Falmouth, Greely boys advance; Yarmouth falls in prelim
(Ed. Note: For the full Falmouth-York, Greely-Maranacook and Yarmouth-Lake Region game stories, please visit theforecaster.net)
The Falmouth and Greely boys' basketball teams both absorbed the best that their opponent had to offer Saturday in the Western Class B quarterfinal round at the Portland Exposition Building, but found a way to advance.
The second-ranked Yachtsmen only led No. 7 York by two entering the fourth period, but the clutch shooting of senior Stefano Mancini allowed them to hold on, 59-49.
The fourth-seeded Rangers trailed No. 5 Maranacook by eight points at halftime and 47-40 in the fourth period, but finished strong and got clutch hoops and free throws from senior Trevor Tierney and junior Sam Johnston to defeat the Black Bears, 58-54.
Eighth-seeded Yarmouth wasn't as fortunate. The Clippers hosted No. 9 Lake Region in a preliminary round game last Tuesday, but were shellshocked and eliminated, 56-41.
Heart of a champion
After losing in last year's regional final to Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth was anointed the favorite this winter and didn't disappoint, winning its first 17 games, before falling at home to the Capers in the regular season finale. That dropped the Yachtsmen to the No. 2 seed and set up a quarterfinal round date with York. Falmouth beat the Wildcats, 79-43, at home back on Jan. 14, then held on for a 60-56 win at York on Feb. 2. The teams had no prior playoff history.
The Yachtsmen scored 22 first period points, but the unheralded Wildcats hung tough, thanks largely to the play of senior Jason Gorman. By halftime, Falmouth was only up, 32-30, and the Yachtsmen's lead was still two, 41-39, entering the fourth.
There, Mancini made two free throws to stretch the lead to six, buried a 3 to make it 48-42, then hit another to make it an eight-point game. York got back to within six at 53-47, but senior Sam Horning made five of six free throws down the stretch and Falmouth went on to the 59-49 win.
"York's a terrific team that played strong at the end of the season, so we knew it was going to be tough," said Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan. "We hung tough and I think the seniors came through for us at the end."
Mancini led all scorers with 24 points. Horning and senior Ryan Rogers both had 13.
The win sets up a semifinal round showdown against No. 3 Mountain Valley (19-0) Thursday at 9 p.m., at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Falmouth didn't play the Falcons in the regular year. The teams' lone prior playoff meeting came in the 2006 regional final (a 47-40 win for the Falcons).
"It might be a stereotype, but teams from up there are always disciplined, played good defense and run their stuff," Mancini said. We'll be prepared."
"Mountain Valley's always good," Halligan added. "They're tough kids. We better not take them lightly. We have a lot of respect for that program. We'll prepare for their aggressiveness. They'll shoot the ball and play great defense. We have to match their intensity and play a good game."
Greely has played in Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth's shadow this winter, but the Rangers posted another solid regular season (13-5) and earned the No. 4 seed. Saturday, Greely faced Maranacook for the first time in a countable contest (the Rangers easily beat the Black Bears in the preseason) and found itself in for a fight to the finish.
The Rangers were down 9-2 out of the gate, but rallied for a 12-11 lead after one period thanks to eight points from Johnston. Maranacook then grabbed a 31-23 lead at halftime. Greely rallied to tie the score at 32-32, but again the Black Bears surged ahead and were up 47-40 with 6:31 to play. The Rangers saved their best for last, going on a 10-2 run to take a 50-49 lead on senior Matt Dunn's short jumper with 3:45 to play. Thirty seconds later, a leaner from Tierney put Greely ahead to stay, 52-50. Johnston made four free throws with the game on the line and the Rangers held on, 58-54.
"I was nervous with the people yelling, but I tried to block it out," said Johnston. "I had some opportunities in the York game to make some, but I missed them. I've been practicing. We talked in the locker room about keeping our composure and intensity. (This win) means a lot. We need to gain experience. The more games we play the better. We thought they'd be good, but we looked past them in the first half."
"It's a testament to the kids to be down eight at halftime and down six in the third and come back and win this game," said longtime Greely coach Ken Marks. "We persevered in many different ways. In the tournament, as many times as we've been here, there's always going to be a sketchy game. I hope this was our sketchy game."
Johnston led the Rangers with 16 points. Dunn had 13, Tierney and senior Sam Thompson both finished with nine.
Greely (14-5) will face No. 1 Cape Elizabeth (18-1) in the semifinals, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., at the Civic Center. A year ago, in the semis, the Rangers lost a 46-45 buzzer-beater to the Capers. This year, the Rangers fell twice to the Capers, 66-55 in Cape Elizabeth Dec. 19 and 57-46 at home Jan. 22. Greely is looking to turn the tide and avenge last year's agony.
"We always seem to lose to them, but this time I think we just need to be more patient," said Dunn. "If we hit our outside shots, it will definitely open up our inside game and we definitely have a height advantage. We can create problems for their defense. We have to work hard on defense and close out on their shooters. It will be a good challenge."
"Cape's very good," added Marks. "We don't match up well with them because of their size. They don't match up well with us because of our size. If we take care of the basketball, we can beat them. We love to play them again."
Not this year
Yarmouth put together a strong regular season, going 11-7 and competing almost every night. The Clippers wound up eighth in the Western B Heals and faced No. 9 Lake Region for the third time in the last four postseasons last Tuesday in the preliminary round.
Yarmouth downed the Lakers, 68-54, at home on Jan. 8 and won both prior playoff meetings, but this time was completely different.
The Clippers scored just five points in each of the first two periods, were down 32-10 at the break and despite a better performance in the second half, never gave the Lakers much to worry about as they saw their season end with a 56-41 defeat.
"(Lake Region) brought the tournament atmosphere with them, from the crowd right on through to the last guy on the bench," lamented Clippers coach Adam Smith. "Those guys were ready.
"We'd been fortunate against them the last couple times we played them. I felt fortunate getting out of those games against them. I was not prepared to lose like that tonight. I thought that was behind us. The energy and what they brought was a lesson for the young athletes. Emotion can work like it did for them tonight. We're not an emotional team. We're hard-nosed and businesslike. Tonight, that wasn't enough."
Yarmouth ended up 11-8 and will look to grow from the experience.
"We were pleased to be where we were this year after what we thought might be a tough year," Smith said. "We hung tough and laid the foundation for next year's group. It's good not to miss this atmosphere. It will serve us well next year."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com