Wed, Aug 27, 2014 ●
BathHarpswellTopshamBrunswickCumberlandNorth YarmouthFalmouthFreeportPortlandCape ElizabethScarboroughSouth PortlandChebeague IslandYarmouth

Falmouth, Greely boys lead list of hoops title hopefuls

Sports

Falmouth, Greely boys lead list of hoops title hopefuls

Now, the fun truly begins.

If you're a fan of high school basketball, you'll have a lot to keep you busy over the next couple weeks as seven Forecaster Country teams chase a Gold Ball.

While the Falmouth and Greely boys are favorites to cut down the nets, everyone liked their chances heading in.

Here's a glimpse:

Fab four

Falmouth, Greely, North Yarmouth Academy and Yarmouth's boys' teams are all capable of making deep tournament runs.

The Yachtsmen are in a unique situation. Not only are they the defending Class B state champions, but they are trying to follow that up by winning the Class A title (Falmouth was reclassified this winter due to enrollment numbers).

Falmouth was dominant again playing its regular Western Maine Conference schedule this winter, winning every game but one and closing on a 12-game win streak to wind up 17-1 after downing host Cape Elizabeth (62-50) and visiting Kennebunk (66-30). Thomas Coyne had 15 points against the Capers. Nick Burton had 14 points and Jack Simonds added 12 in the win over the Rams.

"We were lacking a little experience coming into the season, but seniors stepped up," said Falmouth's longtime coach Dave Halligan. "Nick Burton went inside and did the work for us. Justin Rogers and Matt Tseng stepped into their roles. I thought we could be good and we had a couple of bumps, but we got better and learned."

The Yachtsmen earned the No. 2 seed in Western A behind Portland and will face either No. 7 Cheverus (9-9) or No. 10 Scarborough (9-9) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 9 p.m., at the Portland Exposition Building. Falmouth didn't play either team this season and has no playoff experience against either team.

It's likely the Yachtsmen will have to go through Bonny Eagle in the semifinals and undefeated Portland in the regional final to reach their state game goal, but they beat both squads in the non-countable Red Claws Christmas Tournament back in December and will enter full of confidence.

"We're excited for our first time in the A tournament," Halligan said. "We haven't played those teams and they haven't played us. The kids will be motivated. From top to bottom, all the teams are good and well-coached. We'll just do what we've done all year to compete."

In Western B, Greely enters as the top seed after a superb 17-1 season, marred only by a loss at Falmouth (after the Rangers beat the Yachtsmen in overtime earlier in the season). Greely closed with a 77-53 win at Wells and a 71-62 home victory over Cape Elizabeth. Against the Warriors, Michael McDevitt led the way with 28 points. Connor Hanley and Kyle Wood both had 20 points versus the Capers, demonstrating yet again that this squad has more depth than just about anybody.

"I'm very happy with our season, there's not much to complain about," said Greely coach Travis Seaver. "We kept getting better. That was a positive. It's such a good group."

The Rangers will face either No. 8 York (9-9) or No. 9 Lincoln Academy (9-9) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 3 p.m., at the Expo. Greely swept the Wildcats this year, 62-32 in York and 56-41 at home. Last year, the Wildcats knocked out the Rangers in the quarterfinals, 64-38, to take a 4-3 all-time lead in the postseason. Greely doesn't play Lincoln Academy in the regular season, but has some payback to deliver to the Eagles as well after Lincoln Academy shocked the host Rangers in the preliminary round two years ago, 55-54.

If Greely advances, it will face a well-known rival in No. 4 Yarmouth (14-4) or No. 5 Cape Elizabeth (11-7) in the semifinals. The Rangers are heavy favorites to make it to the state final for the first time since cutting the nets down for the third time in four seasons back in 1998.

"States has been the goal since day one, but we know anything can happen," Seaver said. "There are a lot of good teams. With Cape and Yarmouth, we all have a good idea of what the other does. (Second-ranked) Morse is tough and good inside. (Third-seeded) Spruce Mountain has experience. It's always interesting to see how teams from different conferences match up."

