No letdown...Falmouth stays hot by holding off Yarmouth
YARMOUTH—Saturday night, the Falmouth boys' basketball team avenged its lone loss by downing Greely in front of a huge home crowd.
Tuesday, the Yachtsmen could have fallen victim to a letdown, but a trip to rival Yarmouth to play a dangerous team ensured that the defending Class B state champions wouldn't stumble.
Although the Clippers didn't make it easy.
Falmouth held Yarmouth's top two scorers, senior David Murphy and junior Adam LaBrie, scoreless in the first half, but only led by six, 27-21, at halftime. After going up by eight points early in the third quarter, the Yachtsmen watched as the Clippers roared back to the tie the game, 37-37, heading for the final stanza.
There, Yarmouth momentarily took the lead on a Murphy free throw, but a jumper from junior Jack Simonds put Falmouth ahead to stay and despite some anxious moments down the stretch, the Yachtsmen's selflessness and big game experience proved to be the difference as they went on to a 55-48 triumph.
Senior Nick Burton led the way with 16 points and 14 rebounds, sophomore Thomas Coyne made five 3s, Simonds finished with 11 points and senior Justin Rogers was clutch down the stretch and added nine points as Falmouth improved to 10-1, dropping Yarmouth to 7-3 in the process.
"I was worried about a letdown, but you can't let down against Yarmouth and we knew that coming in," said longtime Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan. "We had spurts and they came right back. They had spurts and we came back. I was pleased with how we handled the last four minutes. We might have lost that game before Christmas."
Last time this year
Due to Falmouth moving up in class for the postseason, Tuesday marked the last time the ancient rivals will see each other this winter.
The Yachtsmen had won the last three meetings and five of the past six, but the one in the Clippers' column was the biggest, a memorable 56-50 triumph in the 2012 Western B Final, one game before Yarmouth won its first championship in 44 seasons.
Last season, Falmouth took care of business against the Clippers both on the road (55-34) and at home (69-35), then went on to a decisive win in the Class B Final over Medomak Valley.
This winter, the Yachtsmen have only stumbled once and are once again resembling a squad that could have some net snipping in its future.
Falmouth rolled at York in the opener, 70-42, then erupted in the second half to beat visiting Yarmouth, 84-65, thanks to 37 points (23 in the third period alone) from Coyne. After downing host Wells (80-26), visiting Poland (90-52) and visiting Lake Region (79-54), the Yachtsmen fell from the undefeated ranks with a tough 57-53 overtime loss at Greely. Falmouth then stole the show at the Red Claws Christmas Tournament and even though they didn't count for Heal Points purposes, the Yachtsmen's 55-52 win over Portland and 66-55 triumph over Bonny Eagle made a powerful statement. Falmouth then returned to league play and handled visiting Cape Elizabeth (71-49) and York (67-54) and host Fryeburg (78-46) before earning a tasty dish of revenge Saturday with a 69-55 home win over Greely.
Yarmouth, which fell at Maranacook in the preliminary round last winter to finish 10-9, pounded visiting Kennebunk in the opener, 89-52. After hanging tough for a half, the Clippers lost at Falmouth, 84-65, before rebounding to down host Poland, 75-47. Yarmouth then dropped a hard fought contest at Greely, 57-49, before closing 2013 with a 66-52 home win over Cape Elizabeth. The new year has been kind to the Clippers, who defeated host Freeport (73-32), visiting Waynflete (86-64), which was undefeated at the time, host Traip (85-46) and host Cape Elizabeth (67-55).
Dating back to the start of the 2001-02 season, the Yachtsmen held a 19-6 lead in the series (please see sidebar, below).
Tuesday evening, form held, but as expected, the Clippers didn't go down without a fight.
Both teams were a little flat at the start, surprising since they usually put forth 32 intense minutes, especially at Yarmouth.
Simonds broke the ice with a jumper in the lane 48 seconds in, but Clippers senior Nate Shields-Auble answered with a jumper. Falmouth then got its first easy basket as senior Matthew Tseng set up Burton for a layup. Rogers added two free throws, but Yarmouth rallied to tie the game, 6-6, on a putback from senior Ethan Gage and a layup from sophomore Musseit M'Bareck.
Late in the first quarter, Tseng fed Burton for a layup and Coyne made his first 3-point shot for an 11-6 advantage.
Forty-seven seconds into the second period, Coyne made another 3 and the Yachtsmen enjoyed an eight-point bulge. After M'Bareck hit a jumper, Simonds set up Coyne for another 3 and it appeared the visitors were on their way an easy win to, leading, 17-8, with 6:34 to go before halftime.
"We pride ourselves on assists," Simonds said. "Once we cut through the middle, everything opened up for us. We feed the hot hand, pass the ball around and take the shots that are open."
The Clippers hung tough, however, as sophomore Cody Cook made a layup and after Rogers hit a free throw, Shields-Auble made a jumper, Shields-Auble sank a free throw and M'Bareck made a layup after a steal to cut the deficit to 18-15.
