YARMOUTH—With nary a senior to be found on its roster, Yarmouth’s girls’ basketball team has had to come of age quickly this winter.
So much so that the Clippers are perhaps a year ahead of schedule and ready to contend now.
Friday evening, Yarmouth hosted neighbor Freeport and continued its recent stellar play with key performances on both sides of the ball.
After freshman Sara D’Appolonia and sophomore Cory Langenbach sparked a 14-2 run to open the contest, the Clippers went cold and behind their zone defense and the play of freshman Taylor Rinaldi, the Falcons crept back within eight, 18-10, at halftime.
Freeport was still very much in the contest midway through the third quarter, trailing just 23-18, when D’Appolonia took over, scoring eight points in just over three minutes to help Yarmouth go on an 11-0 run to open it up. The Clippers’ run would eventually hit 17-0 and they went on to a 47-24 victory.
D’Appolonia and Langenbach both finished with 13 points and sophomore Alison Clark added 12 as Yarmouth made it five wins in seven games, improved to 6-7 and dropped Freeport to 1-12 in the process.
“The girls are young, but they give every effort,” said Clippers second-year coach Christina Strong. “They come out hard, they listen, they want to play hard. They’re not afraid. Our confidence is growing.”
Two young teams
Friday’s starting lineups featured eight freshmen and sophomores among the 10 players on the floor.
That illustrates just how fresh-faced both rosters are this winter, but it also hints at bright futures for both programs.
The Falcons lost their opener, 43-28, at Poland, then fell at home versus Greely (62-26) and at Fryeburg Academy (74-36). After a 62-47 home loss to Cape Elizabeth, Freeport lost at York (67-24), at home to Wells (57-33), at Kennebunk (46-34), at home to Poland (36-27) and at defending Class B state champion Lake Region (68-48), before breaking through with a 60-44 home victory over Traip. After falling at Greely (66-33), the Falcons dropped a 56-35 home decision to Fryeburg Academy last Friday.
Yarmouth won its opener, 47-24, over visiting Kennebunk, then lost to host Poland (40-28) at home to Greely (50-29), at Fryeburg Academy (43-21), at home to Cape Elizabeth (41-31) and at Gray-New Gloucester (59-34). The Clippers then turned things around by downing visiting Waynflete (36-32), host Traip (53-33) and host Cape Elizabeth (50-35). Following a 34-17 home loss to Falmouth and a 54-22 setback at Greely, Yarmouth handled visiting Wells Tuesday, 33-26.
Entering Friday’s game, Freeport had won seven of the past 10 meetings (see sidebar, below), but the teams split a year ago, with the Clippers winning in Yarmouth, 45-36, and the Falcons prevailing in Freeport, 55-36.
Friday, Yarmouth never trailed, but the Falcons didn’t make things easy either.
D’Appolonia, the coach’s daughter, who has assumed the point guard reins and plays with the poise of a girl much older, put on an individual show to open the scoring, spinning for a bank shot which hung on the rim for a split second before dropping through the net to put the Clippers on top to stay.
Yarmouth’s defense then led to offense, as Langenbach stole the ball and fed D’Appolonia for a layup. A Rinaldi layup put Freeport on the board, but the Clippers then embarked on a 10-0 run.
After a D’Appolonia steal, Langenbach made a layup. Langenbach then knocked down a 3. After D’Appolonia set up sophomore Ella Antolini for a layup, Clark made a free throw, then Clark scored on a putback for a seemingly safe 14-2 advantage with 1:57 left in the first quarter.
But Yarmouth would only manage four more points before halftime.
Late in the first period, Rinaldi scored on a putback to end a 6 minute, 45 second drought.
Junior Kayla Belanger started the second quarter with a free throw and sophomore Regan Lynch added a jumper to pull the Falcons within 14-7, but two Langenbach free throws ended the Clippers’ 5:56 drought.
