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- The Forecaster
FALMOUTH—History does repeat itself.
And it can be quite painful.
A year ago, Falmouth’s girls’ basketball team was mere seconds away from upsetting host Gorham in the Western Class A preliminary round, but the Rams managed to force overtime and went on to the victory.
Wednesday evening, the sixth-ranked Yachtsmen hosted No. 11 Windham in this year’s preliminary round and this time, Falmouth didn’t relinquish the lead until the final horn.
And the Eagles proceeded to rip out the Yachtsmen’s hearts in OT.
In a game which began as if it would be a shootout, the teams combined for eight 3-pointers in a first quarter which ended with Windham on top, 20-18, thanks in large part to the clutch shooting of sophomore Mya Mannette, who had three 3s. Both offenses cooled dramatically in the second period and the Eagles managed just six points, but they clung to a 26-25 advantage at halftime.
There wasn’t much separation in the second half either and the game was deadlocked, 35-35, heading for the fourth quarter.
There, a bank shot from junior Ciera Berthiaume put Windham ahead, but Falmouth erupted for nine unanswered points, capped by a layup, then a free throw from senior Jess Burton, who had a terrific contest, to seemingly take control.
Windham, which went over four minutes without a point, wasn’t done yet, however
The Eagles, who made a spirited Cinderella run to the regional final a year ago, got a clutch 3 from junior standout Sadie Nelson and that gave them life. A layup after a steal by senior Luisa Sbardella was followed by a driving bank shot from Mannette to tie the game with 34 seconds remaining.
The Yachtsmen then got their biggest basket of the season with 11.1 seconds to go, as senior Ally Hickey fed Burton for a layup, but what would have been a fitting final hoop was quickly relegated to footnote status.
That’s because with time winding down, Sbardella’s desperation heave was off target, but Sbardella got the rebound and fed Nelson for a shot that was released just before the horn and banked in to force overtime.
There, Windham had all the momentum and a Nelson 3 put the visitors ahead to stay. Falmouth didn’t manage a single point in the extra session and a Berthiaume layup put it out of reach as the Eagles prevailed in a thriller, 51-46.
Nelson led all scorers with 21 points, Mannette added 17 and Windham improved to 9-10, ended the Yachtsmen’s best season in seven years at 12-7 and advanced to face No. 3 Gorham (16-2) in the quarterfinals Monday at 2 p.m., at the Portland Exposition Building.
“We were three seconds from a win last year and this year, we were less than a second,” lamented Falmouth coach Mari Warner. “Windham’s too good a team to expect them not to fight.”
Entering Wednesday’s game, Falmouth had lost its prior three preliminary round games (including an agonizing 50-41 overtime decision at Gorham a year ago) and hadn’t been to the quarterfinals since 2010.
This year’s team was well-equipped to not only get to the Expo, but go even deeper and certainly had glimpses of greatness during the regular season.
The Yachtsmen dropped their opener, 63-49, at York, then defeated host Wells (36-26), visiting Poland (44-29) and visiting Lake Region in overtime (42-41). A 54-28 loss at Greely closed the old year. The new year began with a 63-31 home win over Cape Elizabeth. After downing visiting York (65-55) and winning at Fryeburg Academy (39-32), Falmouth lost at home to Greely (37-13). A 34-17 win at Yarmouth was followed by losses at Lake Region (58-35) and at home to Fryeburg Academy (33-32). The Yachtsmen got back on track at Kennebunk, 49-25, then held off visiting Yarmouth (43-33). After a 60-36 setback at Gray-New Gloucester, Falmouth finished strong by downing visiting Freeport (49-29), host Cape Elizabeth (59-47) and visiting Kennebunk (47-27) to earn the No. 6 seed.
Windham made an unexpected run to the Western A Final a year ago, but had to overcome some speed bumps this winter. The Eagles dropped their first three games, four of their first five and seven of their first nine, but were much better in the second half of the season, going 6-3 to lock up the No. 11 spot.
Wednesday, Falmouth and Windham met in the postseason for the first time and produced an instant classic.
Both teams were sizzling early.
Just 11 seconds in, Burton made a baseline jumper. Mannette then made her presence felt with a 3. Yachtsmen sophomore Abby Ryan answered with a 3, but that would be their last lead for quite awhile. A second Mannette 3 gave the Eagles the lead and Nelson scored on a putback while being fouled and added the free throw to complete an old-fashioned three-point play.
After Burton drove for a layup and sophomore Adelaide Cooke scored on a putback to tie the game, Nelson hit a 3. A Hickey free throw and a Hickey putback of her own miss made it 12-12, but Sbardella knocked down a 3 to put Windham back on top. Hickey canned a 3 of her own (it hit the rim and rattled in), but Mannette made another 3 for the visitors. Hickey again responded with a 3, this one in transition on a pass from Ryan, but Eagles junior Katie Herzig drove for a layup and a 20-18 advantage after one exciting quarter.
