York girls rally to steal one at Falmouth

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Falmouth senior Maddie Rouhana is sandwiched by York senior Sophia Remick, left, and sophomore Martha McCaddin during the teams’ battle Saturday morning. The Wildcats rallied late to force overtime, then prevailed, 49-48.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

York 49 Falmouth 48 (OT)

Y- 9 9 13 12 6- 49
F- 11 8 13 11 5- 48

Y- Howe 6-2-15, Smedley 3-2-8, Lauersen 3-0-6, Remick 2-1-6, Chapman 1-2-4, Posternak 1-2-4, Tabora 2-0-4, Cogger 1-0-2

F- Cooke 8-4-20, Dimick 2-3-7, Ryan 2-0-6, Birkel 2-0-5, Soucy 2-0-5, Powers 1-1-3, Wiggin 1-0-2

3-pointers:
Y (2) Howe, Remick 1
F (4) Ryan 2, Birkel, Soucy 1

Turnovers:
Y- 11
F- 27

Free throws
Y: 9-14
F: 8-11

FALMOUTH—Falmouth’s girls’ basketball team has made nice strides under first-year coach Dawn Armandi, but the Yachtsmen are still suffering through occasional growing pains.

Saturday morning was Exhibit A, as the new-look defending Class A champion York Wildcats paid a visit, dug into their reservoir of pride and championship heart and rallied to hand Falmouth an agonizing defeat.

Thanks to hot starts from senior Adelaide Cooke and junior Grace Soucy, the Yachtsmen opened up an 11-9 lead after quarter. Falmouth then went cold for over six minutes in the second period, but still managed to hold a one-point advantage, 19-18, at the break, thanks to two late free throws from junior Grace Dimick.

The lead changed hands a whopping eight times in a tense third quarter, which ended with the Yachtsmen still clinging to a one-point lead, 32-31.

Falmouth then opened the final stanza on a 10-4 run, capped by a 3-pointer from senior Alaina Birkel with 1:56 remaining, which seemingly iced the victory.

Instead, York, paced by a pair of unlikely heroes, freshman Nina Howe and senior reserve Lily Posternak, the state’s best field hockey player, turned up its defensive pressure and roared back, pulling even on a Howe runner with 7 seconds left, which sent the contest to overtime tied, 43-43.

The Wildcats never trailed in the four-minute OT, going ahead for good on a Howe basket 17 seconds in and when the Yachtsmen, down three points, settled for a two-point basket as time expired, York escaped with a 49-48 victory.

Howe’s 15 points led the Wildcats, helped counteract 20 points from Cooke and allowed York to even its record at 3-3, dropping Falmouth to 4-3 in the process.

“We basically handed them the game,” Armandi lamented. “We couldn’t handle pressure the way we needed to, we turned the ball over and we missed free throws. It didn’t go our way at the end.”

What a difference a year makes

Last winter, York had arguably the state’s best team as it bid adieu to longtime coach Rick Clark by winning the Class A state title in undefeated fashion.

Falmouth, meanwhile, fell short of the postseason with a 5-13 record.

In the offseason, Armandi took over the Yachtsmen and she’s quickly turned this program around.

Falmouth did drop its opener, 41-34, at Kennebunk, then downed visiting Cape Elizabeth (56-31) and Biddeford (41-19) before losing at Brunswick (54-30). After downing visiting Mt. Ararat (46-39), the Yachtsmen won on the road for the first time Tuesday, 43-27, at Westbrook.

York, under new coach Steve Freeman, started with a 32-31 loss at Fryeburg Academy, a 72-42 home setback to Greely and a 45-43 loss at Marshwood, then beat visiting Mt. Ararat (46-36) and host Biddeford (54-34).

Last season, the Wildcats beat the Yachtsmen twice, 76-46 in York and 50-36 in Falmouth.

Saturday morning, the Yachtsmen hoped to beat the Wildcats for the first time since Jan. 6, 2015, but instead, York rallied to down Falmouth for the third time in a row.

The early morning start didn’t seen to faze the hosts, as Cooke banked home a shot just 17 seconds in.

