PORTLAND—After a week of practice horrors to forget, Falmouth’s top-ranked boys’ basketball team took the floor at the James Banks Portland Exposition Building Saturday night and left all their troubles behind.

The Navigators, who lost standout junior big man Chris Simonds to a broken ankle earlier in the week, and lost the services of junior forward Henry Stowell, who was injured as well, began their title quest against No. 8 Mt. Ararat in the Class A South quarterfinals and while nothing came easily, Falmouth reminded everyone that full strength or not, it remains the team to beat in the region.

Senior standout Judd Armstrong scored the Navigators’ first six points, but they couldn’t shake the Eagles early, as Falmouth clung to an 8-6 lead after one period.

Mt. Ararat then went on top on three separate occasions in the second quarter, but a key 3-pointer from sophomore reserve Billy Birks sparked a 10-2 run and the Navigators were ahead, 23-19, at halftime.

The Navigators then scored three easy hoops in the first 46 seconds of the second half, as Armstrong scored on a putback, then senior Lucas Dilworth twice made layups for some breathing room.

The Eagles refused to go quietly and despite being down by 11 points, 37-26, entering the fourth period, drew within seven before Falmouth finally pulled away to prevail, 51-34.


Armstrong led the Navigators with 17 points and 12 rebounds and Dilworth added 16 points as Falmouth improved to 15-4, ended Mt. Ararat’s season at 9-10 and advanced to take on No. 4 Westbrook (14-5) in the semifinals Wednesday at 7:45 p.m., at the Expo.

“It’s just next man up,” said longtime Navigators coach Dave Halligan, who won his 560th game with the program. “You don’t have to have the best players to have the best team. That’s what we’ve always preached. If everyone does their job and plays together on both sides of the court, we’ll be just fine.”


Falmouth, which got to the state final a year ago and lost to Cooper Flagg and Nokomis, 43-27, once again proved to be the best team in Class A South this winter, going 14-4, with three of the four losses coming to Class AA powers (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

The Navigators earned the top seed for the tournament and were the favorite again, but earlier this week in practice, Simonds broke his ankle and will be sidelined for the rest of the season.

“Obviously, it’s a tough loss, but we still think we can win it all with the players we have,” said Armstrong.


Mt. Ararat had to scratch and claw right to the end of the season to earn the eighth and final playoff spot in the region.

The teams met twice this winter, with Falmouth winning at “home,” in a game played at the Expo (48-37), then prevailing in Topsham, 57-45.

The teams had never before met in the tournament.

Saturday, the Navigators got pushed at times, but pushed back and moved on to the semifinals for the 11th straight tournament.

Falmouth senior Judd Armstrong shoots over Mt. Ararat junior Kasey Bergeron early in the Navigators’ 51-34 quarterfinal round victory Saturday. Hoffer photos.

Armstrong set the tone with a leaner 40 seconds in, then he scored on a putback of a missed shot with 6:14 to go in the first quarter.

After the Eagles got on the board on a driving layup from junior Kasey Bergeron, Armstrong answered with a layup and a quick 6-2 lead.


But Falmouth wasn’t able to extend its advantage, as senior John Martin banked home a shot for Mt. Ararat and after senior Eli Cowperthwaite set up Dilworth for a layup, sophomore Andrew Clemons got a leaner to drop and the Eagles were only down two, 8-6, after one.

Bergeron then began the second period by banking home a shot while being fouled and adding the and-one free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play and putting the Eagles on top.

Junior Isaac Wheeler then added a putback to make it 11-8.

Junior reserve Charlie Wolak restored order with a driving layup, but Wheeler made another layup.

Cowperthwaite tied the score with a three-point play, but with 4:25 left in the half, a floater from Clemons gave Mt. Ararat what proved to be its final lead, 15-13.

Nineteen seconds later, Armstrong converted a three-point play and Falmouth had the lead for good.


Armstrong then set up Birks for a key 3.

