Yarmouth boys hold on for key win over Greely
YARMOUTH—Don't look now, but the defending Class B champion Yarmouth boys' basketball team is beginning to figure it out.
It's taken most of the season for the Clippers to round into form, but as they did a year ago, they appear to be peaking when the games matter most.
Yarmouth's upside was on full display Tuesday when it hosted rival Greely, a team which beat the Clippers just a few weeks ago.
Yarmouth never trailed and opened a healthy second quarter lead behind the sizzling 3-point shooting of Christian Henry. The Clippers led by as many as 16 points, 47-31, late in the third period, but as expected, the Rangers made a run. Behind the dominance of junior Mike McDevitt, Greely crept as close as four points three separate times in the fourth quarter, but Yarmouth made the plays when it had to and held on for a 60-53 victory.
Henry led all scorers with 20 points, junior David Murphy added 17 and the Clippers improved to 9-6 on the year, dropping the Rangers to 8-7.
"Earlier in the year, we lose this game," said Yarmouth coach Adam Smith. "Two weeks ago, we lose this game. We've turned the corner. I knew (Greely would) make a run. I was glad they did. We needed to be pushed and find out where we're at. It's important for us to be tested. I wasn't surprised we responded well. I expected that. That should build on itself."
Both teams are very different and have had their ups-and-downs this season.
Greely, which was stunned by a Lincoln Academy buzzer-beater in a preliminary round upset loss last season, saw longtime coach Ken Marks bid the program adieu in the offseason. Marks was succeeded this winter by former star player Travis Seaver.
This season, the Rangers won their opener, 80-73, in overtime, at Wells, then lost at home to York (71-48) and at Falmouth (63-45). After a 65-59 home triumph over Fryeburg, Greely was dealt another setback, 56-47, at Cape Elizabeth, before closing the 2012 portion of its schedule with a 75-50 home win over Poland. The Rangers then dispatched host Lake Region (56-40), visiting Yarmouth (58-44), visiting Traip (54-45) and host Freeport (64-51) to extend their win streak to five, but the run ended with losses at home to Falmouth (68-45) and at York (53-33). Last weekend, Greely handled visiting Gray-New Gloucester (64-45), but then lost at Fryeburg (46-37).
Yarmouth did something a year ago that was 44 years in the making, win a state title. The Clippers were hard high by graduation, however, and have struggled for consistency.
After opening with wins over visiting Gray-New Gloucester (70-46) and host Lake Region (67-52), Yarmouth let a lead slip away in a 71-65 loss at Wells, then was handled by visiting York (72-48) and host Falmouth (55-34). After getting back in the win column at Fryeburg (46-41) and at home versus Freeport (77-30), the Clippers dropped a 58-44 decision at Greely. Yarmouth won at Poland, 67-44, then lost at home to Cape Elizabeth (59-50) and Waynflete (62-38). After a 54-38 win at Gray-New Gloucester, the Clippers won a pair last weekend, 77-55 over visiting Traip and 94-41 at Freeport.
Greely has had the better of Yarmouth historically (please see sidebar), winning 16 of 21 meetings since the start of the 2001-02 season. Last year, each team won by a point on its home floor and they were on a quarterfinal round collision course prior to the Rangers' upset loss.
In the first meeting this winter, Greely broke open a close game with a fourth quarter run as Bailey Train had 26 points. Murphy led Yarmouth with 21.
Tuesday's game would be in doubt again in the final stanza, but this time, it was Yarmouth finishing on top.
A Murphy putback gave the Clippers the game's first points 34 seconds in. After the Rangers forged the only tie on a pair of McDevitt free throws, sophomore Adam Labrie put the hosts on top for good for a 3-pointer. Senior Adam Wriggins added a layup and after a foul shot from Greely junior Connor Hanley, Murphy (from Labrie) made a layup and it was 9-3 Yarmouth.
With 2:52 left in the first period, Hanley scored on a putback for the Rangers' first field goal, but Henry knocked down his first basket, a jump shot, and Henry fed Labrie for a layup and a 13-5 advantage.
