PORTLAND—Yarmouth’s boys’ basketball team discovered the hard way Friday evening at the James Banks Portland Exposition Building that repeating as Class B state champions will not come easily.

But in the process, the Clippers reminded the rest of the field that they’re defending champions for a reason.

Because when push comes to shove, Yarmouth knows how to win in the crucible of the postseason.

Thanks to big contributions from players expected and unexpected.

The second-ranked Clippers took on No. 7 Maranacook and after a sluggish start on the big stage, went ahead to stay midway through the first quarter when junior point guard Matt Gautreau sank back-to-back 3-pointers. When seniors Nate Hagedorn and Stevie Walsh added 3s later in the frame, Yarmouth was on top, 19-13, after eight minutes.

Walsh, whose legend was cemented a year ago when he hit the game-tying 3-pointer to force overtime in a come-from-behind state game victory, then drained consecutive 3s to start the second period and it appeared the Clippers were going to pull away, but the Black Bears, as they would do all night, battled back.


Maranacook got as close as five points before Yarmouth opened it up again, courtesy a 10-2 half-ending run, capped by three late points from junior Evan Hamm, and the score was 35-22 at the break.

A Walsh layup just over two minutes into the third quarter gave the Clippers their biggest lead, 39-24, but the Black Bears chipped away and were only down by nine, 48-39, heading to the fourth period.

There, a putback from junior Robbie Vivenzio pulled Maranacook within six, but after the Black Bears failed to draw closer on a good look at a 3, Yarmouth pushed its lead back to 11 and while Maranacook drew within seven on multiple occasions late, Hamm converted a pivotal, old-fashioned three-point play and Walsh and senior Nate Hagedorn both made critical free throws to put the finishing touches on a 68-59 victory.

The Clippers got a combined 56 points from their big three, Gautreau, Hamm and Walsh, won their sixth consecutive postseason contest, their 11th straight game overall, improved to 15-4, ended Maranacook’s season at 10-10 and advanced to take on No. 6 Lincoln Academy (14-5) in the semifinals Tuesday at 6 p.m., at the Expo.

“I wasn’t surprised it was a close game, because they’re a good team,” Walsh said, of the Black Bears. “Their record did not represent them. We knew they’d bring a tough challenge, but we were confident in our ability to get the job done.”

One more time


Yarmouth enjoyed a dream season a year ago, one which ended in sheer fantasy, as the Clippers rallied to stun Ellsworth in overtime in an unforgettable Class B state final.

The 2022-23 squad not only had to replace graduated standouts Peter Psyhogeos and Matt Waeldner, but coach Jonas Allen stepped down after the season and was replaced by Ilunga Mutombo, his assistant.

Yarmouth won just four of its first eight games, then ripped off 10 straight victories to close the regular season and earn the No. 2 seed (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

Maranacook, meanwhile, had an up-and-down .500 regular season, then eliminated No. 10 Mountain Valley, 74-56, in the preliminary round Tuesday.

The Clippers and Black Bears didn’t play this season, but had met four times previously in the tournament (see sidebar), each winning twice.

This time around, Yarmouth would prevail, but it took all 32 minutes to finally shake valiant Maranacook.


A floater from Black Bears junior Keagan McClure opened the scoring and after Hamm scored the Clippers’ first two points at the line, senior Brayden St. Pierre set up classmate Nick Wilson for a layup on the fastbreak for a 4-2 Maranacook lead.

The Clippers drew even again, as Gautreau passed to Walsh for a short jumper, but junior Wyatt Folsom drove and scored on a finger roll for the Black Bears and after Hamm scored on a putback, a spinner from McClure gave Maranacook its final lead, 8-6.

With 4:05 to go in the first, Gautreau got a pass from Hagedorn up top, then buried a 3 to give Yarmouth the lead for good.

A little over a minute later, junior Jack Janczuk found Gautreau for another 3-point shot which swished home to make it 12-8.

“Last year, I didn’t really play that much here, so it took me a little while to get used to (the background) in warmups,” Gautreau said. “I figured it out after taking a couple of shots.”

St. Pierre countered with a corner 3, but Walsh found Hagedorn for a 3 and after St. Pierre finished a feed from Vivenzio and made a layup, Walsh buried a 3 (set up by senior Liam Hickey), then Gautreau added a free throw for a 19-13 advantage at quarter’s end.


Hamm had four points, six rebounds and two steals in the first eight minutes, while Gautreau scored seven points and Walsh added five.