Speaking of the Clippers, they had another strong season, closing on a six-game win streak after handling visiting Gray-New Gloucester (67-39) and Freeport (74-48) in their final two games. Against the Patriots, Jordan Brown had 24 points and David Murphy added 17. In the win over the Falcons, Murphy had 19 points, Nate Shields-Auble added 14 and Adam LaBrie finished with 13.

"We won big early, we struggled against Falmouth and Greely and we won close games, so we've been tested," said Yarmouth coach Adam Smith. "I feel good about our ability to have different guys step up. Guys know they have to play well, or someone else will come in and play well. We had more wins than I thought. To win 14 games was more than we or other pundits expected. We've played well as a team."

The Clippers aren't exactly being rewarded for their strong regular season, as they have as tough a quarterfinal as you can imagine against a Cape Elizabeth squad they swept in the regular season, 66-52 at home and 67-55 on the road. The teams have played three previous times in the playoffs, with the Capers taking all three. The most recent meeting was a 61-47 Cape Elizabeth triumph in the 2011 Western B Final.

It's never easy to beat a good team three times, especially one which knows you so well, but Yarmouth will take its chances.

"Roads are paved differently and this year, the journey for us will be more difficult," Smith said. "The regular season doesn't matter. Our regular season output against them won't be enough Saturday. We can't turn the ball over. We should have enough size to have a rebounding edge. It comes down to our ability to make shots. They won't give us anything easy."

Freeport finished 2-16 and 15th in Western B (where only 10 teams qualified) after winning, 58-55, over visiting Kennebunk and losing, 74-48, at Yarmouth. Jack Davenport led the way with 24 points and Chandler Birmingham added 21 against the Rams. Davenport had 19 points and Birmingham 12 versus the Clippers.

In Western D, NYA finished 13-5, its best record since 2005-06, good for fifth in the region, after closing with a 53-48 home loss to Old Orchard Beach and a memorable 87-85 double overtime victory over visiting Seacoast Christian. In the loss, Chase Gendron had 17 points. In the win, El Tayeb Dahia had 28 points and Gendron added 22.

"I'm very pleased with our regular season," said Panthers coach Jason Knight. "The team has made very positive strides and while they know a couple of games could have gone another way, they have maintained an even-keeled approach. They don't get too down on losses or too high on the wins.  That said, the team is excited to be the group to get NYA back to Augusta, but isn't satisfied with just getting there."

The Panthers have the daunting task of squaring off against No. 4 Valley (14-4), a longtime powerhouse, in the quarterfinals Saturday at 11:30 a.m., at the Augusta Civic Center. NYA doesn't face the Cavaliers in the regular season, but the teams do have postseason history, having squared off five previous times. Valley won each of them, with a 70-68 semifinal round triumph in 2005 the most recent.

"While I haven't had the chance to personally see Valley this season, they historically play very fundamental, team basketball with great intensity," Knight said. "On paper, I think we match up favorably, but when it comes to playing tournament basketball, paper is meaningless. They have several returning players, and Coach (Luke) Hartwell certainly has an appreciation of what it takes to win at this time of the year, so they bring the element of experience. We'll have to counter that with solid, smart basketball. When we've been at our best, it's been a result of solid defense, ball control and a balanced inside-out game offensively. Those areas will continue be keys to having a successful tournament run."

Looking ahead, the Western A semifinals are Wednesday of next week at the new-and-improved Cumberland County Civic Center, while the Western D semis are the same day in Augusta. The Western B semifinals are Thursday in Portland. The Western A (CCCC), Western B (CCCC) and Western D (Augusta) Finals are all Saturday, Feb. 22. The Class B state final is Friday, Feb. 28 at the new Cross Center in Bangor. The Class A state game is Saturday, March 1, in Portland ( 7 p.m.), while the Class D state game is the same day in Augusta (at 2:45 p.m.).

Hurdles

On the girls' side, Greely is the only team guaranteed to play in a quarterfinal, but Falmouth and NYA qualified for the tournament as well.

In Western B, the Rangers capped another solid regular season with a 14-4 record, good for the No. 4 spot in the Heal Points. Greely closed with a 43-40 loss at Wells and a 54-38 triumph at Cape Elizabeth. In the setback, Ashley Storey had 15 points and Blais Tardif added 13. In the victory, Storey led the with 21.

