Yarmouth girls hold off Poland, climb Heal Points ladder

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Yarmouth senior Cory Langenbach and Poland junior Lexy Grondin dive for a loose ball during the teams’ contest Wednesday night. The Clippers scored the game’s final eight points and prevailed, 35-29.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Yarmouth 35 Poland 29

P- 4 5 15 5- 29
Y- 12 7 2 14- 35

P- Moody 5-0-15, Seeley 2-0-4, Dufour 1-0-3, Grondin 1-0-3, Theriault 1-0-2, Vallee 1-0-2

Y- Hattan 4-0-10, Langenbach 3-2-10, Clark 3-2-8, D’Appolonia 2-1-5, Blaschke 1-0-2

3-pointers:
P (7) Moody 5, Dufour, Grondin 1
Y (4) Hattan, Langenbach 2

Turnovers:
P- 16
Y- 15

Free throws
P: 0-1
Y: 5-7

YARMOUTH—Gut check received.

Gut check passed.

Yarmouth’s girls’ basketball team has made great strides over the past season-plus and now, the Clippers are in the midst of a series of games that could propel them into the upper echelon of Class B South.

Hosting dangerous Poland, which came into the game ranked second in the region, Yarmouth appeared en route to an easy win Wednesday night, went cold and saw the Knights rally to take the lead, then showed it had truly come of age by making the pivotal plays down the stretch to earn a crucial midseason triumph.

The Clippers got the jump in the first period as senior Cory Langenbach made a couple 3-pointers and Yarmouth led, 12-4, after eight minutes.

Five quick points from senior Johanna Hattan helped the Clippers go up by as many as 15 points, 19-4, in the second period, but after being held scoreless for nearly 10 minutes, Poland finally got it going just before halftime with five quick points to pull within 10.

The Knights picked up where they left off in the third quarter, scoring 15 of the 17 points and when juniors Katelyn Dufour and Sarah Moody both drained 3s in the final minute, Poland took a 24-21 lead to the fourth.

Yarmouth snapped a nearly-seven minute drought of its own, but still trailed, 29-27, when Moody sank a 3 with 3:53 to go.

That’s when the Clippers dug deep, found a new level of heart and poise and finished strong.

First, Hattan hit a 3 to put Yarmouth on top to stay. After a couple of key offensive rebounds by senior Alison Clark kept possession, Langenbach made two free throws, Clark added another and junior Sara D’Appolonia iced it with two more foul shots and the Clippers held on, 35-29.

“This was our biggest game of the season so far,” said Yarmouth coach Christina Strong. “From a tournament standpoint and for morale. We’re pretty evenly matched, so to get a win is huge. I’m proud of the girls.”

Chasing the Patriots

Poland and Yarmouth have both been successful so far this winter and are among a large group of teams hoping to dethrone defending regional champion Gray-New Gloucester.

The Knights won their first five games: 40-20 at Freeport, 34-30 over visiting Fryeburg Academy, 53-25 at Maranacook, 26-11 at Old Orchard Beach and 47-37 at home over Spruce Mountain, but last Thursday, Gray-New Gloucester came to Poland and knocked the Knights from the unbeaten ranks, 46-28.

Poland allowed an average of 28 points per game in its first six contests.

The Clippers, who only surrendered 30 points per contest in their first six outings, lost at home to Gray-New Gloucester in their opener, 46-35, then won at Lake Region, 28-24 (their first win over the Lakers since 2005) and rolled at Waynflete, 55-23. After a 54-37 setback at nemesis Greely, Yarmouth closed 2016 with wins at Maranacook (51-15) and at home over Sacopee Valley (42-16).

Last year, the Clippers swept the Knights, winning by a 28-24 score in Poland and 41-32 at home.

Wednesday, in a game postponed 24 hours by bad weather, the Knights looked to beat Yarmouth for the first time since Dec. 12, 2014 (40-28), but the Clippers made it three in a row in the series.

Barely.

Both teams were cold early before a Langenbach 3 started the scoring. Clark added a leaner for a 5-0 lead before the visitors broke through with 2:49 to play in the first period on a reverse layup from junior Jessica Seeley.

