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Yarmouth returns to form, handles Wells

Sports

Yarmouth returns to form, handles Wells

YARMOUTH—What it hoped would be a positive turning point in its season, instead turned into a nightmare last week and the Yarmouth boys' basketball team is picking up the pieces.

Highly anticipated home games against rivals and powerhouses Falmouth and Greely turned into disheartening defeats and after barely surviving a test at Fryeburg Tuesday, the exhausted and emotionally fragile Clippers returned home Wednesday evening for their ninth games in 19 days, a meeting with a Wells squad desperate for a signature victory.

This time, Yarmouth rose to the occasion, dug deep, thanks to another true team effort, and righted the ship in impressive fashion.

The Clippers shot to a quick 20-8 lead, as their defense forced turnovers that led to easy baskets, but the Warriors refused to go away and behind strong 3-point shooting in the second period, were only down 11 points, 39-28, at halftime.

Yarmouth was at a crossroads.

It could have succumbed to its fatigue, but instead, the Clippers ended all doubt, opening the third quarter on a 9-0 run and stretching their lead to 58-33 by period's end. From there, Yarmouth put the finishing touches on its victory and prevailed, 72-51.

Senior David Murphy led a 12-scorer attack with 16 points. Junior Adam LaBrie had seven points and more importatntly, produced 13 rebounds and eight steals and the Clippers improved to 10-4 on the season, dropping Wells to 4-9 in the process.

"It was a good game for the team," said Yarmouth coach Adam Smith. "The last couple weeks, the schedule was very tough for us. These guys are tired. When we got to the Greely game, it was more than we were able to handle at that time. I'm pleased with the character of the guys to take the disappointment from (the losses) and get it back together."

Time to shine

Yarmouth has shown glimpses of excellence this winter, but when it's gone up against the big boys, defending Class B champion Falmouth and powerhouse Greely, it's struggled.

The Clippers pounded visiting Kennebunk in the opener, 89-52. After falling at Falmouth, 84-65, Yarmouth rebounded to down host Poland, 75-47, then dropped a hard fought contest at Greely, 57-49, before closing 2013 with a 66-52 home win over Cape Elizabeth. The new year featured wins over host Freeport (73-32), visiting Waynflete (86-64), host Traip (85-46) and host Cape Elizabeth (67-55). The streak ended with a 55-48 home loss to Falmouth and after a 77-42 win at Gray-New Gloucester, the Clippers were humbled by visiting Greely Friday, 65-48. Tuesday, Yarmouth went to Fryeburg and eked out a much-needed 57-55 win.

The Warriors are on the cusp of making the playoffs, but haven't made life easy for themselves. After losing at home to Cape Elizabeth in the opener, 57-39, Wells lost at home to York, 72-60, and to Falmouth, 80-26, before getting in the win column with a 57-51 decision at Lake Region. After falling at home again, this time to Gray-New Gloucester, 74-57, the Warriors closed 2013 with a 74-61 win at Freeport. After falling at Waynflete, 64-36, Wells lost at Cape Elizabeth (59-48), beat host Kennebunk (61-44), lost at home to Old Orchard Beach (64-55) and at York (52-46) before beating host Traip Saturday (64-52).

Last year, Yarmouth lost at Wells, 71-65.

Wednesday, the Clippers earned their first win over the Warriors since Dec. 15, 2011 (57-33 at home).

Just 43 seconds in, Yarmouth went ahead to stay when Murphy made a layup. He added another, forcing Wells coach Troy Brown to call timeout. The visitors got a putback from senior Matt Ingalls, but senior Ethan Gage made a jumper and sophomore Musseit M'Bareck added a driving layup for a quick 8-2 advantage.

After Warriors junior Nate Booth made a layup, LaBrie made a layup afetr a steal and Murphy drained a 3 to push the lead to 13-4.

After junior Chris Carney made a layup, junior Jordan Brown hinted at a big game to come by sinking a long jumper. Senior Kyle Goodale made a layup, but sophomore Cody Cook made two free throws and Brown sank a 3 for a 20-8 advantage.

"I've just got to be a spark for the team," said Brown, who was coming off a 19-point effort against Fryeburg, which included five 3-pointers. "Anything coach tells me to do, I need to do. Last night really boosted my confidence. Tonight went smoothly for me. It came a little easier than the other games."

"Jordan's really picked it up for us," LaBrie said. "It's great to see him knock down shots."

"Jordan's feeling more comfortable," Smith added. "The guys are looking for him and he's knocking down shots after playing good defense earlier in the year. He's feeling good about himself. The team knows he can do that. He's making it happen for himself."

After Booth answered with a 3, Cook sank two foul shots and Yarmouth was on top, 22-11, after one period.

When Cook hit a jumper and Murphy made a 3 to open the second quarter, it appeared the Clippers were on the verge of pulling away, but Wells began to heat up from the perimeter.

Senior standout Jake Moody, who eclipsed the 1,000 career point mark earlier in the season, drained consecutive 3s from well behind the arc to cut the deficit to 10. After Murphy answered with a 3-ball, Booth sank a 3 and it was 30-20.

