What separated Falmouth from Cheverus in their Western Class A boys’ basketball quarterfinal Monday? The Yachtsmen’s ability to grab the ball – and momentum – and hold on tight.
With time winding down in the third quarter and the Yachtsmen trailing 38-37, Jack Simonds unleashed a 20-foot jumper from the left wing. A defender tipped it, and the ball started to drop well short.
Game-turning defensive play? Not with Nick Burton lurking.
Burton grabbed the ball from the air, turned and slipped a soft shot into the basket at the buzzer for a 39-38 lead after three quarters.
It was all Falmouth from there, as sophomore point guard Tom Coyne broke the game open with 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to lead No. 2 Falmouth to a 56-48 win over No. 7 Cheverus at the Portland Expo.
The Yachtsmen, who moved up to Class A this season after winning the Class B state championship a year ago, next play No. 3 Bonny Eagle (18-1) in a regional semifinal Wednesday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The Scots advanced with a 66-49 win over Sanford.
Monday’s matchup, postponed from Saturday night by snow, showcased Falmouth’s well-rounded game.
“We had a real poor showing on offense in the first half,” Falmouth Coach Dave Halligan said. “But our defense gave us a chance. Once we could regroup, we played much better.”
Although senior point guard Manny Ismail (23 points) was spectacular, the Stags’ other stars were held in check.
Simonds (17 points, nine rebounds) and Cheverus’ Zordan Holman (nine points, 13 rebounds) wrestled around down low, while Burton (14 and 11), IV Stucker, Coyne and Matt Tseng clogged the Stags’ passing lanes, denying the shot as the clock burned away.
“Survive and advance,” Coyne said. “It doesn’t really matter how you get there.”
Burton’s big basket helped Falmouth take control.
“We were looking for that last shot,” Burton said. “I saw Jack’s shot was going to land short, so I got to it and put it over the rim.”
Between the fourth quarter, Halligan told his players, “First, take a deep breath. Then focus and do what we do.”
What Falmouth did was turn to Coyne.
“He started to assert himself,” Halligan said, “He’s a sophomore, and this is the first time (in a tournament) that he had to take control of a game, put the team on his back and go.”
Coyne had two field goals and was 6 for 7 from the line in the final quarter.
“(Coyne) sort of took over, as he’s shown he can do,” Cheverus Coach Dan Costigan said. “They made plays when they had to. In the end, they were just a little bit better than us.”