Falmouth takes Round 3, ousts York to reach state game
PORTLAND—Disregard the events of Feb. 5.
That game was an aberration.
The top-ranked Falmouth boys' basketball team lost just once this season, 65-39, down at York that night, but the Yachtsmen demonstrated that result was a mere fluke Saturday afternoon in the Western Class B Final against those same second-ranked Wildcats at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
As it did in a big regular season home win over York in early January, Falmouth took control in the first period and extended the lead to 32-17 at halftime. The Yachtsmen all but put it away with a 17-3 third period run, then, after the Wildcats opened the fourth period on a 10-0 spurt, ended all doubt and went on to a stunningly decisive 67-46 victory.
Falmouth got a game-high 19 points, including five 3-pointers, from sophomore Jack Simonds, 17 points from senior sparkplug Grant Burfeind, 11 from freshman Thomas Coyne off the bench and 10 from senior Tom Wilberg as it improved to 20-1, ended York's season at 19-2 and advanced to meet Medomak Valley in the Class B state final Friday at 7 p.m., at the Civic Center.
"We were a little sour after the last loss and were so fired up coming into this game," said Burfeind, who continued to bolster his big-game legend. "We weren't going to lose this game. Our mental attitude was off last time. We had a whiteboard with a prediction from the York paper that said York was going to win. We were like, 'That's not going to happen.'"
Falmouth and York were viewed as the teams to beat from the start of the season and neither squad disappointed.
The Yachtsmen and Wildcats both went 17-1, each losing to the other (Falmouth prevailed at home, 71-51, while York did the same, 65-39).
Falmouth earned the top seed and quickly dispatched No. 8 Maranacook in the quarterfinals last Saturday, 58-30, then demolished No. 4 Mountain Valley in Thursday's semifinal round, 58-22.
York went into the tournament ranked second and was equally as effective, eliminating seventh-ranked Greely, 64-38, in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Cape Elizabeth, 58-35, in the semis.
The teams had met twice in the past three postseasons, with Falmouth taking both, 59-49, in the 2010 quarterfinals en route to the state championship and a 49-45 come-from-behind triumph in last year's semifinals.
Saturday, the Yachtsmen were on fire almost throughout.
It took 2 minutes and 11 seconds before either team scored (Simonds did the honors with a baseline jumper). York's first basket came on a driving left-handed layup from senior Zach Leal, who was fouled in the process. Leal added the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play.
That would prove to be the Wildcats' one and only lead of the game.
A pair of foul shots from Wilberg gave Falmouth the lead for good. After deking a defender, Coyne knocked down a jumper. York got a layup from senior Aaron Todd, but Wilberg scored on a left-handed layup and Simonds knocked down a 3. Todd made a leaner in the lane, but a floater from Burfeind and a Burfeind layup after a steal made it 15-7 Yachtsmen after one quarter.
Falmouth only committed one turnover in the first period, while the Wildcats gave the ball away five times.
A Simonds layup off an inbounds pass (from junior Nick Burton) pushed the lead to 10 to start the second quarter. After Leal made a leaner off the glass, Simonds hit another 3 to get in double figures and Burfeind somehow got a running floater to drop through the net. After senior Luke Claflin made a layup for York, Simonds hit another long 3 to push the advantage to 25-11.
Leal made a free throw and Todd hit two, but Burfeind countered with a foul shot. Todd converted a three-point play to get the Wildcats within nine, 26-17, but a Coyne layup and a pair of free throws from Burton extended the lead back to 13, 30-17.
Falmouth then ran down the clock and it worked to perfection as Coyne drove for a layup, giving the Yachtsmen a commanding 32-17 advantage at the break.
Falmouth only committed three turnovers in the first 16 minutes, while forcing eight. Simonds had 13 points, while Burfeind added seven (to go with three assists, two rebounds and a steal) and Coyne had six off the bench.
Senior standout Charlie Fay didn't score in the first half, but as it turned out, it didn't matter a whit.
"I would have been worried (if I knew ahead of time Charlie wouldn't score in the first half), but he's playing against some good big guys," Falmouth coach Dave Halligan said. "That's when the other kids step up. That's what makes us a dangerous team. If you focus on Charlie, Grant steps up. If you concentrate on Grant, someone else steps up."
In the third, York came out with more intensity, but the Yachtsmen met every salvo and eventually completely broke the Wildcats' will.
After Leal made a layup to get things started, Burfeind made a free throw. After an offensive rebound, Leal converted a reverse layup pull York within 12, 33-21, but Burfeind set up Coyne for a momentum-killing 3 and Wilberg made a layup.
Senior Hayden Webster countered with a layup, but Burfeind set up senior Charlie Fay for a layup, his first points of the game. Todd made a foul shot, but Simonds took a pass from Coyne on the left wing and while fading away, with ridiculous ease, canned a 3.
"That felt good," Simonds said. "I liked that one. I hit my first shot and I got a little more confident and the shots were falling."
"For a sophomore, you can't ask too much, but for (Jack) you can," Burfeind said. "He's at another level. He's so clutch for us."
Burfeind added a layup, Simonds sank another 3 (this time from the right side) and Burfeind capped a 17-3 surge with a pair of free throws.