Greely then got a big break with 1:06 to go in the first when, while burying a 3-pointer, junior Connor McCarthy was fouled. McCarthy added the free throw to complete the rare (although not on this night) four-point play to cut the deficit in half. Wriggins countered with a putback, but a late jumper from sophomore Gabe Axelson pulled the Rangers within 15-11 heading for the second period.
When Hanley (assisted by senior Jonah Normandeau) opened the new quarter with a layup, Greely was primed to take the lead, but instead, Yarmouth would seize control.
After two Murphy free throws were countered by a bank shot from Hanley, Henry scored on a putback. Hanley answered with a bank shot, but Henry was about to steal the show.
With 5:35 to go before halftime, Henry knocked down a 3. Thirty-four seconds later, he did it again. Then, with 4:36 left in the half, Henry somehow got free again behind the arc and once more launched a shot which found nothing but net.
In a 59-second span, Henry had made three 3-pointers and extended the Clippers' advantage to 28-17.
"It was a nine-point swing and it was pretty nice," Henry said. "I have to hand it to my teammates. They found me. I just positioned myself and get the ball. I just got lucky."
"(Henry's) a great player," Murphy said. "We look for him when he's on. He could perform like that every night. I wanted to keep him involved in the offense."
Making matters worse for the Rangers, McDevitt was called for his third foul seconds later and had to spend the rest of the half on the bench.
A baseline jumper from McCarthy stemmed the tide, but after a Henry steal, the red-hot shooter dished off to Wriggins for a layup. The next time down the floor, Murphy made a jump shot. Then, with 2:07 left before the half, Murphy took a pass from Henry and made a 3 of his own for a 35-19 lead. A jumper with time winding down by McCarthy pulled Greely back within 14 at the break.
The teams traded hoops for most of the third quarter before a Yarmouth run was answered by a Greely surge which made things very interesting.
McDevitt hinted at a big half to come when he made a layup, but it was countered by a Henry baseline jumper. After Normandeau made a layup, Wriggins sank two foul shots. McDevitt made two of his own, but a baseline jumper from Labrie prevented the visitors from going on a run. Hanley hit a jump shot, but Clippers sophomore Jordan Brown scored on a putback and it was still a 14-point game, 43-29.
With 3:01 left in the third, McDevitt hit a jump shot, but 14 seconds later, at the other end, Murphy drained a 3 and was fouled. He made his free throw for a four-point play and a 47-31 advantage.
"I was just focused on making the free throw to put us up that much more," said Murphy.
Greely then rattled off a 10-2 run to make things interesting.
It started with a McDevitt turnaround jumper. McDevitt then hit a jump shot and made a leaner in the lane to cut the deficit to 10. With 49.8 seconds left, McDevitt set up Normandeau for a layup. Henry answered with two free throws, but with just over a second left, a Hanley putback pulled the Rangers back within eight, 49-41.
Greely kept the pressure on to start the fourth as McDevitt scored on a runner. After junior Nate Shields-Auble scored on an up-and-under leaner while being fouled (he missed the free throw), Normandeau hit a pullup jumper and Hanley made two foul shots to cut Yarmouth's lead to 51-47 with 4:18 still to play.
The Rangers got the ball back with a chance to draw even closer, but Clippers junior Wyatt Jackson stole it and passed to Murphy, who was fouled with 3:40 to go. Murphy made both free throws, but 17 seconds later, Hanley made a layup to make it a 53-49 contest.
With Greely pressuring for a steal, Labrie spotted a wide open Jackson underneath and Jackson laid the ball home with 2:54 left, pushing the lead back to six. The Rangers came right back, however, and made it 55-51 when McCarthy scored on a putback with 2:36 remaining.
After a Yarmouth turnover, Greely had a chance to make it a one possession game, but Hanley missed and Henry got the rebound.
With 1:05 left, Wriggins went to the line, but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
What could have been an opportunity for the Rangers instead turned into a huge momentum lift for the Clippers as Shields-Auble grabbed the rebound and put it home to push the lead back to six.
"Nate scored all four points late," Smith said. "Those were a huge four points. In crunch time, he wants the ball. He made plays for us to get us over the top. He'll rebound and defend. He gets pushed around a lot in there by big bodies he goes up against, but his effort is the same. He's been consistent."
After Train missed a 3-pointer for the Rangers, Henry added a foul shot with 42.8 seconds to go.