“We prepared for their 3s, but that was a high-scoring quarter for both sides,” Warner said.
Mannette had nine points (all on 3s) and Nelson added five, which helped neutralize the production of Burton (seven points) and Hickey (six).
Offense was nowhere near as prevalent in the second period.
After Cooke and Nelson traded free throws, Falmouth senior Dayna Vasconcelos knocked down a pair to tie the score.
Windham retook the lead on a Berthiaume layup, its first field goal in over four minutes, but Hickey set up Burton for a baseline jumper to make it 23-23 and with 2:10 remaining before halftime, the hosts took their first lead of the quarter when Cooke set up Hickey for a layup.
It didn’t last, as senior Macy Mannette made a free throw and Mya Mannette hit a pullup jumper for a 26-25 Eagles’ advantage at halftime.
It remained a one- or two-possession game throughout the third quarter.
After Nelson opened the second half scoring with a free throw, Nelson finished Sbardella’s feed with a layup. Cooke answered with a driving layup, but Mya Mannette made another 3 for a 32-27 lead.
Back came Falmouth, as Hickey set up Burton for a layup and Ryan made a long jumper. A 3 from Nelson put the visitors up four, but both Cooke and Burton made two free throws and the contest was even, 35-35, with eight minutes to go.
Or so we thought.
Windham went back on top for the last time in regulation when Berthiaume banked home a shot 47 seconds into the final stanza, but Hickey tied the score with a left-handed runner which rolled in.
With 6:28 to play, sophomore Maddy Adams, who gave her team strong play off the bench, made a jump shot to put the Yachtsmen ahead.
After Vasconcelos set up Cooke for a layup and Hickey fed Burton for a layup, Burton made the first of two foul shots with 3:34 remaining, giving Falmouth its biggest lead, 44-37.
It wouldn’t hold.
The Eagles’ comeback began courtesy Nelson, who, despite being guarded by Hickey, somehow unleashed an NBA-range 3-pointer which tickled the twine, snapping a 4:19 drought.
With 2:16 to play, after a steal, Sbardella made a layup and things got even more interesting.
After Burton missed a shot, sophomore Lyndsey Arsenault got the rebound for Windham, but Mya Mannette missed a runner and Ryan got the rebound.
The Yachtsmen weren’t able to hold on, however, committing a five-second violation. Mannette then drove again and this time finished, kissing the ball off the glass and in to tie the score, 44-44, with 34 seconds still to play.
That would prove to be an eternity.
Falmouth would run its offense to perfection and with 11.1 seconds showing, Burton, after taking a pass from Hickey, went up with her left hand and steered the ball off the glass and in for a 46-44 lead.
“We just sealed and posted up and Ally’s a great passer in those kind of moments,” Warner said. “That would have been a sweet way to end the game.”
The Eagles had to go the length of the floor out of a timeout to tie or win and the Yachtsmen looked to intentionally foul, but no foul was called as Sbardella’s desperation shot was off the mark.
Sbardella smartly followed her shot, got the ball and inside of a second to play, passed to an open Nelson who got the shot off just before the horn and the ball banked in to make it 46-46 at the end of regulation.
“(Luisa’s) shot was a little rushed, but she did the right thing in following her shot and getting an opportunity,” Windham coach Brody Artes said. “She was contested and she did a great job. We’ve moved the ball well and found people at the right moments.”
“We had three fouls to give and we were going for a foul,” Warner said. “Adelaide fouled, but it wasn’t called, so that put us out of position. We weren’t prepared to be out of position. They missed the first shot and we didn’t get the rebound.”
In Maine high school basketball, teams play a four-minute overtime.
There, Windham continued its late surge and Falmouth couldn’t rise off the deck.
After the teams traded turnovers, Vasconcelos missed a shot and Berthiaume got the rebound. Nelson then hit a 3 and the Eagles wouldn’t look back.
Berthiuame then stole the ball, but both Sbardella and Nelson missed shots and the hosts had a chance to answer.
Ryan would get a look at a potential game-tying 3, but she couldn’t get it to drop and Nelson grabbed the rebound.
Hickey stole the ball back, but missed a shot which could have made it a one-score game.
Then, with 33.1 seconds to go, Sbardella fed Berthiaume for a layup and the Yachtsmen were on the ropes, down five.
After Hickey missed a 3, Nelson got the rebound and the ball came to Herzig who was fouled. She missed the front end of her one-and-one, but the rebound caromed off Hickey out of bounds to Windham. Mannette would be fouled with 10 seconds to go and while she too missed the front end of her one-and-one, Falmouth didn’t have time to respond and after an Adams 3 was blocked by Herzig, the horn sounded.
Eagles 51 Yachtsmen 46.
