Yarmouth girls win again, inch closer to playoff spot

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Yarmouth sophomore Jessica Kirk drives on Traip Academy junior Sierra O’Brien during the Clippers’ 46-35 victory Tuesday night.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

Yarmouth 46 Traip Academy 35

TA- 6 4 14 11- 35
Y- 14 8 14 10- 46

TA- Delano 6-0-12, Casey 5-0-10, Eddy 2-0-4, Blake 1-0-3, MacNeill 1-0-3, Perez 1-0-3

Y- Clark 5-6-16, Kirk 4-1-10, Langenbach 3-3-10, Hattan 2-0-5, Brady 1-0-3, Bates 0-2-2

3-pointers:
TA (3) Blake, MacNeill, Perez 1
Y (4) Brady, Hattan, Kirk, Langenbach 1

Turnovers:
TA- 19
Y- 18

Free throws
TA: 0-0
Y: 12-20

YARMOUTH—Yarmouth’s girls’ basketball team can no longer be described as up and coming.

The Clippers have arrived.

And even better days are ahead.

Tuesday evening, Yarmouth hosted Traip Academy in a game the Clippers needed to win to cement their playoff standing and while they struggled in certain aspects, they managed to do what good teams do, close out a victory.

Yarmouth never trailed and raced to an early 20-6 lead behind sharpshooting from junior Cory Langenbach and tremendous energy from sophomore Jessica Kirk.

The Clippers led by 12 points at halftime, 22-10, but never could completely shake the Rangers, who pulled within eight, 36-28, heading for the fourth quarter.

There, Yarmouth got a clutch 3 from junior Johanna Hattan and junior Alison Clark punctuated a strong effort by helping the Clippers put the win away and Yarmouth went on to a 46-35 victory.

Clark led all scorers with 16 points, Kirk and Langenbach had 10 apiece and the Clippers improved to 7-6, matching last year’s win total in five fewer games, and dropped Traip to 5-10 in the process.

“I think we’re just starting to believe we’re good,” said Yarmouth’s third-year coach Chris Strong. “It’s been a mental process. The juniors were part of the team when we had four wins. There’s a losing tradition here, but we’re learning we can win and compete.”

Playoff push

Yarmouth, which improved from four wins in 2013-14 to seven a year ago when it just missed the playoffs, entered the season with little in the way of expectations, but two-thirds of the way through, the Clippers are on track to make their first playoff appearance in four years and perhaps post their first winning record since the 2004-05 team, which played in the Class B state final.

Yarmouth lost, 36-27, at Gray-New Gloucester in their opener, then dropped a 39-29 home decision to Lake Region. After getting in the win column with a 42-23 home victory over Waynflete, the Clippers lost at defending Class B champion Greely, 40-27, then downed visiting Maranacook (65-22), host Poland (28-24) and host Sacopee Valley (34-19) before losing at Lincoln Academy, 34-26, and at home against Greely, 50-41. Following a 51-47 victory at Freeport, Yarmouth lost at Wells in overtime, 51-46, then got back on track Friday with a 41-32 home win over Poland.

Traip started 1-6, but has gone 4-3 since, including a 38-33 win at Wells Saturday, the same Wells team which beat Yarmouth Jan. 12.

As a result of those results, Tuesday’s game was expected to be close, but the Clippers managed to build a healthy lead and beat the Rangers for the fifth year in a row.

It took slightly over two minutes for a point to be scored when Clark broke the ice with two free throws. Langenbach added a baseline jumper to make it 4-0.

Traip finally got on a board with 3:59 to go in the first quarter, when junior Marina Casey drove the baseline and made a layup.

After Kirk made a free throw, the Rangers cut the deficit to 5-4 on a short jumper from Casey, but Yarmouth closed the period on a 9-2 run to take control.

Langenbach got the surge started with a 3 and promising freshman Claire Brady added another 3-pointer for an 11-4 lead. After a putback from Rangers sophomore Cassidy Delano, Clark made two foul shots and Langenbach hit one to make it 14-6 Clippers after eight minutes.

“We got off to a fast start and we try to do that to get up early,” Langenbach said. “We did a good job staying spread to get open shots.

“A fast start is always important for us,” said Hattan. “The games we’ve had trouble in, we came out slow.”

In the first quarter, Langenbach had six points, Clark had four and Kirk grabbed five rebounds.

Yarmouth kept the good times rolling early in the second quarter, as Kirk hit a 3 and after a steal, Kirk made a layup.

“Jess brings a ton of energy, especially on defense, jumping and anticipating passes,” Langenbach said. “That can convert into fastbreaks and layups.”

A Langenbach free throw gave the Clippers a commanding 20-6 lead with 4:09 to go in the half, but Traip crept closer before the break.

A layup from sophomore Reilly Eddy snapped Yarmouth’s 9-0 run and a 4 minute, 57 second drought. After senior Isabel Bates made two foul shots for the hosts, the Rangers got a putback from Delano to make it a 22-10 game at halftime.

In the third period, the Clippers threatened to run away and hide, but Traip’s ability to get second-chance points kept the game in doubt.

