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Yarmouth’s run ends with narrow regional final loss to Wells

Clippers' title dreams dashed by Warriors, 41-37.

BOX SCORE

Wells 41 Yarmouth 37

Y- 7 8 6 16- 37
W- 15 7 3 16- 41

Y- D’Appolonia 8-1-17, McNeil 5-1-13, Feeley 1-2-5, Whitlock 1-0-2

W- F. Ramsdell 3-6-12, Boucher 3-1-10, Aromando 4-0-8, G. Ramsdell 4-0-8, Bogue 1-1-3

3-pointers:
Y (3) McNeil 2, Feeley 1
W (3) Boucher 3

Turnovers:
Y- 16
W- 23

FTs
Y: 4-7
W: 8-11

PORTLAND—As it turned out, Yarmouth’s girls’ basketball team was a year away.

Barely.

But the time has finally come for the Wells Warriors.

Friday afternoon at the Cross Insurance Arena, the third-ranked Warriors learned first-hand what Mountain Valley and Freeport discovered earlier in the tournament, that while the third-seeded Clippers might be young, they’re very, very good and it took Wells all 32 minutes to hold them off in the Class B South Final.

Yarmouth struggled early and a 9-0 run put the Warriors on top to stay.

Wells held a 15-7 lead after one quarter and despite turning the ball over 11 times in the second period, the Warriors managed to be up, 22-15 at the half.

The Clippers then came out strong to start the second half, as junior Margaret McNeil scored five quick points, but despite some good chances, Yarmouth could never take the lead and Wells clung to a 25-21 advantage heading to the fourth period.

There, while the Clippers pushed the Warriors to the brink, Wells got eight points, including six clutch free throws, from senior Franny Ramsdell and did enough to survive and advance, 41-37.

The Warriors improved to 15-6, won their first regional championship in 41 seasons, advanced to battle either Hermon (19-1) or Waterville (19-1) in the Class B state final next Friday evening at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and in the process, ended Yarmouth’s stirring run and its season at 12-9.

“It’s been so much fun because you could see these kids start to believe,” said Clippers’ coach David Cousins. “The girls will walk away disappointed, but they’ll wake up tomorrow and know they had a great run. I’m very excited for next year.”

Surprise, surprise

Neither of the top two Class B South seeds made it through to the regional final this winter, but the two finalists saved their best for last.

Wells, which peaked as the season went along, closed with impressive wins over Gray-New Gloucester, Cape Elizabeth, Freeport and Yarmouth.

In the quarterfinals, the Warriors dispatched No. 3 Lisbon (52-26) and in Tuesday’s semifinal round, Wells pulled away in the fourth quarter to knock off upset-minded No. 7 Maranacook, 46-31.

Yarmouth had its ups-and-downs during the regular season and finished barely above .500, but the Clippers were dangerous and the rest of the field knew it.

Yarmouth rolled past No. 4 Mountain Valley, 52-23, in its quarterfinal, then upset top-ranked Freeport Tuesday in the semifinals, 50-40, the program’s biggest victory in 15 years (see sidebar, above, for links to previous stories).

Wells had its way with Yarmouth during the regular season, beating the Clippers, 53-38 Jan. 21 in Wells and 43-38 in Yarmouth Feb. 6 in the regular season finale. In the first game, Franny Ramsdell went off for 23 points, while sophomore Grace Ramsdell added 19 (freshman Ava Feeley led the Clippers with 15) and in the second, both Ramsdell sisters scored 15 which was just enough to negate 12 points from Yarmouth junior Calin McGonagle and 11 from sophomore Katelyn D’Appolonia.

The Warriors had taken both prior playoff meetings, 41-36 in the 2002 Western B semifinals and 52-38 in last year’s quarterfinals.

Friday, Yarmouth took part in just its second-ever regional final, while Wells was appearing for the first time since losing to Lake Region in the 2014 Western B Final.

