Greely boys escape, earn clutch win over Yarmouth
CUMBERLAND—The Greely boys' basketball team earned a measure of revenge Tuesday night, but the Yarmouth Clippers sure didn't make it easy.
The Rangers and Clippers produced a 32-minute epic that saw the teams tied after one period, Greely leading by one at halftime and by two entering the final stanza.
There, the Rangers pushed their advantage to six before Yarmouth rallied to twice take short-lived leads, the last, 55-54, on a layup from senior Sam Torres with 2:16 to play.
Then, the biggest player on the floor had the biggest impact on the night as Greely's 6-foot-7-inch sophomore Michael McDevitt put the Rangers up for good on a putback with 1:59 remaining. McDevitt's layup with 1:15 to play gave Greely slight breathing room, but the Clippers cut the deficit to one and had one final chance.
Yarmouth couldn't have asked for a better opportunity and the Rangers couldn't have been more horrified when Clippers senior standout Josh Britten had an open look as time wound down, but Britten's shot was off the mark and Greely held on for the palpitating 58-57 win, improving to 10-5, while dropping Yarmouth to 12-3 on the year, in the process avenging losses from last year's tournament and earlier this winter.
"My heart was in my throat," said longtime Rangers coach Ken Marks. "My blood pressure's up to here. I thought that the guys really stepped up to the challenge tonight. I'm very proud of them. That was sweet. We survived."
Yarmouth, which made it to the regional final last winter for the first time in 37 years before losing to Cape Elizabeth, is having another solid campaign. The Clippers opened with a 70-34 romp at Gray-New Gloucester. They then downed visiting Lake Region (85-40), visiting Wells (57-33) and host York (49-48). After a 46-42 setback at Falmouth, Yarmouth closed 2011 with a 65-35 home win over Fryeburg and opened 2012 with wins at Freeport (83-42), at home over Greely (53-52) and Poland (63-56). After a 40-39 setback at Cape Elizabeth, the Clippers bounced back with a 52-45 win at Waynflete, then dominated visiting Gray-New Gloucester (81-38), host Traip (81-29) and visiting Freeport (69-40).
Greely, which was upset by Yarmouth in last year's semifinals, has been very competitive from start to finish. The Rangers opened with a 68-58 home win over Wells, then suffered setbacks at York (56-53) and at home to Falmouth (55-48) in games which they couldn't hold late leads. Greely then won at Fryeburg (53-50) and at home over Cape Elizabeth (59-47) before closing 2011 with a 63-40 setback at Poland. The new year began with a 55-28 home victory over Lake Region. A 53-52 loss at Yarmouth followed, but the Rangers bounced back to win at Traip (86-76) and at home over Freeport (56-48). Greely then went to Falmouth and took the undefeated Yachtsmen into double overtime before falling, 53-51. A 65-61 home win over York got the resurgence started. That was followed by a 53-40 triumph at Gray-New Gloucester and a 62-39 home win over Fryeburg.
Over the past 10 seasons, Greely had won 14 of 18 meetings, but Yarmouth won two of three last year (as well as the game earlier this month). In 2010-11, the Rangers triumphed at the Clippers (61-53), but fell at home (53-51) and in the tournament.
Tuesday, Greely got a measure of revenge.
The Rangers (playing without senior leading scorer Liam Maker, who was nursing an ankle injury, and classmate Brad McKenney, out with concussion symptoms) came out hot as McDevitt hit a baseline jumper and added a layup for a quick 4-0 lead. After Yarmouth (which was missing promising sophomore Nate Shields-Auble, who wasn't available) answered on a Britten jumper, Rangers junior Jonah Normandeau scored on a floater on the baseline and McDevitt made a short jumper for an 8-2 advantage.
Late in the first, the Clippers rallied behind Britten's sharpshooting. First, Britten made a 3. He added a free throw before Normandeau went end to end for a layup, was fouled and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play. Yarmouth senior Sam Torres answered with a leaner and with 59.1 seconds to go, Britten sank a 3 to tie the score. A putback from sophomore Connor Hanley put Greely back on top, but in the final second, Britten made a layup after a pretty spin move and was fouled. He missed the free throw but the game was even, 13-13, after eight minutes.
"Every time we come over here, (the Rangers) play very well," said Yarmouth coach Adam Smith. "They always start fast. We weathered the storm and continued to play. Their fast start made us pick it up more and play harder."
The Clippers went on top for the first time 39 seconds into the second quarter as Britten hit a jumper. McDevitt answered with a jumper, but a 3-ball from Yarmouth junior Christian Henry made it 18-15. After a jumper from senior Nick Clark got the Rangers within one, Clippers senior Chris Knaub made a 3 and the visitors had their biggest lead, 21-17.
