Yarmouth and its gunslinger ruin Freeport's Senior Night

Sport: Basketball (boys)

Posted: February 8th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Yarmouth and its gunslinger ruin Freeport's Senior Night
By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR
02/08/08

FREEPORT- When Yarmouth junior Johnny Murphy's shot isn't dropping, he keeps firing.

When it is, have pity on the opposition.

Thursday evening, Murphy was simply on fire, as he drained five 3-pointers in the first period alone, helping the Clippers to an early lead and they pulled away to ruin Freeport's Senior Night by the stunning and decisive score of 73-48.

Yarmouth took the lead for good on a Murphy 3 early in the first period, led by 10 at halftime, then was never seriously challenged in the second half.

Murphy finished with 27 points (including seven 3-balls).

"It was surprising," he said. "We haven't necessarily been on the last two games. To come out like that, was a nice surprise. We moved the ball well and shots were open."

The Falcons and Clippers have been two of the feel-good stories of this exciting season. Last year, in the season finale at Yarmouth, Freeport pulled out a stirring overtime win, thanks to a late 3-pointer from then-sophomore Jon Klages, which forced overtime. The Falcons won in the extra session. Both teams made the tournament, but were eliminated in the quarterfinal round.

This winter, the Clippers have stopped and stolen hearts from the get-go. Yarmouth won its first nine games, culminated by a dramatic 50-48 home victory over Freeport Jan. 8 when senior Ben Groves scored on a reverse layup with 0.9 seconds remaining. The Clippers would lose twice to Cape Elizabeth and once to Waynflete in the meantime, while the Falcons were beating everyone but Greely and Cape Elizabeth.

Yarmouth entered the game smarting from Tuesday's 55-46 home loss to the Capers on Senior Night. Freeport was hoping to avoid a similar feat, but Murphy had other ideas.

Just 24 seconds into the game, Reid Christian, one the Falcons' many seniors, made two free throws. The Clippers countered on one free throw from Groves and a layup from sophomore Evan Henry (on a gorgeous crosscourt pass from senior Lucas Denning). With 6:05 to play in the first period, the Falcons took a 4-3 lead on a baseline jumper from senior Tom Markelon.

That would prove to be Freeport's final advantage.

With 5:43 to go in the first, Murphy quietly made a 3-pointer.

There would be many more.

The second came at the 5:14 mark. Forty-five seconds later, Murphy struck again and suddenly Yarmouth was up 12-4.

A layup from Christian ended the 9-0 run and senior Bejay Perkins added two foul shots to make it 12-8, but Groves countered with a free throw. When Klages made a jumper with 2:28 to go in the first, the hosts were within three, 13-10, but Murphy and the Clippers had more damage in store.

Thirteen seconds after Klages' basket, Groves scored on a driving bank shot. Senior Joe Dilworth, who is nearing full recovery from the hand injury which sidelined him for a month, followed with a tip-in, then Murphy closed the period with back-to-back 3-balls for a 23-10 lead.

"The other night with the Senior Night stuff going on, there was so much hype, they were exhausted before the first quarter," Yarmouth coach Adam Smith said, of his team. "We never really produced anything with our energy. We didn't draw it from the crowd, the bench or our starters and we struggled all night.

"Tonight, we came out and just played the game. It helps when we shoot well of course, but I thought we rebounded and defended extremely well too. If (Johnny) missed those shots, I'd still let him shoot and want him to shoot. It's wonderful when his team supports him like they do and keeps going to him."

Murphy concurred.

"Everyone was so nervous because it was Senior Night and wanted to do well and we didn't," he said. "That game caused us to come out like this. We were so mad. We wanted to get this for the seniors. I feel like this is the best way we could have ended the regular season. We're playing great team basketball right now."

Freeport got five quick points to begin the second period when junior reserve extraordinaire Cody Bartlett made a 3-pointer and Klages followed with a layup, but the Clippers embarked on another run, this one 10-0. The unheralded Henry, who has tremendous upside and is a star of the future, got things started with a short bank shot. Dilworth followed with a floater, Murphy made his first two-point shot of the night and Dilworth made consecutive hoops, one on a left-handed floater, the other a layup, for a commanding 33-15 advantage.

The Falcons then came to life, scoring 11 consecutive points of their own.

A 3-ball from Christian ended Yarmouth's run. Perkins then made a jump shot. Klages followed with a layup and Christian made a jumper, then scored on a fourth-effort offensive rebound layup to cut the deficit to seven, 33-26.

A 3-pointer by Denning ended the rally. Perkins hit a jumper with 2:02 to go to get the hosts within single-digits for the final time, but with 1:05 to play in the half, Murphy made a layup and the Clippers had a 38-28 lead at the break.

Any Freeport comeback hopes were quickly dashed in the third period.