After junior Ben Therriault scored on a putback for the Eagles, Armstrong drew the third foul of the game on sophomore Ethan Berry, who was immediately called for a technical foul, his fourth, with 56 seconds remaining before halftime.

Armstrong made one-of-two free throws from the initial foul, then hit one-of-two technical free throws. Dilworth then scored on a putback, but a late putback from sophomore Caleb Murphy pulled Mt. Ararat within four, 23-19, at halftime.

In the first half, Armstrong led all scorers with 11 points, but Falmouth wasn’t home-free yet.

Falmouth senior Lucas Dilworth is defended by Mt. Ararat sophomore Ethan Berry.

Just 11 seconds into the second half, Armstrong put home a missed shot.

Sixteen seconds later, Dilworth stole the ball and made a layup.


Then, with 7:14 on the clock, Armstrong stole the ball and set up Dilworth for another layup and a 29-19 lead.

“We changed on the defensive end and started talking a lot more,” Armstrong said. “We worked together and got stops and finished on the other end.”

“We’re missing two key players, so it took awhile to adjust,” Halligan said. “(Mt. Ararat) did a great job preparing and tried to take away some of our stuff. We expected that. Once we calmed down at halftime, we came out, put a little more pressure on defensively and we were fine.”

Senior Parker Bate ended the run with a driving layup, then he made a free throw, but Cowperthwaite made a layup and after Martin scored on a leaner, Armstrong set up Dilworth for another layup, Dilworth went coast-to-coast for a layup, then Armstrong set up Cowperthwaite for a layup.

Late in the frame, Martin banked home a shot, but that only pulled Mt. Ararat within 37-26 heading for the fourth quarter.

There, the Eagles momentarily made things interesting, as Bate hit a jumper, then sank two free throws to cut the deficit to seven, but Dilworth set up his brother, senior Paul Dilworth, for a huge 3 before Armstrong drove and made a layup to make it a 12-point contest.


The Eagles had one last push, as Bergeron made a free throw and Bate scored on a putback, but Armstrong fed Lucas Dilworth for a layup, Armstrong drove for a layup, Lucas Dilworth sank two free throws and after Martin countered with one, Paul Dilworth hit a free throw and a layup from sophomore Jaxson Cameron provided the final points for Falmouth’s 51-34 victory.

“It doesn’t have to be pretty in the tournament,” said Armstrong. “We just wanted to play our game.”

“We thought it would be a game of runs and that was how the game went,” Halligan said. “There’s no magic wand. It was a rock fight and we had to play hard until the end.”

Armstrong finished with a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Lucas Dilworth impressed as well with 16 points and seven boards.

“They’re the senior captains and it’s tournament time and the seniors will take you as far as you’re going to go,” Halligan said. “We asked them to step up their game and they did.”

Cowperthwaite had seven points, Paul Dilworth added four, Birks had three and Cameron and Wolak contributed two apiece off the bench.


“Our bench is great,” Armstrong said. “We’re a very deep team. You could see that this game. Players went in and did their job.”

The Navigators had a 28-24 rebound advantage, overcame 17 turnovers and hit 7-of-11 free throws.

For Mt. Ararat, Bate had eight points (and six rebounds), Bergeron (four rebounds) and Martin seven each, Clemons and Wheeler four apiece and Murphy and Therriault two each.

The Eagles shot 6-of-9 from the foul line, but gave the ball away 18 times.

Bigger test

Falmouth beat Westbrook twice this winter, 36-24 on the road and 61-41 at home.

The Navigators have won all three prior playoff encounters, including a 59-39 decision in last year’s quarterfinals.

“We’ll just play our game and work hard,” Armstrong said. “We think we can beat them. We’re definitely not done.”

“We know it will be tough to beat (Westbrook) a third time,” Halligan said. “It’ll be a different game (without Simonds). We’ll try to play to our strengths and try to take away their strengths. All the teams left are good. We’ll give it our best shot. We’ll compete. These guys are confident. They’re very good, competitive athletes. They’ll go down swinging, which is all I can ask for.”

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

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