Greely will face No. 5 Lincoln Academy (15-3) Tuesday at 7 p.m., at the Expo, in the quarterfinals. The teams don't play in the regular season. The last playoff meeting came in the 2000 quarterfinals (a 52-47 Rangers' win). They also met in the 1983 quarterfinals (a 58-46 Greely win) and the 1985 quarterfinals (a 48-44 victory for the Eagles).

A win likely means a semifinal round showdown with No. 1 Lake Region, which handled the Rangers in the lone regular season meeting, 52-34, Jan. 24 and also eliminated Greely from last year's tournament, 42-27, in the semifinals.

Freeport wound up 12th at 8-10 (but only 10 teams made the playoff cut) after wins at Kennebunk (64-35) and at home over Yarmouth (55-36). Standout Nina Davenport capped her Falcons' career with 24 points in both victories. Ashley Richardson had 14 points against the Rams and Livvy Dimick added 15 versus the Clippers.

Yarmouth wound up 4-14 and 15th, but improved by leaps and bounds over last season. In addition to falling at home to Freeport in the finale, the Clippers dropped a 45-35 home decision to Gray-New Gloucester last week. Grace O'Donnell had 10 points against the Patriots. Abby Nielsen led the team with 11 versus the Falcons.

Yarmouth's first-year coach Chris Strong was very plesed with how her team developed over the course of the season.

"If we made conference teams work hard for their wins and feel uncomfortable during their games, we accomplished our goal," Strong said. "If we made teams have to prepare for us because they knew they couldn't underestimate Yarmouth, then we accomplished our goal. In addition to four wins, we measured our successes in less traditional ways, like limiting our opponents' points or committing fewer team turnovers than the game before. Even in our toughest moments on the court, this team never rolled over.

"Next year, this team will be young, but a core five players return with some good varsity experience. We will be strongest and most experienced in our guard positions, giving us the opportunity to use our speed and athleticism to control the tempo of the game and generate offense in the form of fastbreaks. Tenacious, high-pressure defense will be one of the keys to our game."

In Western A, Falmouth went 6-12, but earned the 12th and final seed and played at No. 5 Gorham (13-5) in Wednesday's preliminary round, with the winner drawing No. 4 Portland (13-5) in the quarterfinals Monday at 7 p.m., at the Expo. The Yachtsmen played the Rams back in the 2001 Western B first round (a 48-36 win) and the 2002 Western B preliminary round (a 54-40 setback). Falmouth has no playoff experience with the Bulldogs.

The Yachtsmen closed the regular season with a loss at home against Cape Elizabeth (37-34) and a 49-20 victory at Kennebunk. Adelaide Cooke had a team-high nine points in the setback and scored 10 in the win.

In Western D, NYA garnered the No. 9 spot after a 6-12 regular season, capped by losses at Old Orchard Beach (58-27) and at home to Seacoast Christian (30-24). Chloe Leishman had a team-high six points against the Seagulls. Charlotte Esancy had 15 against Seacoast.

The Panthers went to No. 8 Vinalhaven (11-7) for a prelim Tuesday. The teams didn't play in the regular season. NYA beat Vinalhaven, 49-36, in the Western D Final and lost to Vikings, 56-39, in the 1987 quarterfinals.

If the Panthers were able to advance, they'll meet No. 1 Forest Hills (18-0) in the quarterfinals Tuesday 11:30 a.m. in Augusta in the quarterfinals. NYA doesn't play the Tigers in the regular season. The Panthers beat Forest Hills, 27-24, in the 1985 Western D quarterfinals, lost, 48-36, to the Tigers in the 1994 quarterfinals and won, 63-24, in the 2004 prelims.

Looking ahead, the Western A semifinals are Friday of next week at the Cumberland County Civic Center, while the regional final is the following day, Saturday, Feb. 22. The Western B semifinals are Thursday in Portland and the Western B Final is Feb. 22 in Portland. The Western D semifinals are Thursday of next week in Augusta. The Western D Final is Feb. 22 in Augusta. The Class A state game is Saturday, March 1, at the Civic Center, ( 4 p.m.), the Class B state final is Friday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m., in Bangor, while the Class D state game is Saturday, March 1 in Augusta (1 p.m.).

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.