Just 10 seconds into the quarter, Henry made a layup. Murphy followed with one of his own and it was a 42-28 game. After Klages answered with a leaner, Denning fed Henry for a layup and a 44-30 lead. Perkins made a jumper for the hosts, but Murphy made another 3 and Groves followed with a layup to make it 49-32. After Perkins hit yet another jumper for the Falcons, Murphy made his seventh and final 3-pointer of the night. Klages ended the period with a 3 of his own, but Freeport still trailed 52-37 with eight minutes to play.

Yarmouth ended the competitive phase of the game by scoring the first nine points of the fourth. Dilworth scored three straight layups to get things started. On the first two, he took pretty passes from Denning before finishing. The final basket came off an offensive rebound. Junior Andrew Totta then made a free throw, followed by a jump shot for a 61-37 lead. The Falcons would get no closer than 17, 65-48, the rest of the way. The Clippers got the game's final eight points as Henry made a layup, Denning hit a foul shot, Dilworth made two free throws and a 3-pointer to account for the 73-48 final score.

"A win like this is huge," Dilworth said. "Going into a week-and-a-half break, you want to go in a high note. We couldn't have played any better, even when we had the big lead. To bring that kind of intensity into a game like this means a lot."

"We came out intense," Denning said. "They made a few good runs, but we kept a decent lead. We came out with the same intensity in the second half and we extended the lead even more."

"This shows we can come back from losing to a very good team and come back and blow out a good team on their court," Groves added. "It feels good."

Murphy led all scorers with 27 points, but Dilworth was close behind with 23. Henry finished with 10, Groves had six, Denning four and Totta three.

"We scored 73 points tonight and Ben Groves had six," Smith marveled. "I wouldn't have expected that since he's such a big part of our offense. Joe coming back has been so big for us. I don't know if he'll be 100 percent, but I'll take whatever percent he is. We distributed the ball well. We feel good about what we're doing on the floor."

Freeport was left stunned.

"The key was Murphy's five 3's in the first quarter," Falcons' coach Craig Sickels said. "It's disheartening. It's not like we didn't know who he is. We know. At their place, we held him to two points through three quarters. We just didn't defend tonight. We didn't know where the shooters were and we didn't rotate to where they were. From that point, we were playing catchup.

"We made a nice run, but to start the second half, we just weren't playing intelligent basketball. We've gotten by on talent, but in close games, it boils down to poise, confidence and decisions. We have to get more of that and we don't have time. We've shown spurts, but we need to sustain that kind of play. We're not making senior-type decisions."

Christian led the Falcons with 16 points. Klages added 15 and Perkins had 12. Freeport also got scoring from Bartlett (three points) and Markelon (two).

The Falcons finished the season with a 13-5 mark, their best since moving up to Class B and their best since the 1999-2000 squad went 14-4.

Freeport expects to be the fifth seed when the tournament begins at the Portland Expo Feb. 16.

Sickels hopes his squad will regroup in the meantime.

"I just told them that the regular season's over now and the second season begins," he said. "I'd rather lay an egg now than at tournament time. Now everyone's 0-0. Hopefully, that's a positive thing. We have a week of practice. This hurts our confidence, but I hope we bounce back."

Yarmouth, meanwhile, locked up the second seed for the tournament and improved to 15-3, the program's finest regular season mark since 1988-89.

Not too shabby, considering just two years ago, the Clippers won exactly once.

"I never would have imagined two years that we'd be setting records," Dilworth said. "I can't really describe the change. It's a pretty amazing feeling. The last two years have totally erased the shadow that loomed over Yarmouth basketball. We don't even think about that anymore, but it's kind of fun to look at what we've accomplished."

"It's been so much fun," said Denning, who transferred from Cheverus in time to lead the Clippers to a 12-8 record last winter. "Every day. Practice and games are so much fun. Winning adds to it even more."

"I didn't know how good we'd be truthfully," Groves added. "I'd thought we'd be a top team, but I didn't think we'd be No. 2."

While the sharpshooting Murphy didn't suffer to the degree of his senior teammates, he too is awestruck over the Clippers' growth and success.

"I never saw that coming," he said. "I didn't think we could be this good. As the season has gone on, we've gotten more confident." The more we run, the better we get. We'll come out strong and give our best. We don't really care who we play. At the beginning of the season, we knew we'd make it, we just didn't know where. To go in as the No. 2 seed, I'm proud of it."

Smith is hoping the good times will continue when Yarmouth opens tournament play in a little over a week. After all, the Clippers haven't won a quarterfinal round game since the 1973-74 team went to the regional final.

"Last year, (the guys) really reveled that underdog role and the surprise of it all," he said. "They were trying to convince each other in the locker room that they were pretty good. This year, knowing they had to bring it and that people were going after them, they've continued to bring it night in, night out. The best thing I can say for our program, is that the younger guys know how to practice now.

"We talked about history all year. History is important. Good, bad or indifferent, it's important. These guys are writing history. We're glad to be going back a second time. We expected that all year. Last year, we were glad to make it. This year, we have a different mindset with expectations."

"Whatever the situation is, we've won 15 games, we're seeded second and they should be very proud of that. I don't know how we'll play, but we feel good and we should feel good about we've done this year. The tournament will take care of itself.