BOX SCORE

Yarmouth 38 Freeport 28

Y- 9 12 6 11- 38
F- 10 8 3 7- 28

Y- McNeil 5-0-11, McGonagle 4-0-9, D’Appolonia 3-0-6, M. Panozzo 2-0-4, Keaney 1-1-3, N. Panozzo 1-0-3, Feeley 1-0-2

F- Wall 5-3-13, Baker-Schlendering 4-0-8, Groves 1-2-4, Driscoll 1-1-3

3-pointers:
Y (3) McGonagle, McNeil, N. Panozzo 1
F (0)

Turnovers:
Y- 12
F- 23

FTs
Y: 1-4
F: 6-8

FREEPORT—Yarmouth’s girls’ basketball team isn’t undefeated by chance.

It rises to the occasion when it matters most.

The Clippers don’t just have experience and talent, they do the little things that win games and Friday evening, on the road, against a Freeport team eager to hand them their first blemish, they turned up the defensive intensity and got the job done.

The Falcons had waited over a year for a chance to earn a measure of revenge from last year’s semifinal round playoff upset loss and not surprisingly, came out strong, scoring the final six points of the first quarter to grab a 10-9 lead.

When senior standout Rachel Wall scored six easy points in the second period and junior post standout Mason Baker-Schlendering added a layup, Freeport was on top, 18-13, but the offense soon dried up.

Yarmouth closed the half on an 8-0 run, as a sensational defensive play from junior Katelyn D’Appolonia sparked a strong closing stretch offensively and a layup from D’Appolonia and a jumper at the horn from senior Margaret McNeil produced a 21-18 halftime lead for the Clippers.

The Falcons managed just three points in the third quarter and Yarmouth held them scoreless for over seven minutes as the Clippers gradually extended their advantage to as many as 12 points before closing out a 38-28 victory.

Yarmouth got 11 points from McNeil, a stat sheet-stuffing performance from D’Appolonia and forced 23 turnovers as it improved to 6-0 and in the process, dropped Freeport to 2-5 on the year.

“The key for us is how we play defensively,” said Clippers coach David Cousins. “No question. When we deny and we help, we’re good. Offensively, we missed an awful lot of easy shots, but I’m going to take the win. It’s always tough playing here. Freeport’s well coached and works hard. Overall, we controlled the tempo the way we wanted.”

Long awaited

Last Feb. 18, at the Portland Exposition Building, Yarmouth arrived a year ahead of schedule and dashed Freeport’s title dreams at the same time with a stunning 50-40 victory in the Class B South semifinals. The Clippers went on to lose, 41-37, to eventual state champion Wells in the regional final, while the Falcons stewed and waited for a chance at revenge.

That opportunity was originally scheduled for last week, but had to be postponed.

Yarmouth opened with a pair of wins over Lake Region (46-29 at home and 42-35 in Naples), then swept Brunswick (49-34 at home and 51-34 away), before edging visiting South Portland on sophomore Ava Feeley’s late layup, 30-28, last Friday.

Freeport, meanwhile, started with a pair of losses to Brunswick (53-40 on the road and 39-38 at home), then beat host Mt. Ararat, 48-39, before letting a late lead slip away in a 33-31 home loss to Cape Elizabeth. Tuesday, at home, the Falcons were beaten by Mt. Ararat, 53-40. Thursday, Freeport won at Cape Elizabeth, 46-26.

Friday, the Falcons did some promising things in the first half, but they couldn’t sustain them in the second half as the Clippers played like a team that doesn’t know how to lose.

McNeil opened the game with a 3-point shot from the corner and after Baker-Schlendering made a jump shot, McNeil made a layup after a steal and senior Calin McGonagle converted a runner in the lane for a quick 7-2 advantage.

Freeeport started to awaken when senior Hannah Groves made a layup and after McNeil fed D’Appolonia for a layup at the other end, the last six points of the frame went to the Falcons, as Groves sank two free throws, Wall made a layup after a steal and Baker-Schlendering scored on a putback to make it 10-9 Freeport after one quarter.

The Falcons gave the ball away seven times in the first eight minutes, but took better care of it in the second period.

After D’Appolonia put Yarmouth back on top with a layup after a steal, Wall scored on a putback and Baker-Schlendering made a pretty reverse layup with her off hand.

McNeil fed McGonagle for a layup to counter, but Wall scored on a pullup jumper and after McGonagle was sidelined with her third foul, Wall hit a short jumper after a steal for an 18-13 lead with 4:16 to go in the half.

But that would prove to the Falcons’ highwater mark offensively.

After senior super-sub Kathryn Keaney entered the game to replace McGonagle and made a free throw, freshman Neena Panozzo hit a 3-pointer from the corner to pull the Clippers within one.

Wall then stole the ball and appeared primed to coast in for a layup, but out of nowhere zoomed D’Appolonia, who somehow managed to cleanly block the taller Wall’s shot.

“(Rachel) took the ball from me, so I wasn’t happy about it, then I saw an opening (to block it) and it worked,” D’Appolonia said. “That was, I think, my first block of the season.”

