Yarmouth senior Devin Shields-Auble, left, senior Bailey Darling and junior Gibson Harnett had much to applaud about late in the Clippers’ 69-51 win over Maranacook in Thursday’s Class B South semifinal. Yarmouth advanced to meet top-ranked Lake Region in Saturday’s regional final.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
Y- 17 18 20 14- 69
M- 4 9 20 18- 51
Y- Medenica 10-4-25, Darling 5-0-13, M’Bareck 3-3-10, Hagerty 3-1-7, Eckersley-Ray 2-0-4, Shields-Auble 2-0-4, Cawley 1-0-2, Fortin 1-0-2, Harnett 0-2-2
M- Emery 5-5-16, Wilbur 2-8-13, K. Mohlar 3-2-8, Elwell 2-2-6, S. Mohlar 0-6-6, Riley 0-1-1, Vining 0-1-1
Y (5) Darling 3, M’Bareck, Medenica 1
M (2) Emery, Wilbur 1
PORTLAND—The team that nobody was talking about coming into the tournament is now halfway to its goal of winning it.
The Yarmouth Clippers, who struggled at times during the regular season, put forth a championship-caliber effort in a boys’ basketball Class B South semifinal Thursday evening at the Cross Insurance Arena, when they led No. 2 Maranacook from start to finish and in the process, suggested that more triumph could be in store.
Third-seeded Yarmouth took the lead for good on a short jumper from star junior Aleksander Medenica, then got 3-pointers from seniors Bailey Darling and Musseit M’Bareck to grab an early advantage.
Late in the first quarter, a layup from senior Devin Shields-Auble made it 17-4 after eight minutes and the Clippers were just as good in the second period, riding the passing and rebounding of sophomore Nolan Hagerty and the offense of Darling and Medenica to a 35-13 lead at halftime, thanks to a putback from Hagerty just before the horn.
The Black Bears tried to make a run in the third quarter, but Yarmouth played them even and heading for the final stanza, the Clippers were still on top, 55-33.
Maranacook, thanks to extensive time at the free throw line, got as close as 14 points late in the game, but Yarmouth never buckled and went on to an impressive 69-51 victory.
The Clippers improved to 15-5, ended the Black Bears’ season at 17-3, reached the regional final for the first time since the championship season of 2012 and will battle top-ranked Lake Region (18-2) in the Class B South Final Saturday at 3:45 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Arena.
“Once the pieces started flowing, the guys felt it and it didn’t matter where we were playing,” said Yarmouth coach Adam Smith, who earned his 150th victory with the program. “We know who we are and what we have to do. It really clicked tonight.”
Yarmouth was close to hitting its stride most of the year, but posted a 13-5 regular season record.
The Clippers earned the No. 3 seed in Class B South, then pulled away late to oust No. 6 Spruce Mountain, 47-32, in the quarterfinals Saturday at the Portland Exposition Building.
“I think we knew what our identity was,” Smith said. “It was being able to play that way with the number of interruptions we’ve had with our lineup. Sickness, injuries, all that. We were singularly focused about our identity.”
Maranacook was 16-2 in the regular season, then dispatched No. 7 Lisbon, 57-37, in its quarterfinal Saturday.
Yarmouth went to Maranacook and won, 70-60, back on Dec. 17.
The teams’ lone prior playoff meeting came in the 2013 preliminary round (a 72-65 Black Bears win).
Thursday, with a trip to the regional final at stake, Yarmouth put on a show, especially in the early going.
The Clippers scored first, as Hagerty set up Medenica for a short jump shot. Hagerty then threw cross-court to Darling, who buried a 3, and with 5:21 to go in the first quarter, Medenica set up M’Bareck for another 3 and a quick 8-0 lead.
“We started really strong and that was great to see,” Darling said. “It’s a big arena, so nerves were high, but it didn’t really bother a lot of us. It’s a basket. There’s nothing behind the backboard, but a basket’s a basket. I’ve shot on one a thousand times.”
Maranacook got on the board on a layup from junior Kyle Wilbur, but Darling set up senior Devin Shields Auble for a layup to make it 10-2.
After Black Bears senior Kent Mohlar drove for a lefthanded layup, Hagerty set up Medenica for an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) and Medenica, after a nice feed from senior C.J. Cawley, added a layup to force Maranacook coach Rob Schmidt to call timeout.
It didn’t help as the Black Bears couldn’t score before quarter’s end and with 1:09 to go, Hagerty set up Shields-Auble for a commanding 17-4 advantage.
“We came out really strong and we were going to play Yarmouth basketball regardless of where we are,” Medenica said. “We expected that (Maranacook) improved like we have. Watching film from that (first game), there was a huge improvement, so that gave us confidence.”
In the first quarter, Medenica had seven points and Hagerty dished out four assists and grabbed three rebounds.