The game began auspiciously for the Clippers, as McGonagle set up senior captain Adriana Whitlock for a layup, but the Warriors answered with nine straight points to take control. The run began with a driving layup from senior Meredith Bogue. Off an inbounds set, Bogue set up junior Mallory Aromando for a layup to put Wells on top to stay and Grace Ramsdell followed with a layup before sophomore Grace Boucher sank a 3 for a 9-2 lead.

D’Appolonia ended the run with a layup, off a feed from McNeil, but Aromando drove for a layup.

After a steal and layup from D’Appolonia, Franny Ramsdell scored her first points, a left-handed runner in the lane.

“We knew it was going to be a defensive game and we had to just get out quickly,” Franny Ramsdell said.

Feeley made a free throw for Yarmouth, but Bogue set up Grace Ramsdell for a layup and a 15-7 Warriors’ advantage after eight minutes.

“I think the key to the game was the start,” Cousins said. “I knew in the back of my mind we had to start strong, but we got behind. Mentally, I think we were back on our heels a little bit. It’s the Civic Center. We hadn’t been here. None of our kids had played here. It’s a different environment and atmosphere.”

In the second period, Wells threatened to pull away, but the Warriors were careless with the ball and allowed the Clippers to stay within hailing distance.

Aromando opened the frame with a putback of her own miss, but Feeley fed D’Appolonia for a fastbreak layup.

Franny Ramsdell pushed the lead back to 10 with a layup after a steal, but McNeil scored her first points, on a 3-point shot before Boucher answered with a 3 of her own.

That would be Wells’ final points of the quarter and Yarmouth crept back within 22-15 at halftime after Feeley made a free throw and McGonagle set up D’Appolonia for a layup.

Aromando and Boucher had six points apiece in the first half for the Warriors, but 14 turnovers, including 11 in the second period, proved detrimental. D’Appolonia led all first half scorers with eight points.

In the third quarter, Yarmouth came out sizzling, but could never quite catch up.

Just 10 seconds into the second half, McNeil took a pass from McGonagle and made a layup. The next time down, D’Appolonia set up McNeil for a 3-pointer and just 31 seconds into the third period, the Clippers were within two.

“We ran a couple set plays coming out of the half,” Cousins said. “We relaxed the kids at halftime. We told them not to hang their heads and just play so when you walk out of the building, you know you gave your all. We came out like a house on fire. That’s a testament to the girls.”

But Yarmouth would get no closer, despite open looks by McGonagle, D’Appolonia and McNeil which didn’t fall, and with 4:43 to go in the frame, a leaner from Grace Ramsdell ended a six-minute drought and restored a little momentum to the Warriors.

Bogue and D’Appolonia then traded free throws and Wells took a 25-21 lead to the fourth quarter.

Where, the Warriors did just enough to hold on and prevail.

McNeil pulled the Clippers within two 21 seconds into the fourth period with a putback, ending a 7-minute, 50-second field goal drought, but at the other end, Franny Ramsdell drove for a key layup and the next time down, after a missed shot, Bogue kept possession with an offensive rebound, got the ball to Franny Ramsdell and Ramsdell set up Boucher for a clutch 3 and a 30-23 lead.

Aromando added a leaner that rolled in, but D’Appolonia converted a leaner from a tough angle.

After Franny Ramsdell made two free throws, D’Appolonia took a pinpoint pass from McNeil and made a layup and with 3:16 to go, Feeley sank a 3 to cut the deficit to 34-30.

Grace Ramsdell answered with a tough bank shot, but McNeil again set up D’Appolonia for a layup, making it 36-32 with 2:53 to play.

Franny Ramsdell then calmly sank two clutch free throws with 1:26 on the clock and after D’Appolonia spun and somehow banked home a shot, Franny Ramsdell was fouled again with 57 seconds on the clock and again, sank both attempts to make it 40-34.

“I just treated them as any other free throws,” Franny Ramsdell said. “I knew I could do it. That was my mindset.”

“Who else would I want there?” Wells coach Don Abbott said. “(Franny) wanted to be there and that’s what you want to see. She wanted the ball and wanted to shoulder the load for the team.”

“At that point in time, in that situation, you can’t say just foul (anyone),” Cousins said. “(Wells) was well-coached enough that (Franny) got the ball.”

