BOX SCORE

Falmouth 59 Marshwood 38

M- 6 12 10 10- 38
F- 17 12 11 19- 59

M- Valentine 6-2-16, Casey 4-3-11, Peterson 2-1-5, Bryant 1-2-4, McDaniel 1-0-2

F- Pitre 6-8-20, Simonds 4-4-13, Coyne 4-2-12, Hamilton 2-2-6, McKee 1-1-3, Williams 1-1-3, Anderson 1-0-2

3-pointers:
M (2) Valentine 2
F (3) Coyne 2, Simonds 1

Turnovers:
M- 15
F- 15

FTs
M: 8-11
F: 18-21

PORTLAND—A fast start and equally strong finish allowed Falmouth’s third-ranked boys’ basketball team to get the better of No. 6 Marshwood in Saturday’s Class A South quarterfinal at the Portland Exposition Building.

A pair of tournament veterans, junior Nicco Pitre and senior Michael Simonds, helped the Yachtsmen set the tone, as they combined for 12 first quarter points as Falmouth shot to a 7-0 lead and was on top, 17-6, after eight minutes.

The Yachtsmen went up by as many as 15 in the second period before the Hawks, behind nine first half points from senior John Valentine, drew within 29-18 at the break.

Falmouth then got careless with the ball to start the second half and Marshwood cut the deficit to just four before Pitre sparked an 11-3 third quarter-ending run with a pretty pass to junior Ethan McKee for a layup.

Pitre’s ball-handling and ability to get to the basket and finish then allowed the Yachtsmen to end all doubt in the fourth period and they went on to a decisive 59-38 victory.

Pitre led all scorers with 20 points, Simonds added 13 and sophomore Brady Coyne finished with a dozen as Falmouth improved to 15-4, ended the Hawks’ season at 11-8 and in the process, advanced to take on No. 2 Kennebunk (16-3) in the Class A South semifinals Wednesday at 6 p.m., at the Expo.

“The seniors took over,” said longtime Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan, who won his 537th game with the program. “We tried some different things this game after having two close games with (Marshwood during the regular season). The kids shared the ball. That was a key at the beginning. Then, we had a little downturn when we weren’t passing the ball.”

A team to watch

Falmouth started 0-2, but hit its stride as the season went on and even though the Yachtsmen lost late in the year to Kennebunk and Leavitt (in a three-overtime contest), they entered the tournament feeling they had as good a shot as anyone in Class A South.

Marshwood started the year 3-4, won eight of 10, then lost its finale to Falmouth.

The Yachtsmen swept the Hawks this year, prevailing, 49-41 at home Jan. 9, then 53-46 in the regular season finale Feb. 5 in South Berwick.

The teams had never met in the playoffs prior to Saturday, where Falmouth went out and won a quarterfinal for the ninth consecutive season.

Falmouth got off to a blistering start, getting a jumper from Pitre, a layup from senior Emmett Hamilton off a pass from Coyne and a Coyne 3-pointer for a quick 7-0 advantage.

Marshwood got on the board on a putback from Valentine with 5:05 left in the quarter, but Simonds scored his first two points at the line and after the Hawks got two foul shots from Valentine, Simonds sank a 3 and Pitre converted an old-fashioned three-point play (bank shot, foul and free throw) to produce a double-digit advantage.

“It’s time to shine,” said Pitre. “Playoffs are when guys come out and do their job. I don’t treat it any different than a regular game. Getting that lead was very important.”

After senior Quinn McDaniel drove for a layup for Marshwood, Pitre hit a leaner just before the horn for a 17-6 lead.

The Hawks settled in during the second quarter, but couldn’t cut into Falmouth’s advantage.

After Hamilton scored on a putback and Pitre added two free throws to make it a 15-point game, senior Cullen Casey hit a bank shot, then sank two foul shots for Marshwood.

Simonds took a pass and made a layup to answer for the Yachtsmen, but Valentine sank a 3 to make the score 23-13.

Hamilton made two free throws for Falmouth, but a three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) from junior Kelvin Peterson pulled the Hawks within nine.