As would be the case virtually all night, Falmouth responded as Tseng made a free throw, Tseng set up Burton for a dunk, Simonds followed with a short jumper and Burton tipped home a missed shot to push the lead back to 10 points, 25-15, with 3:22 to go in the half.
"They hurt us pretty bad in that first game in the second half, so you think about that and you think about it being Falmouth and it becomes a bigger moment than it should and we played that way in the first half," said Clippers coach Adam Smith.
Yarmouth closed strong, however, getting a jumper from M'Bareck, a leaner from Shields-Auble and a hook shot from Gage. Simonds found Burton for a layup to end the 6-0 run and the Yachtsmen took a 27-21 lead to halftime (a Shields-Auble putback of a LaBrie desperation prayer was waved off for coming after the horn).
In the first 16 minutes, Falmouth got 10 points and nine boards from Burton and Coyne hit three 3s, but the biggest news was the zeroes next to the scoring column of LaBrie and Murphy.
"We knew we had to give (LaBrie and Murphy) extra attention since they're good scorers," Rogers said. "We tried to deny them the ball and make the other players beat us."
The Clippers were able to stay in the game thanks to forcing nine turnovers, while getting eight points from M'Bareck and seven from Shields-Auble.
"You try to get across to the guys that you don't have to score to be effective," Smith said. "Defensively, (LaBrie and Murphy) were great. Other guys stepped up for us and gave us an opportunity to stay in the game until we got a better rhythm on the offensive end."
The Yachtsmen again threatened to put the game away early in the second half, but Yarmouth once again roared back.
After Gage made two free throws to start the third quarter, Tseng set up Burton for a layup and Simonds made a leaner for a 31-23 lead.
With 4:49 to go in the third, LaBrie finally found his range, knocking down a 3-pointer and after Shields-Auble got a rebound at the defensive end, then raced downcourt for a layup, Murphy made his first basket, a layup, and suddenly the Clippers were only down a point, 31-30.
Yarmouth couldn't get over the hump quite yet, however, as Coyne stemmed the tide with a 3-ball. After LaBrie somehow banked home a difficult angle bank shot, Coyne made another 3 for a 37-32 advantage.
Back came the Clippers again, however, as Shields-Auble hit a jumper, Murphy made a free throw and with 17.3 seconds to go, sophomore Cody Cook scored on a putback to make it 37-37, forging the game's first deadlock since 6-6, making it anyone's contest with eight minutes to play.
When Murphy made a free throw 17 seconds into the fourth period, Yarmouth had the lead for the first time.
It would also be the last.
With 6:17 left, Simonds made a jumper to give Falmouth the lead for good.
After Simonds kept a possession alive with an offensive rebound, he fed Burton for a layup to push the lead to three, but with 5:04 remaining, Murphy hit a floater and the Yachtsmen's lead was down to 41-40.
Rogers then drove for a layup and Simonds buried a long 3 to push the advantage back to six, 46-40, with 3:54 to play.
"In AAU, I shoot a lot of 3s," said Simonds. "That's kind of my thing. I'm a confident player. I just stepped up and hit it."
Out of a timeout, M'Bareck sank a jumper, but Tseng fed Rogers for a layup.
"We're at our best when we're unselfish," said Rogers. "When we make the open pass, we get open layups. We use as many ball fakes as possible, break down the zone and get easy looks."
After a LaBrie steal, Murphy pulled the Clippers within four with a layup, but with 1:41 showing, Rogers found Burton for a layup and a 50-44 lead.
Twenty-one seconds later, M'Bareck scored on a driving layup, but with 29.8 seconds to go, Rogers made both ends of a one-and-one to make it 52-46.
After Shields-Auble missed a shot and Tseng got the rebound, Tseng was fouled and made the front end of a one-and-one to make it a three possession game.
With 14.3 seconds to play, Shields-Auble made a layup, but that proved to be Yarmouth's final points and two Tseng foul shots with 2.3 seconds remaining slammed the door on the Yachtsmen's 55-48 victory.
"We came out a little flat and Yarmouth's a really good team and we knew we'd get a battle," Rogers said. "It's a good rivalry game. We knew they'd play good defense and keep it low scoring. We weren't surprised."
"We were a little bit on a high after beating Greely," Simonds said. "I'd say we kind of overlooked Yarmouth which didn't pay off because we let them hang around. We've grown a lot playing Greely, Bonny Eagle and Portland. We've matured as a team. My freshman year, in a similar situation down the wire, we let one slip away. I didn't want this to happen tonight for the seniors in the last game they play Yarmouth."
"This is always a competitive game over here," Halligan added. "Adam does a great job preparing his kids. They always work hard and they always get better as the season goes on. They'll be a handful come tournament time."