McDevitt answered with a runner, then tied the game with a baseline jumper. After a Britten hit a pullup jumper, he made another jump shot to make it 25-21, but Greely got the last five points of the half as Clark hit a 3 and McDevitt fed senior Will McAdoo for a layup and a 26-25 advantage at the break.
The Rangers could have led by more, but turned the ball over 10 times in the first 16 minutes, to just three for Yarmouth.
Not much changed in a back and forth third period.
After senior Cooper Allen set up Clark for a layup, Henry answered with a putback. A leaner from McDevitt was answered by a fallaway jumper from Britten. An Allen foul shot put Greely up 31-29, but Torres fed Britten for a backdoor layup. Britten was fouled on the play and put Yarmouth back up with a free throw. A Clark jumper gave the lead back to the hosts and a three-point play from Clark after a putback made it 36-32 Rangers.
Torres cut the deficit to one with a 3, but Hanley made a jumper. Two Henry free throws again drew the Clippers within a point, but senior Keegan Donnelly answered with a driving layup and McDevitt added a foul shot (drawing Britten's fourth foul, all of which came in the third period). With Britten on the bench, Torres made a runner off the glass to make it 41-39 Greely heading for the fourth.
After McDevitt got the scoring started with a putback, Knaub was fouled on a 3-point attempt, but only made one free throw. McDevitt hit a foul shot and Whitaker scored on a putback and the Rangers had a 46-40 advantage with 6:51 to play.
Again, Yarmouth roared back.
After two Knaub free throws were answered by a McDevitt leaner, Britten was fouled by Whitaker (his fourth) and Whitaker was called for a technical foul and left the game. Britten sank three of the four free throws and Knaub added a foul shot to cut the deficit to 48-46.
"That was a huge four-point swing, but we didn't back down," Marks said.
With 4:46 to play, Clark hit a clutch 3. A putback from Clippers freshman Adam LaBrie made it 51-48 and with 3:34 remaining, LaBrie took a pass from Britten and made a layup to cut to the deficit to one.
After LaBrie missed a layup that could have put Yarmouth on top, Knaub buried a 3 with 2:37 left and the Clippers completed a 7-0 run to retake the lead.
It lasted 16 seconds as Greely sophomore Bailey Train, the team's best 3-point shooter, who couldn't find the range from behind the arc, finally drained a 3-ball. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Torres broke free for a layup and Yarmouth had the lead back, 55-54 with 2:16 left.
It would prove to be the Clippers final lead.
With 1:59 showing, McDevitt missed a shot in traffic, but went up and put the ball back in for a 56-55 advantage.
"I think I got bumped a little from behind," McDevitt said. "I saw I had the open rebound and I didn't want to miss an open shot. I knew if I missed it, they'd go on a run and that would be it."
At the other end, Britten's off-balance shot was off the mark and Train got the rebound. Then, with 1:15 to play, McDevitt took an inbounds pass and made an easy layup to make it 58-55.
After a Yarmouth turnover, Clark went to the line for a one-and-one, but missed the front end. Knaub had a 3 to tie, but it missed. LaBrie managed to get the rebound to keep possession and with 21.1 seconds to go, Knaub's layup cut the deficit to 58-57.
Twice Greely had to call timeout to avoid a turnover and with 8.7 seconds remaining, McDevitt went to the free throw line, but he missed both attempts.
"After practice we shoot foul shots and get in each other's faces," McDevitt said. "I just felt the pressure."
Henry got the rebound and after pushing the ball into the frontcourt, the Clippers called timeout with 3.7 seconds showing to set up a final play.
After the timeout, Yarmouth prepared to inbound the ball, but Marks called timeout and Smith decided to run a different play.
It was a beauty and almost resulted in a buzzer beater.
Britten inbounded the ball to Knaub, took it right back and raced to the baseline to the right of the basket. After eluding a defender, Britten soared into the air for one of his patented jumpers with nothing in his way.
The ball arced toward the basket and most on hand expected it to find the net and give the Clippers a stirring comeback win, but instead, it hit the rim and bounced out of harm's way as the horn sounded.
"I had drawn up two plays," Smith said. "When they called timeout, I thought we'd get a better look with that one. We got a great look with Josh. He inbounded it to Chris and got it back. I thought when it left his hands, it wasn't a good rhythm. I thought it might be a little short and it did hit front rim."
Greely had dodged the bullet to win, 58-57.
"I just turned around and hoped it didn't go in," McDevitt said. "I didn't want to watch it. He's made tougher shots this game so I'm shocked it didn't go in. I think it really proves we can compete with the best. Our defense was great. We tried to shut down Britten, but he's a great offensive player. It's hard to stop him."
"It's not what we wanted.," Marks said, of the final seconds. "(Smith) changed the play and did a nice job. We knew where it was going to go. We just didn't defend it well. He's a great player, but he can't hit them all. He hit a bunch tonight. Our goal was to try and contain him. We did a pretty good job of that.