Again, the Clippers answered, as McNeil drove in, made a layup while being fouled and sank the and-one free throw to make it a one-possession game with 51 seconds remaining.

Wells managed to run the clock down to 26 seconds before Boucher was fouled. She made her first attempt to make it a two-possession game again, but missed the second.

Yarmouth tried to score and hoped to have a chance to pull off a miracle, but McGonagle and Feeley each missed 3s and at 3:13 p.m., Aromando grabbed the rebound and the horn sounded on the Warriors’ 41-37 victory.

“It’s unreal,” Franny Ramsdell said. “I don’t know how to put it into words, it’s such a great feeling. It makes it that much more special that it’s my last year and I have two great senior best friends and I get to play with my sister. It’s just awesome.”

“It wasn’t easy,” Abbott said. “We knew it wouldn’t be. I thought Yarmouth was playing really good basketball and it would be a 32-minute affair. We got up (by 10 three different times), but they kept coming and we kept counter-punching. That speaks to this team’s resolve. I can’t say enough about our effort today. I give these girls credit for bearing down and getting some key buckets to get back to a five- or seven-point lead, instead of a one-possession game. We needed all the points at the end because (the Clippers) kept coming.

“Our league is a gauntlet. We’ve been a tournament team 12 of my 14 years here, but there have been teams just a little better than us. Going in this year, we felt like we were in the mix. We were in the next tier of teams talked about and we didn’t have to shoulder the burden of being the favorite all year. As a coach, that was a blessing.”

Franny Ramsdell won the Mike DiRenzo Award as the regional tournament’s outstanding sportsperson. She finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five steals.

Boucher, who hit three clutch 3-pointers and added the clinching free throw, had 10 points, while Aromando finished with eight, Grace Ramsdell also had eight points (to go with six rebounds and two blocks) and Bogue tallied three (as well as nine rebounds and two assists).

The Warriors held a 29-26 edge on the glass, made 8-of-11 free throws and were able to overcome 23 turnovers.

Wells will seek its first ever state title next Friday in just its second state final appearance (the Warriors lost the 1979 Class C state game to Hodgdon, 58-40).

Hermon and Waterville square off in the Class B North Final Saturday afternoon. Whichever team emerges will pose its share of problems for the Warriors.

“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Franny Ramsdell. “Come out strong, play defense and have confidence.”

“We’ll spend a lot of time this week watching tape,” Abbott said. “These girls after each win have said we’re happy, but we’re not satisfied. If nothing else, we get four more days of practice, then we get to decide when (the season) ends. We’ll go up (to Bangor), lay it on the line and see what happens.”

Only going to get better

Yarmouth was paced by the irrepressible D’Appolonia, who led all scorers with 17 points and also had three rebounds and three steals.

McNeil scored 13 points, with 10 coming after halftime. She also had nine rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and two steals.

Feeley added five points off the bench and Whitlock had two in her swan song.

The Clippers turned the ball over 16 times and made 4-of-7 free throws.

“We fought back, but Wells is a great team,” Cousins said. “They’re experienced. They’re good kids with a lot of character.

“It’s been a very interesting week, because you want to cherish those wins, but we didn’t have time. It’s great everyone was congratulating us, but the next game was just a day or two away.”

Yarmouth’s play turned heads all tournament and even in victory, Abbott tipped his cap to the Clippers’ effort.

“I have a lot of respect for Dave and their program,” Abbott said. “He does things the right way and has the kids believing. Truth be told, they might have been a year early to the party. They have everybody coming back and they’ll be one heck of a team.”

In truth, the Clippers graduate senior captains Whitlock and Avery May, but what a nucleus they have returning in D’Appolonia, Feeley, McNeil, McGonagle and tournament hero and now-sophomore Maya Panozzo.

Yarmouth won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 2020-21, but it won’t have to.

“I think the difference is now (the girls) feel like they’ve arrived,” said Cousins. “We can’t put pressure on ourselves. We just have to go play. We have to stay sharp.

“This was a great building block for us.”

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

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