Clippers senior Nate Shields-Auble hit a free throw, then hit a spinner, but Booth made a 3 and Carney added an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) to cut the Yarmouth lead to just seven, 33-26.

Shields-Auble helped restore order with two foul shots and a putback. Goodale answered with a layup, but as time expired, Murphy was fouled and he made it a 39-28 game at the break with two free throws.

In the first half, the Clippers controlled the glass (20-12) and forced 14 turnovers, while only giving the ball away four times.

Yarmouth then effectively ended the competitive phase of the contest in the third period.

A M'Bareck layup was fouled by a Gage layup, a M'Bareck floater and a LaBrie three-point play after a steal, which pushed the advantage from 11 points to 48-28 in less than four minutes.

"I just wanted to try and find my teammates tonight," LaBrie said. "My shot wasn't going in tonight, so I was just trying to get the ball and move it up the floor. I love getting steals and I love getting the ball up the floor and getting the team going."

Moody answered with a 3, but Clippers junior Cote Sawyer made two free throws, LaBrie made a layup after a steal, Sawyer scored on a putback, Brown scored on a putback and Brown capped a 10-0 run with a jumper.

"Last year against Wells, we were up by like 10 at halftime and they came back to beat us," Brown said. "We didn't want to let that happen again. We wanted to close them out right after halftime."

A Moody runner in the final minute made the score 58-33 heading for the fourth period.

There, junior Adam Clark opened the scoring with a putback. Moody made a jumper, but senior Michael Salveson made two foul shots and after a Wells technical foul, Murphy made a free throw for a 63-35 advantage.

Moody then scored eight straight points, making a layup after a steal, sinking three free throws, then converting a three-point play. A putback from Clippers senior Ben Thompson stemmed the tide and senior Jackson Bartlett added a jumper. Sophomore Reid Chase made a leaner and senior Zach Moore hit two free throws for the Warriors, but Sawyer made a layup. Senior Alex McCormack-Kuhman then sandwiched layups around a three-point play from Cook to bring the curtain down on Yarmouth's 72-51 victory.

"We made careless mistakes in the first half that we don't normally make," LaBrie said. "In the second half, we just wanted to come out hard and push it and play Yarmouth basketball."

Murphy had 16 points to lead the Clippers and he had plenty of company on the score sheet.

Brown and Cook each had nine points off the bench. LaBrie and Shields-Auble both added seven, M'Bareck and Sawyer each had six, Gage had four and Bartlett, Clark, Salveson and Thompson all had two.

In all, a dozen players scored.

"Our bench players have been great the last few games," said LaBrie.

"Our bench has been a growing process for us all year," Smith said. "We play a lot of guys. They've earned it and they produce when they get out there."

Yarmouth was dominant on the glass, enjoying a 49-24 advantage, as LaBrie had a game-high 13, Shields-Auble grabbed seven and Brown and M'Bareck each collected six.

"We controlled the boards," Smith said. "It's rare to have a size advantage. I saw more of a hunger on the boards than in the past, so I was pleased with that effort for sure."

The Clippers had 20 steals, led by LaBrie with eight, as they forced 26 turnovers, giving the ball away only11 times. Yarmouth made 16 of 18 free throws.

Wells was paced by Moody, who had a game-high 21 points and also had nine rebounds and three steals. Booth had 11 points, Carney five, Goodale and McCormack-Kuhman four apiece and Chase, Ingalls and Moore two each. The Warriors made 7 of 10 foul shots.

Two weeks left

Wells and Yarmouth have different goals as they play the closing stretch of the season.

The Warriors (11th at press time in the Western Class B Heal Points standings, only 10 teams make the playoffs) host Fryeburg Friday and Kennebunk Tuesday. After a visit to Poland, Wells closes with home games versus Greely and Traip as it just looks to win enough games to get into the dance.

The Clippers (fourth in the Heals) still have a chance to move up the ladder They host York Tuesday and go to Lake Region Thursday of next week. Home games against Gray-New Gloucester and Freeport close the regular season.

Getting a few days rest and some real practice time will help the cause for a strong finishing kick.

"Last week was tough," said LaBrie. "We had some tough losses. We've had a long stretch. Everyone's tired, but we've pushed through it. I think we can make a deep run. We have to keep working hard."

"We had to fight through the losses and pick ourselves up," Brown said. "We just need to play as a team and keep our heads up. We have great chemistry and we all work really hard. If we keep that up, I think we have a great chance."

"We're still not back where we want to be," Smith added. "We've still got some growing left to do. We'll start getting after it again after getting a little rest, then gear up for what's left of our season. The guys understand that we've got to take a few more steps. I want to get us strong again. We have not had a tough practice because we've had so many games and it's showing. We're worn out from games. We've got some time now for practices in the next couple weeks. We have to take care of business down the stretch and finish strong. Next week's tough with York and Lake Region. Those are great contests for us going into the postseason."

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