BOX SCORE

Falmouth 62 South Portland 60

SP- 15 12 22 11- 60
F- 17 14 18 13- 62

SP- Ayuel 8-2-21, Estrella 9-0-19, Jackson 6-2-16, Maloney 1-0-2, Mulima 1-0-2

F- Coyne 7-0-19, Stowell 6-0-16, Dilworth 3-2-8, McKee 3-2-8, Hanrahan 2-1-5, Armstrong 1-0-2, Daniels 1-0-2, Peelen 1-0-2

3-pointers:
SP (6) Ayuel 3, Jackson 2, Estrella 1
F (9) Coyne 5, Stowell 4

Turnovers:
SP- 10
F- 11

FTs
SP: 4-7
F: 5-11

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FALMOUTH—There won’t be a Cumberland County boys’ basketball championship game this winter, but if there was one, it would be hard to eclipse the show that Falmouth and South Portland put on Monday evening.

The host Yachtsmen, who fell from the unbeaten ranks Saturday afternoon, hosted an unblemished Red Riots squad that hadn’t been seriously tested this season, but Falmouth had South Portland on its heels most of the way.

But the Red Riots wouldn’t relent and took the Yachtsmen to the wire.

Only to fall two points short.

Falmouth lived up to its reputation as long-distance sharpshooters in the first quarter, as junior Brady Coyne drained a pair of 3-pointers and classmate Jack Stowell hit another and the Yachtsmen clung to a 17-15 advantage after eight minutes.

South Portland hung tough in the second quarter, as 6-foot-8 sophomore J.P. Estrella scored nine points and helped the Red Riots take a short-lived two-point lead, but late in the first half, Stowell and Coyne made 3s and Falmouth was up, 31-27, at the break.

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The Yachtsmen went ahead by as many as nine points in the third period, but by quarter’s end, a 3-pointer from South Portland’s dynamic sophomore Jaelen Jackson tied it up, 49-49.

The game would be tied three more times in the final stanza, for the last time on an Estrella tip-in with 1:13 to go, but after milking the clock, Falmouth went on top to stay when senior Sean Dilworth was fouled with seven seconds left and made both free throw attempts.

South Portland had one last chance to win it, but couldn’t convert and when the horn sounded, each team had six victories and a ‘one’ in the loss column.

“It was a fun basketball game,” said veteran Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan. “It feels so much better to win this. South Portland’s really good. They have legitimate bigs and good guards. We want to play the best teams. If you make mistakes, they make you pay for it. That’s how you get better.”

Two of the best

Considering each team got to its respective regional final a year ago and returned plenty of talent this season, it’s not a surprise that Falmouth and South Portland were a combined 11-1 entering play Monday.

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The Red Riots started by sweeping Deering, 52-47 at home and 65-54 in Portland. Next came a sweep of Portland, 67-47 in South Portland and 56-46 at the Bulldogs. Last week, the Red Riots beat Cheverus twice, 68-36 at home and 58-46 in Portland.

The Yachtsmen, meanwhile, started with a pair of decisive victories over Greely, 77-47 in Cumberland and 85-32 at home. Next came a sweep of Cheverus, 76-40 in Portland and 75-49 at home. After sitting idle for two weeks, Falmouth held off visiting Deering Friday, 67-58, but lost at the Rams Saturday, 69-67.

“We hadn’t practiced in two weeks and we played back-to-back and a lot of different things happened in that game,” said Halligan. “We had a shot to win at the end and we missed 22 3-point shots.”

The Red Riots and Yachtsmen last met in a countable game Jan. 25, 2019, a 48-38 home victory for South Portland. In 2018, South Portland won at Falmouth, 59-53. The Red Riots also won in 2017 (68-60 at home), while the Yachtsmen prevailed in the 2015 Western A semifinals (67-57) and during the 2015-16 season (63-52 at home).

Monday’s game featured twists and turns, jawdropping plays and suspense all the way to the finish before the hosts did just enough to prevail.

Falmouth’s long-range acumen allowed it to take an early lead.

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Coyne opened the game with a 3 and after junior Mayen Ayuel made a jumper for South Portland, Stowell set up senior Ethan McKee for a layup and Stowell got a 3-ball to rattle home to make it 8-2. After Jackson drove for a layup, Coyne made another 3 for a seven-point edge.

Out of a timeout, the Red Riots answered with eight straight points, as Estrella scored on a putback, Estrella showed some impressive range by knocking down a 3, then Ayuel added a 3-pointer for a 12-11 lead.

The Yachtsmen went back on top, thank to a 6-0 run, as Dilworth got a left-handed finger roll to drop, senior John Peelen scored on a putback and Coyne set up senior Tanner Daniels for a layup.

Ayuel then made his second 3 to pull South Portland within two, 17-15, after one period.

The game remained tight in the second quarter as well.

After McKee opened the frame with a putback, Maloney hit a leaner for the Red Riots and Jackson made a layup after a steal to tie it.

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Falmouth went back on top on a McKee layup, but an Estrella hook shot tied it again, 21-21.

After senior Vinnie Hanrahan took a pass from Stowell and made a layup to give the Yachtsmen the lead, Maloney fed Estrella for a layup and a left-handed putback from Estrella put the Red Riots momentarily back ahead, 27-25.

