South Portland junior Mayen Ayuel drives on Falmouth senior Ethan McKee Wednesday. Ayuel had a game-high 28 points, but the Yachtsmen prevailed, 52-48.

BOX SCORE

Falmouth 52 South Portland 48

F- 15 9 16 12- 52
SP- 16 15 8 9- 48

F- Stowell 7-4-20, Coyne 6-0-14, McKee 3-1-7, Dilworth 2-0-6, Daniels 1-0-2, Morrill 1-0-2, Hanrahan 0-1-1

SP- Ayuel 8-6-28, Estrella 5-0-10, Jackson 1-5-7, Maloney 1-1-3

3-pointers:
F (6) Coyne, Dilworth, Stowell 2
SP (6) Ayuel 6

Turnovers:
F- 13
SP- 19

FTs
F: 6-12
SP: 12-17

SOUTH PORTLAND—Falmouth’s boys’ basketball team thought it could be something special this winter.

As it turns out, the Yachtsmen were spot-on.

While Falmouth wasn’t able to make a run at a Class A Gold Ball due to the postseason being eliminated because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Yachtsmen still managed to turn heads and capped a nearly-perfect campaign in impressive style Wednesday evening at Beal Gymnasium.

Facing Class AA power South Portland for the second time in the three nights, Falmouth withstood an 11-point first quarter scoring barrage from Red Riots junior Mayen Ayuel and only trailed by a point, 16-15.

The Yachtsmen then went on top in the second period, but the Red Riots closed the first half on an 8-0 run, capped by an old-fashioned three-point play from junior Owen Maloney, to lead, 31-24, at the break.

Falmouth came out strong in the second half, scoring the first nine points, and the game would remain nip-and-tuck the rest of the way.

The Yachtsmen clung to a 40-39 advantage when the fourth period began, soon found themselves down six after yet another Ayuel 3-pointer, but Falmouth closed on a 12-2 run to put it away.

A layup from junior Jack Stowell, who was a jack-of-all-trades throughout the contest, put the Yachtsmen ahead to stay with 4:29 remaining and Stowell added a clutch 3 and a layup for a little breathing room.

Ayuel made two free throws, but South Portland could draw no closer and Falmouth went on to a 52-48 victory.

The Yachtsmen were paced by 20 points from Stowell, who was also very active on the glass, and finished the season 7-1, dropping the Red Riots to 6-2 in the process.

“It was another good high school basketball game,” said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. “What I really appreciated was that the refs worked hard, the kids worked hard. It was as game-like as you can get. There weren’t fans here, but the kids have pride. These were a couple good games to remember. We always like to win the last game of the year and we did. It just feels better that way.”

Sequel

Monday night, South Portland and Falmouth put on a show, but it was the host Yachtsmen who saved their best for last, getting two free throws from senior Sean Dilworth with 7 seconds to play and holding on for a 62-60 victory.

In that game, as well over the past month, each team showed why they’ve been close to unbeatable this winter.

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. Monday brought South Portland’s first loss.

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, then bounced back Monday to knock South Portland from the unbeaten ranks.

Falmouth’s win Monday tied the all-time series, 3-3.

Wednesday, in a game that didn’t have quite as much drama or scoring, the Yachtsmen found a way to grind out another victory and end their season on a high note.

Ayuel hinted at his huge game to come by draining a 3-pointer 48 seconds in.

Junior Brady Coyne answered with a 3 for Falmouth and after a steal, Stowell was fouled and made one-of-two free throws to give the visitors the lead for the first time.

After sophomore Jaelen Jackson made a foul shot for South Portland, Jackson set up sophomore J.P. Estrella for a dunk.

Senior Ethan McKee countered with a layup for the Yachtsmen, but Ayuel sank a long 3 to make it 9-6.

McKee pulled Falmouth within a point with a layup, but Estrella finished with a hook shot.

Coyne then sank a jumper, but an Ayuel putback kept the Red Riots up by three.

With 1:29 to go in the opening stanza, Stowell was fouled while shooting a 3 and he sank all three free throws to tie it.

Auyel then stepped back and hit a 3 and while junior Zach Morrill answered with a layup, the Yachtsmen still trailed by one, 16-15, after eight minutes.

Ayuel opened the second quarter by remaining hot, sinking a 3-ball from the corner, but Coyne answered with a long 3, Stowell scored on a putback, then Stowell missed a 3-pointer, but soared in for the rebound and put home his own miss for a 22-19 lead.

“Those rebounds came in the flow of the game,” Stowell said. “My shots weren’t falling in the beginning, so I had to do something else.”

After Estrella scored on a leaner, two Jackson free throws put South Portland back on top, but with 1:40 to go in the half, Coyne banked home a shot for Falmouth’s final points before halftime.

