Greely senior Matt McDevitt swings the newly shorn net in jubilation following the Rangers’ 47-26 win over Falmouth in Saturday’s Class A South Final. Greely will look to win its first Gold Ball in 19 years when it battles Messalonskee Saturday in Augusta.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below

PORTLAND—All winter, Greely’s boys’ basketball team has embraced the expectations and the pressure that comes with them.

The Rangers believed they were the best team around and weren’t shy about letting anyone know it.

Saturday evening at the Cross Insurance Arena, Greely’s belief was validated in emphatic fashion as the Rangers overcame the weight of history and a spirited, albeit depleted foe in the Class A South Final.

Facing defending Class A state champion Falmouth, playing without its injured senior standout Colin Coyne, Greely never gave the underdog Yachtsmen hope and after so many frustrations in recent years, the Rangers finally got to be the team dancing on the floor and cutting down the nets.

Second-ranked Falmouth led for all of 44 seconds before a 10-0 run gave top-seeded Greely the lead for good. The Rangers were sparked early by the shooting of senior Matt McDevitt and the offensive rebounding of classmate Ryan Twitchell.

Greely led, 12-5, after one quarter and while the Yachtsmen pulled within five points on three occasions in the second period, the Rangers closed the first half on a 7-0 run, capped by a Twitchell putback, to take a 23-11 advantage to the break.

Greely’s smothering defense, led by junior Shane DeWolfe, wasn’t about to give up the lead and by the end of the third quarter, the advantage was 15, 34-19.

The fourth period would be a coronation, as Falmouth never made a serious run and the Rangers were able to remove their starters one by one to rousing ovations before going on to a 47-26 victory.

Twitchell had 13 points and a whopping 17 rebounds and McDevitt added 11 points as Greely improved to 21-0, ended Falmouth’s season at 15-6, won its first regional championship in 19 years and advanced to meet Messalonskee (16-5) in the Class A state final Saturday at 2:45 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.

“It feels great,” Twitchell said. “It’s been so long. For us to get this ‘W’ tonight is amazing.”

The top two

Greely and Falmouth have set themselves apart all season, so Saturday’s meeting was certainly no surprise.

The Yachtsmen, the defending Class A champions, went 13-5 in the regular season, losing only to Greely (twice), Class AA South champion South Portland, Class B South runner-up Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth. As the No. 2 seed, Falmouth dispatched No. 7 Biddeford, 48-34, in the quarterfinals, then, despite losing Coyne, found a way to grind out a 43-38 victory over No. 3 Cape Elizabeth in Wednesday’s dramatic semifinal.

The Rangers, who were upset in the semifinals by Brunswick a year ago, passed every test during the regular season and as the top seed, dominated No. 8 Kennebunk, 76-31, in the quarterfinals, before holding off fourth-ranked York, 59-54, in Wednesday’s semifinal.

Greely took both regular season meetings, but the first one, a 55-54 triumph in Falmouth, went to overtime. In the regular season finale in Cumberland, the Rangers pulled away in the second half to prevail, 61-43.

The Rangers had won all three prior playoff meetings, although the teams hadn’t met since Greely won an epic 50-49 buzzer beater in the 2008 Western A quarterfinals.

Saturday, the Rangers made sure there would be no more disappointments.

The Yachtsmen started fast, as senior Sean Walsh hit a jumper, but the next 10 points went to the Rangers.

A runner from McDevitt got Greely on the board and Twitchell’s putback with 5:56 to go in the first quarter gave the Rangers the lead for good. After McDevitt hit a jumper and senior Jordan Bagshaw made a free throw, sophomore Zach Brown buried a 3 for a 10-2 lead with 3:41 to go in the opening quarter.

Falmouth snapped the 10-0 run 21 seconds later when sophomore Sam Manganello scored on a putback, but Twitchell scored on a putback of his own.

Junior Jack Bryant drew Bagshaw’s second foul with 1:18 remaining in the first and made one free throw to cut the Yachtsmen’s deficit to 12-5 after one period.

In the second quarter, Greely opened it up a little more.

The Yachtsmen started the frame with a layup from senior Brock Welch, but DeWolfe hit a runner.

With 5:32 left in the half, Walsh made a jumper to cut the deficit to five, but DeWolfe fed Brown for a layup.

