Falmouth avenges playoff loss, stays unbeaten
YARMOUTH—Nearly 10 months removed from a memorable regional final loss, the Falmouth boys' basketball team earned a dose of revenge.
The Yachtsmen, whose undefeated run and hopes for a second Class B state title in three seasons was dashed by eventual champion Yarmouth a year ago, saw the Clippers for the first time since that matchup on Tuesday evening at Jack Stroud Memorial Gymnasium and delivered a quick knockout blow.
Falmouth used its unrivaled size and athleticism to race to an 11-0 lead and it never looked back.
Senior Charlie Fay was a man among boys, nearly outscoring the Clippers on his own. Fay wound up with 27 points, sophomore Jack Simonds added 16 and the Yachtsmen cruised to a speedy and decisive 55-34 victory, improving to 5-0 on the young season, while dropping Yarmouth to 2-3.
"We did what we had to do in spurts," said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. "We're trying to make the spurts longer. We play brilliant at times, but we're still learning roles."
Tooth and nail
While Falmouth and Yarmouth have long produced the state's best boys' soccer rivalry and have played some epic hockey, baseball and lacrosse games over the years, there wasn't much equity on the hardwood until just recently.
The Yachtsmen didn't lose a game this century to the Clippers until the second meeting in the 2006-07 season. Since that matchup, prior to Tuesday, the teams had split a dozen meetings with last year's three showdowns especially memorable.
The first came five days before Christmas when host Falmouth commenced a season-long trend of finding a way to win contested games in the waning moments, 46-42. The teams squared off again in the regular season finale and this time, Yarmouth had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but couldn't get off a shot. In overtime, only three points were scored, but the Yachtsmen got them and capped a first ever perfect regular season, 46-43. The Clippers would win the game that mattered most, taking an early lead in the Western Class B Final and holding on for dear life in the waning moments for a 56-50 victory. Yarmouth went on to defeat Gardiner, 65-53, to win the program's first state championship since 1968.
Both squads lost a lot to gradation and have a lot of new faces this winter and in the early going, it's been Falmouth which has been the most impressive.
The Yachtsmen opened by handling host Cape Elizabeth (72-49). Wins over visiting Fryeburg (83-33) and Greely (63-45) followed and Saturday, Falmouth made it four straight (and 22 in a row in the regular season) with a 68-35 win at Poland.
The Clippers won their first two outings, 70-46, over visiting Gray-New Gloucester and 67-52 at Lake Region, but last week, Yarmouth let a big lead slip away in a 71-65 loss at Wells and Saturday, couldn't recover from an early blitz by visiting York in a 72-48 setback.
Tuesday, Falmouth never trailed and put this one in the win column by halftime.
It took nearly two minutes for the Yachtsmen to break the ice, but after missing several outside bids, a putback from Simonds started the onslaught.
Fay added a layup, junior Justin Rogers scored on a putback, Fay made a dunk after a steal and with 4:11 to go in the first quarter, Fay made another layup for a 10-0 bulge.
"(The Clippers) were playing zone, so they were doubling the guards up top," said Fay. "We were able to get behind their zone. They got it down to us and me and Jack were wide open."
"We wanted to go inside, but I think our first four shots were 3s," said Halligan. "The first five shots inside were baskets."
After Fay added a free throw, the hosts finally got on the board when junior Wyatt Jackson, who brought some good energy off the bench, scored on a putback with 1:58 left in the quarter. A free throw from senior Adam Wriggins pulled the Clippers within 11-3 after one.
When senior Christian Henry hit a fadeaway jumper 41 seconds into the second period, Yarmouth was seemingly in the game, down, 11-5, but the Clippers would go nearly six minutes before scoring again and by then, Falmouth had extended its lead to over 20.
A bank shot from Fay started the run. Simonds then made consecutive layups A bank shot from senior Grant Burfeind, a Simonds putback, two Fay layups and a free throw from junior Nick Burton with 2:27 left before halftime made the score 26-5 Yachtsmen.
Forty-eight seconds later, Yarmouth ended the 15-0 run when junior Nate Shields-Auble made a turnaround jumper, but Fay countered with a layup. In the final minute, Shields-Auble drained a pair of free throws, but that only pulled the Clippers to 28-9 at the break.
The visitors ended any remaining doubt when Fay made two free throws, Fay made a layup and Burfeind scored on a layup after a steal for a commanding 34-9 advantage just two minutes into the second half.
Yarmouth scored its first consecutive field goals of the contest when Shields-Auble and Henry made layups, but Simonds answered with a layup for the Yachtsmen. Junior David Murphy then got in on the act for the Clippers, making a jumper and converting an old-fashioned three-point play, making a layup while being fouled, then hitting the free throw. After Fay answered with his second resounding dunk, Wriggins converted a three-point play to make it 38-21.
Yarmouth would draw no closer.