After Rinaldi made a foul shot, D’Appolonia set up Clark for a layup, but a steal and layup by Rinaldi pulled Freeport within 18-10 at halftime.
The Falcons turned the ball over 15 times in the first half, but seven points from Rinaldi kept them within hailing distance. Langenbach led Yarmouth with seven points.
The Clippers hadn’t delivered the knockout blow, however.
“(Freeport) changed up their defense from a man to a 1-2-2 zone and our zone offense was slow to get the ball inside to the post,” Strong said.
Early in the second half, junior Morgan Karnes made a jumper in the lane and Rinaldi hit a baseline jumper to cut the deficit to just four, but Langenbach came up huge with a clutch 3.
“Cory is such a staple of our offense,” Strong said. “She’s our quiet leader. She plays the most minutes. If she misses her first few shots, I’m not concerned. I know she’ll make the next one. I want her to keep shooting. On defense, she’s up top on our press and zone and I put her on the best opposing player when we’re man-to-man. She goes until her tongue falls out.”
Clark scored on a putback to make it 23-14, but Karnes answered with a putback and Rinaldi drove for a layup to cut the deficit to five.
That proved to be Freeport’s last hurrah.
With 3:17 to go in the third, D’Appolonia took a pass from Langenbach on the fastbreak and made a layup to start the decisive surge.
Clark added a free throw, sophomore Johanna Hattan took a pass from D’Appolonia and made a jumper, Hattan set up D’Appolonia for a layup after a steal, D’Appolonia drove for a layup and as time expired, D’Appolonia went coast to coast for a layup and a 34-18 lead.
“I’m really pleased with (Sara’s) progress,” Strong said. “I can see her confidence growing. She’s confident handling the ball under pressure. She loves that role. She loves making plays, finding the open girl. That’s more satisfying to her than making a basket.”
D’Appolonia picked up where she left off by making a free throw to start the fourth quarter. Hattan knocked down a 3 and with 5:52 to go, Clark took a feed from Hattan and made a layup to cap a 17-0 run, giving the Clippers a 40-18 advantage.
With 5:27 left, a putback from Lynch ended a 6:49 drought, but Langenbach answered with a 3, junior Sophie Harrison hit two free throws and Clark made a nice hook shot off the glass to cap Yarmouth’s scoring.
A long jumper from Lynch and a hoop from freshman Megan Cormier brought the curtain down on the 47-24 Clippers’ victory.
“Freeport can put up points and we knew we had to shut them down,” Strong said. “We’re finally connecting on transition baskets. We have speed with our guards and now our bigs are rebounding and we’re getting out on transition. We’re really clicking. We don’t have a superstar and we don’t have the same starting five every time. We’ve had growing pains, but we’re finding the right combinations.”
D’Appolonia not only had 13 points, but she also had five assists, three steals and a rebound. Langenbach also had 13 points, to go with five boards, two assists and a block.
“As our guards go, the team goes,” Strong said. “As a result of their play, our post players are getting better and that, in turn, opens up shots for the guards.”
Clark had a strong performance with 12 points, eight rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. Hattan added five points, while Antolini and Harrison had two apiece.
“Alison and Johanna are really coming along,” said Strong. “Only now are they recognizing their potential. Ella doesn’t put up a lot of points, yet, but she’s been our leading rebounder in a lot of games. I usually put her on a top post player or a tall guard. She’s so aggressive.”
Freshman Meredith Lane, who recently came up from the junior varsity team, didn’t score, but had six key rebounds and three steals.
“Meredith is exciting to watch,” Strong said. “She attacks the basket, rebounds and has a great attitude.”
Yarmouth committed 20 turnovers, but forced 28. The Clippers had a 32-28 rebounding advantage. They made 7 of 16 free throws.
Freeport got a stellar effort from Rinaldi, who had 11 points, eight rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals. Lynch added six points and and six boards, Karnes had four points and four rebounds, Cormier two points and Belanger one point and six rebounds. The Falcons shot 2 of 5 from the foul line.