With 4:57 remaining, freshman Michael Simonds made a jumper to again make it a five-point game, but McDevitt hit two foul shots, Brown made a jumper, McDevitt hit a foul shot and Twitchell scored on a putback to make it 23-11 at halftime.

Brown and McDevitt both had seven points in the first half while Twitchell had six points, four rebounds and a steal.

Walsh paced Falmouth with four points. Simonds, who was face-guarded by DeWolfe throughout, only managed two points.

“Coach tells me who the best player is and I try to limit them,” DeWolfe said. “It’s fun face-guarding like that. I like defense. Defense is always my mind-set. We were a little nervous in the beginning because it’s a big game, but we did a good job handling the pressure.”

“We prepared for Coyne to play, but once we knew he was out officially, we knew that Simonds was going to be their go-to guy and Shane does a great job on locking people down,” Twitchell said.

“I’m biased, obviously, but I think Shane is one of the best defenders in the state,” added Greely coach Travis Seaver. “He draws the other team’s best player every night and I think he did a great job on Michael.”

In the third period, the Rangers remained in control.

A putback from Twitchell started the second half scoring, but Simonds made a 3 and was fouled in the process. He added the free throw for the rare four-point play and the Yachtsmen were within 10, 25-15.

Bagshaw countered with a jumper, but Bryant made a layup.

After sophomore sub extraordinaire Mike Coppersmith buried a 3 for Greely, Simonds made a jump shot, but Bagshaw set up Brown for a fastbreak layup and McDevitt scored on a putback to make it 34-19 heading for the final period.

There, Greely salted away its first regional title this century.

With 6:54 remaining, Twitchell scored on a putback (collecting his 15th rebound of the game in the process) as he was being fouled by Welch (his fourth). Welch was then called for a technical foul and had to leave the game with his fifth foul.

Twitchell completed the three-point play before McDevitt made the two technical free throws and just like that, the Rangers had a 20-point lead, 39-19.

After DeWolfe drove for a layup to complete the seven-point possession, Bryant converted a three-point play, but Brown fed a gorgeous pass to Bagshaw for a layup and Bagshaw set up Twitchell for a layup to make it 45-22 with 3:41 to go.

That did it for the Greely starters, who were loudly recognized by their fans upon their departure.

After Simonds made a free throw and a bank shot, junior Jack Kane hit a foul shot for the Rangers.

In the game’s final minute, Rangers senior Brendan Scott and Yachtsmen junior Alex Marcotte traded free throws and at 9:13 p.m., Greely was able to celebrate a 47-26 victory and a regional championship.

“Every day in practice or before games, we do a speech and in every speech we talk about family and how important that is to us,” DeWolfe said. “The coaches have done an outstanding job bringing us together and making us believe that we’re truly brothers.” 

“It feels good,” said Seaver, a star player on Greely’s last championship team. “I’m super proud of the kids. They’ve been focused all year. We’re fortunate. Tradition is a big thing and we have a great program. For the seniors, we’ve had heartache and disappointment, so I’m happy for them. There isn’t a harder working group out there. Honestly, we didn’t prepare any differently. We went in with the same game plan. (Coyne’s) a big loss for them, but we just focused and did what we do. Kudos to Falmouth. They worked hard.”

Twitchell had himself quite an evening, scoring a game-high 13 points and more importantly, snaring 17 rebounds.

“Coach told me before the game that I had to get the rebounds on offense and defense,” said Twitchell. “They have (junior Nikko) DePatsy and Walsh, so I knew I just had to use my size and get around them.”

“I challenged Ryan before the game to dominate the glass,” Seaver said. “We didn’t do that against York the other day. Between his size and athletic ability, Ryan can dominate. He went for it. I’m proud of him.”

McDevitt added 11 points and six points. Brown, a budding star, had nine points and four rebounds. Bagshaw finished with five points, five rebounds and three assists, DeWolfe had four points, Coppersmith three and Kane and Smith one apiece.

Greely made just 18 of 54 shots from the floor, including just 2 of 14 3-pointers, and hit only 9 of 16 free throws, but enjoyed a 35-28 rebounding advantage and only turned the ball over five times, an amazing number in a game of such magnitude.

Valiant effort

Falmouth came into Saturday’s contest knowing it faced an uphill battle and while the Yachtsmen were ultimately outmanned, they played hard for 32 minutes.

