BOX SCORE

Wells 42 Yarmouth 35

W- 7 14 7 14- 42
Y- 11 3 9 12- 35

W- Leighton 5-3-15, Dufort 4-5-14, Price 2-0-4, Chandler 1-0-3, Fazzina 1-0-2, Littlefield 1-0-2, Woodward 0-2-2

Y- Psyhogeos 3-4-11, Lainey 3-0-9, Hickey 2-2-6, Cox 1-2-5, Riddle 1-0-2, Snyder 1-0-2

3-pointers:
W (4) Leighton 2, Barker, Dufort 1
Y (5) Lainey 3, Cox, Psyhogeos 1

Turnovers:
W- 23
Y- 13

FTs
W: 10-15
Y: 8-13

YARMOUTH—Yarmouth’s boys’ basketball team knows victories are urgently needed if it wants to make the tournament and when the Clippers scored the first nine points of Tuesday evening’s home contest against another squad in the middle of the playoff hunt, the Wells Warriors, things were looking up.

But Yarmouth wasn’t able to sustain its strong start and after leading, 11-7, after one quarter, the Clippers fell behind in the second period and never caught up.

Wells, thanks to a smothering defense, took a 21-14 advantage at halftime and fended off Yarmouth’s third quarter surge to take a 28-23 lead to the fourth period.

There, the Warriors went up by as many as 11, then held on for dear life after the Clippers got as close as five and went on to a 42-35 victory.

Wells placed two players in double figures, improved to 6-5 and in the process, dropped Yarmouth to 5-8.

“We got off to a good start, but we’re having a hard time putting quality quarters together,” said Clippers’ coach Jonas Allen. “That’s been the story of our season. Some games recently we’ve put three good quarters together, then let it slip away. Tonight, it was one good quarter, then we played hard again at the end, but it was too little, too late.”

Too close to call

While Maranacook and Spruce Mountain are running away with the top two seeds in Class B South, the rest of the region is up for grabs and with only eight teams qualifying for the tournament, every game has become critical, especially for Wells and Yarmouth, who find themselves very much in a fight for their postseason lives.

The Warriors, who lost last year’s regional final to Cape Elizabeth by a single point, opened the 2019-20 campaign with a 64-51 home victory over Lake Region, then fell at Marshwood (60-41). Wells then defeated host Poland (68-40), but lost at home to Fryeburg Academy (52-37), at Waynflete (45-38) and at Kennebunk (68-47). The Warriors edged host Lake Region (48-46), then lost at home to three-time defending Class A champion Greely (55-48), After a 52-47 win at Cape Elizabeth, Wells downed visiting Traip Academy (53-46) Friday.

Yarmouth, meanwhile, edged visiting Cape Elizabeth (46-43) to start, then, after a 47-40 home loss to Brunswick, downed host Lake Region (58-48) and visiting Mt. Ararat (44-38). After a 49-43 setback to visiting Waynflete, the Clippers beat host Fryeburg Academy (33-29). After a 62-49 loss at Greely, Yarmouth fell at home in overtime to Gray-New Gloucester (63-57). A 71-27 home win over Lincoln Academy followed, but the Clippers then lost at Freeport (55-52), at Gray-New Gloucester (60-41) and at home to Fryeburg Academy Friday in overtime, 58-55.

A year ago,  Yarmouth won both meetings, 52-49 in overtime at Wells and 51-37 at home.

Tuesday, the Clippers hoped to make it three in a row in the series, but instead, the Warriors won in Yarmouth for the first time since Feb. 7, 2006.

The Clippers couldn’t have asked for a better start, as junior Will Cox opened the game with a 3-pointer and after sophomore Peter Psyhogeos made one free throw, then hit two more, senior Jason Lainey hit a 3 with 3:45 to go in the opening stanza for a quick 9-0 lead.

Yarmouth actually could have been up by more, but missed a couple easy shots.

Wells coach Troy Brown called timeout, settled his team down and switched to a trapping defense, which immediately paid dividends.

With 2:37 left in the frame, a jump shot from junior Gavyn Leighton broke the dry spell.

Seventeen seconds later, senior Covy Dufort converted an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) and Leighton added a driving layup to cut the deficit to two.

With 1:03 remaining in the first, Psyhogeos made a runner in the lane to give the Clippers an 11-7 advantage.

The Warriors then seized control in the second period.

