Waynflete stuns Yarmouth...and it's not even close

Sport: Basketball (boys)

Posted: January 25th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Waynflete stuns Yarmouth...and it's not even close
By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

PORTLAND- The Yarmouth Clippers boys' basketball team traveled to Waynflete Thursday afternoon with the top ranking in the Western Class B Heal Points standings in tow.

The Clippers were also on an emotional high as senior standout Joe Dilworth (who missed a month with a broken hand) had been cleared to play.

It all should have added up to an easy win for Yarmouth against an unfamiliar Western Class C foe, but this is why they play the games.

The host Flyers made an emphatic statement, seizing control early in the second half, then pulling away for a surprisingly easy 69-54 victory.

Waynflete put forth an inspired effort from start to finish, amazed even its most ardent supporters and got the job done led by 25 points from senior star Lucas O'Neil.

"It was a complete team effort tonight," said O'Neil, who has emerged into one of the top players in the Western Maine Conference this winter. "We were confident. Anytime we step in a gym, we feel like we'll compete and get a win. A lot of players stepped up. I was proud of my teammates tonight."

"I'm happy for the kids," Waynflete coach Rich Henry added. "We've been working hard."

Yarmouth has arguably been the most compelling local story of the 2007-08 season. The Clippers, just two years removed from a 1-17 campaign, have enjoyed stirring wins over Falmouth, Greely, Freeport and Falmouth again (the latter three coming after Dilworth's injury) and they've done it behind a stirring style of play, led by the ballhandling and pinpoint passing of senior point guard Lucas Denning, the bruising inside play of senior Ben Groves, the sharpshooting of junior Johnny Murphy and consistent unheralded performances from an assortment of supporting players.

The Clippers entered the game after having nearly a week off following last Friday's 63-56 win at Falmouth (behind 30 points from Murphy).

The Flyers, meanwhile, had been competitive all year, but were still looking for a signature win. Waynflete had improved to 6-6 Tuesday after an improbable 54-53 come-from-behind win at Hyde. In that one, the Flyers blew a late lead and fell behind by three, but somehow survived when O'Neil was fouled with time winding down and was awarded five free throws after a technical. He made four of his foul shots and Waynflete snuck out of town with a 54-53 win and a dose of confidence, which paid huge dividends Thursday.

In the early going, it appeared as if Yarmouth would cruise to an expected, easy win.

After Waynflete took a 2-0 lead on a short jumper from sophomore John Malia, Murphy buried a jump shot and Clippers' senior Robb Arndt made a layup for a 4-2 lead.

The Flyers went up 5-4 on an old-fashioned three-point play by Malia, but Groves made a pair of layups, hit two free throws and Murphy buried a jump shot for a 12-5 advantage.

Waynflete wouldn't wilt, however.

A rebound tip by Malia ended Yarmouth's 8-0 run. After Dilworth made his first appearance for the Clippers, O'Neil made a spinning layup and senior Jared Entwistle scored on a jumper to cut the deficit to one, 12-11, after one quarter.

Waynflete retook the lead on a layup from junior Hassan Jeylani, then extended its run to 10-0 on a Jeylani jumper to go up 15-12. Murphy tied the score with a 3-pointer, but O'Neil answered with a jump shot and Jeylani scored on a rebound layup for a 19-15 lead.

The Clippers then ripped off seven quick points as Groves scored on a layup, senior Jack Champlin made two free throws and Murphy canned a 3-ball. The Flyers got a jumper from O'Neil, but Groves made a layup. O'Neil made another jumper and Entwistle hit a foul shot to tie the game at 24-24. After Groves scored on a layup after a spin move, Waynflete was able to grab the halftime lead as O'Neil scored on a layup after a steal, then hit a long jumper for a 28-26 advantage.

Many on hand expected Yarmouth to take control in the second half, but instead, the hosts would carry play.

