Cahill sisters lead Yarmouth to playoff win
YARMOUTH—If Yarmouth senior standout Morgan Cahill wasn't enough for the Falmouth girls' basketball team to contend with Wednesday night in a Western Class B preliminary round tournament game, the emergence of her younger sister Sean made for an impossible task.
In just the second all-time playoff meeting between the longtime rivals, the host Clippers took the lead midway through the first period and never looked back as Morgan Cahill, despite having two defenders draped over her for almost 32 minutes, went off for 22 points.
Cahill had plenty of help, especially from Sean, who scored 14 points, creating a dynamic post tandem that was simply unstoppable and Yarmouth gradually pulled away for a 53-33 triumph, its first playoff win in seven years.
The Clippers ended the Yachtsmen's season at 9-10, improved to 9-10 in the process and set up a quarterfinal round battle with top-ranked Lake Region Tuesday at 8:30 p.m., at the Portland Expo.
"We've come a long way," said Yarmouth first-year coach Jay Lowery. "I'm really happy for these kids. They run the floor hard."
Yarmouth won just once last winter and that was by a mere point in the season opener. The Clippers welcomed Lowery this season and have turned things around quickly, thanks in large part to the return of Morgan Cahill (who was at Cheverus last winter). Cahill eclipsed the 1,000 point mark for her career and helped Yarmouth earn its first playoff berth in four years.
The Clippers took awhile to hit their stride, dropping their first two games, then winning at Wells to snap a 19-game losing streak. After a hard-fought home loss to top contender York, Yarmouth fell to 1-4 with a home loss to Falmouth, but a victory at Fryeburg closed 2011 on a high note.
The new year brought consistent improvement, but up and down results. Losses at Freeport and at home to Greely were followed by a one-point win at Poland. Inconsistency continued with a two-point home loss to Cape Elizabeth, followed by an impressive home win over Western C contender Waynflete. After losing at Gray-New Gloucester, the Clippers downed visiting Traip and Freeport and after a loss at Greely, they handled visiting Poland, as Cahill hit her 1,000-point milestone. In the final week of the regular season, Yarmouth was upset at Cape Elizabeth, but closed with a 55-43 win at Falmouth, allowing the Clippers to jump into the No. 8 spot.
Falmouth, which missed the playoffs last year at 9-9, had the same record this winter and qualified. The Yachtsmen started the year 5-1, but lost three of their final four contests to drop to ninth. Falmouth had a chance to finish with a winning record and host in the preliminary round, but ultimately lamented close losses to visiting Greely, York and Lake Region.
Falmouth did win in Yarmouth earlier this season, 33-27, on Dec. 20. The teams' only prior postseason meeting resulted in a 42-30 Clippers' victory in the 2001 second round.
This time around, the Yachtsmen switched up their defensive approach to Morgan Cahill, but Yarmouth continued its resurgence and ended all doubt by the fourth quarter.
Falmouth broke the scoring ice when junior Maddie Inlow scored on a putback. After sophomore Grace O'Donnell pulled the Clippers even with a jumper, Yachtsmen junior Anna Hickey knocked down a 3 for a 5-2 advantage. It would be the game's only basket from behind the arc.
The Clippers then scored eight straight points to take the lead for good.
After Morgan Cahill got her first points on a driving layup, she took a pass from O'Donnell and made a layup to put Yarmouth ahead to stay with 4:18 to go in the first period.
Falmouth coach Mari Warner tried to stem the tide with a timeout, but Cahill hit a jumper and after Yachtsmen senior Nicole Rogers had to go to the bench with her second foul, Sean Cahill set up Morgan for a jump shot and a 10-5 advantage.
After Hickey ended the run and a nearly four-minute drought with a putback, Yarmouth freshman Lane Simsarian made a layup after a steal for a 12-7 Clippers' lead after one quarter.
"I said to them at the beginning of the game, 'I'm nervous," Lowery said. "'This is my first playoff game. I'm sure you're nervous. The way to work around that is to work really hard, turn the defense up and run the floor.' Sure enough, with two freshmen and two sophomores, we did."
Yarmouth kept the pressure on in the second period and extended its lead.
Just 26 seconds in, Morgan Cahill took a pass from senior Jeanna Lowery and made a layup. With 6:53 to go before halftime, Sean Cahill was the recipient of a Lowery pass and made a short bank shot to push the lead to nine.
"It was scary, but we came in with a lot of confidence," said Sean Cahill." Our coach set up new plays for us for Morgan to get open and for us to get it inside."
After Rogers made a jumper, Morgan Cahill got an offensive rebound and scored the putback while falling backwards.
With 4:52 remaining in the half, Rogers was whistled for her third foul, making Falmouth's quest even tougher.
Seconds later, Simsarian set up Morgan Cahill for a bank shot and the hosts had their first double digit lead.
"Friday, we went straight man with helpside D, while tonight, we had a designated player double (Morgan)," said Warner. "She's good enough to come outside the paint and scored."
While both Cahills received their second foul in the second quarter, they remained on the floor and didn't get a third.
"We were well aware of the fouls," Lowery said. "We set the defense up to limit exposure to Morgan and Sean and it worked OK."
Sean Cahill scored on a putback and Lowery made a layup to push the lead to 24-9. A driving layup from Yachtsmen senior Jackie Doyle was followed by a pair of free throws from promising Falmouth freshman Dayna Vasconcelos, but a driving layup from O'Donnell stemmed the tide. With 24.6 seconds left, Vasconcelos made two more free throws and the Yachtsmen were still within hailing distance, down, 26-15, at halftime.
