Yarmouth sends Gray-NG packing in quarterfinals

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Yarmouth senior Aleksander Medenica goes up over Gray-New Gloucester senior Tanner Mann for two of his game-high 22 points in the Clippers’ 71-44 victory in Saturday’s Class B South quarterfinal. Top-ranked Yarmouth advanced to meet Oak Hill in Thursday’s semifinal round.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—Yarmouth’s boys’ basketball team has a simple motto.

It goes like this:

“Roll, Clips’.”

And the Clippers certainly rolled right through their first playoff test Saturday afternoon at the Portland Exposition Building.

Yarmouth, the top seed in the Class B South field, met No. 9 Gray-New Gloucester in a quarterfinal and it didn’t take long to get the good times rolling.

The Clippers trailed for a little over a minute, then took the lead for good on a 3-point shot from senior standout Aleksander Medenica.

While it didn’t click on all cylinders in the first quarter, Yarmouth did hold a 15-8 lead (sparked by 10 points from Medenica) after eight minutes and the best was yet to come.

The Clippers really asserted control in the second period, breaking open a 17-10 game with an 11-1 run and thanks to Medenica’s scoring, the stat sheet-stuffing ability of junior big man Nolan Hagerty and contributions from seniors Gibson Harnett and Igor Nikolic and sophomore Noah Eckersley-Ray, Yarmouth extended its advantage to a commanding 36-15 at halftime.

While the Patriots hung tough in the third quarter, they couldn’t cut into the deficit and the Clippers went ahead, 50-28, heading the fourth period, where several reserves helped put the finishing touches on an emphatic and impressive 71-44 victory.

Medenica led all scorers with 22 points, Harnett added 15, Hagerty 10 and Eckersley-Ray nine as Yarmouth improved to 17-2, ended Gray-New Gloucester’s season at 10-10 and advanced to meet No. 4 Oak Hill (11-8) in the semifinals Thursday at 7:30 p.m., across town at the Cross Insurance Arena.

“We just roll with it,” Medenica said. “As our shirts say, ‘Roll Clips.’ I feel like we needed to take this game as seriously as a Greely- or Falmouth-type game. We had to have that mentality.”

Focus

Two years ago, Yarmouth was the top seed for the (then) Western B tournament and easily dispatched Gray-New Gloucester (79-48) in the quarterfinals, but the Clippers didn’t make the state game, or even the regional final, as they were upset by Lake Region in the semifinals.

This time around, Yarmouth is taking nothing for granted and is bound and determined to go all the way.

The Clippers had a superb 16-2 regular season, the best in program history (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories). The only losses came at Class A South top seed Greely and at home to Greely in a triple-overtime epic.

Gray-New Gloucester finished 9-9 and garnered the ninth and final seed in the region before holding off No. 8 Lake Region, the defending state champion, 57-54, in the preliminary round Tuesday.

Yarmouth won both meetings this winter, 61-41 at home in the opener Dec. 9 and 68-49 Jan. 16 in Gray.

The Clippers were 2-0 all-time against the Patriots in the postseason, including the victory two years ago (see sidebar, below, for previous results).

Saturday, Yarmouth left no doubt why it’s the region’s favorite.

Gray-New Gloucester scored the game’s first points, as senior captain John Villanueva knocked down a 3, but Hagerty set up Medenica for a layup and Medenica buried a 3 to put Yarmouth on top.

Medenica then drove for a layup and after a steal by Harnett, Harnett fed Nikolic for a layup and a 9-3 lead, forcing Patriots coach Ryan Deschenes to call timeout.

It worked, as sophomore Jake Kackmeister made a free throw and sophomore Josh Magno knocked down a 3-ball, but back came the Clippers, as Medenica drove for a layup, Nikolic hit a 3 and Medenica made a free throw.

In the final minute, sophomore Hunter Colby’s foul shot pulled Gray-New Gloucester within seven, 15-8, which is how the quarter ended.

Medenica led the way with 10 points, while Hagerty had four steals in the frame.

In the second quarter, Yarmouth gradually pulled away.

First, after a Nikolic steal, Medenica fed Harnett on the fastbreak for a layup.

After Villanueva cut the deficit to seven with a leaner on the run, Medenica converted an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) and Eckersley-Ray stole the ball and made a layup to make it 22-10 and force another Patriots’ timeout.

This time, it didn’t stem the tide, as Harnett drove the baseline and made a layup and after Villanueva made a free throw, Medenica countered with one, then took a pass from Hagerty and made a layup to stretch the lead to 16.

With 2:54 left, everyone on hand was left scratching their head as Hagerty went to the line for two shots, missed the first and play continued, with Gray-New Gloucester getting  a putback from Kackmeister before the whistle blew and the officials realized Hagerty should have gotten another free throw.

The Patriots’ basket counted, Hagerty made the shot and Yarmouth kept the ball with Hagerty making a layup for a 30-13 lead.

Eckersley-Ray added a contested jumper, Hagerty drove for a layup and sophomore Jonny Torres banked home a shot from a difficult angle before junior Josiah Rottari somehow banked home a shot at the horn to make it 36-15 Clippers at the break.

“We came out stronger in the second quarter and set the tone,” Medenica said. 

In the first half, Medenica had 16 points, Hagerty did it all with five points, eight rebounds and five steals and Yarmouth forced 17 turnovers.

Little changed in the third period, as Eckersley-Ray and Medenica started the frame with putbacks and Harnett canned a 3 from the corner for a 43-15 advantage. 

