PORTLAND—A valiant effort ended in disbelief and heartache Tuesday morning.
Yarmouth’s up-and-coming girls’ basketball team was hardly overwhelmed by the setting or the moment when it took on playoff pedigreed Lake Region in a Class B South quarterfinal at the Portland Exposition Building.
The Clippers let everyone know they were in it to win it when junior Johanna Hattan opened the game with a 3-pointer and freshman Claire Brady added a pair of 3s for an early lead allowing Yarmouth to hold an 11-5 advantage after eight minutes.
Points weren’t as easy to come by after that, but the Clippers still managed to lead, 17-13, at halftime.
Lake Region went on top in the third period, but a basket from junior Alison Clark and a pair of free throws from Hattan put Yarmouth up by three, 26-23, heading for the fourth quarter.
A quarter which would be defined by the unthinkable.
The Clippers got a 3 from junior Cory Langenbach with 3:50 to play to go up, 31-27, but they wouldn’t score again.
After Lake Region junior Melody Millett hit a jumper, the Lakers, after being the beneficiaries of the possession arrow on a held ball, drew even on two foul shots from sophomore Lauren Jakobs with 40 seconds to play.
Yarmouth hoped to hold for the last shot and win it in regulation, but with 17 seconds remaining, the ball was tied up again and while the Clippers should have kept possession, the arrow wasn’t changed at the scorer’s table and Lake Region was given the ball.
By the time the error had been realized, the Lakers had inbounded the ball and brought it into the frontcourt and it was too late to make a change.
As fate would have it, Lake Region sophomore Chandler True was fouled with 3.3 seconds to go and she made the second of two free throws to give her team the lead.
Yarmouth would have a final chance, but a desperation heave from sophomore Jessica Kirk was too strong and the Clippers’ season of rebirth ended in soul-crushing fashion, 32-31.
Yarmouth finished 9-10, Lake Region improved to 15-4 and advanced to meet No. 2 Gray-New Gloucester (15-4) in the Class B South semifinals Thursday afternoon.
“As far as we came, as well as we played, to have that (arrow discrepancy) determine the game was devastating,” said Yarmouth coach Chris Strong. “This makes me hurt for the girls. It’s a lost opportunity.”
Yarmouth made great strides this winter, rising from anonymity to a .500 record, the program’s best since the 2004-05 squad went 17-1 and went on to the Class B state finale. The Clippers earned the No. 6 seed and went right to the quarterfinals.
Lake Region, a perennial contender, opened the season with a loss at Wells, then won eight in a row before falling at home to Gray-New Gloucester and Wells. The Lakers then went 6-1 down the stretch, losing only at Fryeburg Academy.
Lake Region took both regular season meetings, 39-29 at Yarmouth Dec. 8 and 42-36 Feb. 2 in Naples.
Entering play Tuesday, the teams had met five previous times in the playoffs. The Clippers won the first three and the Lakers took the next two, with a 60-34 victory in the 2012 quarterfinals the most recent.
This time around, Yarmouth did everything but win and ultimately suffered one of the most painful losses in program history.
Yarmouth got off to a promising start when after holding the ball for nearly a minute on its first possession, Clark set up Hattan for a 3-pointer.
After Lake Region drew even on a 3 from True, neither team scored for nearly two minutes before Brady entered the game and immediately made her presence felt with a 3.
Lakers sophomore Lauren Jakobs scored on a putback, but Brady made another 3 for a 9-5 lead.
“We got off to a great start,” Strong said. “Claire hit those big 3s. We just played in the zone.”
Seconds after Lake Region junior Kristen Huntress was whistled for her second foul, Hattan scored on a putback.
Late in the first, Jakobs got her second foul and Yarmouth had all the momentum after eight minutes.
In the first quarter, Brady had six points and Hattan five, while the Clippers defense was tremendous, forcing six turnovers.
In the second period, the Lakers tried to rally, but Yarmouth kept the lead.
Millett got the scoring started with a free throw. After True picked up her second foul, senior Spencer True sank a rainbow 3 to pull Lake Region within two, but Langenbach made a layup after a steal.
After nearly five scoreless minutes, Clark made a layup. Spencer True countered with a driving bank shot, but inside the final minute, Langenbach made a bank shot for Yarmouth’s final points of the half.
With 15.6 seconds to go, Lake Region freshman Brooke Harriman set up Millett for a layup and as time expired, Millett had a chance to make it even closer and give her team momentum, but her layup was just off the mark, sending the Clippers to the locker room with a 17-13 lead.
Yarmouth was paced in the first half by six points from Brady, five from Hattan and four from Langenbach. The Clippers only turned the ball over five times and made 3 of 7 from 3-point range.
The Lakers were paced by Spencer True’s five points, but were hindered by 5 of 21 shooting from the floor and nine turnovers.
Lake Region finally gained the lead in the third quarter, but Yarmouth wrenched it right back.
Just 10 seconds in, Jakobs made a layup while being fouled and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play.
After Jakobs left with her third foul, Spencer True put the Lakers ahead by banking in a 3-pointer.
