Winter season off to hot start

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The new winter sports season has already produced plenty of triumph and excitement for local teams. Here’s a glimpse at what’s happened in the early going:

Boys’ basketball

While the Falmouth boys’ basketball team has gotten off to a sizzling start, beating Greely along the way (please see story), Yarmouth was keeping pace.

The Clippers, a regional finalist in 2010-11, opened with a 70-34 win at Gray-New Gloucester, then last week downed visiting Lake Region (85-40) and Wells (57-33) before rallying for a stirring 49-48 triumph at preseason favorite York. Against the Lakers, senior standout Josh Britten led the way with 32 points. Britten added 13 and sophomore David Murphy nine versus the Warriors. At the Wildcats, Yarmouth was down 12 in the third period, but closed strong, tying the game on a Britten 3, then winning it on a Britten free throw in the final seconds. Britten finished with 17 points. Senior Chris Knaub added 10.

“I looked on the court and the guys were as excited as I’ve seen them before,” said Yarmouth coach Adam Smith. “Huge smiles and relief. It’s a difficult place to play. Climbing back into it was character building. Winning that game goes a long ways in establishing these guys and the program this year. The guys think that maybe we can do what we did last year.”

The Clippers (4-0) faced at showdown at undefeated rival Falmouth Tuesday (see theforecaster.net for game story).

“The kids are going to be up naturally for it,” said Smith. “We seem to play pretty well head-to-head against them. How well we defend and keep them from getting looks will be key for us. We’ll have to play extremely well to match. We have a lot of respect for each other. It’s a healthy respect. I like that. The competition is fierce and clean.”

Yarmouth hosts Fryeburg Thursday.

Freeport won its opener this winter, then lost at home to Cape Elizabeth (53-35) and at Lake Region (73-63). The Falcons were paced by sophomore Chandler Birmingham’s 14 points against the Capers and seniors Mitch Loeman (21 points) and Josh Weirich (14) were high scorers against the Lakers. Freeport (1-2) was home with Wells Tuesday and welcomes York Thursday.

North Yarmouth Academy is 1-3 after recent losses at Sacopee (39-19) and at home against Traip (57-40) followed by a 46-33 home triumph over Pine Tree Academy Monday. Senior Asad Dahia had 11 points in the victory. The Panthers were at Waynflete Wednesday.

Girls’ basketball

On the girls’ side, Greely got a long overdue win last Tuesday.

The Rangers, who opened with a 49-43 loss at Wells, hosted nemesis York, a team which had beaten them nine straight times. When the Wildcats went up 13-2 early, Greely appeared doomed, but strong play off the bench from Mykaela Twitchell and Ashley Storey helped the Rangers rally. A Twitchell turnaround jumper with 3:52 remaining put Greely ahead for the first time, 41-40. After York tied the game on a foul shot, Twitchell made a layup with 1:47 remaining and when Wildcats standout Emily Campbell’s last second shot went in-and-out, the Rangers had a 43-41 win. Jaclyn Storey had 11 points to lead the team. Twitchell finished with eight and Ashley Storey seven. It was the Rangers’ first win over York since Feb. 19, 2007.

Greely then defeated host Falmouth (37-30) and visiting Fryeburg (39-29) to improve to 3-1. Ashley Storey scored 18 points against the Yachtsmen. The Rangers went to Cape Elizabeth Tuesday and host Poland Thursday.

Falmouth began the week 3-1. After downing Cape Elizabeth in the opener (48-38), the Yachtsmen had no trouble with Fryeburg (50-10, behind a balanced attack which featured 11 scorers). After losing to Greely, Falmouth held on for a 50-44 win at Poland Saturday (senior Laney Evers and junior Ashley Hickey both had nine points). The Yachtsmen were at Yarmouth Tuesday and visit Traip Thursday.

