YARMOUTH – Josh Britten of Yarmouth missed his first three shots Tuesday against Freeport, but didn’t miss many more in about two quarters of a lopsided win. He finished with 21 points as the Clippers improved to 12-3.

Britten, a 6-foot-1 junior, has a left-handed shot and quick release. He’s more than doubled his scoring average since last season. That may surprise some, but not senior Luke Pierce, who has seen his teammate’s work ethic.

“Josh is one of the most dedicated players I know,” said Pierce, a tri-captain with Britten and Matt Murphy.

“He went to a lot of summer camps last year to improve. He built his body up lifting weights. He lifts before and after practice. Josh sets high expectations for himself. He’s a captain of the team, which shows you the high regard his teammates have for him. He’s our main threat and handles the pressure well in that role. He’s come up clutch for us.”

After getting off to what his coach called a slow start, Britten upped his game. Coach Adam Smith said Britten needed time to grow into being a point guard and scorer.

“The last couple of years Josh has worked extremely hard,” said Smith. “We ask a lot of him as our point guard. The added stress of having to score probably was a reason for his slow start, but since the New Year he’s been a different player and really come into his own. Josh is enjoyable to watch. He’s freer and more spontaneous.”

Britten was the Clippers’ point guard as a sophomore. He finished the season as the team’s leading scorer at 10 points per game. This year Britten is averaging 23 points, 3.5 3-pointers and 3.7 steals.

Britten scored a career-high 35 points Jan. 25 against Falmouth in a 63-58 overtime win. Britten tied the game with a 3-pointer with six seconds remaining in regulation, then had three points in overtime. On Friday night against York, Britten scored seven of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter as the Clippers avenged one of their three losses with a 54-52 victory.

“Right when it left my hands, I had confidence it was going in,” said Britten about his shot against Falmouth from outside the top of the key.

With increased scoring has come extra attention from defenses. Britten said he looks forward to the challenge.

“It’s a good feeling. I don’t know how to explain it,” he said. “Opponents try to face- guard me from the start and take me out of the offense early. It’s not that bad and I try to work around it any way possible. Our offense usually frees me up. Coach Smith has helped me a lot by instilling confidence in me and making sure the offense runs through me. And I don’t have to be the No. 1 scorer every game.”

Last season the Clippers had 6-5 center Evan Henry, who got the attention from defenses. Britten knows that protected him. This season he has the bull’s-eye. The work he has put in since last season has prepared him.

Last year’s preliminary- round loss to Lake Region at home was the catalyst for his improvement.

“I was really upset after that game,” he said. “I just wanted to get back on the court and improve my game. I put in a bunch of time. I shot as much as I could, improving my 3-point shooting. I only live down the street from the high school so I practiced in the gym every day in the summer.”

Britten also played some AAU ball. He plays soccer in the fall and lacrosse in the spring, and still manages to find time for basketball. Britten said playing other sports is a good way to stay in shape.

Britten got an early start in basketball.

“My dad put a ball in my hands when I was little. I played in the Youth Community Services program. Basketball is my passion. I enjoy my other sports but basketball is No. 1,” said Britten.

Britten has shown he can score from anywhere in the half court. When a defender is up on him, Britten can penetrate. If defenses guard against his penetration, he can hit from outside. He also scores off Yarmouth’s full- court defensive pressure.

“Josh has the scoring mentality like John Murphy had,” said Pierce, referring to the Yarmouth standout who graduated two years ago.

“He’s quick off screens. He’s sort of Ray Allenesque in that respect.”

Looking ahead to the Western Class B tournament (the Clippers are ranked fourth), Britten likes his team’s chances.

“We have excellent team chemistry,” he said. “We have skilled athletes who have been playing together since middle school.”

The final three games, starting with Friday night’s game at No. 1 Greely, will determine the Clippers’ final ranking while offering a glimpse at the postseason.

Yarmouth hosts No. 3 Cape Elizabeth next Tuesday and closes the regular season Feb. 11 at No. 9 Gray-New Gloucester, which beat the Clippers 57-54 on Jan. 11.

“I’ve never had a point guard who can score,” said Smith.

He’s finding out it’s a nice luxury to have.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]