BOX SCORE

York 53 Yarmouth 42

Yo- 10 18 11 14- 53
Y- 9 7 10 16- 42

Yo- Rainforth 9-2-21, Giacobba 5-2-12, Kortes 3-4-10, C. Pavuk 3-1-7, R. Pavuk 1-1-3

Y- Feeley 5-1-12, Clark 3-0-8, Keaney 2-1-6, King 3-0-6, N. Panozzo 2-1-5, M. Panozzo 1-0-3, Powers 1-0-2

3-pointers:
Yo (1) Rainforth 1
Y (5) Clark 2, Feeley, Keaney, M. Panozzo 1

Turnovers:
Yo- 17
Y- 29

FTs
Yo: 10-22
Y: 3-9

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PORTLAND—For most of the 2021-22 campaign, Yarmouth’s girls’ basketball team handled any pressure sent its way.

But the Clippers hadn’t encountered anything quite like the defense of the York Wildcats and Saturday afternoon at the Portland Exposition Building, in a Class B South quarterfinal, they met their match, as 29 turnovers spelled the end of a successful season.

Fourth-ranked Yarmouth, playing without injured senior point guard extraordinaire Katelyn D’Appolonia, got off to a promising start and only trailed by a point, 10-9, after one quarter, but the Clippers committed a dozen second period turnovers, which allowed the fifth-seeded Wildcats to go on a run and open up a 28-16 halftime advantage.

York continued to get easy looks in the third quarter and twice went ahead by as many as 15 points before a late jumper from sophomore reserve Lexi Clark pulled Yarmouth within 39-26 heading for the fourth period.

There, the Clippers got as close as seven, 49-42, on a 3 from Clark, but the Wildcats scored the game’s final four points and closed out a 53-42 victory.

York got a game-high 21 points from senior captain Emily Rainforth and 12 points from senior Ava Giacobba and forced 29 Yarmouth turnovers as it improved to 11-5, ended the Clippers’ season at 13-5 and advanced to battle top-ranked, reigning state champion Wells (18-1) Tuesday at 2:45 p.m., at the Expo.

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“You’re not going to win any games turning the ball over that many times,” lamented Yarmouth coach David Cousins. “Usually teams don’t have success pressing us, but we made it easier for them today. Give (York) credit, they came to play hard.”

Valiant effort

Yarmouth was one of the top teams in Class B South all season (see sidebar for links to previous game stories), losing only to Class A contenders Brunswick and Mt. Ararat in close games and twice to Wells. The Clippers got strong play from several contributors throughout the year and overcame a slow start in Wednesday’s preliminary round game to eliminate No. 13 Cape Elizabeth, 42-29.

York struggled with elite teams Greely and Wells, losing to them twice apiece, but the Wildcats went 7-2 down the stretch and in their prelim, had no trouble defeating No. 12 Poland, 56-35.

Yarmouth eked out a 47-42 victory at York in the season opener Dec. 10, behind 11 points apiece from Feeley and junior Nori Schneider. The Wildcats were led by a game-high 19 points from Rainforth.

The teams had played just once before in the tournament, a 41-37 York victory way back in the 1988 Western B preliminary round.

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Saturday, the Clippers battled valiantly, but too many self-inflicted wounds were ultimately the difference.

Wildcats sophomore McKayla Kortes scored the game’s first point, a free throw, then junior Ava Feeley drove for a layup to put the Clippers on top. Sophomore Neena Panozzo added a free throw before sophomore Cate King scored her first points, on a putback, for a 5-1 advantage.

York answered, as senior Clara Pavuk scored on a runner in the lane and Kortes drove for a layup, but King jumper put Yarmouth back in the lead.

After Rainforth tied the score with a bank shot, senior captain Maya Panozzo set up King for a fastbreak layup for what proved to be the Clippers’ last lead, 9-7,

After Giacobba tied it with a jumper, Giacobba made a free throw with 1:54 on the clock and the Wildcats had the lead for good, a 10-9 advantage they would take to the second quarter.

Where York started to pull away.

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After Pavuk set up Kortes for a layup to open the frame, sophomore Aine Powers drove for a layup for Yarmouth, but multiple Clippers’ turnovers allowed the Wildcats to go on a run.

First Pavuk drove for a layup, was fouled and added the free throw for the old-fashioned three point play. Giacobba added a free throw, then Rainforth stole the ball and raced in for a layup to make it 18-11, forcing Cousins to call timeout.

It helped, as Neena Panozzo set up sophomore Lauren Keaney for a layup and Maya Panozzo added a 3 from the corner, but the final 10 points of the half went to York.

First, Rainforth made a layup. Then, Giacobba banked home consecutive shots. Senior Rose Pavuk added a free throw, Kortes hit another, then, after Yarmouth’s 18th turnover of the half, Kortes was fouled and added two more foul shots for a 28-16 halftime advantage.