After senior Tanner Mann scored on a putback for Gray-New Gloucester, Rottari set him up for a layup to cut the deficit to 43-19, but Eckersley-Ray countered with a 3-ball.

Sophomore Ryan LaChance made a layup for the Patriots and Villanueva added two foul shots, but Medenica lobbed a perfect pass to Harnett for a layup and after a technical foul was called on Mann, Medenica added two more free throws for a 50-23 advantage. 

Gray-New Gloucester then closed the period strong, as Magno sank a 3 and sophomore John Martin floated for a basket, but it was all Clippers, 50-28, heading for the final stanza.

There, Yarmouth finished it off.

A pair of layups from Harnett got things started. After sophomore Hunter Colby made a pair of free throws for the Patriots, Torres drove for a layup. Colby countered with a layup, but Hagerty scored on a putback while being fouled and added the free throw for the three-point play and Medenica set up Harnett for a fastbreak layup to make it 61-32.

After Kackmeister banked home a shot, Villanueva made two free throws and Madtin added a pair, but Medenica scored on a putback, Medenica set up Torres for a fastbreak layup, Hagerty hit two free throws and sophomore Jake Rogers added two more for a 69-38 advantage.

Sophomore Connor Myatt made a free throw for the Patriots, but freshman Aidan Hickey scored on a putback for Yarmouth’s final points.

Down the stretch, Myatt hit a 3 and junior Oliver Grant made two free throws to account for the 71-44 final score.

“We tried to come out hard after a week off,” Harnett said. “We had a slow first quarter, but we really turned it around in the second quarter. We hit a lot of our shots and we played great defense the whole first half. We improved our offense in the second half.” 

Medenica didn’t just lead all scorers with 22 points, he also had a double-double with 10 rebounds and added four assists, three blocked shots and two steals. 

Hagerty lived up to his role as the other part of Yarmouth’s unstoppable twin tower tandem with a dazzling stat line of 10 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and three assists.

“I feel like playing with Nolan, we know where each other will be,” Medenica said. “If he’s in the post, I don’t look at him to find him, I just know he’s there. He’s easy to play with.”

“What Alek brings even more than just points is defense,” Harnett said. “We know we have two giant people in the paint to block whatever we mess up. Leadership-wise, Alek is incredible. He’s only been here two years. Nolan does whatever he needs to do. He doesn’t need to do everything offensive. It doesn’t all show up on the stat sheet.”

“(Alek and Nolan have) done that all year for us,” Clippers coach Adam Smith added. “They’ll do it for us in the next game. If they don’t, it’ll be a short tournament for us. They carry a lot of the burden for us and make the players around them better. That’s been a big part of our success this year.”

Harnett had a stellar game as well, producing 15 points and four steals.

“I like to shoot and my teammates know that,” Harnett said. “If I’m not shooting well, I’m willing to give up the ball. I try to lead with character whether I’m shooting well or not.”

Eckersley-Ray had nine points and nine rebounds.

“Noah worked hard,” said Harnett. “He came up with every loose ball.”

Torres added six points, Nikolic had five before fouling out and Hickey and Rogers finished with two apiece.

“It doesn’t matter how many points one person gets, it’s all about our teammates around us,” said Harnett.

Yarmouth came up with 15 steals, outrebounded the Patriots, 41-25, and overcame 15 turnovers and 11 of 24 foul shooting.

“I always look for us to play perfect basketball,” said Smith. “It wasn’t so much the score, but I thought we could have played a cleaner game. We worked our tails off on defense, but it didn’t translate to smooth offense for us. We struggled on the offensive end, even though we scored over 70 tonight.”

Gray-New Gloucester was led by 10 points from Villanueva, who also had eight rebounds. Magno added six points, Colby and Kackmeister had five apiece, Mann, Martin and Myatt four each and Grant, LaChance and Rottani two apiece.

The Patriots turned the ball over 19 times and made 14 of 23 free throws.

Next step

The Clippers didn’t face Oak Hill this year and the teams have no playoff history. 

The Raiders downed No. 5 Lincoln, 59-46, in their quarterfinal Saturday.

“We have to improve from what we did today,” Harnett said. “We have to work hard in practice. Oak Hill plays with a ton of energy. We’ll have to be able to match that in the Civic Center. It’s a big venue. Hopefully we come out to play.”

“Because Oak Hill has a tough zone, we figured out by watching them that we have to get back in the gym and try to break it down,” Medenica said. “We’re a confident team. We want to get by the next game and keep going.”

“It’s surprising that the guys aren’t feeling pressure being the one seed,” Smith added. “Everything for these guys is about getting better. They know they still have a ways to go. Oak Hill is very athletic. They play a nice extended 1-3-1 (zone). We’ll have to move the ball well. We just want to play our best game on Thursday. I have confidence.”

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

Yarmouth senior Gibson Harnett goes up for a layup.

Yarmouth senior Igor Nikolic makes a layup as Gray-New Gloucester sophomore John Martin defends.

Yarmouth sophomore Noah Eckersley-Ray shoots over Gray-New Gloucester senior John Villanueva.

Yarmouth senior Aleksandar Medenica knocks down a 3-point shot.

Yarmouth senior Gibson Harnett drives past Gray-New Gloucester junior Josiah Rottari on the baseline.

Previous Yarmouth stories

Season Preview

Greely 80 Yarmouth 58

Greely 82 Yarmouth 74 (3 OT)

Yarmouth 68 Gray-New Gloucester 49

Previous Yarmouth-GNG playoff results

2015 Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 79 Gray-NG 48 

1974 Western C semifinals
Yarmouth 73 Gray-NG 71 

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