Yarmouth boys overcome sluggish start to beat Spruce Mountain, advance to semis

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Yarmouth junior Aleksander Medenica swats away a shot by Spruce Mountain junior Noah Preble during the Clippers’ 47-32 win in Saturday’s Class B South quarterfinal. Medenica had 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks to help Yarmouth advance to Thursday’s semifinal vs. Maranacook.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Yarmouth 47 Spruce Mountain 32

SM- 3 12 8 9- 32
Y- 6 10 17 14- 47

SM- Parker 3-4-11, Preble 2-3-9, Austin Darling 3-0-6, Cornelio 1-1-4, Andrew Darling 1-0-2

Y- Medenica 4-5-13, Darling 2-7-11, M’Bareck 2-4-9, Shields-Auble 1-5-7, Fortin 1-0-2, Hagerty 1-0-2, O’Donnell 1-0-2, Harnett 0-1-1

3-pointers:
SM (4) Preble 2, Cornelio, Parker 1
Y (1) M’Bareck 1

Turnovers:
SM- 22
Y- 23

Free throws
SM: 8-11
Y: 22-34

PORTLAND—It was far from a thing of beauty, but Yarmouth’s boys’ basketball team will tell you there’s no such thing as an ugly win come tournament time and the Clippers are happily moving on to the next round.

Saturday morning in a Class B South quarterfinal round tilt at the Portland Exposition Building, third-ranked Yarmouth, due to nerves and the unfamiliar setting, only managed six points in the first period, but thanks to a strong defensive effort held a three-point lead over No. 6 Spruce Mountain.

Things didn’t get much better in the second quarter and the Clippers clung to a one-point lead, 16-15, at the break.

Yarmouth looked to put it away in the third quarter, but the lead was still just two, 24-22, with just under three minutes to go when the Clippers finally hit their stride, thanks to contributions from starters and reserves alike.

Layups from seniors Joey Fortin and Musseit M’Bareck and baskets from junior Aleksander Medenica and senior Bailey Darling opened up a double digit lead heading to the final stanza.

There, Yarmouth committed offensive fouls on four straight possessions and lost M’Bareck with his fifth foul, but down the stretch, the Clippers played with poise and made their free throws and they went on to a 47-32 victory.

Yarmouth got 13 points from Medenica, 11 from Darling and nine from M’Bareck, advanced to the semifinals for the third season in a row and fifth time in six years, improved to 14-5, ended the Phoenix’s season at 11-8 and advanced to meet No. 2 Maranacook (17-2) in the B South semifinals Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena across town.

“I thought the key was that we looked fresher because we played at least 10 guys,” said Clippers coach Adam Smith. “Everybody got to rest. We were never gassed. They had some uncharacteristic turnovers because they got a little tired and that was huge.” 

Just like 2012?

Seeing that it’s a Summer Olympic and an election year and that Spruce Mountain was standing in its way, it would be easy for Yarmouth to think back to 2012 when it won its first state championship in 44 seasons. That year, the Clippers beat the Phoenix, 60-30, in the semifinals, racing to an early 15-0 lead and never looking back.

This time around, Yarmouth had to get through Spruce Mountain in the quarterfinals.

The Clippers struggled at times this winter, but still posted a solid 13-5 record to earn the No. 3 seed in Class B South.

Spruce Mountain went 11-7 and wound up sixth.

The teams don’t meet in the regular season and the 2012 encounter was the only previous playoff matchup.

This time around, it didn’t come as easily, but Yarmouth ultimately found a way.

Both teams were cold early. Medenica made two free throws 72 seconds in, but that was it until 2:38 remained in the first period, when Medenica took a pass from M’Bareck and hit a bank shot.

Spruce Mountain finally broke through with 1:57 left in the first when junior Caulin Parker buried a 3 from behind the NBA stripe.

At the other end, Darling was fouled while shooting a 3 and made two of three free throws and that gave Yarmouth a 6-3 lead after one quarter.

“The defensive pressure was very good from Spruce Mountain and we were very nervous,” said Smith. “If we make the first layup, everyone settles down. If we miss it, you think about that next shot. Then, we got rushed and pushed and we didn’t respond well.”