Freeport has lived up to billing in the early going. After a 62-31 home win over NYA in the opener, the Falcons defeated host Cape Elizabeth, 61-40, before losing at preseason favorite Lake Region (49-25). Against the Capers, sophomore Nina Davenport led the way with 18 points. Senior Morgan Brown (14 points), sophomore Vanessa Lee (11) and senior Alex Mitch (11) also scored in double figures. Davenport had 12 points in the loss. Freeport went to Wells Tuesday and plays at York Thursday.

Yarmouth has been vastly improved in the early going this winter. The Clippers dropped their first two games, 50-39 to visiting Gray-New Gloucester and 67-25 at Lake Region, but Thursday, they snapped a 19-game winless streak with a 42-39 victory at Wells. Senior Morgan Cahill (who had 10 points against the Lakers) went off for 30 points to lead the way.

Saturday, Yarmouth hosted a York team that won last year’s meeting, 70-20. This one was much, much closer. The Clippers hung tough in the first half and only trailed, 21-20, at the break. They didn’t buckle in the second half either. On three occasions in the third period, Yarmouth had a chance to tie or take the lead, but couldn’t convert. Still, the Clippers only were behind by three, 29-26, entering the fourth quarter. There, the Wildcats got a little breathing room, pushing the lead to 38-28 before Yarmouth got as close as five in the waning seconds before falling, 40-35, despite 21 points from Cahill.

“I think we’ve come a long way,” said first-year Clippers coach Jay Lowery. “I’ve been asking these kids to just get through the first five games. The Wells game was a good win. We gave (York) a good run. I wasn’t counting on it. We’re starting to play some basketball.”

Yarmouth was home with Falmouth Tuesday and goes to Fryeburg Thursday.

NYA split its first two games, losing at Freeport (62-31) and beating host Hebron (36-19). Last week, the Panthers fell at Sacopee (29-26) and at Traip (47-34). Senior Morgan Scully had 12 points against the Hawks and 13 against the Rangers. Monday, NYA improved to 2-3 with a 49-38 win at Pine Tree Academy. Sophomore Charlotte Esancy had 17 points and 10 rebounds and missed a triple-double by one steal (finishing with nine). Scully and sophomore Chloe Leishman added 12 points apiece.

The Panthers finally played at home Wednesday when they hosted Waynflete.

Boys’ hockey

Greely and Yarmouth’s boys’ hockey teams met in an early season showdown Saturday at Travis Roy Arena.

The Rangers, who romped over visiting Winslow in their opener, 10-1 (senior Pete Stauber and sophomore Drew Hackett both had two goals as part of an onslaught that saw 14 players register at least one point) and the Clippers, who fell, 6-2, to Cape Elizabeth in their first outing, put on a show.

Prior to the game, Becky Schaffer, who lost her life at the age of 23 in a hiking accident in Micronesia in August, was honored. Schaffer, Class of 2006, played for both the Yarmouth boys’ and girls’ teams, had her number retired and funds were raised for the Sanchat (Lift Up Africa) Charitable Trust, which is dedicated to rescuing, supporting and educating destitute children in the Kenyan township of Gilgil.

On the ice, Greely took a 2-0 lead in the first period behind goals from Hackett and freshman Mitchel Donovan. Yarmouth made it 2-1 when senior Alex Kurtz scored on a power play, but sophomore Ted Hart gave the Rangers a 3-1 advantage with a goal later in the second period. When Kurtz scored on a rebound 13 seconds into the third, the Clippers had hope, but senior Jordan Tarbox scored two minutes later for Greely and the floodgates opened. Junior Kenny Richards added two goals and Stauber scored to give the Rangers a 7-2 victory.

“The game didn’t have the rhythm and flow I would have liked,” said Greely coach Barry Mothes. “When we’re playing five-on-five with our depth, that’s how we want to play. We spent a lot of time in the box tonight. I thought our guys did a good job with the penalty kill, but you expend a lot of energy. It just hurt our rhythm a lot.

“I’m glad we got that fourth goal by Jordan Tarbox,” he added. “That was huge. I thought he scrapped hard on the shift leading up to him getting his stick on the puck. It went in. That gave us some momentum. We added a few nice goals. I give Yarmouth credit. I thought they were quick and got the puck deep on us.”