A layup from Delano started the second half. After Clark made a bank shot, Casey scored on a putback to make it 24-14.

Yarmouth then got a layup from Clark after a pretty spin move and after a Langenbach steal, Kirk made a layup to push the lead to 28-14.

Delano answered with a leaner, but Kirk drove and banked home a shot to restore a 14-point bulge.

A 3 from Rangers senior Jessica MacNeill was countered by a Langenbach free throw. Delano then hit a jumper, but Brady set up Clark for a bank shot and on the play, Clark was fouled and she added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play. Hattan set up Clark for a layup and the Clippers’ biggest lead, 36-21, but in the waning seconds of the third, senior Ashley Blake’s 3-pointer pulled Traip within 12, 36-24.

Hattan started the fourth quarter with a 3-ball and Yarmouth appeared in good shape, but the Rangers got the next five points, as junior Kiara Perez hit a 3 and Eddy made a short jumper to make it 39-29.

The Clippers answered off an inbounds set, as Hattan set up Clark for a layup and Langenbach’s short jumper with 4:50 remaining pushed the lead to 14.

After a leaner from Casey, Clark made a free throw, but Casey scored on a bank shot and Delano did the same to cut Yarmouth’s lead to 44-35 with 2:09 to go.

The Clippers didn’t let it slip away, however, as with 1:37 remaining, Hattan put home Kirk’s miss and Yarmouth’s defense slammed the door from there on the 46-35 victory.

“We started out a little shaky, but we’ve come together and we’re playing as a team more,” Hattan said. “We’re being more aggressive on offense. Cory and Jess were great at distributing the ball. Coach encourages us to shoot. We’re getting the ball into Alison and she gets it back out.”

“We got a little bit sped up and we had to settle and play better defense,” Langenbach said. “We depend on our defense. We know the offense will come.”

“We’re trying to learn how to continue to execute our offense when we get a lead.” Strong added. “We can get tentative and be surprised to be in that position. We’re getting better at that. We executed our offense really well in the first half. Our defense is what really helped us win the game tonight. It was a solid effort. When they scored, it was usually inside. If I wanted anything to be better it would have been rebounding and holding on to the ball.  

“I believed from the get-go this year that the girls are very smart and can learn quickly. When you stack up our halfcourt offense against anyone else in the league, we’re as good as anyone in execution.”

Yarmouth got key contributions from many sources in the victory.

Clark was the lead scorer with 16 points. She also had two rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.

Kirk nearly had a double-double, scoring 10 points, grabbing nine rebounds and registering five steals.

“Jessica is critical to our ball-handling under pressure,” Strong said. “She allows us to get into our offense. Energy-wise, she’s big defensively. She’s a leading rebounder. She’s tenacious and strong.”

Langenbach had 10 points and five steals.

Hattan added five points (and also had 10 rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block).

Brady’s performance off the bench included three points, two steals, two assists and two rebounds. She was also solid on the defensive end.

“Claire does not make any freshman mistakes,” Strong said. “She’s smart. She doesn’t have any fear. She’s long and she makes good use of her length defensively.”

Bates finished with two points, two rebounds and a blocked shot.

The Clippers turned the ball over 18 times and gave up several offensive rebounds, but they forced 19 turnovers and hit 12 of 20 free throws.

Traip was paced by Delano’s 12 points (she also had seven rebounds and two blocks). Casey had 10 points (four rebounds, three blocks and three steals), Eddy four and Blake, MacNeill and Perez three apiece. Senior Jessica Segura didn’t score a point, but had five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

The Rangers didn’t attempt a single free throw.

Every game is huge

Traip (now 10th in the Class C South Heal Points standings) has three games left, two against Waynflete and one versus Old Orchard Beach.

Yarmouth (sixth in Class B South) has a pivotal test Friday at Cape Elizabeth. The Clippers have home tilts versus Gray New-Gloucester and Falmouth next week, then close with a trip to Lake Region and a home game versus Wells. 

Yarmouth still has the opportunity to not only make the playoffs, but to move up further in the standings if it does well in this finishing stretch.

“We have to keep playing together, go into every game confident and believe we can win,” Hattan said. “We’re excited.”

“We just have to believe and know how good we are,” Langenbach said. “Our last few games have been huge confidence boosters for us. We want to come out and show everyone how well we can play. We’re looking forward to playoffs and we want to make a run.”

“We do have a tough schedule and we’ll take one game at a time,” Strong added. “We need to rebound better because we don’t have a lot of height. We need to find the basket sooner. We pass up open shots and we need to take them when we have them. I do feel like we can compete with every single team we play. We’re getting more and more confident.”

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

Yarmouth junior Cory Langenbach looks to drive on Traip Academy junior Kiara Perez.

Yarmouth freshman Clementine Blaschke and Traip Academy senior Jessica Segura fight for a rebound.

Yarmouth junior Alison Clark goes up for a layup and two of her game-high 16 points.

Yarmouth junior Johanna Hattan gets tangled up with Traip Academy senior Nicole Landry.

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