Action picked up in the second period.

Sophomore Nolan Hagerty got the Clippers going with a leaner after a nice spin move, but Parker answered with a layup and Phoenix junior Austin Darling hit a pullup jumper to make it a one-point game.

After M’Bareck hit two foul shots, Austin Darling drove for a layup to again cut the deficit to one, but M’Bareck fed Bailey Darling for a layup.

After Phoenix junior Noah Preble made one free throw, Medenica fed senior Devin Shields-Auble in transition for a bank shot. Preble made two more foul shots, but Hagerty set up Medenica for a layup.

In the final minute, a long 3 from Spruce Mountain senior Matthew Cornelio cut Yarmouth’s lead to a mere point, 16-15, at the break.

In the first half, the Clippers got six points from Medenica, but were hindered by a dozen turnovers.

In the third period, Yarmouth came out sizzling, as M’Bareck drained a 3, Medenica blocked a couple shots and Medenica scored on a putback while being fouled and added a free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-play.

The Phoenix answered right back, as Parker made two foul shots and Preble knocked down a 3 to make it 22-20.

After M’Bareck sank two free throws, Parker banked home a shot, but the Clippers then roared to life, riding strong defense to easy looks on the offensive end as they got some breathing room behind an 8-0 run.

After Fortin took a pass from senior Conor O’Donnell and made a layup, M’Bareck made a layup after a steal while being fouled and while he missed the and-one, Medenica got the rebound, passed to M’Bareck and M’Bareck gave it back to Medenica for a layup.

A layup from Bailey Darling, set up by M’Bareck after a steal, produced a 10-point lead and forced Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey to call timeout. 

“I think we played much better in the third quarter,” Smith said. “We were more patient and felt better about ourselves. We moved the ball and had better offensive possessions.” 

A free throw from Cornelio with 54.4 seconds to go in the third ended the surge, but junior Gibson Harnett pushed Yarmouth’s lead back to 10 with a free throw and the Clippers took a 33-23 advantage to the final stanza.

Where they finished it off.

After a Shields-Auble steal, Bailey Darling was fouled and hit both free throws. Austin Darling countered with a leaner and then things got strange.

Yarmouth was called for four straight offensive fouls (including one on M’Bareck, his fifth), then turned the ball over a fifth time.

With their floor leader sidelined, the Clippers could have panicked, but instead, closed ranks.

“We were worried, but our team is deep enough that people step up every time someone goes out,” Bailey Darling said. “‘Muss’ was very vocal. Just because he was out of the game doesn’t mean he wasn’t leading us.”

“‘Muss’ came off the floor and he didn’t complain about the officiating,” Smith said. “He said, ‘You guys got me, you can do it without me.’ That gave us a boost. The guys took over for him, which wasn’t easy.”

With 4:21 left, Parker made two free throws to cut the deficit to eight, but with 3:33 to play, Bailey Darling was fouled and hit one of two free throws. He missed the second, but first Hagerty, then Shields-Auble, kept possession alive with offensive rebounds and Hagerty eventually set up O’Donnell for a dagger of a layup with 3:16 to go, pushing the lead to 38-27.

The Phoenix tried to respond and Preble hit a 3 from the corner and after a Clippers’ turnover, Parker had a chance to make things very interesting, but his NBA-range 3 was short and Shields-Auble grabbed the rebound.

With 1:52 remaining, Austin Darling fouled out and Shields-Auble added a critical free throw. He missed the second, but Medenica got the board and was fouled with 1:45 showing. He made both attempts for a 41-30 lead.

Yarmouth continued to add points at the line, as Darling made two foul shots and Shields-Auble added one. 

“Obviously nerves were high at the end of the game, but we’ve (made free throws) hundreds of times in the gym and that showed tonight,” Darling said.

After a leaner from Spruce Mountain senior Andrew Darling, Shields-Auble sank two free throws and with 29.1 seconds to go, Shields-Auble added one more to bring the curtain down on the Clippers’ 47-32 victory.

“I think nerves played a big part early,” Bailey Darling said. “We’re not used to shooting when there’s nothing behind the backboard. The second half showed our nerves settled and we pulled through and executed down the stretch. We had some mistakes at the beginning we needed to fix, but we stuck to the game plan and that helped us.” 

