Yarmouth's magic continues!

Sport: Basketball (boys)

Posted: January 9th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Yarmouth's magic continues!
By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

YARMOUTH- Perhaps it's karmic payback for all the seasons in the wilderness, but the Yarmouth Clippers boys' basketball team has loved every minute of the 2007-08 campaign and its storybook season continued tonight with a finish that trumped everything we've seen to date.

The Clippers rallied from an eight-point fourth quarter deficit, then won the game in Hollywood fashion when senior Ben Groves converted a reverse layup at the buzzer to hand Freeport it's second gutwrenching defeat in five days, 50-48.

Yarmouth was behind most of the way and was frustrated with its inability to hit shots, but the Clippers turned up the defensive pressure in the final stanza and found a way to win yet again, improving to 9-0 in the process.

"It's a confidence boost," said Groves, moments after being mobbed by a good chunk of the Yarmouth student body. "Even if we don't hit shots, if we keep our intensity up, we can be in any game. Last year we learned how to play at this level. This year we've learned how to win at this level."

"I'm very proud of the boys and how they stayed in the game," added Clippers' coach Adam Smith. "The guys felt a lot of emotion. Freeport is a big rival to us."

Last winter, in the regular season finale, Freeport squeaked out a dramatic come-from-behind overtime win at Yarmouth. Both teams have excelled in 2007-08. While the Clippers (looking for rare back-to-back winning seasons) have remained undefeated, even without standout senior Joe Dilworth (who is out with a broken hand), the Falcons got off to a 5-0 start before blowing a 13-point lead and falling at Falmouth in double-overtime last Thursday. Freeport bounced back Saturday with a win over visiting Poland and controlled most of the action Tuesday night.

Just 2 minutes, 27 seconds into the contest, the Falcons led 7-0, thanks to two baskets from junior Tom Markelon and a basket and a free throw from senior Reid Christian. Yarmouth got on the scoreboard when senior point guard Lucas Denning got a 3-point shot to rattle around the cylinder and finally fall. Senior Robb Arndt followed with a jumper, but Markelon buried a 3-pointer and senior Bejay Perkins made a free throw to make it 11-5 Freeport. Groves responded with a layup, but with 2.8 seconds left in the period, Christian hit a 3-pointer and the Falcons had a 14-7 lead after one.

The hosts then came to life, thanks in large part to junior Andrew Totta, who had three baskets in just under two minutes. Totta and Freeport senior Kyle Flash traded baskets to start the quarter, but Yarmouth then went on a 9-0 run. Totta made back-to-back jumpers, Denning hit another 3-ball and sophomore Evan Henry converted a layup to give the Clippers their first lead, 18-16, with 3:08 to go in the half.

Markelon got the lead right back for the Falcons with a 3-pointer and junior Cody Bartlett added a layup for a 21-18 lead. After Groves converted an old-fashioned three-point play to tie the score, Freeport junior standout Jon Klages (quiet until that point) returned the favor. The Clippers would take the lead into the half, however, as senior Joe Laverriere (who was huge off the bench) hit a layup and Denning made two foul shots for a 25-24 advantage.

The third period was a story of Yarmouth fouls. The Clippers were whistled for nine of the first 10 fouls of the quarter and the visitors took and extended the lead.

A Henry layup to start the second half gave Yarmouth its biggest lead, 27-24, but Klages made a layup, Markelon hit two free throws, then buried a jumper. Groves momentarily restored order with a layup, but Klages scored a layup after a rebound for a 32-29 advantage.

With 2:47 to go in the period, Clippers' coach Adam Smith had enough of the foul disparity and something about it to the officials. He was promptly forced to sit down after being whistled for a technical foul. Christian (who earned the foul that set Smith off) made both technical shots and both free throws for a 36-29 lead. Sixteen seconds later, Klages made two more free throws and Freeport appeared to be in control, up 38-29.

Yarmouth battled back late in the third, getting two free throws from Laverriere and a long jumper from junior Johnny Murphy (his first points of the game). A Markelon foul shot with 2.4 seconds left gave the Falcons a 39-33 lead entering the final quarter.

With 7:08 left, Klages hit two free throws and Freeport was up 41-33. Then, thanks to its stellar defense, Yarmouth rallied.

While the Falcons were turning the ball over seven times in eight possessions, the Clippers drew close.

Two free throws from Arndt got the rally started. Laverriere followed with a layup, Murphy hit a jump shot after a steal and Henry converted one of two free throws after a Laverriere steal with 5:24 to play, pulling Yarmouth within two points, 42-40.