After York drew even on a putback from senior Reilly Smedley, Cooke hit a short jumper in the lane to put the Yachtsmen on top and Soucy added a long 3.

After the Wildcats got a 3 from Howe, Soucy banked home a long shot, but senior Morgan Chapman countered with a stop-and-pop jumper to pull the visitors within two.

After being fouled while grabbing an offensive rebound, Cooke hit two free throws, but a layup from senior Alana Lauersen, set up by senior Madigan Cogger, pulled York within 11-9 after one quarter.

In the first period, Cooke had six points and Soucy five, but five turnovers prevented Falmouth from opening up a bigger lead.

As she did in the first quarter, Cooke started the second with two points, this time from the free throw line 11 seconds in. She then drove for a left-handed layup, putting her in double figures and giving the Yachtsmen a six-point advantage.

The Wildcats answered, as senior Sophie Remick made a free throw, sophomore Jackie Tabora made a layup while being fouled and while she missed the and-one, Tabora got her own rebound and fed Posternak for a jumper, cutting the deficit to 15-14.

After several chances to take the lead, York went on top, 16-15, with 2:38 left in the half when Chapman sank two foul shots.

Howe added a leaner in the lane 46 seconds later, but with 1:02 remaining, Cooke put home a miss to end a 6 minute, 7 second drought and the Wildcats’ 9-0 run.

Then, with 2.4 seconds to go, off a long Cooke lead pass, Dimick was fouled and made both free throws to put the Yachtsmen ahead at halftime, 19-18.

Cooke had 12 points to lead all scorers in the first half. Falmouth did commit 10 turnovers, however. Howe paced York with five points.

The teams went back and forth in the third period, as the lead changed hands eight times.

Tebora got things started with a jumper for the Wildcats, but Soucy set up senior Hadley Wiggin for a layup and a 21-20 lead.

York went back on top with a Smedley jumper and Lauersen added a layup, but back came the Yachstmen, as Cooke made a layup and senior Abby Ryan buried a 3 for a 26-24 advantage. 

The Wildcats drew even when Smedley passed to Remick for a reverse layup, but Falmouth went back on top on a putback by Cooke.

After York retook the lead on a Remick 3, junior Candice Powers stole the ball and made a layup for a 30-29 Yachtsmen advantage.

Howe’s jumper gave the Wildcats a one-point edge, but with 12.7 seconds to go, the eighth and final lead change of the quarter came courtesy Cooke, who took a pass from Powers and banked home a short shot for a 32-31 advantage with eight minutes to go.

In the fourth, Falmouth opened up a lead, but couldn’t quite close out the victory.

Ryan gave Falmouth some breathing room with a 3, Dimick hit a short jumper off an inbounds set and with 5 minutes remaining, Birkel drove into the lane and kissed a shot off the glass for a 39-31 lead.

York finally ended the Yachtsmen’s 9-0 run and their 5:32 drought when Smedley was fouled after a steal and made both free throws with 3:08 to go.

After a Posternak steal, Cogger hit a layup to cut the deficit to four, but with 1:56 to go, Birkel’s clutch 3 from the corner extended the lead to seven and seemingly set Falmouth up for victory, but the Wildcats refused to buckle. 

First, Howe made a layup after a steal. Posternak then stole the ball, was fouled and hit two free throws.

Then, after Howe missed a layup after a steal, Smedley stole the ball and hit a short jumper with 29.3 seconds showing to cut the deficit to 42-41.

With 10.2 seconds remaining, Powers was fouled and went to the line for two shots. She missed the first, but made the second.

That gave York one final chance to win or tie and the Wildcats took advantage.

Howe caught a long lead pass that sailed over the fingertip of a Yachtsmen defender, then hit a runner with exactly 7 seconds showing, tying the game.

Ryan hoped to win it for Falmouth in regulation, but her desperation midcourt 3 at the horn was well off target and it was on to overtime.

The teams then had four minutes to determine a winner and York carried over its momentum and completed its dramatic comeback. 

The Wildcats got the ball first and Howe drained a floater to put her team on top to stay.