Falmouth closed the half strong, as Stowell hit a 3 with 1:37 to go, then with 34.6 seconds on the clock, Coyne made a 3 from the corner for a 31-27 halftime advantage.

Estrella led all first half scorers with 11 points, while Coyne paced the Yachtsmen with nine points.

The third quarter continued the theme of little separation, as Falmouth found itself on the brink of opening it up, but South Portland roared back again.

After McKee opened the second half with a free throw, a Jackson 3 pulled the Red Riots within two, 32-30, but Hanrahan scored on a putback, Stowell sank a 3 and Dilworth drove for a layup to make it a nine-point game, 39-30.

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Ayuel stemmed the run with a pair of free throws and Estrella scored on a leaner.

After Dilworth hit a jumper for the Yachtsmen, Jackson sank two free throws, Estrella scored on a putback and with 3:57 left in the quarter, a layup after a steal by Jackson cut Falmouth’s lead to 41-40.

Off an inbounds pass under the basket, Dilworth found Coyne for a layup, but Estrella fed Ayuel for a layup to make it a one-point game again.

Coyne buried a contested 3, but Ayuel got a runner to rattle home and an Estrella layup pulled South Portland even, 46-46.

In the waning seconds of the period, Stowell hit a 3 for the hosts, but South Portland answered on a 3 from Jackson and the game went to the fourth quarter deadlocked, 49-49.

The Red Riots then took the lead for the first time since late in the first half, when senior David Mulima entered the game and immediately made a jumper shot, but a Stowell putback tied the score, Coyne made a jumper and Hanrahan added a free throw for a 54-51 Falmouth advantage with 5:21 to go.

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South Portland rallied and drew even on an Ayuel 3, but with 3:32 to play, Stowell drove and despite being closely guarded, made a layup for a 56-54 lead.

Again, South Portland countered, as Ayuel hit a leaner 22 seconds later.

With 2:50 left, Coyne sank a clutch 3 to put the Yachtsmen back on top, but after Ayuel scored on a runner and McKee made the second of two free throws, Estrella tipped home a missed shot with 1:13 remaining and for the 10th and final time, the game was tied, 60-60.

Falmouth then ran the clock under a minute and took it down even more, as it couldn’t find a good look.

Finally, with less than 10 seconds to play, Dilworth drove and drew a foul.

With 7 seconds left, Dilworth went to the line and sank his first attempt, then drained his second for a two-point lead.

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“It came down to the last second,” Dilworth said. “I knew I had to take it to the hoop, get a foul and go to the line. I just tried to block out everything. I made the first one and the second one was easy.”

“Sean’s a senior and he had the courage to take that,” Halligan said. “That’s what seniors do.”

The Red Riots would have one final chance and out of a timeout, Maloney inbounded to Jackson, who dribbled across halfcourt, then passed back to Maloney. With time winding down, from well beyond the 3-point arc, Maloney threw up a shot that didn’t find its mark and the Yachtsmen survived, 62-60.

“Owen’s a good shooter, so no complaints about that look,” said South Portland coach Kevin Millington.

The Yachtsmen were thrilled to prevail.

“We were super-excited for tonight,” said Dilworth. “We knew we were playing a good team. We learned that taking care of the ball was the most important thing. We had too many turnovers (in our loss to Deering).”

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“It felt good to win this,” McKee said. “We wanted to go undefeated, but it felt great to come back and get this win against a great team. We just had to square up at the end, make sure we didn’t foul and let them shoot and get the rebound.”

“They didn’t quit, we didn’t quit, they adjusted, we counter-adjusted, that’s just good basketball,” Halligan added. “They got a last look, but we played good defense.”

Coyne led Falmouth with 19 points. He also had five rebounds and three steals.

Stowell also finished in double figures with 16 points. He also had six rebounds and four assists.

Dilworth had eight points, three rebounds and three assists, McKee had eight points and 11 boards, Hanrahan finished with five points and nine rebounds and Armstrong, Daniels and Peelen had two points apiece.

The Yachtsmen made nine 3s to six for South Portland, had a 39-34 rebounding advantage, turned the ball over 11 times and hit 5-of-11 free throws.

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South Portland got a game-high 21 points from Ayuel (who also had six rebounds and two steals). Estrella had a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds and made life challenging for Hanrahan and McKee down low.

“(J.P’s) got some height on us, but we put up a fight against him,” said McKee.

Jackson excelled with 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Maloney (five rebounds) and Mulima each finished with two points.

The Red Riots made 4-of-7 free throws and only turned the ball over 10 times.

“Falmouth’s one of the teams that doesn’t make mistakes and shoots well,” said Millington. “We haven’t defended the 3s very well and I went into this game thinking they’d make us pay for that. We were never out of catch-up mode. We had to hit some shots. This was a good experience for us.”

Encore

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The teams meet again Wednesday in South Portland.

The Red Riots also go to Gray-New Gloucester Friday and have a home game remaining Saturday versus Cape Elizabeth.

“What I wanted to accomplish is to know the kids and get my eyes on them and see what they can do and I’ve done that,” Millington said.

Wednesday’s contest will likely be the season finale for Falmouth.

“We expect a similar game,” said Dilworth. “It’ll come down to the last second again, I’m sure.”

“We’ve made the most of this season,” said McKee. “We’re so happy to be out here balling, having a great time.”

“We’ll see them again in less than 48 hours,” Halligan added.

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

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