The Clippers would eventually tie the score, but not before Denning missed two 3-point shots and Murphy was off on another bid. With 3:56 to go, Murphy did the honors, tying the score on a layup after another steal.

Freeport raced right down and regained the lead on a Christian bank shot, but Arndt hit a long jumper (which appeared to be a 3-pointer, but was ruled inside the line), making it 44-44.

With 2:35 showing on the clock, Bartlett made a layup and was fouled, but missed the free throw, making it 46-44 Falcons. Murphy then heated up, making a baseline jumper, then, after Bartlett gave the Falcons the lead back with a leaner, Murphy buried what appeared to be a 3-pointer for a Yarmouth's first lead since 27-26, but it also was ruled a two-point shot and the game was tied at 48.

Nearly two minutes still remained, but Freeport just couldn't keep control of the ball. The Falcons were whistled for a 10-second violation right after Murphy's 3-pointer. The Clippers couldn't take the lead, however, as Murphy missed a baseline jump shot.

With 21.7 seconds left, the Falcons turned the ball over again on a traveling violation and the hosts set up the game winner.

Denning (who earned the game winning foul shots against Greely in a nearly identical situation last week) dribbled down the clock, then broke for the basket with about five seconds to play. The Freeport defense cut him off, however, and he was forced to dish the ball to Groves near the hoop. Groves wasn't able to go up for a shot, so he eluded a defender and came around the other side before going up for a reverse layup.

The ball rolled around the cylinder and finally dropped through the net.

0.9 seconds showed when the ball fell through, but time quickly ran out and bedlam ensued. Yarmouth had won yet another thriller, 50-48.

"We'd been playing a 1-3-1 matchup and we stayed in that, but we put extra pressure on Murphy," Freeport coach Craig Sickels said. "It was a good play by Groves to come up underneath."

"Usually we spread it out on the last play," Denning said. "I looked for Big Ben and he was open."

"It just wound up falling," Groves added. "I can't really explain it. It wasn't drawn up. I knew the clock was winding down and I had to get a shot off. If I missed, I knew we'd battle back in overtime. There wasn't much pressure."

The Clippers are now 9-0. Some how, some way.

"I've been waiting for the time when we missed Joe a lot and we hadn't really faced that yet, but tonight we did," Smith said. "We had a difficult time having anything drop for us.

"The crowd kept us in it. Defensively, we stayed in it by working and working. Everytime I turned around they were hitting foul shots and we were struggling at the other end.

"We drew it up for Lucas to have the ball in his hands. They played great defense on him. The other option was to go to Ben. He capitalized on the opportunity. That's what a good team does."

Murphy (thanks to eight fourth quarter points) led the Clippers with 10 points.

"He struggled tonight, but he'll make it more often than not," Smith said. "Defensively he was key. He made some big steals."

Groves had nine points (including the two most memorable), Denning eight, Arndt, Laverriere and Totta six apiece, and Henry added five.

Freeport was left distraught, searching for answers after another painful defeat.

"The kids are taking it hard," Sickels said. "I told them not to take it too hard, it's only one game. We played them tougher than anyone has even though we had 28 turnovers. With the turnovers and the lack of composure, we were still there. We need to get over the hump. We'll get there.

"Two close games now have come down to the fourth quarter and how we responded to pressure. We've been struggling at the end. It almost looked like no one wanted to make a mistake. We stopped attacking. We threw the ball away. It's the same thing we did at Falmouth. We played not to lose instead of playing to win.

"We struggled with their pressure. They play tough defense. That sets a tone. They're aggressive. They were more composed at the end of the game."

The Falcons (6-2) were led by 15 points from Markelon. Christian and Klages both had a dozen. Bartlett finished with six, Flash had two and Perkins one.

Yarmouth (first in the Western B Heal Points standings) is back in action Friday at Cape Elizabeth, another tough test, which likely spells another palpitating finish.

"It doesn't get any easier for us," Smith said. "It'll be a struggle, but we'll pull together and try to stay in the game and have an opportunity in the fourth quarter."

"We'll keep working hard and hustling," Denning added. "It's a tough schedule."

As for Freeport (fourth in Western B), the Falcons were supposed to be at Greely Thursday, but that game has been moved to Saturday at 6 p.m.

"Greely will be the same," Sickels said. "We'll have pressure. That's something we have to work on."

The Clippers-Falcons rematch is Feb. 7 in Freeport