Y-town bragging rights go to the Clippers

Sport: Basketball (boys)

Posted: February 2nd, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Y-town bragging rights go to the Clippers
By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

YARMOUTH- Nine days ago, the Yarmouth boys' basketball team traveled to unheralded Western C contender Waynflete and left with a decisive and stunning loss.

Saturday afternoon, the Clippers made another trip to a Western C contender which plays in a small, unfamiliar gym, crosstown rival North Yarmouth Academy, and made sure that history didn't repeat itself.

Yarmouth never got caught looking ahead to Tuesday's showdown with Cape Elizabeth, fending off the Panthers' best shots before finally pulling away in the fourth quarter to win 78-68.

"From the tip, it was a really high-intensity game," said Clippers' senior point guard extraordinaire Lucas Denning. "(NYA) came out and played hard all game. They played a great game. We matched their intensity.

"They're a very good team. I'm not going to say I wasn't nervous after what happened at Waynflete. We had to come to another small gym for an afternoon game. It was tough, but we got it done."

The game was fast-paced and closely contested from the get-go. Yarmouth clung to a 16-15 lead after one quarter. The Clippers then rode a late second quarter surge to take a 36-29 lead. The Panthers wouldn't let them pull away, however, and were still within six, 51-45, at the start of the fourth.

In the final stanza, the visitors finally seized control.

With 6:02 to play, NYA senior standout Liam Anderson made a pair of foul shots to make it a 58-51 game, but after the Panthers failed on a pair of possessions with a chance to get closer, Yarmouth junior gunslinger Johnny Murphy made a jump shot. The hosts answered when senior Alex Briggs scored on a rebound putback, making it 60-53 with 4:45 to play. Yarmouth senior Joe Dilworth responded with a bank shot, but Anderson scored on a finger roll and it was 62-55 with 3:38 remaining.

Then, and only then, did the Clippers get some breathing room.

A 6-0 run did the trick. Senior Ben Groves scored on a leaner, Denning hit a jump shot, then, with 2:06 to go, Denning made two foul shots and it was 68-55. NYA got a free throw then a rebound putback from Anderson to get back within 10, 68-58, but after a Denning steal, Yarmouth senior Robb Arndt fed Murphy for a layup with a gorgeous pass and the lead was back to a dozen, 70-58.

The teams then traded points the rest of the way until the Panthers got to within eight, 76-68, on a leaner from junior Andrew Gendron. But only 19.5 seconds remained and it was too late. A layup by Murphy accounted for the 78-68 final score.

"We got out of here with a win," Yarmouth coach Adam Smith said. "Offensively, (NYA) was incredibly good. They hung around and hung around. I thought they were explosive offensively. We were just tougher offensively. We had better looks down the stretch and we kept the offensive pressure on them. We had patience and broke them down."

"We gave them a run," NYA first-year coach Ed Rogers said. "We knew the last time we played a team like this, Freeport, we were out of it early. Our goal was to have energy for 32 minutes. I told the guys afterwards that they lost to quite possibly the Class B champion and gave them everything they could handle. If we can keep this effort up, we like our chances."

Dilworth wound up leading the Clippers in scoring with 21 points as he continues to round into playing shape after sitting out for a month with a broken hand.

"This is the most tired I've been after a game," Dilworth said.

"Joe picked up the offensive load," Denning said. "It's great to have him back. He takes so much pressure off."

"I thought Joe played his best game back," Smith added. "He ran out of gas, but I kept him in there to give him a workout. I think he feels good. He has a little ways to go, but today was a nice day for him."

Murphy (who only had three first half points) finished with 18. Groves had 14, while sophomore Evan Henry added a huge 11. Denning had 10 and Arndt and senior Jack Champlin both had two.

Count Rogers as one who's very impressed with the Clippers.

"Lucas Denning is probably the best point guard in the state because he doesn't have to shoot at the beginning, but at the end, he's the key," Rogers said. "Evan Henry stepped up and had a great game for them. We didn't expect 11 points from him. We held Johnny Murphy to three points in the first half. He had a big second half. They're so potent even if we hold Johnny down. They have all the pieces. "

For NYA, Anderson (three days removed from a 31-point uprising in an upset win over Richmond) was the high man with 22 points. Senior Pak Lul added 14, Gendron had 13 and senior Taylor Gorman scored 11 before fouling out. Briggs finished with four and junior Calvin Chicoine and sophomore Henry Sterling had two points apiece.

"Taylor had a good game for us," said Rogers. "We finally got back to four guys in double figures. If there's such a thing as a good loss, this was a good loss. It was a well-played game. We have nothing to be ashamed of."

The Panthers, now two-thirds of the way through a stretch which sees them face the best of the best in three classes, go to Western C power Traip Tuesday and close the regular year Friday at Gray-New Gloucester.

NYA (now 9-7 and seventh in the Heal Points standings) looks to host a preliminary round playoff game, then take its chances in Augusta.

"We're hoping to get a home game," Rogers said.

The Clippers, meanwhile, are now 14-2. That's the most wins in a regular season for the program since the 1988-89 team went 15-3.

Yarmouth is far from done. The Clippers (second in Western B) are hoping to overtake Cape Elizabeth for the top spot and can go a long way toward doing so with a win over the Capers, whom they host Tuesday night (Senior Night). Yarmouth closes the regular season Thursday with another huge test at Freeport (a team the Clippers beat at home on a buzzer-beater last month).

"(The Waynflete loss) was a wakeup call," Denning said. "We went in there knowing they were a good team, but we didn't play a good game. That hurt our morale a little, but we've come back out and won. We have huge games left. We're getting ready for Cape now. It's Senior Night. They already beat us."

"I said to the guys, 'You're 14-2. It doesn't get better than that,'" Smith added. "We've battled all year. Nothing comes easily to us. We like it that way. It toughens us up for the tournament. Next week will toughen us up too. We'd like to play really well going into the tournament. (The 1 seed) or 2 doesn't matter. I'm hoping we can go either in one or two. It would be a big thing for us. We just wanted to continue to win and play well."