"We've lost four of our games this year by a total of 12 points. We've been in these situations before and been on the other side. This time we came out on top. It started with York. I thought we turned the corner, then we had people hurt. I didn't know what would happen tonight. These guys look to Liam for leadership."
McDevitt had a spectacular night with 24 points and nine rebounds.
"It was good ball movement," McDevitt said. "Everyone moved to open spots. They had to match up with them, so I was left with open lanes and Britten and Knaub aren't as big as me. I can take them most of the time."
Clark stepped up big as well, scoring 15 points with seven boards.
"We knew they'd key off Bailey, who's lit it up the last couple games, and Mike, so coach wanted me to play low to stretch the floor.," Clark said. "That helped get Mike open. We struggled against Yarmouth last time. It was another close game, but we pulled it out. We knew we had to play hard with our two senior captains out. We wanted to win it for them. We all knew we had this potential. We've had a lot of close games. It brought us closer together. We're realizing what we can do."
"Nick Clark stepped up and did a great job leading us tonight with two of our guards out," Marks said.
Normandeau had five points, Hanley four (along with four rebounds), Train three (with four boards), Donnelly, McAdoo and Whitaker two apiece and Allen one.
"Cooper, a kid with a bad ankle, played a great game," Marks said.
Greely had a 30-25 advantage on the boards, but committed 17 turnovers and made just 5-of-12 free throws.
For Yarmouth, despite the last second miss, Britten was superb with 25 points, five rebounds and two steals.
"We knew Britten would be scoring, so we tried to switch as much as we could and force him to his right side, but he's hands down the best player in the conference," Clark said. "Our goal was to make sure no one else scored."
Britten managed to avoid his fifth foul throughout the frenetic fourth quarter.
"You have to play with four fouls," Smith said. "His fouls come when he doesn't move his feet as well as he should defensively."
Knaub had 12 points (as well as four steals and four boards). Torres added nine points.
All three seniors never took a break.
"We had Sam, Chris and Josh play 32 minutes," Smith said. "When you have Chris battling the big guys from Greely all night long, they have fresh legs coming in, but he's manning the post every single trip. The effort he had to expend was tremendous. He did a great job. Sammy picked up three-quarter court all night long. It's a challenge. They didn't look to the bench for a break because they won't get one. Their effort was instrumental for us."
Henry finished with seven points (and nine rebounds) and LaBrie added four (and five boards).
The Clippers had 11 steals to just two for the hosts. They only turned the ball over seven times, but were done in by 11-of-21 foul shooting.
"Greely's record isn't an indication of how good they are," Smith said. "They seem to be playing well lately. They won the battle of attrition. They can go deeper on their bench than we can. That gave them more opportunity to have more spring late in the game. They had offensive rebounds. They didn't let up defensively on any trip. That's a tribute to their depth.
"I don't think we had many leads. We gave up too many easy opportunities inside. We had to work a lot harder offensively to get what we got than they did. You can't shoot 50 percent free throws in close games and win those. Our younger guys didn't play as well offensively as they can. They'll have to grow through it. We expect big things from anyone who steps on the floor."
Yarmouth's three losses have come by a combined total of six points. It is fourth in the Heals and is hoping to avoid a preliminary round playoff game (the top four teams will). The Clippers still have opportunities to move up in the standings against some powerhouse teams. After going to Poland Friday, Yarmouth closes with home games versus the two other squads to hand it losses, Cape Elizabeth (Feb. 7) and undefeated, top ranked Falmouth (Feb. 10).
"We have three more tough games coming up that will really test us for the tournament," Smith said. "Hopefully, we'll weather the storm and have good focus and chemistry going into the playoffs. These guys will get after it tomorrow. They'll shake this off and work even harder. We battle.
"There's a lot of good teams. Our contests are close. That's what we expect every time out in this conference. It's good for us. We'll be tournament tested. When we get there, it won't get easier. We need to work out what we need to before we get there. We'll play with a lot of heart, effort and energy. Hopefully that will carry us a long way, especially these next three games. There's a lot of quality players and teams in our league. It's scary. You have to hope your kids collectively as a team play well. That's all we can do."
Greely (sixth in Western B) visits Lake Region Friday, hosts Gray-New Gloucester on Senior Night Tuesday and finishes with a tough test at rival Cape Elizabeth Feb. 10.
"Hopefully we're one of those teams that other teams look at the games we lost and will look past us," McDevitt said. "Hopefully we can upset some teams. I think we can definitely play with the top teams if we play like we played tonight."
"I don't think we can go any higher than 5 or 6," Marks said. "I just want a home prelim. This should satisfy that. That's the best we've played. If you put our leading scorer and other guard back on the floor, I think we'll be OK. I just want to be healthy at tournament time."