A layup from senior Thomas Kinton only momentarily stemmed the tide as Burfeind raced in for a layup to allow Falmouth to double up its talented foe after three periods, 52-26.
In the fourth, the Yachtsmen wrapped it up, but first, York did show some life, opening on a 10-0 run.
Leal hit a free throw, set up Todd for a layup, Todd scored on a leaner and with 6:49 left, Leal hit a 3 to make it 52-34 and force Halligan to call timeout.
Not surprisingly, Falmouth responded.
After Leal extended the run with a driving layup, Coyne made both ends of a one-and-one, then, after milking a minute off the clock, Fay was fouled and hit both free throws. Senior Adam Bailey answered with a 3 for York, but Coyne found Wilberg for a transition layup.
"The second time we played them, they ran that matchup zone and we didn't adjust well," Coyne said. "After that, in practice, we put in sets to beat it. We executed it the whole game."
Todd made a driving layup, but Burfeind hit two foul shots and it was 60-41.
After another Bailey 3, Wilberg made two free throws, Burfeind hit one of two and after blocking a shot at one end, Fay was intentionally fouled at the other and made both free throws to push the lead to 65-44.
Two foul shots from junior Justin Rogers gave Falmouth its final points and a leaner from Webster accounted for the 67-46 final score.
After falling agonizingly short a year ago, these Yachtsmen were thrilled to advance.
"It feels amazing," Burfeind said. "York's a great team, but in this game, we came out and defense was huge. That led to easy offense. We had guys returning from last year. We wanted to cut down the nets and hold the plaque this year. A new starting five meant people were skeptical about us. We found our roles. Everything just jelled together as the season went along. We're doing our best right now."
"We had to keep the ball away from two great players, Todd and Leal, as much as possible," said Simonds. "We knew we'd win it if we kept the defensive intensity up. We went through the motions in practice before (the loss at York). We had a team meeting and decided to turn things around and work harder in practice. We had defensive intensity. I had (last year's) silver medal with me coming into this game just to remind me that we lost last year when we should have won. I wanted to get the job done this time."
"I was so pleased for all these kids today, especially the seniors who worked so hard," Halligan added. "They had a tough loss down (at York) and they came up big today. When you're undefeated, you can play not to lose instead of playing to win. That loss took that pressure off. We were just able to play our game and ratcheted it up on defense before the tournament. We did some things differently today. We spread the floor so we could attack. I knew we had some talent. I was concerned with our lack of experience in big-time games. We didn't have a lot of close games during the season. That's why we played the (Class A teams) in the preseason and in the Christmas tournament and that paid off for us."
Simonds led the way with his 19 points.
"Jack's just a special player," Halligan said.
Burfeind had 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and a steal.
"(Grant) acts like it's just another game and he just went out and executed," said Halligan. "That's where our experience comes in."
Coyne was unfazed by the circumstances and had 11 points, three boards and three assists.
"I'm not really used to it, but I enjoyed it," Coyne said. "It was a lot of fun. I don't really mind coming off the bench. I still play a lot."
"It's awesome to have these two young guys who will be around for awhile," said Burfeind. "Thomas got great experience this year. He'll come up big."
"Thomas has icewater in his veins," Halligan added. "He gives us that spurt off the bench. I see what's going on in the game and where the adjustments have to be made. We don't take any steps back when he goes on the floor."
Wilberg continued his steady and unheralded play with 10 points, Fay added six (to go with three steals) and Burton and Rogers each contributed two.
Falmouth took terrific care of the ball, only giving it away four times entering the fourth period (they ended up with 11 turnovers) and shot a superb 21-of-26 from the free throw line.
York's standouts Leal and Todd each bowed out with a 16-point performance. Bailey added six, Webster had four and Claflin and Kinton both finished with two. The Wildcats won the rebounding battle, 26-19, as Leal led the way with seven and Webster had five.
York committed 16 turnovers and only made 7-of-14 foul shots.
It's safe to say that Falmouth will be in the Class B state final for the final time when it meets Medomak Valley next weekend. That's because the Yachtsmen are moving up to Class A next year.
As for Medomak, it was the No. 1 seed in Eastern B and advanced with wins over No. 8 Camden Hills (52-47), No. 13 Foxcroft (53-30) and third-ranked Mt. Desert Island (56-50).
The teams have no prior history.
In its only other Class B final appearance, Falmouth edged Camden Hills in an overtime thriller, 72-65, three years ago.
Friday, the Yachtsmen will look to cut down the nets once again and confirm what we already suspect.
That they simply have no peer anywhere in the state of Maine.
"We're really looking forward to next Friday," Burfeind said. "We'll watch a lot of film. We'll keep working hard and do what we've been doing all season."
"I thought we'd make a run this year," Coyne said. "Our goal was to win a championship. We'll be prepared for anything that gets thrown at us."
"We have to practice hard, play as a team and the job will get done Friday night," Simonds said. "We're confident."
"We'll play our game and see what happens," Halligan added. "It helps playing (at the Civic Center), having played a lot of games here. The kids like this place. The celebration today was a little tempered. We want one more. We have unfinished business."