“It’s a tough way to end, but they’re one of the best teams in the state,” said Falmouth coach Dave Halligan, who ends the season three wins shy of 500 for his career. “They have all the pieces. They have seniors on a mission. They hadn’t quite gotten there and they worked hard to win. We won it last year, so we’ve been on both ends of it.

“We gave it our best shot. We held them under 50 points. I’m pleased with our defensive effort. Offensively, we couldn’t create stuff. Losing (Colin) made a big difference. We had to adjust. Greely defended Michael. It wasn’t fair to put him into that position, but he stepped up and did the best that he could.”

The Yachtsmen were led by Simonds, who wound up with 11 points. Bryant added six points. Walsh bowed out with four points and six rebounds. Manganello (five rebounds) and Welch had two points apiece and Marcotte finished with one.

Falmouth hit just 10 of 37 shots, made just 1 of 12 3-pointers and hit 5 of 8 free throws. The Yachtsmen turned the ball over 13 times.

“We’ll miss going to practice,” Halligan said. “That’s the best part of the season.”

Falmouth graduates Coyne, Walsh and Welch, as well as Dex Dremann, Jack Hepburn and Ben Simonds. 

The 2017-18 Yachtsmen will reload behind Bryant, DePatsy, Manganello and Michael Simonds and will look to make another deep tournament run.

“Colin and Sean worked hard for four years and the younger guys behind them saw it,” Halligan said. “If they want to be successful, they’ll emulate them. It’s an opportunity for the next people in line.”

Cinderella awaits

Greely is 32 minutes from its first Gold Ball in 19 seasons, but it will have to get past one of the best stories of the tournament. Messalonskee rose from the No. 5 seed in Class A North to win its first ever regional championship.

The Rangers beat the Eagles, 59-57, in a Western B prelim way back in 1984 in the only prior postseason meeting between the teams.

Greely is 32 minutes from its ultimate goal and it’s hard to see anyone standing between the Rangers and a championship celebration.

“We’ll scout Messalonskee and come out and play the best we can,” DeWolfe said.

“Everyone will be fired up and ready to go,” said Twitchell. “It’ll come down to defense. If we can hold them down into the 30s or low 40s, I think we can come out on top.”

“We’ll go to work and start learning about Messalonskee,” Seaver added. “The kids are already asking what time practice is. Our kids live in the gym. We pose a lot of matchup programs and our defense has been great. Defense will be the focus and we’ll see if we can turn that into some offense. We’ll be ready.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Greely senior Ryan Twitchell collects a rebound over Falmouth sophomore Sam Manganello. Twitchell led all players with 17 rebounds.

Falmouth senior Sean Walsh shoots over Greely senior Matt McDevitt.

Falmouth sophomore Sam Manganello throws up a shot over Greely seniors Ryan Twitchell (10) and Jordan Bagshaw.

Greely senior Jordan Bagshaw battles Falmouth freshman Michael Simonds (14) and senior Sean Walsh for a rebound.

Falmouth junior Jack Bryant lines up a shot over Greely sophomore Zach Brown.

Greely sophomore Zach Brown gets past Falmouth sophomore Sam Manganello en route to the basket.

Greely sophomore Mike Coppersmith shoots over Falmouth senior Sean Walsh. 

Greely junior Shane DeWolfe draws a charge on Falmouth freshman Michael Simonds. DeWolfe limited Simonds to 11 points.

Greely senior Matt McDevitt is hugged by junior Nick Gauvin after coming off the floor late in Saturday’s victory.

Falmouth seniors Sean Walsh, left, and Ben Simonds receive the runner-up trophy.

Conversely, Greely was thrilled to receive its championship plaque.

Previous Greely stories

Season Preview

Greely 80 Yarmouth 58

Greely 55 Falmouth 54 (OT)

Greely 82 Yarmouth 74 (3 OT)

Greely 61 Falmouth 43

Greely 76 Kennebunk 31

Greely 59 York 54

Previous Falmouth stories

Season Preview

Falmouth 53 Westbrook 42

Cape Elizabeth 40 Falmouth 37

Greely 55 Falmouth 54 (OT)

Greely 61 Falmouth 44

Falmouth 48 Biddeford 34

Falmouth 43 Cape Elizabeth 38

Previous Greely-Falmouth playoff results

2008 Western B quarterfinals
Greely 50 Falmouth 49

2007 Western B semifinals
Greely 63 Falmouth 40

2003 Western B semifinals
Greely 62 Falmouth 45