“We started out kind of slow and sloppy,” Medenica said. “There was excitement rather than nerves. We realized from the beginning what we needed to work on, moving the ball around, slowing it down just a little bit to get better looks inside. We have a deep bench and they got it done.”

“I’ve said this year that I think we have a good team for the tournament, because we can go inside-outside,” Smith added. “We had runs when we got inside opportunities and we had another run when we knocked down shots with our guards. We don’t have a 20-point scorer, but we have a bunch of guys who contribute.”

Medenica led the way with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. He also had four blocked shots, two steals and two assists.

Medenica, a Serbian native, has been a great addition to the program this winter.

“I’ve been coming here every single summer because my Mom’s originally from the U.S. and my Dad’s from Serbia,” Medenica said. “I wanted to come here this year to get ready for college. I absolutely love Yarmouth. Coach Smith is amazing. I came to play in summer ball and I connected right away with Coach and all the boys. It’s an amazing program. I felt loved and got brought into the program nicely.”

The feeling is mutual.

“Alek has been a great contributor, with his playing ability, his demeanor,” Smith said. “The guys really like him. Whether or not he made a basket for us, we’re lucky to have him part of the team.”

Darling had a solid effort, contributing 11 points and grabbing three steals.

“Bailey is really a first-year varsity player,” said Smith. “I was worried about how he’d react to the floor. He played a really good second half for us. He settled down.”

M’Bareck had nine points, six steals and four assists before fouling out.

Shields-Auble added seven points (and seven rebounds), Fortin, Hagerty (eight boards) and O’Donnell had two points apiece and Harnett finished with one.

The return of O’Donnell and Shields-Auble from foot injuries really helped the cause.

“We have two guys coming back from injuries, Devin and Conor, and both were there at the end of the game,” Darling said. “Our senior leadership was huge. We had four seniors on the floor at the end.”

“Conor has been practicing with us,” said Medenica. “He’s been a boost for our energy. Devin as well. He’s playing through his foot injury. He’s a fighter and a great contributor.”

Yarmouth only made a dozen field goals in 32 minutes and committed a whopping 23 turnovers, but forced 22 Phoenix turnovers, enjoyed a 33-22 rebounding advantage and made 22 of 34 free throws.

Spruce Mountain was paced by Parker’s 11 points (he also had five rebounds and a block). Preble had nine points, Austin Darling six (to go with four assists), Cornelio four (and a team-high eight rebounds) and Andrew Darling two (as well as four steals). The Phoenix made 8 of 11 free throws.

Next step

Maranacook figures to be a tough foe after the Black Bears dispatched No. 7 Lisbon, 57-37, in their quarterfinal Saturday and looked very impressive doing so.

Yarmouth went to Maranacook and won, 70-60, back on Dec. 17. 

The teams’ lone prior playoff meeting came in the 2013 preliminary round (a 72-65 Black Bears win).

“Now we have this one under our belt and I think we can progress,” said Medenica. “They’ve improved, but I think we have a good chance. I know my team will give everything they have. We have a lot of seniors who know it’s now or never. It’s do or die.” 

“We all think we can make a run,” Bailey Darling said. “We’re excited for the next game. It’s nice to know how a team will be. We’ll mentally prepare for them. We need to focus on us. We’re hoping to go far.”

“Maranacook has some really good guards, but that’s good for us as far as we have the speed and defense to stay with them,” Smith added. “They’ll score points. It’ll be a good matchup. They’re another physical, defensive-minded team. We just have to keep the tempo.”

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

Yarmouth senior Bailey Darling goes up for a shot. Darling had 11 critical points in the win.

Yarmouth senior Devin Shields-Auble eludes Spruce Mountain junior Austin Darling with a fancy behind the back dribble.

Yarmouth senior Musseit M’Bareck skies for a shot.

Yarmouth’s cheering section had a lot to get excited about Saturday.

Previous Yarmouth-Spruce Mountain playoff result

2012 Western B semifinal
Yarmouth 60 Spruce Mountain 30 

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