Yarmouth magic continues with win at Falmouth

Sport: Basketball (boys)

Posted: January 18th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Yarmouth magic continues with win at Falmouth
By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

FALMOUTH- Just when it looked as if the improbable, dreamlike run of the Yarmouth boys' basketball team had slowed a bit, the Clippers pulled yet another tremendous, inspirational win out of their hats.

Friday evening, Yarmouth not only improved to 11-1 with a 63-56 victory at Falmouth, but the Clippers made history in the process, sweeping a season series from the Yachtsmen for the first time in memory.

One week after its lone loss of the year (at Cape Elizabeth), Yarmouth took the lead in the second quarter and held on for dear life down the stretch, thanks to tenacious defense, opportunistic offense and the brilliance of junior sharpshooter Johnny Murphy, who led all scorers with 30 points.

"These guys do something every night to make me question what's next," Clippers' coach Adam Smith said. "I'm so thrilled to watch their maturity, growth and continued effort even though we're down a couple bodies. These guys just keep coming. They don't back down and they don't let anything frustrate them. I'm so fortunate to be able to watch this take place. It's been a great atmosphere for us."

Back on Dec. 14, Yarmouth made the key plays late to hold on for a 42-36 home win over Falmouth, the Clippers' first victory over the Yachtsmen in Yarmouth in many moons. That was just part of the team's amazing start. Despite losing senior standout Joe Dilworth to a broken hand, the Clippers found a way to eke out dramatic home wins over Greely and Freeport en route to a 9-0 start. Yarmouth finally came back to earth last Friday at Cape Elizabeth, but rebounded with a home win over Poland Tuesday, then made a major statement Friday night at a Falmouth team which had won seven games in a row.

The game started relatively slowly, but Yachtsmen sophomore star Stefano Mancini finally got things going by hitting back-to-back jump shots for a 4-0 lead. With 5:06 to go in the first, Yarmouth got on the board courtesy of a Murphy jumper.

He would make many, many more.

Clippers' senior Ben Groves tied the game with a layup and Murphy followed with a jumper for a 6-4 lead. Falmouth answered when sophomore Sam Horning and senior Michael Doyle converted layups, but Yarmouth sophomore Evan Henry answered with a layup to make it 8-8. After Yachtsmen senior captain Kevin Smith made a pair of foul shots, the Clippers retook the lead when Murphy canned a 3-pointer, which rolled around the rim before finally dropping. Falmouth sophomore Jahrel Registe answered with a rebound layup and it was 12-11 Yachtsmen after one.

A Groves layup after a steal put Yarmouth back on top early in the second period, but Horning countered with a layup. After Clippers' senior Joe Laverriere made a layup, Doyle hit a foul shot, then made a layup to give his team a 17-15 lead. Yarmouth tied the game on a layup from senior Jack Champlin, but with 4:21 to play in the half, Smith made a layup to give Falmouth a 19-17 advantage.

It would prove to be the Yachtsmen's final lead.

Twenty seconds later, Murphy canned a 3-ball, then he hit a jump shot for a 22-19 lead. As the pace picked up, Horning made a layup, Murphy answered with a jump shot and Doyle made a layup, but Henry and Laverriere did the same for a 28-23 Clippers' lead with 1:38 left in the half. Falmouth got back within a point behind a bank shot from Smith and a layup from Doyle, but Murphy's jumper with 4.2 seconds to go before halftime sent the Clippers into the break with a 30-27 advantage.

In the first half, Yarmouth scored 18 points on 11 Yachtsmen turnovers. Falmouth, conversely, scored layups on nine of its 12 field goals.

The Clippers slowly extended their lead in the third period. After Smith got the Yachtsmen within a point with a layup early in the third, Yarmouth senior point guard extraordinaire Lucas Denning made two free throws. Horning answered with a layup, but Groves hit a runner and Murphy converted a layup to make it 36-31. Doyle answered with a layup for Falmouth, but Champlin made a floater, Murphy scored on a fast break layup, hit a floater, then Groves made a layup with 1:44 left in the period for a seemingly commanding 44-33 lead.

With 1:30 to go in the third, Falmouth junior Jack Wyman made a 3-pointer, but Groves answered with a rebound putback at the other end. With 19.3 seconds left, Yachtsmen senior Rudy Babikian made a 3-pointer and the hosts were only down seven, 46-39, heading for the fourth.