“Yarmouth played very hard and did a great job with their pressure,” said Falcons first-year coach Mike Hart. “They forced us into lots of turnovers and did a nice job capitalizing in transition.”
Hoping to qualify
While Freeport is looking to finish the season strong, Yarmouth still has its sights set on the realistic goal of making it to the tournament for the first time in three seasons.
The Falcons (15th in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) have a game at Gray-New Gloucester Monday, host Lake Region and visit Falmouth next week, then close with home tilts versus Kennebunk and Yarmouth.
The Clippers find themselves 12th in Western B, but only 10 teams make the playoffs. Yarmouth needs a signature victory to get over the hump and it has some chances to earn one, going to Falmouth Monday, hosting York Tuesday, visiting Lake Region Saturday and hosting Gray-New Gloucester Feb. 5, before closing at Freeport two nights later.
“This is when the rubber hits the road,” Strong said. “If we can put together four quarters like we did at Cape, I think anything’s possible. Making the playoffs would be so great and so unexpected. The girls want it. I love seeing the potential play out. We’re progressing like we should.
“It’s so much fun sometimes that I find myself just enjoying the show. It’s so fun to see the girls smile and get excited about what they’re doing.”
Yarmouth sophomore Alison Clark makes a free throw for one of her 12 points.
Freeport freshman Taylor Rinaldi defends Yarmouth junior Aizhan Gwynne.
Yarmouth freshman Sara D’Appolonia tries to knock the ball away from Freeport freshman Taylor Rinaldi.
Yarmouth sophomore Cory Langenbach, who had a terrific game with 13 points, looks for an open teammate.
Freeport sophomore Regan Lynch and Yarmouth junior Aizhan Gwynne battle for possession.
Freeport junior Morgan Karnes tries to collect a loose ball as Yarmouth sophomore Johanna Hattan applies pressure.
Freeport freshman Taylor Rinaldi drives past Yarmouth junior Cory Langenbach. Rinaldi led the Falcons with 11 points.
Yarmouth freshman Sara D’Appolonia makes a nice move to get past Freeport junior Kayla Belanger.
Yarmouth coach Christina Strong congratulates her players after the win.
Recent Yarmouth-Freeport results
@ Yarmouth 45 Freeport 36
@ Freeport 55 Yarmouth 36
Freeport 69 @ Yarmouth 31
@ Freeport 60 Yarmouth 43
@ Freeport 53 Yarmouth 52
@ Yarmouth 46 Freeport 37
@ Freeport 42 Yarmouth 31
Freeport 44 @ Yarmouth 24
Freeport 49 @ Yarmouth 48
Yarmouth 56 @ Freeport 37
@ Yarmouth 46 Freeport 19
Yarmouth 51 @ Freeport 23
Yarmouth 34 @ Freeport 19
@ Yarmouth 56 Freeport 44
Yarmouth 47 @ Freeport 37
@ Yarmouth 34 Freeport 28
@ Yarmouth 49 Freeport 41
Yarmouth 55 Freeport 35
@ Yarmouth 55 Freeport 34
Yarmouth 58 @ Freeport 40
@ Yarmouth 51 Freeport 31
Yarmouth 50 @ Freeport 31
Yarmouth 49 @ Freeport 19
Yarmouth freshman Sara D’Appolonia goes up for a layup for two of her 13 points during the Clippers’ 47-24 home win over Freeport Friday night.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
Yarmouth 47 Freeport 24
F- 4 6 8 6- 24
Y- 14 4 16 13- 47
F- Rinaldi 5-1-11, Lynch 3-0-6, M. Karnes 2-0-4, M. Cormier 1-0-2, Belanger 0-1-1
Y- D’Appolonia 6-1-13, Langenbach 4-2-13, Clark 5-2-12, Hattan 2-0-5, Antolini 1-0-2, Harrison 0-2-2
Y (4) Langenbach 3, Hattan 1