According to Falmouth Coach Dave Halligan, when it’s tournament time, “we ride the seniors. I’ve always said that.”

Nik Hester got the message. Falmouth’s 6-foot-7 senior forward scored 20 points and made the two defining plays in Falmouth’s 48-37 Class A South boys’ basketball semifinal win Wednesday against York at Cross Insurance Arena.

No. 3 Falmouth (15-5) advances to play No. 1 Greely in the regional final at 8 p.m. Saturday at CIA. Greely won a Dec. 21 meeting with Falmouth, 46-29.

Hester scored five points in the final 15 seconds of the first half, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, to stake Falmouth to 26-13 halftime lead.

After York scraped its way back to cut the lead to four points halfway through the fourth quarter, Hester took over again.

He made a tough move at the basket and converted, then matched up with York’s Will McDonald, isolated in a one-on-one near the 3-point line, on the next York possession.

Moving his feet well as McDonald dribble-drove to his right, Hester blocked the shot cleanly and controlled the loose ball.

“That was a turning point right there. That’s when we won the game,” Hester said.

York (16-4) cut the lead to four once more on a McDonald putback but Jackman Webber-Gravier converted quickly off a Nicco Pitre assist and Falmouth made eight straight free throws to secure the win. Mike Simonds made the first six, giving Falmouth a 45-35 lead with under a minute to play.

Simonds, a junior, had struggled from the floor (2 of 10) but was money at the line and finished with 12 points.

“Take a deep breath and relax and just try to knock them down,” Simonds said of his approach to pressure free throws. “I just try to get it out of my hands quick. Try not to think about it too much.”

Falmouth, which had beaten York 58-49 in the regular season, held the Wildcats well below their scoring average (55 per game). York struggled from the field all game, particularly in the first half (5 of 20), and was 2 of 17 on 3-point attempts.

“Our goal was to not let them get into the paint and another of our goals was to get out on their shooters,” Hester said. “They’re a pretty good 3-point shooting team.”

In the second half, Riley Linn (8 points) and Chris Cummins (8 points) were able to generate some offense by driving hard to the basket but York never got its top offensive threats, McDonald and rangy sophomore Brady Cummins, untracked.

“We missed a bunch of shots we usually make, both inside and outside,” said York Coach Paul Marquis. “They played great defense.”

In Marquis’ second season as coach, York improved from last season’s quarterfinal exit and beat two-time defending champion Greely in the regular season.

“We did so many good things this year, took another step forward with this group,” Marquis said. “We played tough in the second half and that’s just a mark of the effort these guys have put in all year.”


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