Walsh then started the second period by taking a pass from Gautreau and burying a long 3.

“Playing here last year definitely helped my confidence,” Walsh said. “Sometimes it takes awhile to get used to shooting with no wall behind the hoop, but having experience playing here helped me be focused coming into the game.”

The next time down the floor, Gautreau set up Walsh again and this time, his 3-ball rattled home and just like that, Yarmouth was up by a dozen, 25-13, forcing Black Bears coach Travis Magnusson to call timeout.

It helped, as junior Brandon Chilton drove for a layup to snap the Clippers’ 10-0 run, St. Pierre drained a 3 from the corner, then McClure drove for a layup to make it a five-point game, forcing Mutombo to call timeout.

Yarmouth responded, as Hamm set up Hickey for a layup, snapping a 3 minute, 43 second scoring drought, then Walsh knocked down an elbow jumper.


McClure answered by taking a pass from Folsom and making a layup, but the final six points of the half went to the Clippers, as Hagedorn banked home a 3, Hamm drove and got a leaner to drop, then Hamm made a free with a second left to give Yarmouth a 35-22 advantage at the half.

Walsh’s 13 points led the Clippers, while McClure and St. Pierre had eight apiece for Maranacook.

Junior Jacob McLaughlin made a layup after a McClure steal to start the second half, but Gautreau drove for a layup, then junior Justin Dawes fed Walsh for a layup and Yarmouth had its largest lead, 39-24, with 5:50 to go in the third quarter.

Instead of folding, the Black Bears clawed back, as McClure got a jumper to roll home, then on the fastbreak, McClure passed to St. Pierre, who made the layup while being fouled, then added the and-one free throw.

McLaughlin then added a foul shot to pull the Black Bears within nine before Gautreau made a runner in the lane.

A pair of McClure free throws pulled Maranacook within nine again, but after Gautreau and senior Spencer LaBrecque kept possession alive with offensive rebounds, Walsh hit a clutch 3.


Wilson answered right back with a 3, as the back-and-forth continued, but Gautreau hit a jumper and after McLaughlin and McClure pulled off a pretty give-and-go layup, with McLaughlin scoring, Gautreau fed Hamm for a layup.

With 35 seconds left, a St. Pierre leaner rolled home and the Black Bears were still very much alive heading to the final stanza, trailing just 48-39.

Hamm started the fourth quarter with two free throws, but Folsom knocked down a 3, then Vivenzio’s putback made things very interesting.

Yarmouth countered, as after Maranacook missed a 3 which could have made it a one-possession contest, Walsh found Dawes for a layup, then with 4:32 to go, Hamm stole the ball, raced in and made a layup while being fouled, then he hit the free throw to complete the three-point play and make it a double-digit lead again, 55-44.

The Black Bears refused to let the Clippers cruise home, as McClure set up McLaughlin for a fastbreak layup on which Gautreau appeared to be hurt and left the game, then after a Yarmouth turnover, McClure added two free throws.

After returning, Gautreau immediately drove for a left-handed layup.


“I was going up for the block, then fell down and my calf started to cramp up a little bit, so I went to the bench, had some mustard and got right back out there,” Gautreau said. “It’s playoffs, so it’s human nature to want to be out there.”

“Matt’s our facilitator, especially at the end of the game against the press,” Walsh said. “He calms the game down for us when he’s out there.”

“Matt’s desire and will are one of the best I’ve seen in a long time,” Mutombo added. “It’s a great opportunity for him to lead.”

McLaughlin kept the pressure on with a putback, but Walsh sank two free throws.

After St. Pierre hit a jumper to make it a seven-point contest, Gautreau drove for a layup to push the lead back to nine.

St. Pierre banked home a floater with 1:43 to play, but 14 seconds later, Hamm converted another three-point play and it was 64-54 Clippers.


McClure drove for a layup with 1:18 remaining, but Walsh made two throws, then Hagedorn knocked down to more to essentially end it.

“As a team, we haven’t shot great from the free throw line this year, but we’ve worked on it a lot after practice and we talked about them being massive in the tournament,” Walsh said. “We did a good job down the stretch.”

McLaughlin hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 10 seconds to go, but Yarmouth ran out the clock from there and advanced, 68-59.