In the second period, Maranacok crept closer, but Yarmouth answered.
A long 3-pointer from Black Bears senior Levi Emery started the scoring. Cawley answered with a long corner jumper for the Clippers, but a free throw from junior Hayden Elwell and two free throws from sophomore Silas Mohlar pulled Maranacook within nine, 19-10.
Medenica answered with a driving layup and M’Bareck made a layup after a steal for a 23-10 advantage.
After Elwell hit a free throw, he picked up his third foul and Hagerty hit a corner jumper. Medenica added a jump shot before Emery hit two free throws.
The Clippers then closed on an 8-0 surge.
Darling got it started with a long 3. After Darling scored on a putback, M’Bareck stole the ball and was fouled with 3.4 seconds showing. M’Bareck made the first free throw and missed the second, but Hagerty capped a stellar half by snaring the rebound and putting it home just before the horn for a commanding 35-13 advantage.
In the first half, Medenica had 11 points, Darling eight and M’Bareck six, while Hagerty scored four points, but more importantly grabbed five rebounds and dished our four assists.
Yarmouth shot a sizzling 15 of 25 from the floor, made half of its six 3-point attempts and had a 15-10 rebound advantage.
In the third period, the Black Bears came out with more intensity, but the Clippers didn’t let them chip into the deficit.
Emery opened the second half with a leaner, but Medenica buried a long 3.
Emery converted a three-point play and Wilbur added two foul shots, but Medenica countered with a floater and Darling hit a 3 from the deep corner to extend the lead back to 23 points, 43-20.
Emery answered with a putback, but a Medenica free throw, followed by Hagerty setting up Medenica for a layup and a runner in lane from Darling gave Yarmouth its biggest lead, 48-22.
Wilbur stemmed the tide with two free throws, but Hagerty drove and kissed the ball in off the glass for a 50-24 advantage.
Wilbur hit a 3 and after Hagerty made a free throw, Wilbur sank two free throws, but Clippers freshman Noah Eckersley-Ray made a jumper and junior Gibson Harnett added two free throws for a 55-29 lead.
In the final minute, Kent Mohlar made two free throws and after Harnett was called for a technical foul, Wilbur added two foul shots, but Yarmouth was still very much in control heading for the fourth quarter, up, 55-33.
There, the Black Bears refused to go quietly, as after M’Bareck made a free throw, Kent Mohlar hit a jumper, Emery made two foul shots and sophomore Bryan Riley added another to make it 56-38.
Hagerty set up Medenica for a short jumper in the lane, which bounced off the rim and in, but Emery scored on another putback, Elwell went coast to coast for a layup and with 4:50 to play, Silas Mohlar made two free throws to cut the deficit to 58-44.
After Elwell missed a layup which could have drawn the Black Bears even closer, Medenica got a pass down low from Darling and made a layup.
Maranacook got a putback from Kent Mohlar, but Medenica made two free throws with 3:04 remaining to make it 62-46.
Silas Mohlar countered with two foul shots, but with 1:57 left, M’Bareck drove for a layup and was fouled (Wilbur fouled out on the play) and hit the free throw for the dagger three-pointer and a 65-48 advantage.
Elwell hit a leaner with 1:42 to play, but M’Bareck set up senior Joey Fortin for a layup and Eckersley-Ray made a floater to cap the Clippers’ scoring.
With 29 seconds to go, Black Bears senior Austin Vining made a free throw and that accounted for the 69-51 final score.
“We have a mindset of always playing like we’re down,” Darling said. “If we’re up, we don’t play to the level of our opponents, we just try to keep pushing and increase the lead. We gave everything we have. We had a tough schedule compared to other Class B teams this year and even though we lost games, it helped us to prepare for the tournament.”
“We came out shooting very well, which is great because we moved the ball and everybody got assists,” Hagerty said. “We had more fouls in the second half and they knocked down free throws. When you have that much of a lead, it’s hard to focus, but we refocused.”
“I felt really good the last couple weeks,” Smith added. “I thought we’d have a better showing in the Expo and we didn’t. I chalk that up to nerves, but we played good defense and still did some nice things in the second half. Tonight, there was no way to expect to play that well here.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with the lead, but I was comfortable that the guys on the floor wouldn’t lose the lead and that came to fruition. I knew we’d lose a little bit (of the lead). It was about how we’d respond to their run. I knew they’d come out scrapping. We answered it. We didn’t give in. Everyone played well. They weren’t starstruck or in awe. You can’t play perfect, even though I expect it and maybe Saturday, we’ll be able to.”
Medenica, who moved to Yarmouth last year from Serbia, had his second straight stellar tournament game, leading all scorers with 25 points. Medenica also had 12 rebounds for a double-double, and added three steals.
“I think I was really relentless regardless of where I was on the floor,” Medenica said. “I got good feeds from Nolan, ‘Muss,’ Devin, everybody on the court.”