Langenbach ended the surge and tied it with two free throws, but a floater from Huntress with 5:31 remaining in the frame gave Lake Region the lead again.
Then, after sophomore Jessica Kirk broke the press, she fed Brady for another 3 from the corner to put Yarmouth on top, 22-21.
With 3:59 left in the third, Kirk got her fourth foul and the back and forth continued, as a driving layup from Chandler True was countered by a Clark bank shot. After Huntress missed two free throws, Hattan was fouled on an offensive rebound and made both free throws to give the Clippers a 26-23 lead heading for the fateful fourth.
After being fouled on an offensive rebound, Jakobs pulled Lake Region within a point with two free throws.
Langenbach and Hattan worked a beautiful give-and-go for a Langenbach layup, but a Huntress jumper with 4:59 remaining pulled the Lakers back within a single point, 28-27.
After Chandler True missed a 3 for the lead, Langenbach hit the biggest shot of her life to date, taking a pass from Hattan and calmly draining a 3 from up top to make it 31-27 with 3:50 to play.
Yarmouth got possession back on a held ball, but turned it over.
After Jakobs kept possession for the Lakers, she set up Millett for a short jumper to make it a two-point game.
After Brady missed at the other end, the ball went out of bounds to Lake Region and with 40.8 seconds remaining, after Chandler True missed a 3, but a held ball (remember this) allowed the Lakers to retain possession and Jakobs was fouled and made both free throws to tie it, 31-31.
The Clippers got the ball past midcourt and after Lake Region gave its last foul, a timeout was called.
“We set up an out-of-bounds play,” Strong said. “I felt so confident. We just wanted to get Alison the ball.”
And then the unthinkable happened.
Yarmouth inbounded the ball, but the Lakers forced a held ball situation with 17 seconds showing.
The Clippers should have kept possession, but the arrow had never been changed and by the time Yarmouth’s bench alerted the officials, Lake Region had inbounded and dribbled into the frontcourt.
And by then, it was took late to correct a fateful human error.
“The ref said that the ball had been inbounded and that they couldn’t change it,” Strong said.
The Lakers kept the ball and the clock was set to 8.6 seconds. The ball came to Chandler True and she drove to the hoop where she was fouled by Hattan with 3.3 seconds showing.
Ratcheting up the drama as high as it could go, True missed the first attempt and Strong called timeout.
True knocked down the second attempt for a 32-31 lead and Yarmouth needed a miracle.
The Clippers almost got one.
Kirk took the inbounds pass and raced past midcourt. From about 30 feet out she had a good look just before the horn, but the shot was long, ricocheted off the glass and fell harmlessly to the floor and Lake Region some how, some way, escaped with the 32-31 victory.
“There’s nothing we can do about it, Strong said. “We have to hold our heads high. This was the culmination of every practice, of all that sweat. It was a tremendous team effort. At the beginning of the season, a Class A coach said to me, ‘It’s going to be a tough season,” but my girls were determined. They have huge heart.”
Lake Region got nine points (and a game-high 11 boards) from Jakobs, eight points from Spencer True, six from Chandler True, five from Millett and four from Huntress.
The Lakers made just 11 of 47 shots, 3 of 15 3s and 7 of 11 free throws, but overcame 12 turnovers and survived and advanced.
Lake Region lost at home, 45-42, to Gray-New Gloucester back on Jan. 12.
Yarmouth was paced by Langenbach, who blossomed into an all-star caliber player and leader this season. Langenbach had 11 points and a pair of steals.
Brady made three 3-pointers for nine points, blocked four shots and grabbed three rebounds as she capped her freshman campaign in grand style.
Hattan, also continued her growth as an invaluable captain, finishing with seven points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Clark had four points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Kirk didn’t score, but had six rebounds. Freshman Clementine Blaschke didn’t score, but had three rebounds and a pair of steals.
The Clippers made 11 of 40 shots from the floor, sank 5 of 14 3-pointers and were hindered by poor foul shooting (just 4 of 10). Yarmouth only committed 11 turnovers.
Each team finished with 26 rebounds.
Yarmouth has returned to contention and will look to take the next step into the upper echelon of the Western Maine Conference and Class B South next winter.
The Clippers graduate senior role players Aizhan Gwynne and Sarah Kirk and will also have to part with Jessica Kirk (who is moving out of state) and Brady (who is transferring to another school).
Clarsk, Hattan and Langenbach, along with fellow junior, Isabel Bates, who played key minutes Tuesday, will lead the way and Yarmouth hopes some key additions will fill holes.
This group will be back in this setting and will advance even farther.
It’s just a question if when, not if.
“We’re going to lose two seniors and Claire and Jess, but we return experience with our tri-captains,” Strong said. “We’re still fairly young. I can’t wait for next year.”
2012 Western B quarterfinals
Lake Region 60 Yarmouth 34
2006 Western B quarterfinals
Lake Region 60 Yarmouth 34
2005 Western B Final
Yarmouth 45 Lake Region 43
2004 Western B quarterfinal
Yarmouth 52 Lake Region 40
2002 Western B quarterfinal
Yarmouth 59 Lake Region 30