On the next Freeport possession, D’Appolonia stole the ball and went down and made a layup to put Yarmouth on top to stay with 22 seconds to go in the half.

The Falcons tried to hold for the last shot, but turned the ball over and just before the horn, D’Appolonia got the ball ahead to McNeil, who calmly drained a jump shot to cap an 8-0 run and make it 21-18 Clippers at the break.

Wall scored eight first half points for Freeport, but McNeil had seven for Yarmouth and D’Appolonia did a little of everything to help the visitors cling to the lead.

The Falcons opened the second half by getting a free throw from Wall and a Baker-Schlendering layup with 5:19 remaining in the third quarter to tie it, 21-21, but their next points wouldn’t come until well into the fourth period.

And the Clippers took advantage.

First, D’Appolonia set up McNeil for a layup.

“We made good passes on the cuts,” McNeil said. “We’ve played together long enough to know each other plays and our passes are always on point.”

Keaney then made a jumper.

“Kathryn gave us a break from guarding Mason and Rachel,” McNeil said. “They’re intense to guard and they take a lot of effort. She came in and played really well.”

“Kathryn’s long and she had a lot of rebounds,” Cousins said. “More impressively, she made some nice defensive plays and had some steals. That’s the joy of having another senior who can come in and play.”

McNeil added a long jumper for a 27-21 lead heading to the final stanza.

There, McNeil threw a touchdown pass ahead to junior Maya Panozzo for a breakaway layup to make it an eight-point game.

With 5:52 left, junior Meg Driscoll made a free throw for Freeport, snapping its 7-minute, 27-second drought, but McGonagle countered with a long jumper, then McGonagle sank a 3-point shot to make it 34-22 with 3:36 left and essentially end the competitive phase of the contest.

After Wall made a layup after a steal, D’Appolonia found Maya Panozzo for a layup.

Driscoll drove for a bank shot and with 1:26 to go, Wall made two free throws, but a putback from Feeley slammed the door and Yarmouth closed out its 38-28 victory.

“We picked up the intensity and we communicated more,” D’Appolonia said. “We had to figure out how to guard Mason. She’s a big player. She’s good. She posted a lot of us up, so helping, switching, talking is what helped us.”

“Freeport’s my favorite team to play,” said McNeil. “Hands down. They’re always a good team. The playoff game last year was probably my favorite game to play in.”

McNeil scored 11 points and also had eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocked shots.

D’Appolonia did a little of everything as well, scoring six points, as well as posting six rebounds, five assists, four steals and one very memorable block.

“Those two do so many things other than scoring,” Cousins said. “You have to have that to be successful.”

McGonagle, despite being in foul trouble, added nine points, five rebounds and a pair of steals, Maya Panozzo had four points and three steals, Keaney three points (as well as six rebounds, two steals and two blocks), Neena Panozzo three points and Feeley two.

Yarmouth made just 1-of-4 free throws and turned the ball over 12 times.

Freeport’s effort was paced by Wall, who had a game-high 13 points, as well as six rebounds and four steals.

Baker-Schlendering scored eight points, Groves had four (as well as eight rebounds) and Driscoll finished with three points and eight rebounds.

The Falcons made 6-of-8 free throws, but were done in by 23 turnovers and a lack of consistent point scoring.

“Offensively, we’re not a juggernaut,” Freeport coach Seth Farrington lamented. “I think this group has a total of five career 3s made. We had some turnovers which really hurt us. Yarmouth’s one of the better teams. They play extremely hard. It turned more into a five-on-five game in the second half and that comes down to skill set and execution. We’re much better in transition, getting up and down the floor.”

Strong finish

Freeport and Yarmouth meet again Monday night in Yarmouth.

The Falcons then close with a pair of games against Gray-New Gloucester, Tuesday at home and Thursday in Gray.

“I think coaches took it for granted going to the gym every day, practicing and scouting, but this year gives me a whole new outlook,” Farrington said. “The girls are excited to be in the gym. They like to be with their friends and working hard every day. They’re happy to be high school girls again.

“Rachel and Hannah have been with me three years. Saying goodbye to the seniors is the hardest thing. They’ll be hard to replace, not just from a skill standpoint but with leadership and character.”

The Clippers are right back in action Saturday morning against Cape Elizabeth. They then have a game at Cape Elizabeth Tuesday and finish up with a pair of games against Greely, at home Thursday and at the Rangers March 13.

“As a senior, it’s a closure kind of thing,” McNeil said. “I was distraught when basketball first got shut down. It’s my last season, so I wanted to have fun. Now, I want to win out.”

“We’re making the most of the season and having fun,” said D’Appolonia. “We’ve been focused, ready to play. This year is valuable for the younger kids. We have a really strong freshman class. It’s good for them to play with us. We all play well together.”

“Getting pushed and responding is a good sign, but I’m waiting for a game when we put it all together,” Cousins added. “We have a slew of games to end. We’re looking forward to it.”

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

Comments are not available on this story.