“When Alek showed up, I thought, ‘Now, I can go outside and he could go inside,” Hagerty said. “But he showed up as a 6-7 guy shooting 3s. I didn’t know what to think. He’s been a great addition.”
“Alek has been an awesome addition to the team,” Darling said. “A nice guy, a great player. He’s benefited us immensely.”
“I think Alek would shine in any program,” Smith added. “He feels comfortable here. He didn’t play great early on. He tried to do everything. When you have support, you can fail and it’s OK. We support him and it’s been a great partnership. He’s been great around school too.”
Darling’s sizzling shooting got his team going and he made three 3s en route to a 13-point performance. Darling also grabbed six rebounds and had three assists.
“It seemed like when he pulled the trigger so effortlessly, that settled us down,” Smith said. “It would have settled us down even if it didn’t go in. He shot it out of the flow, out of rhythm. It wasn’t forced or quick. He was comfortable and that made all of us comfortable.”
M’Bareck also finished in double figures with 10 points. The floor general also had five assists and four steals.
Speaking of stuffing the stat sheet, Hagerty did it best, scoring seven points, grabbing eight rebounds, dishing out a game-high seven assists and blocking two shots.
“I was trying to get a lot of rebounds and assists, facilitate the ball,” Hagerty said. “I was looking for the open person.”
“All-around, Nolan did a really good job,” Medenica said. “We’re two guys who know where each other is. We have good chemistry on the court. That helped tonight.”
“Even as a freshman, Nolan was huge on the boards for us,” Darling said. “He worked really hard this game.”
“For Nolan to play well, he doesn’t have to score,” Smith added. “It’s amazing for a sophomore to have that type of impact. I hate having to rely on a sophomore, but thank goodness he can handle it. Alek has been really good for him. They have great chemistry inside. They work hard for it and the guys try to give them touches.”
Eckersley-Ray and Shields-Auble both had four points and Cawley, Fortin and Harnett had two apiece.
In all, Yarmouth had nine players score and connected on 10 of 16 free throws, which was more than enough to overcome 17 turnovers, 11 of which came after halftime when the Black Bears were especially aggressive.
For Maranacook, Emery had a team-high 16 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Wilbur had 13 points, Kent Mohlar eight (to go with six rebounds and six steals), Elwell (six boards, three steals) and Silas Mohlar six apiece and Riley and Vining one each.
The Black Bears attempted 35 free throws (28 in the second half) and made 25. They turned the ball over 10 times.
Yarmouth and Lake Region split during the regular season, with each team winning at home, the Clippers by a 72-68 score in the season’s second game, Dec. 8, and the Lakers by a 65-53 margin in the penultimate game of the regular season Feb. 2.
The teams have met five previous times in the postseason, which Yarmouth holding a 3-2 edge.
Last year, Lake Region upset the Clippers in the semifinals, 52-50.
The sting of that loss and the poor performance in Naples earlier this month will serve as motivation for Yarmouth, which frankly doesn’t need any, considering it’s one win from a return trip to Bangor, the site of their 2012 championship.
“We have a fire in our belly,” Darling said. “We’re ready to come out like we did today and give everything we have.”
“We know what we need to get done,” Hagerty said. “We have to play good defense and shut down their shooters. I don’t think we have pressure. If we can come out strong and play like we did today, we have a good chance. Hopefully it will be a good game.”
“All I know is we’ll come out strong like every single game and try to get a win,” Medenica said. “We know what we can do, regardless of what other people say. Lake Region is intense. We have to keep up with their intensity and stay above their level at all times.”
“Lake Region has senior leadership and a singular focus of going all the way,” Smith added. “It’s going to be a tall task and we’ll have to play even better than we did tonight. They’re a physical team that knows how to get it done. They’ll want to get up the floor and get to the rim. If we allow them to take 35 free throws, they’ll do more damage. I’m happy with where we’re at with our size, our shot selection and our ability to defend.”
Yarmouth junior Aleksander Medenica splits the Maranacook defense and goes up for two of his game-high 25 points.
Yarmouth senior Musseit M’Bareck gets hacked by Maranacook senior Kent Mohlar.
Yarmouth freshman Jonny Torres fights Maranacook junior Kyle Wilbur for the ball.
Yarmouth sophomore Nolan Hagerty shoots over Maranacook senior Kent Mohlar.
Yarmouth senior C.J. Cawley drives on Maranacook senior Jason Brooks.
Yarmouth senior Conor O’Donnell and Maranacook junior Hayden Elwell jockey for rebounding position.
Yarmouth senior Bailey Darling, who had 13 points, tries to get a shot up over Maranacook senior Levi Emery.
Yarmouth senior Joey Fortin tries to wrench a rebound away from Maranacook junior Hayden Elwell.
2013 Western B prelim
@ Maranacook 72 Yarmouth 65