Yarmouth High defenders close in on Gray-New Gloucester’s Jay Hawkes during a 47-32 win on Jan. 27. Yarmouth has held opponents under 40 points in 14 of its 22 games. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

YARMOUTH — Some games, the Yarmouth High boys’ basketball team plays straight up man-to-man defense. Other times, the Clippers roll out a zone. It all depends on what Coach Jonas Allen and his assistants think is the right approach with each opponent.

Being rigid in the approach to defense but flexible in style is working for Yarmouth (19-3). The Clippers have allowed just 36.5 points per game as they enter the Class B state championship game against Ellsworth (22-0) on Friday night at Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center. Tip off is scheduled for 8:45 p.m.

“To me, defense is all about buy in. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong defense to play,” Allen said. “It’s about all five guys on the court being bought into the plan. That is what we work on from Day One, being a unit and trying to understand that everything you do impacts the other four guys on the floor and their ability to defend.”

Yarmouth held opponents under 50 points 19 times in 22 games, and under 40 points 14 times. The Clippers limited Lincoln Academy to just 16 points in a Class B South preliminary-round win, then followed that up by holding Oceanside to 32-percent shooting in a 63-43 quarterfinal victory. Medomak Valley, Yarmouth’s regional final opponent, entered Saturday’s game having scored at least 60 points in 14 of its previous 15 games. The Clippers held the Panthers to 31.7 percent shooting, including 0 for 8 from 3-point range in the second half of a 47-35 win.

“We don’t try and do anything crazy. Our coaches give us principles and everyone gets on the same page. A lot of it’s just about effort and everyone working together,” said Yarmouth senior co-captain Peter Psyhogeos. “It’s not really one person who makes the defense go. It’s five guys working together. Throughout the whole year, that’s something we’ve focused on and worked on to get where we are defensively.”

In Ellsworth, Yarmouth faces its best offensive opponent of the season. The Eagles averaged just under 73 points in the regular season. Sophomore forward Chance Mercier averages more than 20 points per game, while senior guard Hunter Curtis averages 18.4 points. Senior forward Gage Hardy gives Ellsworth a third strong option (12.6 points).

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“We’ve just got to keep moving the ball,” Ellsworth Coach Peter Austin said. “When we’re running, we’re successful.”

Matt Waeldner, a Yarmouth senior co-captain and a Western Maine Conference all-defensive team selection, said Ellsworth loves to get out in transition and run.

“Medomak is a team that did that a lot. (Ellsworth has) some great scorers who can score in the half court, so we just want to go up and compete the best we can against them,” Waeldner said.

Yarmouth’s Matt Waeldner closes in on Gray-New Gloucester’s Noah Hebert during a Jan. 27 game in Gray. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Yarmouth’s best defensive game so far this season came in a 47-32 win at Gray-New Gloucester on Jan. 27, and may provide a glimpse into how the Clippers will defend Ellsworth. The Patriots entered the game as the No. 1 team in the Class A South Heal point standings, winners of eight of their previous nine games, and averaging 64 points per game over that hot stretch.

“That’s an easy way to get the kids’ attention. Show them the Heal points,” Allen said.

Like Ellsworth, Gray-New Gloucester liked to run and score in transition. In half-court sets, the Patriots used high screens and dribble-drive penetration to get 3-point shooters open looks. Like the state championship game, the Clippers had several days between games to prepare and work on their defense.

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“We weren’t worrying so much about the 3-point shooters themselves. We were worried about how they set their 3-point shooters up and trying to take some of that away. Peel the layers back a little bit,” Allen said.

“The amount of points they (Ellsworth) score, I think that’s directly related to the defense they play. They get so much out of their defense. Their full-court pressure produces immediate points. We’ll have to be ready for that. They’re just an explosive offensive team.”

Cole Snyder of Yarmouth reaches for a rebound between Alex Collins, left, and Bohdi Ames of Oceanside during a Class B South quarterfinal at the Portland Expo on Feb. 18. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Executing varied defensive game plans only works if there’s trust between the coaches and players, Allen said, and he began building that trust with his seniors three seasons ago. They were freshmen when he became Yarmouth’s head coach.

“I think so much of that time spent has been in building trust. Any success we’ve had is built on that foundation of trust,” Allen said. “We ask a lot of the guys. We throw different wrinkles into almost every game defensively. The idea is they have to be confident in us as coaches in terms of the plan we’re giving them. Then they go out and play hard.”


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