The Red Riots then closed strong, as Ayuel drained a long, contested 3-pointer, Auyel made two foul shots and Maloney scored on a leaner while being fouled and added the free throw for the three-point play to make it 31-24 Red Riots at the break.

Ayuel had a double-double in the first half alone, 19 points and 10 rebounds.

It would be the Yachtsmen coming out strong in the second half, however.

A runner from Coyne ended South Portland’s 8-0 run and a 3-minute, 45-second scoring drought.

After McKee converted a three-point play, Dilworth got a 3-pointer to rattle home for his first points of the game, which gave Falmouth a 32-31 lead.

Senior Vinnie Hanrahan added a free throw, but with 3:33 left in the quarter, Estrella’s layup tied the score and ended Falmouth’s 9-0 run and a 4:55 drought.

Jackson followed with a jumper to put the Red Riots back in the lead, but Coyne answered with a bank shot.

After Ayuel made two free throws, Stowell set up senior Tanner Daniels for a tying layup.

Then, with 13.8 seconds to go in the frame, Stowell made a 3-pointer from the corner.

Just before time expired, Maloney set up Estrella for a rousing dunk, but the Yachtsmen were still in front, 40-39.

Falmouth would save its best for last in the fourth period.

After Ayuel put South Portland back on top with a jumper 34 seconds into the final stanza, Jackson added two free throws and Ayuel made his sixth 3-pointer of the game for a 46-40 advantage with 5:40 to go.

The Red Riots’ offense then dried up and the Yachtsmen rallied.

After Hanrahan kept possession alive with an offensive rebound, Dilworth hit a clutch 3.

Stowell then scored on a putback and with 4:29 to play, Stowell made a layup to put Falmouth ahead for good, 47-46.

After Jackson missed the front end of a one-and-one for South Portland, it appeared the Yachtsmen would milk the clock, but Stowell got a look he liked, lined up a 3 and hit it for a four-point advantage with 1:39 remaining.

“I felt a sense of urgency and I shot it,” Stowell said. “Last game of the season. I wanted to get away with a win.”

“Jack showed some of the other things he can do tonight,” Halligan said. “He’s going to be a special player next year. That shot was a ‘No, no, no, yes!’ He hit it. You have to have guys like that step up in big games.”

“We had to play it out,” said South Portland coach Kevin Millington. “I thought they were going to take time off, but they hit a good shot.”

After Coyne fed Stowell for a breakaway layup with 1:13 left, the Yachtsmen were almost home free, but Ayuel made two free throws 28 seconds later to cut the deficit to four, snap Falmouth’s 12-0 run and the Red Riots’ 4:55 drought.

With 11 seconds to go, Stowell missed the front end of a one-and-one, but South Portland couldn’t take advantage as Jackson missed a 3 and the clock ran out, allowing the Yachtsmen to celebrate their 52-48 victory.

“There isn’t much of a difference between our two teams, honestly,” said Stowell. “Both teams played well just like the other night.”

“I think our bigs came up big in the second half and their bigs had their way in the first half,” Halligan said. “We adjusted, they adjusted. It was just a good game.”

Stowell led all scorers with 20 points and also had nine rebounds and a pair of steals.

Coyne added 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals, McKee had seven points and eight boards in his swan song, Dilworth tallied six points, Daniels and Morrill two apiece and Hanrahan one (to go with nine rebounds, all in the second half).

Falmouth had a 41-34 rebounding advantage, only turned the ball over 13 times and made 6-of-12 foul shots.

Ayuel put on a show for South Portland, scoring 28 points, while also grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking a pair of shots.

Estrella added 10 points and six rebounds, Jackson had seven points and four assists and Maloney wound up with three points.

The Red Riots made 12-of-17 free throws, but committed 19 turnovers and couldn’t convert on offense down the stretch.

“Two good teams played a good game down to the wire,” Millington said. “I think we’re really talented, but we’re not there yet without practice. We have to just rely on our talent and nobody is going to feel sorry for us.”

South Portland still has two games remaining, Friday at Gray-New Gloucester and Saturday at home versus Cape Elizabeth.

“I didn’t do a good job getting seniors in against Falmouth, so I’ll make a point of doing that the last two games,” Millington said. “It’s been a fun year. I’m glad we’ve gotten to play.”

Here’s to next year

Falmouth’s 2021 season has come to a close and the Yachstmen accomplished a lot. Next year, Falmouth will look to earn a Gold Ball and even after losing some key pieces, you have to figure they’ll be one of the teams to beat in Class A South.

“I’m glad we got to play,” Stowell said. “It was a good experience. We’ve learned things we can use along the way. Our future looks bright. I can’t wait for next year.”

“I hope the guys remember this year, learn their lessons and hopefully we’ll get better,” said Halligan, who said he plans to return in 2021-22. “We’ll miss the seniors. They’re good kids, not just good basketball players. The younger guys got experience this year and we played good teams.”

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

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