The win wasn't quite secure, however, as McDevitt was fouled while shooting a 3 with 21.6 seconds remaining. McDevitt made the first two free throws, but missed the third, only cutting the deficit to five. Henry added a free throw and after a steal, added another and that brought the curtain down on the 60-53 triumph.
"Our fans and our bench were all in it," Murphy said. "That made a huge difference when they went on a run and McDevitt was making every shot he took."
Henry said that he and his teammates were playing for more than just themselves Tuesday. Prior to the tip, the late Tim White was honored for his contributions to Yarmouth basketball.
"We knew coming out we were playing for something more than basketball," said Henry. "The White family has dedicated so much of their time and energy and money to this program. I knew I had to come out and deliver for them. It was a big focus for our team."
Henry had one of his best games to date, leading all scorers with 20 points, which included three of Yarmouth's six 3-pointers. He also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
"The first time we played them, they threw the 2-3 zone at us and we didn't respond," Henry said. "That was a focal point tonight. We tried to get them moving on defense so we could get the best shot. We knew they'd make a run. It was just how we'd stop it and how we'd respond as a team. It definitely secures us a playoff spot, which is huge."
"I wanted to get more offense out of (Christian) this year," Smith said. "I haven't insisted on it. I knew it would come. Tonight was a great night for him. He does everything for us on the floor. He settled us down tonight and hit big shots. I think he felt good about that contribution. It was nice he stepped up."
Murphy added 17 points and three steals as he continued to do the little things.
"That was not one of David's better games, but you wouldn't know it by looking at him," Smith said. "He plays the whole game, defends fullcourt, handles the ball in every situation, takes huge shots for us. You get the same thing every trip from him. We don't need him to play a perfect game because other guys can step up for him."
Wriggins finished with eight points (and five boards), Labrie seven, Shields-Auble four (along with four rebounds) and Brown and Jackson two apiece.
Despite their size disadvantage, the Clippers were only outrebounded by one (26-25). Yarmouth made 12-of-17 free throws and only committed a dozen turnovers.
"We've been playing really well lately," Smith said. "We've been more consistent. I felt a turn for us. Confidence has gotten better. It's a young team and we've fed off the energy from practice."
For Greely, McDevitt had 18 points (16 in the second half), along with six rebounds. Hanley had a solid 17 points and five boards. McCarthy added eight points, Normandeau six (along with three steals) and Axelson and Wood two each. Train had a team-high seven rebounds, but did not score.
The Rangers turned the ball over 15 times and shot 10-of-14 from the free throw line.
"It was a slow first half," said Seaver. "The kids worked hard in the second half. We played a much more manageable tempo, but we couldn't get over the hump. (Mike's) fouls definitely hurt us. He's a big presence defensively. Take him off the floor and the lane gets a lot bigger."
It is possible the rivals could meet in the preliminary round of the playoffs, but there is a lot still to be decided.
Greely (now seventh in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) is home with Lake Region Friday, goes to Gray-New Gloucester Tuesday of next week and wraps up its regular season Feb. 8 at home against Cape Elizabeth.
"We've gone up and down, but every day we're getting better," said Seaver. "Our goal is to play our best basketball in game 18 and hopefully game 19. The guys are getting more comfortable with each other. No one likes to lose, but it's a learning experience. Coming off two losses, nothing is easy. Hopefully we'll get the confidence back up and finish strong."
Yarmouth (eighth in the Heals) hosts Poland Friday in its home finale, then closes the regular season with games at Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth next week.
The Clippers are looking to finish strong and to once again be a factor come tournament time.
"We'll get back in the gym and work on stuff," said Henry.
"We struggled a little bit throughout the season, but I think we're coming into our own," said Murphy. "We're playing the best basketball we can going into the playoffs. We've come together more. We have everyone in practice. It makes a huge difference. We need to keep playing our basketball. Great defense and knocking down shots."
"It's going to be a tough end to the season for us," Smith added. "Three good teams. We just have to make sure we focus on getting better and pushing each team we play. We can look in the mirror and see we're playing as well as we can. I know what we'll get in practice. That's a tribute to the seniors who have nurtured the team to get to where we are. The guys want to work hard and get after it. You can do incredible things when you have expectations of playing like we're playing now."