“We had our struggles, but when push came to shove, we locked down on defense and got rebounds at the end,” Artes said. “We had a 14-2 run to end the game. Our defense won it for us. The first thing I said to them (after regulation) was, ‘New life.’ That shot took a lot of pressure off going into overtime. The girls calmed down and we played good basketball.”
Nelson proved why she’s one of the league’s special players, scoring 21 clutch points, while also collecting 10 rebounds, managing four steals and producing two assists.
“Sadie is one of the best in the conference,” Artes said. “She’s a leader out there for us. She’s been very consistent all year. She’s great to coach.”
“Sadie’s got the 3s and she has the inside play,” Warner said. “I felt we did a nice job with her in general, but give her credit, she made key plays.”
Mannette had a breakout game, scoring 16 points, including four 3-pointers. She also grabbed six boards.
“Anytime we have anybody score like Mya did tonight, that takes the pressure off Sadie,” Artes said. “That was big for us.”
Berthiaume had six points (eight rebounds and two steals), Sbardella five (to go with seven assists and four rebounds), Herzig two and Macy Mannette one.
Windham made just 4 of 10 free throws, but only committed 15 turnovers. The Eagles enjoyed a 32-25 advantage on the glass.
Windham lost twice decisively to Gorham in the regular season, 52-28 on the road Dec. 19 and 62-41 at home Jan. 31, but the Eagles are confident and believe the third time could be the charm.
“Our seed doesn’t matter,” Artes said. “We can compete with anybody. Last year, we had a solid team. We had a little more balance and size. There was a lot of experience. That run really helped this year’s team. They want to go through it again. They want to have Cinderella, Part II. We’re playing to the best of our abilities. It’s a testament to the character of the girls. The second half of the year has been phenomenal for us. Gorham won’t be easy. They’re a good team, they’re well coached. They have arguably the best player in the league (sophomore Emily Esposito). We’ll have to make some adjustments, but I’m excited for these kids to get to the Expo.”
Burton bowed out with 17 points, seven rebounds and a steal.
Then there was Hickey, whose 11 points left her with 695 for her career, 29 shy of Haley Jordan’s program record. Hickey also had nine rebounds, five assists, five steals and four blocked shots.
Cooke had nine points, while Ryan added five and Adams (four rebounds and two steals) and Vasconcelos each had two.
Falmouth turned the ball over 16 times and made 9 of 12 free throws, but ultimately, several players left the floor in tears.
“We slowed it down with about three minutes left because we’ve had success with that,” said Warner. “When you’re up seven, you want to take time off, but we had a couple critical turnovers. That’s not traditional for us. We were without a point guard. Ally’s playing out of position. Her first practice was yesterday. She’s typically the off-guard. We had four of our five starters have the flu in the last nine days. It hit us at a bad time. (Sophomore point guard) Alaina (Birkel) has been sick.
“I love (this group). There wasn’t much I could say. They’re great kids, great seniors. They did everything I asked them to do. The last nine days, they’ve faced more adversity, but they stayed calm and composed and never faltered. For that to happen and to be in control of the game was just amazing.”
Falmouth will greatly miss Burton, Hickey and Vasconcelos, but the Yachtsmen will be back in the hunt again in 2015-16.
“This was a great experience,” Warner said. “It will provide hunger. A lot has to be done out of season. The girls have to get stronger and better.”
Falmouth senior Dayna Vasconcelos and Windham junior Ciera Berthiaume fight for possession.
Falmouth sophomore Adelaide Cooke fights to hold on to the ball in traffic.
Falmouth senior Jess Burton leans in for a shot.
Falmouth sophomore Adelaide Cooke has a shot blocked by Windham sophomore Lyndsey Arsenault.
Falmouth senior Jess Burton handles the ball on a high bounce.
Falmouth senior Ally Hickey drives to the basket.
Falmouth senior Dayna Vasconcelos tries to fend off Windham sophomore Mya Mannette.
Falmouth senior Jess Burton is congratulated after her go-ahead basket in the final minute.
Falmouth’s disappointed faces tell the story after the final horn.
Falmouth senior standout Ally Hickey lets fly a 3-pointer during Wednesday’s Western Class A preliminary round playoff game against Windham. The Yachtsmen were a fraction of a second from advancing to the quarterfinals, but the Eagles tied the game at the horn and won in overtime, 51-46.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
W- 20 6 9 11 5- 51
F- 18 7 10 11 0- 46
W- Nelson 7-3-21, Mya Mannette 6-0-16, Berthiaume 3-0-6, Sbardella 2-0-5, Herzig 1-0-2, Macy Mannette 0-1-1
F- Burton 7-3-17, Hickey 4-1-11, Cooke 3-3-9, Ryan 2-0-5, Adams 1-0-2, Vasconcelos 0-2-2
W (9) Mya Mannette, Nelson 4, Sbardella 1
F (3) Hickey 2, Ryan 1