In the final stanza, Mancini got things going with a jump shot (his first points in 25 minutes and 59 seconds). Mancini was getting good looks, but was just missing shots he normally buries.

Murphy pushed the lead back to seven, 48-41, on a layup after a steal, but Smith scored on a layup and Wyman hit another 3-ball with 5:55 to play, cutting Yarmouth's lead to a precarious 48-46.

The Clippers answered the bell.

Murphy scored on a jumper. After a couple defensive stops, Henry made a layup and the lead was back up to six, 52-46. After Smith canned a jumper for Falmouth, Murphy scored on a layup after a steal with 2:45 left, and the Clippers were up 54-48. Smith got one of two free throws at the other end, but a huge sequence followed on Yarmouth's ensuing possession.

The Clippers broke the press and found senior Robb Arndt alone in the right corner. Arndt, who hadn't scored until the point, calmly buried a 3-pointer for a 57-49 lead.

"He's a senior," Falmouth coach Dave Halligan said, of Arndt. "He stepped up and made a big shot. That's usually what happens."

The Yachtsmen came right back and got a 3-ball from Smith, but Yarmouth came up huge at the other end. Arndt got free for another 3-point bid, but it rattled off the rim. Henry was in the right place at the right time, however, corralled the rebound and fed Denning, who was fouled. He made both free throws with 1:27 left and the lead was back to seven, 59-52.

With 1:06 to play, Murphy was fouled and made free throw. Smith answered with a layup with 41.7 seconds to go, but with 33.9 seconds showing, Denning calmly buried two more foul shots for a 62-54 lead. Doyle got a layup 15 seconds later, but Murphy made one of two free throws with 13.8 seconds remaining and Yarmouth was able to celebrate its exhilarating 63-56 win.

"(Yarmouth's) an aggressive, veteran team," Halligan said. "I think the difference was that it was a good veteran team against a growing younger team. We made mistakes. The mistakes we made, I think we can sort out in practice."

The Clippers got it done by playing their style most of the night.

"We love to press and run," Smith said. "The game was pretty high scoring. Neither team ran a lot in the second half. It was pretty physical halfcourt defense and offense. We wanted to shut down their outside game. Smith kept them in it. He played well. Defensively, I thought we defended their guards well."

Murphy led all scorers with 30 points, a career high for a countable game (he had 35 points against Marshwood in the recent Maine Mall Holiday Tournament).

"He took a couple shots I was hoping he wouldn't take, but he has the green light and he takes advantage," Smith said, of his top scorer. "He wants the ball at crunch time."

"This is a great win," Murphy added. "As the season has gone on, I've gotten better at forgetting shots I missed."

Yarmouth also got eight points from both Groves and Henry, six from Denning, four apiece from Champlin and Laverriere, and the enormous three from Arndt.

The Yachtsmen were paced by 18 points from Smith, who made a series of huge shots in the final period. Doyle added 13 and Horning finished with eight.

Manicini, who almost single-handedly rallied Falmouth past Freeport in a recent epic, finished 0-for-9 from 3-point range and had six points.

"Their shooter was on and our shooter wasn't," Halligan lamented. "They did a good job defensively on him. He missed shots, but he's a shooter. I don't get upset if he misses a shot, only if he takes bad one. If he made a couple of those it would have been a different ballgame."

Wyman also had a half-dozen points, Babikian had three and Registe finished with two.

Falmouth (now 8-4 and sixth in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) has a week off for midterm exams, then is home against St. Dom's next Friday. The Yachtsmen still have tough tests remaining with Greely and Cape Elizabeth and are hoping to finish strong.

"We want to be in the top six and go straight to the Expo for the tournament," Halligan said.

Yarmouth improved to 11-1 and is first in Western B, a place the Clippers truly didn't expect to be.

"I didn't dream we'd be this good," Murphy said. "It's a great surprise."

They could be even better by the time the tournament rolls around.

"This is just another step," Smith said. "We have six more games. We hope to get Joe back soon. He's more anxious than I am. I want to fit him into the puzzle."

"When he comes back, I'm so excited to see what happens," Murphy added. (Tonight) shows that we're all in it together and that we have each other's backs.

"We all work hard on defense and that picks everyone up and gets everyone excited. We're all good friends off the court. A tight group."

The Clippers (who go to Waynflete Thursday) are also very, very good and their magical ride continues, with no end in sight.