will be fun because they're good teams."
Greely is idle in terms of countable games until Jan. 7 when it goes to Kennebunk, but the Rangers will take part in the holiday tournament, playing New Dorp, N.Y., Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and Westbrook Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
Greely is thrilled with this victory, but has much higher goals.
"We have more games ahead of us," Hanley said. "We'll keep playing."
"We have to stay level headed," said McDevitt. "We still have to play (Falmouth) again at their place. We have to play Yarmouth again, Cape twice, Kennebunk, who gave us a good game. We still have a long way to go."
"We can't take anyone lightly at all," Train said. "Yarmouth's a great team. There are other good teams out there who will want to give us a game. Now we'll have a target on our backs for sure."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Falmouth-Greely results
@ Falmouth 63 Greely 45
Falmouth 68 @ Greely 45
Falmouth 55 @ Greely 48
@ Falmouth 53 Greely 51 (2 OT)
@ Greely 45 Falmouth 36
Greely 49 @ Falmouth 48
Falmouth 74 @ Greely 63
@ Falmouth 73 Greely 63
Falmouth 54 @ Greely 49
Greely 61 @ Falmouth 38
@ Greely 63 Falmouth 52
@ Falmouth 65 Greely 56
Western B quarterfinals
Greely 50 Falmouth 49
Greely 53 @ Falmouth 40
Falmouth 64 @ Greely 55
Western B semifinals
Greely 63 Falmouth 40
Falmouth 57 @ Greely 53
Greely 77 Falmouth 73 (3 OT)
Falmouth 58 @ Greely 39
@ Falmouth 54 Greely 36
@ Falmouth 64 Greely 38
Falmouth 51 @ Greely 42
@ Greely 57 Falmouth 45
Western B semifinals
Greely 62 Falmouth 45
Greely 56 @ Falmouth 52