Burton led all scorers with 16 points and dominated the glass to the tune of 14 rebounds. Coyne made five 3s and had 15 points, 22 fewer than he scored in the first meeting. Simonds had 11 points (to go with seven boards and a pair of steals), Rogers had nine points and Tseng added four (to go with five boards)
"Come crunch time, the seniors stepped up," Halligan said. "Justin took the ball to the basket, Nick did his job, Thomas plays like a senior. Matthew was huge tonight. He's the one everyone forgets about. We were up 10 when he came out, they came back and tied it. He made things happen."
"Falmouth's not a one-man show and they showed that tonight, Smith said. "A number of guys chipped in and did a nice job. We held Coyne down pretty well, but he was good enough to still get 15. They have great patience on offense. They have a lot of weapons and get the next great look."
Falmouth turned the ball over a respectable 16 times and made 9 of 12 free throws.
The Clippers were paced by 13 points and 11 rebounds from Shields-Auble and 12 points and three steals from M'Bareck.
"('Muss' has) made some strides in the last few games," Smith said. "Sophomores will be up and down, but he's on an upswing right now. Nate's been a real force for us. I hope he continues to play that way. He's a difficult matchup for teams. Falmouth just has a few more bodies they can lay on him, but he played really well tonight. He's made some nice steps as an interior player."
Murphy had eight points, Gage six, LaBrie five and Cook four.
Yarmouth outrebounded its taller foe, 30-29, had 11 steals (LaBrie led the way with five) and only turned the ball over nine times, but was done in in part by 5 of 12 foul shooting.
"I was pleased with the four quarter effort we had," said Smith. "I think we're just a better team now. I was disappointed the first part of the season in our defense, but it's gotten better and we can still play even better, I hope."
Top of the world
If all goes well, the first weekend of March will see both proud programs raising Gold Balls to the heavens, but before either can even think about the tournament, they need to keep winning to finish as high as possible in the standings.
Yarmouth has no time to lick its wounds. The Clippers (now fourth in the Western Class B Heals) have a makeup game at Gray-New Gloucester Wednesday, then host Greely in a pivotal showdown Friday night.
"I think we played really well tonight, in the mode of how we're moving," Smith said. "It's a great opportunity to fix more things. We have a chance to work on our blemishes. I like that the team is eager to get back at it, fix it and get better. Greely had a week off and we've had two three-game weeks back to back. We'll be tested. I like to be tested. I like the adversity and I like that these guys are ready to step up to that."
Trips to Fryeburg and Lake Region and home tilts versus Wells, York, Gray-New Gloucester and Freeport also remain for the Clippers.
Falmouth might not be seriously tested the rest of the way, but it will have a hard time catching SMAA powers Bonny Eagle and Portland in the Heals. The Yachtsmen (clinging to first place in Western A at press time) play at Lake Region Friday, which is coming off an impressive win at Western C contender Waynflete Tuesday.
"We're focusing on Lake Region right now," Simonds said. "They're a pretty dangerous team."
"Lake Region has three starters who weren't there the last time we played them," Halligan said. "They're well coached."
The Yachtsmen take a week off, then go to Kennebunk and host Fryeburg. Games at Gray-New Gloucester and Cape Elizabeth (the only likely stern test left on the slate) and home games against Fryeburg, Freeport and Kennebunk wrap up the season.
"We'll get our work done in practice," Halligan said. "We don't care where we go (into the tournament). It doesn't make any difference. We need more patience and better shot selection. Sometimes we shoot early in the possession and our rebounders aren't ready. We need more discipline."
For this group, expecialy its seniors, it's state championship or bust.
"I feel like we're making improvements, but we're not there yet," Rogers said. "We can't have a letdown in the tournament. We need to tighten a few things up and continue to play together. Our attitude is to win the championship. We lost core players, but returned players with experience. If we continue to improve, we hope to make a run at it."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Falmouth-Yarmouth history
@ Falmouth 84 Yarmouth 65
Falmouth 55 @ Yarmouth 34
@ Falmouth 69 Yarmouth 35
@ Yarmouth 50 Falmouth 33
Yarmouth 63 @ Falmouth 58 (OT)
@ Falmouth 58 Yarmouth 41
Falmouth 54 @ Yarmouth 51
@ Falmouth 52 Yarmouth 33
Falmouth 65 Yarmouth 48
@ Yarmouth 42 Falmouth 36
Yarmouth 63 @ Falmouth 56
Falmouth 38 @ Yarmouth 37
Yarmouth 57 @ Falmouth 52
@ Falmouth 57 Yarmouth 34
Falmouth 48 @ Yarmouth 37
Falmouth 50 @ Yarmouth 34
@ Falmouth 62 Yarmouth 30
@ Falmouth 55 Yarmouth 36
Falmouth 54 @ Yarmouth 51
Western B quarterfinals
Falmouth 44 Yarmouth 31
Falmouth 57 @ Yarmouth 43
@ Falmouth 46 Yarmouth 43