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Yarmouth juniors Jonny Torres, left, and Ashanti Haywood celebrate near the conclusion of the Clippers’ 43-33 victory over Maranacook in the Class B South boys’ quarterfinals Saturday morning. Yarmouth advanced to meet rival Cape Elizabeth in the semifinals Thursday.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
M- 13 5 5 10- 33
Y- 7 15 9 12- 43
M- Mohlar 4-0-10, McClure 3-0-9, Root 1-1-4, McPhedran 1-0-3, Rogers 1-1-3, Belanger 0-2-2, Boucher 1-0-2
Y- Torres 5-4-16, Haywood 3-5-11, Eckersley-Ray 3-2-8, Hagerty 2-0-4, Rogers 1-0-2, Hickey 0-1-1, Middleton 0-1-1
M (7) McClure 3, Mohlar 2, McPhedran, Root 1
Y (2) Torres 2
PORTLAND—In a season where nothing has come easily, it wasn’t a big surprise to see Yarmouth’s boys’ basketball team dig an early hole in Saturday morning’s Class B South quarterfinal against Maranacook at the Portland Exposition Building.
The sixth-ranked Black Bears came out red-hot, draining four 3-pointers to take a 13-5 lead, but the Clippers came to life in the second quarter.
Thanks to the leadership of juniors Ashanti Haywood and Jonny Torres.
Haywood sparked the comeback with a layup after a steal, Torres scored five quick points to put Yarmouth on top for good and the Clippers, thanks to a 17-2 run, took a 22-18 lead to the half.
In the third period, Yarmouth opened it up with seven quick points, capped by a jumper from junior Noah Eckersley-Ray, and a six-minute-plus scoring drought by Maranacook helped Yarmouth lead, 31-23, heading for the fourth quarter.
There, even though they struggled at the foul line, the Clippers slowly pulled away and they went on to a 43-33 victory.
Torres led the way with 16 points, Haywood added 11 and Yarmouth improved to 13-6, ended the Black Bears’ season at 13-6 and in the process, the Clippers advanced to set up a semifinal round date with rival Cape Elizabeth (12-7), the No. 2 seed, Thursday at 6 p.m., across town at the Cross Insurance Arena.
“We haven’t played a good first quarter all year and I didn’t think at 10-o’clock this morning we’d have a good one today,” said Yarmouth coach Adam Smith. “We did play great defense and offensively, we got into a flow and we started to run. We got the cobwebs out and got used to the team we were playing.”
Yarmouth suffered an agonizing regional final loss to Wells last winter and this season is on the short list of favorites in Class B South.
The Clippers struggled with consistency, even though their final record of 12-6 was more than respectable (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories). Yarmouth’s losses all were against playoff teams, York, Gray-New Gloucester, Greely, Cape Elizabeth, Wells and Greely again. The Clippers did finish with victories at Poland and Lake Region and locked up the number three seed in the region.
Maranacook started 7-1 and went on to a 13-5 campaign which gave it the No. 6 seed in Class B South.
The Black Bears and Clippers didn’t meet in the regular season. They’ve split two prior playoff meetings (see sidebar, below).
Saturday, Yarmouth picked up the intensity as the game went on and was rewarded with its fifth consecutive trip to the semifinals.
Yarmouth got off to a slow start, missing its first four shots and the Black Bears grabbed a quick 6-0 lead behind 3-pointers from freshman Cashman McClure and junior Garret Whitten.
A free throw from Haywood got the Clippers on the board with 5:41 to go in the first quarter, but 50 seconds later, a 3-ball from senior Jackson McPhedran made it 9-1 Maranacook and forced Smith to call timeout.
Yarmouth responded, as senior Nolan Hagerty hit a floater in the lane and Eckersley-Ray set up Haywood for a layup, but the Black Bears got a long 3 from senior Silas Mohlar and a free throw from junior Duncan Rogers to stretch the lead back to eight.
A pair of Eckersley-Ray free throws then pulled the Clippers within 13-7 after one period.
Yarmouth committed six turnovers in that frame, but settled down in the second quarter and raced in front.
A layup after a steal from Haywood was followed by a Torres 3 and a Torres fastbreak layup (off a feed from sophomore Aidan Hickey) to put the Clippers on top for the first time.
Haywood then capped an 11-0 run with a steal, a breathtaking spin move and a layup to make it 16-13.
“I was trying to do anything I could to get us back in the game,” Haywood said. “I didn’t want to lose in the first round.”
“Somebody had to hit a shot,” Smith said. “Ashanti got to the rim, hit some shots and got us started. He gave us a lift.”
The Black Bears countered with a layup after a steal from Rogers, but Haywood made two foul shots, junior Caden Middleton made one and Torres banked in a 3-ball for a 22-15 advantage.
With 39.1 seconds remaining, an NBA-range 3 from Mohlar pulled Maranacook within four at the break.