“I’ve said from the beginning with these guys, as long as our defense is on point, we’ll be OK,” said York coach Jess Stacy. “Turnovers led to quick points which was huge for us. Especially getting layups in new environments with new backdrops.”

The Wildcats didn’t relent in the third period and continued to hold a healthy lead.

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Keaney started the second half with a free throw for the Clippers, but off an inbounds set, Clara Pavuk set up Kortes for a layup.

Feeley made a layup, but Rainforth took a pass from Kortes and made a layup, then, after a Rose Pavuk steal, Clara Pavuk’s layup made it 34-19.

Neena Panozzo drove for a layup, but Rainforth countered with two free throws and after Keaney banked in a 3, Rainforth answered with a 3 of her own before a jumper from Clark pulled Yarmouth within 39-26 heading to the fourth period.

Where, after a few anxious moments, York put it away.

Feeley started the frame with a free throw, then Feeley made a 3 with 6;49 to go to make it 39-30, but the Wildcats got consecutive layups from Rainforth to push the lead back to 13.

After Nenna Panozzo drove for a layup, Giacobba made a layup at the other end.

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A contested runner by Feeley and another Feeley runner made it 45-36 with 3:06 on the clock, but again, York responded, as Clara Pavuk set up Rose Pavuk for a layup, then Rose Pavuk found Rainforth for a layup to make it a 13-point margin again.

The Clippers then made one final push, as Clark hit a 3-pointer with 1:45 to go and after Rose Pavuk missed the front end of a one-and-one, Clark drained a pull-up 3 with 1:19 left to cut the deficit to 49-42.

But Yarmouth wouldn’t score again, and a Rainforth layup, followed by one more from Giacobba, brought the curtain down on the Wildcats’ 53-42 victory.

“It’s huge,” Stacy said. “The girls have worked really hard. We cleaned up a lot of stuff that showed up at the end of the regular season and they came ready to play. I told them it would be a tough game and the key for us was keeping composure. (Yarmouth) hit some big shots at the end. We knew they wouldn’t go down without a fight, but the girls looked for open passes and found the great shot versus the good shot and pulled out the ‘W.'”

Rainforth led all scorers with 21 points. She also had four steals. Giacobba added a dozen points and seven steals.

“Ava and Emily are consistent scorers for us,” Stacy said. “They lead us offensively and defensively.”

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Kortes finished with 10 points, nine rebounds, five steals and four assists, Clara Pavuk had seven points, six assists and five rebounds and Rose Pavuk contributed three points, five rebounds and three assists.

York was able to overcome 17 turnovers and 10-of-22 foul shooting.

The Wildcats nearly upset Wells at home on Jan. 31, losing 46-45. York also lost at Wells Feb. 8, 48-29.

“My seniors have talked about this day since the last time we were up here,” Stacy said. “Getting back here was huge and getting to the semis, they’re pumped and ready to go.”

Appreciation

Yarmouth’s offense was paced by Feeley, who scored 12 points. Feeley also had five rebounds and blocked a couple shots.

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Clark scored eight points in her limited time off the bench.

“I just told (Lexi) to go in and shoot the basketball and she caught fire,” Cousins said. “I always look back and think about what I could have done differently and (not playing her sooner’s) one of those things.”

Keaney (who had a game-high 13 rebounds) and King (nine rebounds, two steals) each had six points, Neena Panozzo (four rebounds, four assists) five, Powers two and Maya Panozzo (four assists, three rebounds, three steals and two blocks) bowed out with three.

“I will say that Maya Panozzo stepped up big-time in a leadership role down the stretch,” Cousins said. “I give her so much credit for that. Katelyn was a huge loss. We all thought we’d get her back, but it didn’t happen. You lose your floor general, you have to figure other things out.”

The Clippers held a 42-37 rebounding edge, but made just 3-of-9 free throws and were doomed by 29 turnovers.

“They obviously bring great pressure, so getting it over the top makes a difference,” said Cousins. “We got ourselves buried in the corner too much and that got us in trouble. We made some adjustments at halftime and got some baskets. I thought a couple times we were getting to the point of coming back. I had that faith, but they’re fast, we had to pressure them and they got a lot of baskets at the end on breakaways because we were trying to get rid of that deficit. We would get beat deep. They made 10 free throws and we made three, so there’s a difference and even though we out-rebounded them, I thought they got key rebounds at times to keep plays alive.

“Overall, there was a lot of adversity this year with COVID and injuries. We never really had a full squad. I’m not complaining because the girls really fought. We were down in a number of games where we didn’t lead until the very end. Some young kids pulled a lot of the weight. The way the kids hung together and rose to the occasion is a credit to them.”

Yarmouth has to say goodbye to D’Appolonia, Maya Panozzo and Amelia Skillin, but the rest of this successful squad will return and the Clippers will be heard from again in 2022-23.

“Our future is very bright,” Cousins said. “Our young kids really get after it. Basketball’s their primary sport and that’s a good thing.”

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

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