PORTLAND—Stevie “Wonder” Walsh delivered a command performance Tuesday evening at the James Banks Portland Exposition Building and as a result, he and his talented Yarmouth Clippers teammates are heading back to the regional final.

Walsh, a senior, who a year ago established his legend as a clutch performer without peer, had a huge second half in a Class B South boys’ semifinal to help second-ranked Yarmouth hold off a sixth-ranked Lincoln Academy squad that pushed the Clippers all the way to the brink.

Yarmouth, which beat the Eagles by 40 points in last year’s playoffs, appeared poised to run away and hide again, when it went up by scores of 8-2, 12-5 and 16-7 in the first quarter, then by an 18-9 margin 42 seconds into the second period when junior Evan Hamm broke away for a dunk.

But Lincoln Academy, as it would do all night, roared back, got within three and while Hamm made a late free throw, the Clippers’ halftime lead was just four, 23-19.

The Eagles momentarily tied the score at 24-24 on a 3-pointer from senior Jacob Masters, but Walsh, who scored just two first half points, countered with successive 3s and had 11 points in the frame which ended with Yarmouth on top, 37-32.

Lincoln Academy then drew within a single point early in the fourth quarter, but Walsh scored five straight points, including an NBA-range 3, for a little breathing room.


The Eagles then cut the deficit to 46-43 on a 3 from junior Gabriel Hagar with 2:12 to play, but after Hamm converted an old-fashioned three-point play, Walsh made 5-of-6 free throws in the game’s final 18 seconds ice it and the Clippers survived and advanced, 54-50.

Walsh had a game-high 23 points, Hamm added 16 and Yarmouth won its 12th game in a row, improved to 16-4, ended Lincoln Academy’s season at 14-6 and in the process, advanced to the Class B South Final for the second straight year, where it will meet No. 1 Oceanside (19-1) Friday at 3:45 p.m., at the Expo.

“(The Eagles) played unbelievable,” said Walsh. “They’re a great team. It wasn’t a close game last year. They worked so hard in the offsaeason and they made it as difficult as can be.”

Refusing to lose

Yarmouth overcame a 4-4 start with a 10-game win streak to end the regular season (see sidebar for links to previous stories), then held off No. 7 Maranacook in last Friday’s quarterfinal round, 68-59.

Lincoln Academy, meanwhile, went 13-5 in the regular season, then sprung a mini-upset in the quarterfinals, downing No. 3 Spruce Mountain, 65-55, in overtime, after tying the game with two foul shots with 0.1 seconds on the clock.


The teams didn’t meet during the regular season. The Clippers won both prior playoff encounters (see sidebar) including last year’s preliminary round.

Tuesday, Yarmouth got a much tougher test, but dug deep into its reservoir of championship heart to keep its run going.

Just 11 seconds into the game, junior Matt Gautreau sank a 3-pointer to give the Clippers a quick lead and Walsh added his first points, a runner off the glass, but he would go silent the rest of the first half.

The Eagles got on the board with 6:31 to play in the opening stanza when junior Tucker Stiles hit a jumper in the lane, but Gautreau answered with an old-fashioned three-point play (driving bank shot, foul and free throw) to make it 8-2.

Hagar countered with a 3-ball, but Walsh set up Hamm on the fastbreak for a layup, junior Justin Dawes scored on a putback, then after blocking a shot at the defensive end, Hamm got out in transition, took a pass from senior Liam Hickey and slammed the ball home for a 14-5 advantage.

Sophomore EJ Hunt made a layup for Lincoln Academy, but Hickey hit a jump shot before a jumper from senior Jack Duncan pulled Lincoln Academy within 16-9 after eight minutes.


Hamm then started the second period with another highlight, breaking away for a dunk.

“It’s pretty fun,” Hamm said. “I had to throw one down, but I’m not sure the second one was really a dunk.”

The Eagles then began to chip away and got back in the game, as junior Casey Duncan sank a free throw, Stiles drained a 3 from up top, then with 5:23 on the clock, Hagar scored on a baseline runner to cut the deficit to 18-15 forcing Clippers’ first-year coach Ilunga Mutombo to call timeout.

It helped, as senior Nate Hagedorn set up Dawes for a layup, then Hamm put back his own miss.