“It definitely wasn’t easy and we told the guys it wouldn’t be,” Mutombo said. “It was tough, but this is playoffs. There are no easy games in playoffs. Every win is earned. It’s good to get one under our belts. We knew we had to bring everything we had. The guys locked in mentally and it was awesome to see. (Maranacook’s) a well-coached team. They’re gritty. They competed. Our guys wanted it and they went out and got it.”

The Clippers got a game-high 22 points from Walsh, who made 7-of-8 shots from the floor, including all four 3-pointers he attempted.

“Once Stevie gets going, it’s hard to stop that train,” Mutombo said. “Even with a box-and-one (defense against him), he found ways to get open. We practiced for that scenario. Stevie was mentally ready and we just had to give him a chance to shine.”


Gautreau was steady with 17 points, four steals and four assists.

“The big floor here helps,” said Gautreau. “The spacing helps when teams try to press us. We can move the ball to our advantage.”

Hamm did a little of everything, scoring 17 points, grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds, blocking four shots and producing three steals.

“My teammates opened up the floor and I just found the gaps,” Hamm said. “It’s a big difference this year. I don’t just come on the court and play defense. I can actually play a role where I need to put the ball in the hoop. Stevie and Matt bring the intensity every game. I just have to fit in with them.”

“It’s amazing to see him do that,” Mutombo said, of Hamm’s effort. “It was pretty impressive that he played that way.”

Then there was Hagedorn, who had eight clutch points (as well as five rebounds), Dawes and Hickey, who both scored two points, and Janczuk, LaBrecque and junior Jonny Fulton, who didn’t score, but helped Yarmouth hold on with key minutes off the bench.


“I think we have great players like we did last year, but we have a new identity this year,” Walsh said. “This is a new team. People who didn’t play last year are stepping up and playing huge roles.”

“When they’re locked in and committed to helping each other, it’s the ‘one more’ mindset is what we have,” Mutombo said. “Everyone went in and did what they had to do to give the team the best they had. There’s nothing that makes a coach more proud then spreading out the box score.”

The Clippers made eight 3-pointers, had a 37-28 advantage on the glass, sank 14-of-21 free throws and overcame 18 turnovers.

For Maranacook, St. Pierre (17 points, seven rebounds) and McClure (16 points, six assists, six rebounds, three steals) led the way. McLaughlin also wound up in double figures with 12 points, Folsom and Wilson added five apiece and Chilton and Vivenzio both tallied two.

The Black Bears only committed 11 turnovers and hit 6-of-8 foul shots.

“I’m proud of the effort,” Magnusson said. “The good thing about our team and our program, we don’t ever quit. The teams down South are just a little bigger and stronger, but I love how my guys compete. We had a lot of shots we normally make that didn’t go in today and Yarmouth’s a good team. They’re so athletic. That was the difference. They were a little bigger, stronger and quicker than us. We knew they were athletic, but they were the most athletic team we’ve played all year. I thought (Gautreau) played one of the best games he’s had. He made some athletic plays.”


Maranacook has to say goodbye to St. Pierre, who will be a Maine McDonald’s Senior All-Star, and Wilson, but the Black Bears return everyone else and will likely be a force to be reckoned with next winter.

“My two seniors had great careers and they were good leaders for us,” Magnusson said. “We have a lot of juniors. Keagan has improved so much from last year to this year. We’re always going to be good. We have a great program and we’ll stay successful.”

Surprise foe

Lincoln Academy kicked off the tournament Friday by outlasting No. 3 Spruce Mountain, 65-55, in an overtime thriller.

Yarmouth and Lincoln Academy didn’t play this year. The teams have met twice before in the tournament with the Clippers winning both, 77-35 in the 2012 quarterfinals en route to the Gold Ball and 56-16 in last year’s preliminary round, en route to another title.

This time around, Yarmouth figures to get pushed for 32 minutes.



“They’ll bring it, so we’ll have to play at our own pace,” Hamm said. “Our chemistry’s really good.”

“We need to regroup as a team, watch some film and figure out their offense and defense,” Walsh said. “I’m sure the coaches will put together a great game plan and we’ll just need to go out and execute.”

“It’s win or go home,” said Gautreau. “(Lincoln Academy has) some good shooters, so I’m sure we’ll get the right matchups and we’ll be ready to go Tuesday.”

“This was huge to help us prepare for the next one,” Mutombo added. “Tuesday, we just have to play our game and trust each other, move the ball and play good defense. We’ll emphasize rebounding. Our confidence level is very high, but as coaches, we want (the guys) to stay humble.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net.

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