The Yachtsmen countered, as Pitre made a jumper and Coyne drove and banked a shot home, but a late bank shot from Valentine cut Falmouth’s lead to 29-18 at the break.

In the first half, Pitre led all scorers with 11 points, while Valentine paced Marshwood with nine points.

The Yachtsmen, who only turned the ball over five times in the first half, gave it away six times in the third quarter and the Hawks made a run before Falmouth restored order.

After senior Justin Bryant made a pair of free throws, Casey converted a three-point play and with 4:13 to go in the frame, a Casey layup pulled Marshwood within just four, 29-25.

With 3:28 remaining, Pitre zipped a perfect pass to McKee for a layup and that turned the tide back in the Yachtsmen’s favor.

“I didn’t like how we came out second half, so I tried to tell everyone it was 0-0 and we had to come together as a team and play our best,” Pitre said. “We weren’t worried at all. We just slowed down and played our game. Passing is my number one thing. Scoring is a second option.”

“Nobody puts more time and effort into it (than Nicco),” Halligan said. “He should be rewarded for that. He took over the game as a point guard and got the ball to the right people.”

Simonds followed with a leaner and Coyne drove for a layup to stretch the lead to 10.

After Valentine countered with a 3, Falmouth senior captain Macklin Williams converted a three-point play and just before the horn, Pitre’s leaner capped an 11-3 run and made the score 40-28.

Bryant started the fourth quarter with a layup to pull Marshwood within 10, but it would get no closer.

Coyne sank a 3-pointer and after the Hawks got a leaner from Peterson, Pitre blew by a defender with a nice stop-and-go move and was fouled before sinking two free throws. Pitre then toyed with the defense again before making a layup while being fouled before completing the three-point play for a 48-32 advantage.

“You have to have fun playing basketball,” Pitre said. “There’s nothing better than to just play. It’s the best sport.”

McKee added a free throw and after Casey scored on a putback, Simonds’ layup made it 51-34 with 3:38 to play.

Valentine made a layup, but Pitre countered with two free throws. Valentine then scored on a floater for Marshwood’s final points before Coyne made two free throws, Simonds did the same and senior Nolan Anderson took a pass from senior Brady Douglas and made a layup just before the horn to bring the curtain down on Falmouth’s 59-38 victory.

“(The Hawks) have very good players over there,” Halligan said. “They know how to win and fight to the very end. If you’ve never been here before, it’s huge, but once you have experience, it sort of snowballs. The tournament is different. Everything is magnified. Every possession is important.”

Pitre had a stellar game, scoring 20 points and dishing out three assists.

Simonds added 13 points and six rebounds, Coyne had 12 points and six rebounds, Hamilton finished with six points and seven boards, McKee and Williams had three points apiece and Anderson contributed two.

The Yachtsmen had a 25-18 advantage on the glass, made a solid 18-of-21 free throws and overcame 15 turnovers.

One day after Valentine’s Day, John Valentine paced Marshwood with 16 points. He also had three steals.

Casey wound up with 11 points and nine rebounds, Peterson added five points, Bryant finished with four and McDaniel had two.

The Hawks made 8-of-11 free throws and turned the ball over 15 times.

Semifinal showdown

Falmouth figures to get an even tougher test in the semifinals Wednesday against a Kennebunk squad the Yachtsmen split with this winter: losing, 54-50, in the opener Dec. 6 in Kennebunk, then defeating, 53-41, at home Jan. 17.

The teams have only met once before in the playoffs and it was a long time ago, the 1982 Western B quarterfinals to be precise, a 58-56 Falmouth victory.

The Yachtsmen like their chances to stay alive.

“I want us to go all the way,” Pitre said. “We just have to play team basketball. I trust my teammates and I trust in my coach to do his job and we’ll do things the right way.”

“(The quarterfinal round) is always the toughest and once you get that confidence, it gets a little easier,” Halligan said. “We just need to do what we do. (The Rams) have some weapons and so do we.”

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

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