Again, Lincoln Academy responded, as senior Jack Duncan drove for a layup and after stealing the ball, Hagar raced in for a layup to make it a three-point game.

With 30 seconds to go before halftime, Hamm made a free throw, but Yarmouth found itself very much in a ballgame, leading by a slim 23-19 margin at the break.


Hamm had nine points and six rebounds in the first 16 minutes, while Hagar led the Eagles with seven points.

Walsh only had two points, but would he ever awaken in the second half.

Just nine seconds into the third quarter, Walsh drew a foul and made the second of two free throws.

After Masters set up Jack Duncan for a layup, Masters stepped back and drained a 3 to tie it, 24-24, with 7:09 to go in the frame.

But Lincoln Academy never could grab the lead, as Walsh took a pass from Hamm and sank a 3 and after Masters banked home a shot in traffic, Walsh got the ball from Gautreau and hit another 3 before stealing the ball and racing in for a left-handed layup to stretch the lead to 32-26.

After Hagar made two free throws, Walsh sank a pair, then with 1:17 to go, Hamm set up Dawes for a layup and the Clippers’ first non-Walsh points of the half to produce an eight-point advantage.


The Eagles started to rally again, as Hagar sank a free throw, then Hagar buried a 3.

With 14 seconds left, Gautreau made a free throw and Yarmouth took a 37-32 lead to the fourth period

There, the Clippers did just enough to hold Lincoln Academy at bay.

Just 18 seconds in, Masters somehow drilled a 3 while being closely defended. Masters then added a free throw to pull the Eagles within a single point, but with 5:50 left in the game, Walsh got a pass from Gautreau and from beyond the NBA 3-point line, launched a shot which found nothing but net.

“I didn’t have a great shooting first half,” Walsh said. “They had a tricky defense with their zone. I found the gaps and my teammates set me up really well. I like to shoot the ball.”

“I’m very comfortable knowing (Stevie’s) shooting,” Hamm said. “At the half, he said, ‘I’m going to start drilling them this half. I’m not missing.'”


Walsh then hit a runner in the lane to make it 42-36.

After Hagar made a free throw, Hamm drove for a layup, but at the other end, junior Lucas Houghton set up Stiles for a 3 and after Hamm again drove and finished, a Hagar 3 from the corner with 2:12 remaining, pulled Lincoln Academy within a possession, 46-43.

Hamm then drove to the rim, made a layup while being fouled and added the and-one free throw for a little breathing room.

“Ball movement around the perimeter exposed their zone and I just came through and did a side-step and put it up and in,” Hamm said.

The Eagles cut the deficit to four when Masters hit a contested jumper, but they could draw no closer, as Masters and Houghton both missed shots.

After Gautreau missed the front end of a one-and-one, Lincoln Academy got a good look again, but Hunt missed a 3 and Walsh got the rebound and was fouled by Houghton, his fifth.


With 18.9 seconds showing, Walsh went to the line and he calmly sank both attempts to put Yarmouth on the brink of victory.

“I just tried to treat it like normal free throws and like this was a normal game,” Walsh said. “I think it’s all the hours in the gym. I go with my Dad (Steve). We practice situations where I’m on the line and I have to hit two free throws to win the game and I think it correlates to (games) really well.”

“In the locker room, we did shout-outs and two people said if their life was on the line, they’d want Stevie to shoot free throws,” Hamm said.

Lincoln Academy had one last push, however, as Hagar was fouled while shooting a 3 three seconds later and he sank all three free throws to cut the deficit to just three.

Yarmouth got the ball in to Walsh, who was fouled again with 13.5 seconds remaining. Walsh again sank both attempts, but the Eagles got a driving layup from Masters with 7 seconds on the clock and the margin remained three points, or one possession.

Walsh then drew a foul with 2.3 seconds to go and after making his first attempt, he intentionally missed the second and the Clippers at last were able to run out the clock and celebrate their 54-50 victory.


“We came in with a mindset that they would be a lot better this time,” Hamm said. “We didn’t play to our full potential, but a win is a win.”

“When the horn sounds and the score is the way you want it, it’s awesome,” said Mutombo. “We just regrouped. I tell the guys to win the game quarter to quarter, to commit to the small things and to compete no matter how tough it gets. We had to keep pushing and showing desire and grit.