After Leighton threw a perfect pass to senior Aaron Price for a fastbreak layup, Leighton sank a 3 with 6:55 to go in the half and Wells was on top to stay.

Dufort then set up junior Lance Littlefield for a layup and Price scored on a putback to cap a 16-2 run and stretch the lead to five.

Yarmouth crept back within two on a putback from junior David Riddle and a foul shot from senior Aidan Hickey, but the Warriors closed the half strong, getting a layup from Dufort and a 3-point shot from Leighton to go up, 21-14, at the break.

“We decided to go to a 1-2-2 (press),” Brown said. “It was something for us to get some quick offense. I don’t know if we got quick offense, but at least they didn’t score anymore. We broke the seal on the basket and figured out we could play with them.”

Lainey opened the second half with a 3-point shot, but senior Nate Chandler made a layup and Dufort got a runner to rattle home to make it 25-17.

Back came the Clippers, as Cox set up sophomore Cole Snyder for a layup, Hickey spun and laid the ball in and Psyhogeos hit a runner in the lane to make it a two-point margin, but Chandler made a free throw, then Leighton drained a baseline jumper to give Wells a 28-23 lead heading for the final stanza.

There, the Warriors did enough to hold on.

Leighton started the fourth quarter with a free throw, then Dufort made a 3 for a 32-23 lead.

Lainey got three points back with a shot from behind the arc, but Dufort countered with two free throws.

After Hickey scored on a leaner, sophomore Connor Woodward made two foul shots to restore the eight-point advantage, 36-28.

Psyhogeos made a free throw for the hosts, but a pair of foul shots from Leighton and two more from Dufort gave Wells its biggest advantage, 40-29, with 2:17 to play.

Yarmouth had one final push, as Hickey made a free throw, Cox sank a pair of foul shots and with 42.5 seconds remaining, Psyhogeos hit a 3 to cut the deficit to five.

That’s as close as the Clippers could get, however, as after Psyhogeos missed a 3 that could have made things really interesting, Leighton set up sophomore Brayden Fazzina for a clinching layup and the Warriors prevailed, 42-35.

Leighton led all scorers with 15 points and also had nine rebounds. Dufort added 14 points, while Price had four, Chandler three (to go with nine rebounds) and Fazzina, Littlefield and Woodward two apiece.

Wells had a 39-24 rebounding advantage, made 10-of-15 free throws and overcame 23 turnovers.

“We just hung on,” Brown said. “I’m disappointed because we work on press break every day. It shows we need more work protecting the basketball.

“We were down a starter, Caleb Corey, who averages about 13 (points) a game. We knew it would be an uphill battle, but I’m really pleased with the contributions I got from my bench tonight. Even if they didn’t score, they came in and played great D. We’re known for playing great defense.”

Yarmouth was led by Psyhogeos, who had 11 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. Lainey added nine points, Hickey had six (as well as four rebounds, three assists and two steals), Cox five (to go with five rebounds and three steals) and Riddle and Snyder two apiece.

The Clippers only turned the ball over 13 times and made 8-of-13 foul shots, but it wasn’t enough.

“Obviously, their trap hurt us,” Allen said. “We work on it every day and sometimes we shred it and other times, this happens. Their size also hurt us. We got bullied and muscled around the basket. In the end, the thing for me is putting quality quarters together consistently.”

Every game is critical

The teams meet again in the regular season finale Feb. 6 in Wells in what is almost certain to be a contest crucial for playoff positioning, but each squad has many hurdles to clear in the interim.

Wells (now sixth in the Class B South Heal Points standings) has a tough task Friday, as it goes to Greely. The Warriors also have home games remaining versus Old Orchard Beach, York, Gray-New Gloucester, Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth and a trip to Freeport on the slate.

“It’s a wide open region,” said Brown. “I think it’s Maranacook and maybe Spruce (Mountain) and the rest of us. We can be beaten on any given night and we can come out and play well and beat anyone. We’re trying to put it together.”

Yarmouth (10th in Class B South) has a tough road as well, going to York Friday, visiting Cape Elizabeth next Tuesday, then closing with home games versus Freeport and Poland and a visit to Wells.

“We’re on the outside looking in right now and we’re all aware of that,” Allen said. “It’s weighing on the guys. They want to be part of the tournament. It’s a special event. The seniors want to get there. We have five games left and we have to make something happen quickly. At this point, mental toughness is believing that good things are still in front of us. Our schedule allows us to still make some noise. That will only happen if the guys remain united and positive.”

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

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