The 2015-16 basketball regular season was full of excitement and the upcoming tournament figures to be memorable.
There are new classifications this winter, but high drama will remain constant.
The top seed in the Class A boys’ Heal Points standings came down to the regular season-ending Greely at Falmouth showdown Thursday.
The Rangers were coming off a 70-55 home win over Kennebunk (behind 27 points from Matt McDevitt), while the Yachtsmen were riding high after holding on for a 44-42 victory at defending Class B champion Cape Elizabeth (behind 22 points from Thomas Coyne and 11 from Colin Coyne).
With the top seed on the line, Greely was down three points at halftime, but dominated the third period (23-7) and went on to a 54-44 victory to finish 15-3, dropping Falmouth to 14-4 in the process. McDevitt had 19 points, while Jordan Bagshaw added 18.
“It was a great game,” said Rangers coach Travis Seaver. “The best thing was the atmosphere. The third quarter was the difference. The guys matured this year more than I expected and they became better players. We wanted to be playing our best basketball at the end and I think we’re there. We’ll find out.”
Greely will face either No. 8 Marshwood (9-9) or ninth-ranked Kennebunk (9-9) in the Class A South quarterfinals Friday at 8:30 p.m., at the Portland Exposition Building. The Rangers suffered a 66-52 setback at the Hawks Jan. 22 and beat the visiting Rams last week. Greely has no playoff history with Kennebunk. The Rangers have won three of four previous postseason meetings against the Hawks with a 68-46 triumph in the 1997 Western B Final the most recent.
“Marshwood played very well against us,” said Seaver, who played in that game 19 years ago. “They were very physical. They took a lot away from our offense. We’re focusing on new things to help us. We learned from that loss. It was a valuable lesson. We also played Kennebunk late and we know them pretty well.”
Greely is the region’s top seed, but knows it won’t be easy.
“It’s definitely a tough bracket,” Seaver said. “We need to play solid basketball and do the little things that add up to big things.”
Falmouth got 27 points from Thomas Coyne in its regular season-ending loss to Greely.
“We outscored them in three of four quarters, but (Greely) hit their shots in the third,” said longtime Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan. “It was good to play good teams at the end. Hopefully it will benefit us. Everyone knows about the Coynes and we were able to develop some other depth. The teams we lost to this year are very good.”
Falmouth earned the No. 2 seed in a season which saw three of its four losses come by a single point and for the second year in a row, will meet Westbrook (the No. 7 seed at 10-8) in the quarterfinals (the game is Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at the Expo). On Jan. 23, the Yachtsmen won at the Blue Blazes, 76-54. Last year, Falmouth rallied for a palpitating 48-47 overtime win in the Western A quarterfinals.
“Westbrook will be tough,” said Halligan. “They’re well-coached by (former Deering coach) Dan LeGage and are playing well right now. They’ll play up-tempo. I hope it’s not as close as last year. We’ll be prepared.
“There are a lot of tough teams in the region. The team that puts together the best three games will win it. It should be fun. Playing in the tournament never gets old.”
The A South boys’ semifinals are Wednesday of next week at the Cross Insurance Arena (the erstwhile Cumberland County Civic Center). The A South Final is Saturday, Feb. 20 at CIA.
In Class B South, Yarmouth finished 13-5 and third behind Lake Region and Maranacook after closing with a 65-53 loss at Lake Region and a 51-26 victory at Wells. Musseit M’Bareck had 19 points in the setback. In the win, M’Bareck and Aleksander Medenica both had 11 points.
“We’ve been up and down,” said Clippers coach Adam Smith. “We had our moments, but we never established our moments. I think we’re playing as well and as smart now as we have all year. We had interchangeable parts with injuries and youth and it’s taken this long to put it together and we had to do it against tough teams. I’ve never had a team practice better than this one. We’re looking for that to translate into a game for 32 minutes.”
Yarmouth will battle No. 6 Spruce Mountain (11-7) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Expo. The teams don’t play in the regular season. Four years ago, en route to the Class B title, the Clippers doubled up the Phoenix in the semifinals, 60-30.
“Spruce Mountain has the same scrappy style they had (in 2012),” Smith said. “They’ll bring it. They’re smaller in stature, but they’re quick and they can shoot. It’ll be a tough quarterfinal, especially for a number three seed.”
Yarmouth views Lake Region, which eliminated the Clippers in the semifinals last winter, as the favorite.
“When you start five seniors, that’s hard to overcome,” Smith said, of the Lakers. “It’s even tougher when they’re five talented seniors. They have the heart, soul and talent to make a run.”
The Class B South semifinals are Wednesday of next week at CIA. The B South Final is Saturday, Feb. 20, also at CIA.
Freeport improved on last year’s record, but missed the playoffs with a 3-15 record (the Falcons wound up 12th in Class B South, but only nine teams qualified). Freeport closed with a 64-60 victory at Gray-New Gloucester and an 83-45 home loss to Lake Region. Nate Pelletier had 22 points and Jack Davenport added 16 against the Patriots, when the Falcons snapped a 11-game skid.
North Yarmouth Academy finished with losses at Rangeley (50-43) and at home to Seacoast Christian (62-49) to wind up 4-14 and 13th in Class C (only 12 teams make the playoffs). Jake Malcom had 28 points versus the Lakers, while Malcom had 18 points and Haven Cutko 17 in the loss to Seacoast Christian.
On the girls’ side, Greely is back to defend its championship (even though the Rangers are in a different class this winter), while Freeport and Yarmouth return to the tournament after a few years away.