“Their zone was very strong. When they went man-to-man, they played us up tight. When they went to 1-3-1 zone, they slowed our attack. We adjusted as we went.”

Walsh stole the show with 23 points and he also grabbed six rebounds.

Tuesday’s effort will stand alongside his state championship game-tying 3-pointer a year ago and a pair of overtime game-winning soccer goals his junior season as his finest moments.

“(Stevie’s) a great leader,” Mutombo said. “He puts everything on the line. He commits his mind and body to this program for the well being of everyone else. They know they can get behind Stevie and he will lead them. When it comes down to it, he’s the most clutch guy I’ve ever seen. The level of focus, it’s a ‘Mamba mentality.’ He just wants more. He’s calm and the guys trust him and pick up his energy.”


Hamm excelled with 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.

“Evan is a producer,” said Mutombo. “He does it in small fractions. When a game is on the line, he and Stevie feed off each other. It helps him see the game in a much different way. This year, I’m asking him to play defense and offense as well.”

Gautreau had seven points, three assists and a pair of steals.

Dawes and Hickey played huge roles as well, as Dawes had six points and seven rebounds (including five on the offensive glass) and Hickey contributed two points, three rebounds and his usual superb defensive effort.

“Liam is our defender,” Mutombo said. “He loves playing defense. I’ve never seen a kid so locked in when it comes to playing defense. I asked Justin in practice to give me a specific amount of rebounds and he told me, ‘Coach, I got you.’ When a player tells you that, it makes my job much easier.”

Yarmouth had a 33-23 advantage on the glass, only turned the ball over 14 times and made 12-of-21 free throws.


Turning heads

Lincoln Academy got 20 points from Hagar, who also grabbed six rebounds. Masters added 13 points, Stiles had eight, Jack Duncan six, Hunt two and Casey Duncan one.

The Eagles made 9-of-13 free throws and only committed 15 turnovers, but they fell just short of what would have been the program’s biggest victory in years.

“I’m so proud,” said Lincoln Academy coach Ryan Ball. “Yarmouth’s lankiness and athleticism gave us fits. They out-rebounded us and we had too many turnovers, but our kids battled and that’s what we’re all about. We knew if we could keep it close, we hoped in the fourth quarter we could stun them. We knew our zone would give them issues. We kept (Gautreau) in check at times and hoped to keep Walsh quiet, but he’s the difference maker. We typically are a (man-to-man) team with a little zone thrown in, but they were too quick for us to play man. Their post player was a little better than ours.

“We accomplished way more than what we were hoping this year. We were hoping for a .500 season, maybe a prelim game, then sneak into the tournament, but we came into the tournament ready to go. Every team but one is disappointed at the end. We’ll get back after it next year. We have everyone back but two (Jack Duncan and Masters). The goal is get to a regional final. It’s been a long time for this program.”

Lincoln Academy’s effort was noticed and praised by the Clippers.


“We’ve played a lot of teams this year and if there’s a team that has more resilience than them, I don’t know who it is,” said Mutombo. “They pushed the boundaries and kept coming back, coming back, coming back. I talked to their coach and told him I admire him for how he took his team from last year to this year. They battled so hard tonight.”

All eyes on Friday

Yarmouth and Oceanside did not play this year, although they have been on a collision course for weeks.

The teams met just once before in the postseason, last year, when the Clippers prevailed, 63-43, in the quarterfinals.

Yarmouth will have its hands full in the regional final, but the Clippers will be ready.

And able.


“As long as we follow our game plan, we’ll be OK,” Hamm said. “We just have to execute.”

“We knew we had all the talent needed to get here,” Walsh said. “Things weren’t clicking early in the season because we didn’t have a lot of varsity experience, but we remained confident the whole time. We just need to enjoy this one for tonight, then we’ll need to lock back in and get focused because the next game will be a dogfight.”

“When we were 4-4, we needed to reflect and take a look in the mirror,” Mutombo added. “The guys reflected and decided not to give up. They want it. Defense has to be everything for us. We preach defense. If we bring our best defensive game, we know we can compete with anybody.

“We’re looking forward to Friday. We’ve talked about this since the minute I got hired. Everyone’s commitment has helped us get to where we are.”

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

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