After Posternak stole the ball, York turned it back over, but Remick’s block tied up Cooke in the lane. 

The Yachtsmen kept possession, but Birkel missed a shot and Lauersen got the rebound.

The Wildcats couldn’t build on their lead, however, as Howe missed, but Howe stole the ball right back.

York was then frustrated, as Howe missed a shot, Posternak missed a putback and after Remick kept possession, Lauersen missed in close as well.

Falmouth looked to take advantage, but it committed another turnover.

With 1:37 left in overtime, Posternak was fouled, but she missed the front end of a one-and-one.

With 1:21 to go, Cooke went to the line with a chance to tie the score, but she missed both attempts and Posternak got the rebound.

The Wildcats returned to the attack and Howe took a pass from Lauersen and made a layup for a 47-43 lead.

With 47.8 seconds remaining, Howe made the front end of a one-and-one, then missed the second, but York’s advantage was five.

The Yachtsmen finally scored in OT when Dimick put home a miss while being fouled with 31.3 seconds to go. She added the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play, giving the hosts life.

With 18.4 seconds to go, Howe again made one of two foul shots and after Cooke got the rebound, Falmouth had one final chance to extend the game.

With time winding down, the ball came to Ryan, but she drove into the lane and shot and even though Cooke got the rebound and put it home, time expired immediately thereafter.

“There was a specific play we were supposed to run to get a 3,” Armandi said. “I don’t know why we didn’t run it. It goes back to our inexperience closing out games. We are getting better every day, but we can’t prepare in practice with simulation drills as much as I’d like to for games like this.”

The Wildcats then celebrated their 49-48 victory.

“I was really impressed,” said Freeman. “It would have been easy to get down, but we didn’t. We came back and I’m very happy. It’s a very big win for us. The kids left it all out there on the court. The defense had to step up and it did.”

Howe, a freshman who already plays like an upperclassmen, led York with 15 points. She also had three steals. Smedley had eight points, four rebounds and four steals before fouling out. Lauersen (six rebounds) and Remick each added six points, Chapman, Posternak (five steals) and Tabora had four apiece and Cogger finished with two.

“Everyone contributed,” Freeman said. “It’s a good team win.” 

York overcame 11 turnovers and made 9 of 14 free throws.

Falmouth got 20 points and 13 rebounds from Cooke, seven points from Dimick, six points and eight boards from Ryan, five points apiece from Birkel and Soucy, three points from Powers and two from Wiggin.

The Yachtsmen had a 37-24 rebounding advantage and made 8 of 11 free throws, but were doomed by 27 turnovers.

“We still learning how to handle pressure and we’re not there yet,” Armandi said. “We have to learn from this. As much as it stinks to lose, you can learn from it. We have to keep pushing each other in practice.”

Improvement

York is back in action Tuesday when it opens 2017 with a game at Kennebunk.

Look for the Wildcats to keep improving and to once again be a team no one wants to face come February.

“Every player on this team has a different role than they did last year, but these girls are stepping up and doing what they need to do,” Freeman said. “Now we need to keep it going. We hope to keep progressing. They’re great kids.”

Falmouth hopes to get back on track when it hosts powerhouse Greely Tuesday. Lake Region pays a visit Thursday.

“The girls feel the pain, but they’ll learn a lot,” Armandi said. “They have what it takes, it’s just believing in themselves. We’ll keep getting better. Hopefully we come out on top next time.”

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

Falmouth senior Alaina Birkel rises for a 3-point shot as York senior Madigan Cogger defends.

Falmouth junior Grace Soucy races up the floor as York junior Lily Posternak gives chase.

Falmouth senior Adelaide Cooke is defended by York senior Sophia Remick (13) and freshman Delaney Labonte.

Falmouth junior Candice Powers defends York senior Lily Posternak.

Falmouth senior Abby Ryan looks to pass as York sophomore Martha McCaddin defends.

Falmouth senior Hadley Wiggin shoots as York sophomore Jackie Tabora defends.

Falmouth junior Grace Soucy (2) is congratulated by senior Adelaide Cooke after a basket.

First-year Falmouth coach Dawn Armandi looks on.

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