Greely closed on a 12-1 surge, winning its final six, including victories last week at Kennebunk (45-19) and Falmouth (60-30) to wind up 15-3 and second behind undefeated York in Class A South. Anna DeWolfe had 28 points and Molly Chapin added 15 against the Yachtsmen.
“We’re in a better place now than where we started,” said Rangers coach Joel Rogers. “We had a different group coming in and the kids had some uncertainty and trepidation. We settled in.”
Greely will face No. 7 Marshwood (10-8) in the quarterfinals Monday at 3:30 p.m. at the Expo. On Jan. 22, the Rangers dominated the visiting Hawks, 83-42, behind 34 points from DeWolfe and 22 from Isabel Porter. Greely won the lone prior playoff meeting, 57-32, in the 1997 Western B quarterfinals.
“The Marshwood game was our highwater mark offensively,” Rogers said. “The girls know if we’re not ready to play this game, we don’t get to play the next one.”
York is the favorite in the region, but Greely has what it takes to win another title.
“I can’t imagine York isn’t the team to beat,” said Rogers. “They’re so deep. Their bench hurt us both games (the Wildcats won at Greely, 78-64, and in York on a buzzer-beater, 69-66). I think we’re quicker and if we shoot well, that will be a problem for them. I’m very optimistic. I think we’re good enough to win it. Our game is geared more to the big court. I think people will have a hard time with us. We’re not a one-trick pony. Anna goes off when Isabel, Molly (Chapin) and Moira (Train) get going. We still have to communicate better on defense and it will come down to how well we shoot the 3.”
The Class A South semifinals are Wednesday of next week at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. The A South Final is Saturday, Feb. 20 at CIA.
In Class B South, Yarmouth finished with its best record since 2004-05, going 9-9 after closing with a 42-36 loss at Lake Region and a 41-36 home victory over Wells. Alison Clark had 12 points against the Lakers. In the win, Clark had 14 points and Cory Langenbach added 10.
“We’ve had good team chemistry,” said Clippers third-year coach Chris Strong. “The girls looked at the season as a challenge and opportunity to take on roles they hadn’t played. They’ve supported each other. I knew our juniors had experience and we had that as a backbone. We realized we had some ability. The team is so excited. They wanted to continue their season. They’re not ready for it to end. We’re finding our groove. It’s been really, really fun.”
Yarmouth earned the No. 6 seed in Class B South and will take part in the quarterfinals for the first time in four years when it battles No. 3 Lake Region (14-4) Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at the Expo. In addition to last week’s road loss, the Clippers also lost at home to the Lakers this year, 39-29. Yarmouth has won three of five prior playoff encounters. Lake Region took the most recent, 60-34, in the 2012 quarterfinals.
“Lake Region has tournament experience and we don’t,” Strong said. “They’re more guard oriented and have good outside shooters. We’ll have to be creative on defense. I haven’t coached in the postseason at this level. It’s a challenge for me to throw in effective wrinkles. We’ll be ready defensively and we’ll add some wrinkles on offense and hopefully it will all go well. I feel good about our chances.”
Freeport missed the playoffs the past two seasons, but improved from 2-16 to 9-9 after closing with losses at Gray-New Gloucester (53-39) and at home to Lake Region (62-48). Against the Patriots, Jessica Driscoll and Regan Lynch both had 11 points. In the loss to the Lakers, Taylor Rinaldi led the way with 11 points.
“Our regular season has been filled with exciting games as our league has so much parity,” said Freeport’s second-year coach Mike Hart. “Our progression over last season has been significant as shown by our record. We have a very well balanced team and on any given night, any number of players can step up and have a nice game. I think our depth and unselfishness is what makes us a threat in the tournament.”
The Falcons earned the No. 7 seed in Class B South and will face second-ranked Gray-New Gloucester (14-4) in the quarterfinals Tuesday at noon at the Expo. In addition to last week’s loss, Freeport fell at home to the Patriots, 50-39. Gray-New Gloucester won to the lone prior playoff meeting, 60-54, in the 2005 Western B preliminary round.
“I think having played GNG twice, we know that we are up against, a very good and well-coached team,” Hart said. “I really like our approach so far in practice this week. Kids are engaged and focused on what we need to do to be successful on Tuesday. It is a great feeling as a coach, to see the smiles and excitement on the team and in the community as we prepare for our playoff run. I am overwhelmed by the commitment and drive from this group. They always come to practice ready to work and learn.”
The Class B South semifinals are Thursday of next week at CIA. The B South Final is Saturday, Feb. 20 at CIA.
Falmouth missed the playoffs with a 5-13 record, as the Yachtsmen wound up 11th in Class A South, but only nine teams qualified. Falmouth closed by falling at home to Cape Elizabeth (47-33) and Greely (60-30). Adelaide Cooke had 10 points versus the Capers. Abby Ryan had a team-high 11 against the Rangers.
In Class C South, NYA lost at Rangeley last Tuesday, 78-26, then snapped an 11-game skid by closing with a 45-22 home win over Seacoast Christian Thursday. The Panthers finished 2-16 and 19th in the Heals, but only 14 teams qualified for the playoffs.
Two of Forecaster Country’s best players, Falmouth’s Thomas Coyne and Greely’s Jordan Bagshaw, did battle in the Rangers’ 54-44 victory last week. The Rangers are the top seed in Class A South, with the Yachtsmen holding the number two spot, meaning they could battle again in the regional final.
Johanna Hattan and her Yarmouth teammates are heading to the tournament for the first time in four seasons and could spring an upset while they’re there.