The Clippers felt the game was closer than the final score.

“We had that quick goal (in the third) and got momentum, then we had a defensive letdown,” said Yarmouth’s first-year coach Dave St. Pierre. “Greely’s a hard working team. They did a nice job on the PK. We had some chances on the power play. We didn’t execute it the way we wanted. They outworked us in the corners.”

The Clippers got a huge dose of confidence Monday when senior Marshall Brunelle’s goal with 1:46 to play gave them a 1-1 tie at defending Class B champion York. Yarmouth (0-2-1) sought its first win at Noble Wednesday.

“I think we’re close,” St. Pierre said. “The scores don’t indicate it. I think it basically comes down to outworking teams. We have to become a lunch pail crew, go to the corners, win 50-50 pucks. That’s the difference.”

The Rangers took a 3-1 first period lead at Class A powerhouse Biddeford Monday night behind goals from Donovan, Stauber and junior Kyle Megathlin, but the Tigers rallied and the game ended in a 3-3 tie. Greely (2-0-1) hosts Gardiner in the 2011 finale Thursday night.

The Rangers appear to be one of the best teams in Class B yet again.

“I like the team a lot,” Mothes said. “It’s a really good bunch of guys. It’s early in the season, but we’ve come together nicely. I feel like we’ve grown quite a bit. We still have a lot of growing to do. I like the energy and attitude. We have some tough games ahead. I like the offensive production we’re getting from multiple lines. The balance is a really nice thing to see.”

Falmouth split its first two games, rolling at Noble in the opener, 11-0, then losing a slugfest at Brewer Saturday, 8-6, despite a hat trick from sophomore Ben Freeman. The Yachtsmen host defending Class A champion Thornton Academy Thursday.

Girls’ hockey

Falmouth’s girls’ team continued its unbeaten run to start the season last week with a 1-0 win over visiting Lewiston and a 9-1 romp at Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete. Senior standout Megan Fortier had the goal against the Blue Devils, while sophomore goalie Kirsten Mazur made 14 saves. Fortier scored three times against the Capers. The Yachtsmen (6-0 and second in the West Region Heal Points standings) hosted Cheverus Wednesday, play at Biddeford Friday and go to top-ranked Scarborough Dec. 30.

In the East Region, Greely began the week second to Brunswick in the Heals with a 5-1 mark. The Rangers had an 11-day hiatus following their lone loss (4-1 to Falmouth) before returning to action Wednesday at Cape Elizabeth. Next Wednesday, Greely is at Leavitt.

Yarmouth started the year 0-3, but has made nice strides and won two of three to place sixth in the East with a 2-4 mark. The first victory was 6-2 over Gorham. After a 5-1 loss to Leavitt, the Clippers downed visiting St. Dom’s, 8-0, Monday night. Katie Brown and Emily Johnson (a player from Freeport) each had two goals. Yarmouth hosted Winslow Wednesday, welcomes Biddeford next Wednesday and Lewiston on Dec. 30.

Indoor track

The indoor track season begins the first week of January.

Swimming

Greely and Falmouth’s swim teams met last week and the Rangers swept with the boys winning, 65-29, and the girls prevailing, 59-35. Greely also defeated Westbrook (boys, 134-31 and girls, 97-37).

“While the Falmouth meet wasn’t close in score, it produced some outstanding races and results,” said Rangers coach Rob Hale. “The Yachtsmen boys were just outnumbered. If they develop, they’re a team of the future. The girls’ meet had some tight races and superb results. (Junior) Sarah Easterling broke a school record and the six-year-old pool record in the  100 backstroke.”

Falmouth did beat Gorham in its other meet (boys, 75-25; girls, 94-68).

Yarmouth beat Portland in its opener. The boys prevailed, 86-74. The girls, 98-65.

Skiing

The Western Maine Conference Alpine and Nordic ski seasons get underway in earnest right after the new year. Downhill and cross country skiers alike are hoping for some snow in the meantime.

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

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.