Seeley then took a feed from junior Nathalie Theriault and made a layup, but the final seven points of the period went to the Clippers, as Hattan hit a jumper, Langenbach sank another 3 and in the final minute, Hattan set up Clark for a layup and a 12-4 lead.

Yarmouth, which forced 11 first half turnovers, kept the pressure on in the second quarter and opened up what appeared to be a safe lead, but before the break, Poland got back in it.

Hattan started the quarter with a putback, then sank a 3.

With 2:28 to go before halftime, Langenbach set up D’Appolonia for a layup and a 19-4 lead.

But just when it appeared the Clippers were home free, they went cold and the Knights, who couldn’t bury an outside shot for over 15 minutes, began to heat up.

With just 26.8 seconds remaining, Moody knocked down her first 3, ending Yarmouth’s 12-0 run and a 9 minute, 47 second drought.

Poland then got the ball back and with 12.8 seconds to go, Theriault set up freshman Sophie Vallee for a layup which cut the deficit to 19-9 at the break.

Moody started the second half with another 3, but sophomore Clementine Blaschke got two points back for the Clippers with a jumper, ending the Knights’ 8-0 run and a 4:25 drought.

Those would be Yarmouth’s lone points of the quarter and the Knights closed on a 12-0 run.

Moody kept the pressure on with a 3, junior Lexy Grondin drained a long 3-pointer and with 53.6 seconds to go, Dufour’s 3 tied the score.

Then, as time expired, Moody hit another 3-pointer and just like that, Poland had come all the way back to lead, 24-21, thanks to a 20-2 run in just over eight minutes.

With the game slipping away and a potentially brutal loss staring them in the face, the Clippers got off the deck in the fourth quarter.

With 7:19 to play, Clark banked home a shot from the key, ending a 6:44 drought and Poland’s 12-0 run.

After Blaschke fouled out, Theriault scored on a floater with 5:16 left and the Knights were again up three, 26-23.

Thirteen seconds later, D’Appolonia pulled up in the lane and hit a jumper to cut the deficit to one and with 4:23 remaining, Langenbach took a pass under the basket and somehow managed to calmly convert a reverse layup to put Yarmouth back on top, 27-26.

Again, Poland answered, as with 3:53 to go, Moody made one final 3, this one from the corner and the Knights were ahead for the final time, 29-27.

Strong then called timeout and it resulted in Yarmouth’s biggest basket of the season to date.

D’Appolonia got the ball ahead to Hattan, who was alone at the 3-point line. Hattan didn’t hesitate and despite no teammate being there to rebound, that proved to be a moot point as the shot dropped through the net with 3:32 left to put the Clippers ahead, 30-29.

“Coach keeps telling me to shoot,” Hattan said. “I’ve been missing a lot, but I just have to keep shooting. Sara did a beautiful job distributing the ball this game. She’s an amazing point guard. It was 75 percent her, 25 percent me just being there. It felt good when it went in.”

“I’m so proud of Johanna,” Strong said. “She’s a great shooter. She’s lost a little confidence, so for her to miss those shots in the third quarter, then pull the trigger at the end of the fourth was huge. That shows her leadership.”

Theriault tried to put Poland back on top, but she missed and Yarmouth senior Isabel Bates (who played key minutes in her return from a concussion) got the rebound.

Yarmouth gave the ball away, but Langenbach stole the ball right back.

The Clippers weren’t able to add to their lead, as Seeley stole the ball and with 1:51 to go, junior Morgan Brousseau was fouled. She had a chance to put the Knights ahead, but missed the front end of a one-and-one and Clark secured the rebound.

With 1:10 to go, D’Appolonia looked to add to the lead, but she missed the front end of her one-and-one.

Clark then came to the rescue, grabbing the offensive rebound to keep possession and Yarmouth ran the clock down to 32.5 seconds before Langenbach was fouled.

Langenbach’s first free throw bounced high off the back iron, but came right down through the net, giving her another shot, which she made with less fanfare for a 32-29 lead.

At the other end, Moody had a great look to tie the game with a 3, but it was just off target and Bates got the rebound and was fouled.