The teams combined for 30 first half turnovers, but Yarmouth had a 20-11 rebounding advantage and behind Morgan Cahill's 14 points, had opened a healthy lead.
Any hopes of a Falmouth comeback were dashed early in the third quarter. A bank shot from Sean Cahill, a turnaround jumper from Morgan Cahill and a layup after a steal by Lowery gave the Clippers a commanding 32-15 advantage. After Doyle and O'Donnell swapped free throws, O'Donnell made a layup for a 35-16 bulge.
"We had to come out with the same intensity we came into the game with and act like we were down," said Sean Cahill, about the second half.
The Yachtsmen got back to 35-20 on two free throws from senior Ashleigh Burton and a jumper by Evers, but the run ended there as another promising Yarmouth freshman, Shannon Fallon, knocked down a short jumper.
"Shannon's very good going to the basket," Sean Cahill said.
After Burton scored on a putback, Morgan Cahill made two foul shots and after a Lowery steal, in transition, Morgan set up Sean for a layup. Hickey made a layup in the final minute, but Falmouth faced a 41-24 deficit heading for the fourth.
For nearly two-and-a-half minutes of the final stanza, the Clippers failed to score, but the Yachtsmen couldn't take advantage.
Finally, with 5:34 left in the game, Morgan Cahill made a jumper. Sean Cahill followed with a bank shot and Yarmouth's lead was 45-24.
Vasconcelos answered with a jumper, but Sean Cahill set up Fallon for a layup, the younger Cahill made a short jumper after a steal and O'Donnell set up Morgan Cahill for a bank shot and a 51-26 advantage with 3:12 remaining.
To its credit, Falmouth never quit and played hard until the final horn.
After a Burton jumper was answered by a Sean Cahill layup for the Clippers' final points, Burton made a layup, Doyle sank a jumper and in the final minute, Vasconcelos' jumper accounted for the 53-33 final score.
"We knew they'd come back tough," Morgan Cahill said. "I think we were really excited for it. I have to hand it to my teammates. They stepped it up. The points were more even today."
"It feels really good," Lowery said. "The girls worked very, very hard this year. All year, we played five or six kids against a lot of teams like Falmouth, who ran eight, nine, 10 kids against us. We're in good shape. We're in a good place. The second half of the season has gone really well for us. We had no intentions of letting up at any time. It's playoffs."
Morgan Cahill found a way to break free from her defensive chains to lead all scorers with 22 points. She also had 13 rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots.
"We call (Morgan) the garbage collector," Lowery said. "The girls got her the ball in good spots. She did a nice job off the boards tonight."
Sean Cahill was equally as impressive with 14 points, 10 boards, three steals and two blocks.
"Sean was over on the weak side," Lowey said. "I told her it would be her game. She's pretty athletic. Over the spring and summer, she got some time on the court and I think she can be a phenomenal player, just like her sister."
O'Donnell added seven points, five rebounds and two steals.
"Grace was patient, took care of the ball and made smart decisions," Lowery said.
Fallon and Lowery had four points apiece and Simsarian finished with two.
"I can't say enough about the freshmen," Lowery said. "They're on their way. We'll be reading a lot about them."
Yarmouth had a 33-26 advantage on the glass and forced 24 turnovers. It did commit 27 turnovers and made only 3-of-7 free throws, but it was hard to find much fault with the Clippers' effort.
End of the line
For Falmouth, Vasconcelos was the high scorer with eight points. Burton had seven points, five rebounds and two steals. Hickey finished with seven (along with seven rebounds). Doyle added five points (along with four boards and four steals), while Evers (two steals), Inlow (three steals) and Rogers had two apiece.
The Yachtsmen made 8-of-11 free throws.
"We were rushed," Warner said. "We rushed on a lot of things. We weren't patient. We work on these things, but the game kind of took over. We didn't show patience for good shots. The fouls on Nicole hurt us, obviously, when we were down players to begin with. Kids who didn't practice certain positions had to play. That was very early. Offensively, I'm not happy with what we did. What I don't like is that we gave up transition and points off rebounds."
Falmouth was able to get back to the playoffs this season and was better than its record indicated.
"I'm quite proud of these kids," Warner said. "There's been a lot of adversity we had to overcome. I can't say enough about this group. They're very loyal and they're hard working. We can go back and look at a lot. We could have won against Lake Region. Wells at home was a one-point game. York at home was a two-point game. There's a lot we could have done differently, but we're quite proud of what we're developing."
The Yachtsmen graduate seniors Burton, Doyle, Evers, Rogers and Nicole Larrabee, but return the likes of Hickey, Inlow, Vasconcelos and freshman Ally Hickey, who was sidelined for this game by mono.
"We have key seniors, but we also have some youth," Warner said.
Off to the Expo
Yarmouth now prepares for the next round and Lake Region.
It suffered its worst loss of the season at the hands of the Lakers (67-25 on the road in the second game of the season, Dec. 13). The Clippers beat the Lakers in the 2002 quarterfinals, 2004 quarterfinals and in the 2005 regional final. Lake Region beat Yarmouth in the 2006 quarterfinals.
The Clippers will be viewed as a heavy underdog Tuesday, but are playing with house money at this point. Expect another plucky effort and a much closer contest.
Anything's possible with this group of believers.
"We'll give it our all," Sean Cahill said.
"I think everything's different," said Morgan Cahill. "We've come so far. We'll come with a lot of intensity and we're really excited for it. We didn't know where things would go, but everything from today on is a big deal for us. The Expo's been the goal since Day One."
"I think we have to play a game very similar to this," Lowery said. "When we met them the first time it was the second game of the season. Not to make excuses, but the kids were sick. We've been teaching and changing all the time. I feel confident. I think we may surprise."