The Clippers tied the game just 14 seconds into the third period on a rebound layup from sophomore Evan Henry. Nineteen seconds later, Yarmouth went up 30-28 when Henry hit a short jumper, but Entwistle answered with a layup for the Flyers. After Groves made a layup to give the Clippers their last lead, 32-30, Jeylani buried a 3 to put his team on top to stay. Malia added a layup to make it 35-32. After Denning made a foul shot, Entwistle answered with a layup. Groves made a free throw to make it a 37-34 game, but the hosts scored the next eight points, as Malia made a short jumper, O'Neil hit a layup and sophomore Bill Ngoal converted back-to-back layups (the second coming after a steal) for a 45-34 advantage. Champlin made a short jumper in the final minute to cut the deficit to nine, 45-36, entering the fourth quarter, but it was clear that Waynflete had Yarmouth on the ropes.

O'Neil started the final period by making the first of two free throws for a 46-36 lead. After missing the second, O'Neil got his own rebound and laid it in to make it 48-36. Denning answered with a three-point play, but Flyers' sophomore Cecil Gardner made a layup for a 50-39 lead. Champlin hit back-to-back shots to make it a seven point game, 50-43, but O'Neil stemmed the tide with a layup. After Groves made a bank shot to cut the deficit back to seven, 52-45, Jeylani calmly sank two free throws to push the lead back to nine.

Champlin answered with a jumper and Groves made a left-handed layup to make it a five-point game, 54-49, with 4 minutes to play, but Malia hit a layup after a steal and Ngoal made a layup for a 58-49 lead. After Denning got the Clippers back within seven, 58-51, with a jumper, Malia made two free throws for a 60-51 lead.

With 2:46 to play, Denning hit one of two free throws to make it a 60-52 game, but Yarmouth was running out of time. O'Neil made a layup and two free throws for a 64-52 lead. Ngoal made three free throws and O'Neil a pair to make it 69-52, then Champlin scored on a rebound layup with under a minute to go to account for the 69-54 final score.

"We felt good at halftime," O'Neil said. "We knew they'd make a run and to be ready.

We limited them to a lot of one-and-out possessions. This is a big 'W' for a young team."

"I tried to stress to the kids that they did the things we've been talking about doing," Henry added. "I asked them, 'How did it feel? Did it feel like you were playing otherworldly or did it feel like the things we were doing in practice?' To a man, they realized we did the things we talked about.

"We faced Yarmouth last year in the Old Orchard Beach tournament. It didn't count. We were somewhat familiar with them. We knew they were a good team, but we knew we needed to play smart and not be in awe."

While O'Neil led all scorers with his 25 points, he had plenty of company. Malia had 15 points. Jeylani added 11. Ngoal had nine, Entwistle event and Gardner two.

"It was a complete team effort tonight," O'Neil said. "We were confident. Anytime we step in a gym, we feel like we'll compete and get a win. A lot of players stepped up. I was proud of my teammates tonight."

"We tried to make some adjustments on how we were playing and how we blocked out," Henry added. "Pretty much, we knew we were doing what we wanted to do. We knew they'd make a run.

"We knew pressure was key. We wanted to make them play halfcourt defense against us. Once we were able to break their pressure, we were OK. Making free throws was big for a young team. When Lucas makes them, I expect that. When some the younger kids step up, it's a bonus."

For Yarmouth, Groves led the way with 21 points. Champlin had 12. Murphy finished with 10, but all of them came in the first half. Denning added seven and Arndt and Henry both had two. Dilworth did not attempt a shot from the field. He did miss a pair of foul shots. While he appeared a little rusty, he did play solid defense and grabbed a couple rebounds and steals. It shouldn't be long until he's back in game shape.

The Clippers (now 11-2 and still first in the Western B Heals) quickly hopped a bus home and coach Adam Smith was unavailable for comment. Yarmouth is home against Gray-New Gloucester Saturday night.

The Flyers (7-6 and now fifth in the Western C Heals) host Old Orchard Beach Saturday afternoon.

Thursday's victory will be a great building block.

"If anything, this puts more pressure on us, because know we know what we're capable of," Henry said. "I hope it's a steppingstone for them."

"We're definitely jelling," O'Neil added. "I'm anxious to see what we can do when get into the tournament."