Fay ended the 12-4 Clippers run with a leaner and after a Murphy free throw, Fay scored on a tip-in to make it 42-22 Falmouth after three quarters.
Henry began the fourth period with a foul shot, but Simonds scored on a leaner, then made a layup, Fay scored on a leaner and after Shields-Auble made a layup, junior Nick Burton scored on a layup to allow the Yachtsmen to double up the Clippers, 50-25.
When Shields-Auble scored on a layup with 3:47 to go, making it 50-27, it marked the first time all night that Yarmouth as a team had as many points as Fay.
Layups from Murphy and Henry pulled the hosts within 50-31, but Simonds answered with a layup. After Murphy made a floater, Falmouth freshman Thomas Coyne sank a 3. Clippers sophomore Jordan Brown made a foul shot in the final minute and that accounted for the 55-34 final score.
"A quick start was obviously important," said Burfeind. "Getting momentum and getting a good start. I feel like right after last season ended, people were like, 'They had a good year, but five starters will be gone.' We didn't want to have that mentality. We knew we had depth on the bench and we knew we'd come back this year stronger than ever. It's been a good start, but there are definitely still things we can work on.
"It's good to come back here and win. We knew it would be big game for us. They're the only team to beat us last year, so we wanted to stick it to them. We knew it is a tough place to play because the fans are right on you and it gets loud. We tried to keep our composure. I was impressed because we have a lot of new guys, but we kept our composure."
"All the years run together," Halligan said. "We can be 5-0, (Yarmouth) can be 5-0, we can be 0-5, they can be 0-5, it's going to be a battle. We know it's not this one that counts. It's the last one."
Fay stole the show, not just with his 27 points, but also with 10 rebounds, four steals, two assists and a blocked shot.
"Charlie's a good player," said Halligan. "He's athletic, big and strong. He doesn't know how good a basketball player he is."
Simonds excelled as the other twin tower on offense, scoring 16 points, adding a game-high 13 rebounds (six coming on the offensive glass) and registering a steal and a block.
"Simonds is solid for a sophomore," said Halligan.
"Having size is huge," said Fay. "Especially on the boards. If they have their biggest guy on Jack, I'll be open. If their biggest guy is on me, Jack will be open. It helps greatly."
Burfeind ran the offense to near perfection and added four points, six boards, five assists, four steals and a block.
"Grant is always right on the edge," Halligan said. "He goes as fast as he can."
Burton and Coyne had three points apiece, while Rogers added two.
Falmouth finished with a 41-28 rebound advantage (16 of which came on the offensive end), registered 10 steals, made 4-of-8 free throws and had 18 turnovers.
"It's a great group of kids," Halligan said. "They love basketball, they work hard in practice. Some of our best competition has been in practice."
For Yarmouth, Murphy and Shields-Auble each had 10 points. Henry finished with seven, Wriggins four, Jackson two and Brown one. Shields-Auble grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. The Clippers finished with 11 steals (Brown, Henry and Murphy all had three, while Shields-Auble collected a pair). Yarmouth made 8-of-12 foul shots, but committed 21 turnovers.
The Clippers had some good looks early in the contest to make a game of it, but things spiraled quickly.
"I don't think a couple baskets would rectify where we are right now," said Yarmouth coach Adam Smith. "I think what will rectify it is a committed effort. If we're committed to each possession and each moment, that will help us. Right now, we just don't have five guys continually on the same page. I'm sure most teams would say that same thing. It's been very frustrating for some of the guys who expect better than what we're getting. I can say we're not pointing any fingers. It's a very unified team. We're just struggling right now.
"When (Falmouth was) passing the ball over the top, they got decent looks. That's their game. When we were able to have five guys put pressure on them, they had tough shots. I don't look at the height, speed or strength, but how we contend against it. We weren't frustrated with their size. We just didn't attack well and we didn't play with a lot of confidence.
"It's been challenging this year for a number of reasons. Mostly, it's because I feel we have a lot of game left in us that I haven't been able to get out of these guys yet. It puzzles me and keeps me working extremely hard to pull the best out of each player I can. I haven't done that. It's been frustrating for the coaching staff and the players as well."
Yarmouth is back in action at Fryeburg Friday, then is off until Jan. 3. The Clippers will compete in the holiday tournament at the Portland Expo.
"We have the break coming up, which I think will be good for us," Smith said. "I certainly hope some guys are able to see that there's still plenty of season left and that it's never too late. Right now, we're just playing moments, not games."
Falmouth looks to stay perfect Friday at Traip. The Yachtsmen will also play in the holiday tournament and when they return to action Jan. 3, will host York in a highly-anticipated showdown.
"We have some good games at the Expo" sa,id Burfeind. "It will be fun. I'm looking forward to it."
The Clippers will visit the Yachtsmen in the regular season finale Feb. 8.