Bates missed the front end of her one-and-one, but Clark again got the offensive board and was fouled.

“The rebounds were key,” Clark said. “We could reset and calm down. They were good at boxing out, but I got my body in front.”

“Alison was huge on the boards for us tonight,” Strong said. “Especially at the end. Alison does so much for us. Even when she’s not scoring, she’s the last line of defense and she’s our leading rebounder. Those possessions were everything at the end. We didn’t want the ball to get in their hands.”

With 17.4 seconds to go, Clark went to the line for two shots and although she missed the first attempt, she sank the second to make it a two-possession game.

“I just had to stay strong,” Clark said. “We practice foul shots all the time in practice and it paid off in this game.”

Poland’s last chance to rally resulted in Theriault missing a 3 and D’Appolonia got the rebound and was fouled.

With 4.4 seconds showing, D’Appolonia made both shots and that did it, as Yarmouth went on to the 35-29 victory.

“It’s all about chemistry and staying calm and staying together on the court,” Hattan said. “That comes with experience. We’ve jelled. We’ve played with each other since we were little girls.”

“We gave them the momentum there, but the key was we stayed strong and came back,” Clark said. “It’s huge. They were second in Heal Points. It’s also big for us mentally and for our confidence.”

“Poland is a good team,” Strong added. “They’re aggressive, they played us full court and sped us up. We had some unfortunate turnovers, then they found their hot hand and Sarah Moody hit those 3s. They found the gaps in our 2-3 (zone). We had to adjust our defense. They marked Cory harder in the second half. That changed our offense. I’m pleased with our composure. When you have Sara handling the ball, she brings composure to our offense.”

The Clippers were led by Hattan and Langenbach, who had 10 points apiece. Clark added eight points and 11 rebounds (five on the offensive end).

“They did a great job crashing on me in the post, but that helped us because we have great outside shooters,” Clark said. “We’d dish the ball out to Cory or Jo or Sara and they can hit the 3-pointer.”

D’Appolonia had five points (to go with six assists) and Blaschke finished with two points.

Yarmouth had a 26-17 rebounding advantage, made 5 of 7 free throws and overcame 15 turnovers.

For Poland, Moody had more than half her team’s points (15). Seeley added four points, Dufour and Grondin had three apiece and Theriault (seven assists) and Vallee each finished with two.

The Knights missed their lone foul shot and turned the ball over 16 times.

More tests

Poland (now third in the Class B South Heal Points standings) returns home Friday, but has the daunting task of meeting Class A South powerhouse Greely.

Yarmouth (which is now in the No. 2 spot in Class B South) is in the midst of six straight home games and the remaining four are all daunting: Lincoln Academy Friday, Greely Tuesday, then Freeport and Wells.

The Clippers have a chance to really cement their status as a top contender in the region if all goes well.

“We’re working on tightening everything up,” Clark said. “Passing is something we need to work more on.”

“Coach keeps telling us to believe in ourselves and in each other,” Hattan said. “If we do that, we can keep pulling out wins. These upcoming games will only make us stronger. We’ve come so far. We’ve played some teams we were far better than and we beat them by a lot and I’ll think during those games how that used to be us.”

“I feel like we’re entering the meat and potatoes of the season for us,” Strong added. “We’re playing teams that are very even with us physically and experience-wise. It’ll be a true test of our development and where we are, but I feel so good about this team. We like playing together and want to win. The girls are showing they’ve learned how to win.

“We have to work on our offensive execution still. We get stuck like we did in the third quarter. We have to do better moving our feet on defense too. We picked up costly fouls tonight. The offensive execution was there in the first half tonight, but we have to work on adjusting when the other team adjusts.”

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

Yarmouth junior Sara D’Appolonia goes up for a shot as Poland senior Victoria Tibbetts defends.

Yarmouth senior Johanna Hattan scores on a putback in the second quarter. Hattan had 10 points.

Yarmouth senior Cory Langenbach shoots a 3-pointer as Poland junior Jessica Seeley arrives too late.

Yarmouth senior Alison Clark soars for a shot.

Yarmouth sophomore Clementine Blaschke goes up with the left hand.

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