In the first half, Yarmouth was led by nine points from Haywood and eight from Torres, but the Clippers committed 13 turnovers.
Yarmouth hoped to deliver the knockout blow in the third quarter, but the Black Bears hung tough.
Eckersley-Ray made a short jumper nine seconds into the second half, Torres added a foul shot, Hagerty buried a long jumper and Eckersley-Ray got a jumper in the lane to rattle in for a 29-18 advantage.
With 2:25 to go in the quarter, a McClure 3 snapped Maranacook’s 6 minute, 14 second drought, but Torres made a left-handed layup before a putback from sophomore Skyler Boucher pulled Maranacook within eight, 31-23, heading for the fourth quarter.
There, the Clippers started with a driving reverse layup from Torres, a pair of Haywood free throws and a Torres foul shot with 3:35 remaining to make it 36-23.
McClure answered with his final 3, but Eckersley-Ray hit a leaner.
After a free throw from Root, Torres and Hickey each made one.
Mohlar made a layup for the Black Bears, but Torres hit a free throw for his final point.
Down the stretch, Mohlar made a layup, junior Jake Rogers countered with one for Yarmouth and a pair of free throws from Maranacook junior Aric Belanger brought the curtain down on the Clippers’ 43-33 victory.
“We don’t care when we play,” Torres said. “We always come in with the same mentality. We’re prepared no matter what time it is. We knew they’d come out and press. Once we got used to it, we do what we usually do and we punched back.
“I’m used to us being down. We’re a second half team and we never panicked. We’re a team that knows how to deal with adversity. That’s what I love about this team. We have 14 guys who can go out and compete each and every night.”
“We play well through adversity,” Haywood said. “We just went out and played our game. We had to focus on defending the 3-point line more. We weren’t worried about them going inside. Our mindset was stopping the 3 and hitting our shots and it would be fine.”
“We’ve had to grind it out all year and we can do that,” Smith added. “We’ve had adversity all year. We didn’t treat this game any differently. We played great defense for 32 minutes.”
Torres had a huge performance, scoring 16 points and adding three rebounds and three steals.
“Jonny is really starting to come into his own his junior year,” Smith said. “It’s all come together the last few weeks. Today was an indication of what he means to us.”
Haywood added 11 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Eckersley-Ray had eight points and 12 rebounds, Hagerty four points and five boards, Rogers two points and Hickey and Middleton one point apiece.
Yarmouth only made 13 of 27 free throws and turned the ball over 20 times, but the Clippers enjoyed a 38-32 edge on the glass and made enough plays to advance.
Maranacook got 10 points from Mohlar, who also grabbed five rebounds.
McClure added nine points, Root had four, McPhedran and Rogers (six rebounds) three apiece and Belanger and Boucher two each.
The Black Bears made only four two-point field goals and hit seven 3s, but they turned the ball over 18 times and hit 4 of 7 foul shots.
“We knew if we hit (3-point) shots, we had a really good chance to win and if we were off, we weren’t going to beat them,” said Maranacook coach Rob Schmidt. “(Yarmouth is) an outstanding defensive team. We didn’t get the quality shots we normally get and the ones we did, didn’t go in.
“They were well prepared. Adam’s a very good coach. Nolan was a huge concern, but we didn’t want to overlook their guards. They’re quick and athletic. They penetrated well. They’re much more than Hagerty. They’re a good team.”
Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth are well acquainted, splitting in the regular season, each winning at home (Capers, 48-44, Jan. 9; Clippers, 71-55, Jan. 23).
The teams have done battle four previous times in the playoffs with Cape Elizabeth winning on three occasions. The most recent encounter went to Yarmouth, 45-43, in the 2014 Western B quarterfinals.
Expect another down-to-the-wire thriller with a trip to the regional final at stake.
“I have full trust in our guys coming out strong (Thursday),” Torres said.
“We need to continue to play our game and make other teams play our game,” Haywood said. “If we play our game, I believe that no one can stop us.”
“We said going into the tournament, (seeds) 1 through 8 had an opportunity to win this thing,” Smith added. “We’ll continue to grind at the Civic Center Thursday. We anticipated that matchup at some point. It’s going to be tough and we know it.”
Yarmouth junior Ashanti Haywood shoots over Maranacook senior Silas Mohlar. Haywood had 11 points in the victory.
Yarmouth junior Noah Eckersley-Ray shoots over Maranacook junior Aric Belanger.
Yarmouth junior Jonny Torres gets past Maranacook senior Silas Mohlar and makes a layup for two of his game-high 16 points.
Yarmouth senior Nolan Hagerty and Maranacook senior Bryan Riley fight for a rebound.
Yarmouth juniors Jake Rogers (35) and Noah Eckersley-Ray go all out for a loose ball.
Yarmouth sophomore Aidan Hickey charges into Maranacook junior Mitch Root.
2016 Class B South semifinals
Yarmouth 69 Maranacook 51
2013 Western B preliminary
Maranacook 72 Yarmouth 65