PORTLAND—Many teams buckle when they lose their star player.

But not the Falmouth Navigators, who instead, have gone in the opposite direction and have elevated their game.

And as a result, they find themselves two victories from a Gold Ball.

Wednesday evening at the James Banks Portland Exposition Building, the Navigators, ranked first in the Class A South boys’ tournament, were expected by many to meet their match in No. 4 Westbrook in the semifinals, but instead, Falmouth controlled play most of the way and got key contributions from sources expected and unexpected to march on.

The Blue Blazes led for all of 21 seconds before a 7-0 Navigators run turned the game for good.

Falmouth, playing without junior big man Chris Simonds, who broke his ankle in practice last week, took a 12-7 advantage after one quarter, as senior standout Judd Armstrong set up unheralded senior Peyton Mitchell for a layup at the horn.


In the second period, Armstrong and senior Lucas Dilworth helped helped stretch to the lead to 29-19 at half, as Dilworth banked home an NBA-range 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Senior Paul Dilworth then scored five points in the third quarter, but the Navigators couldn’t shake Westbrook, which cut the deficit to 38-31 after two free throws from senior star Kolbyn Dunphe in the final second.

The Blue Blazes never could get any closer, however, as they managed just two fourth period points and Falmouth gradually pulled away and prevailed, 52-33.

Paul Dilworth had 17 points, Armstrong added 15 and Lucas Dilworth had 12 as the Navigators improved to 16-4, ended Westbrook’s season at 14-6 and set up a regional final showdown versus No. 3 Marshwood (15-5) in the Class A South Final Friday at 8:45 p.m., at the Expo.

“We’ve preached all season long that you don’t have to have the best players, but you have to have the best team,” said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. “This team this year, we won’t outshoot anybody and we won’t win, 79-78, so we make you earn every single point you get. We feel if we can be in the game and be close at the end, give us a chance, that’s all we ask for.”

Whatever it takes


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 when Simonds went down with injury, the expectation was that they’d return to the pack.

Not so fast.

“We had to change our approach to the game completely (after Simonds’ injury),” said Paul Dilworth. “He’s such a big part of our team.”

Westbrook, which went just 6-11 a year ago, was highly touted entering the season and didn’t disappoint, enjoying its best campaign since 2016-17 with a 13-5 mark.

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


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

Wednesday, Falmouth made a powerful statement as it carried play much of the way.

Falmouth senior Judd Armstrong and Westbrook junior Aiden Taylor take part in the opening tip of Wednesday’s Class A South semifinal. Hoffer photos.

Armstrong opened the scoring with a 3-pointer 74 seconds in.

Westbrook then got a free throw from senior Kelson Custodio before junior Aiden Taylor scored on a putback, then made a reverse layup for what proved to be the Blue Blazes’ lone lead of the game, 5-3.

The Navigators drew even when senior Eli Cowperthwaite set up Lucas Dilworth for a layup, then with 2:23 left in the opening stanza, Paul Dilworth drove for a layup and Falmouth was on top for good.

Mitchell then made his presence felt by converting an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul and free throw) and after Dunphe hit two free throws to snap an 8-0 run, Armstrong ran down the clock, then fed Mitchell for a layup at the horn to make it 12-7 after eight minutes.


Dunphe started the second period with a floater, but Armstrong drove for a layup, Lucas Dilworth spun and finished, then he got a runner to rattle in and Falmouth had doubled up Westbrook, 18-9.

The Blue Blazes responded on a layup from senior Ben Eugley, but Armstrong countered with a three-point play.

After Dunphe drove for a layup, Lucas Dilworth did the same.

Late in the half, Eugley finished a feed from Custodio and made a layup, but Paul Dilworth countered with a clutch 3.

After Eugley made a free throw, Taylor converted a three-point play to seemingly give Westbrook momentum, but at the horn, Lucas Dilworth threw up a prayer from beyond the 3-point arc and it banked in to send Falmouth to the break with a 29-19 advantage.

Falmouth senior Judd Armstrong drives into the lane.

In the third quarter, the Blue Blazes kept trying to go on a run to rally, but every time, the Navigators responded.


The second half started with Dunphe setting up Taylor for a layup, but Paul Dilworth countered with a long 3.

After Dunphe set up Eugley for a layup, Armstrong made a free throw and after Eugley set up senior Micah Lombardo for a layup, Paul Dilworth drove and scored on a reverse layup to make it 35-25.

After Lombardo made a layup, senior Quincy Seavey cut the deficit to six with a driving layup, but Armstrong drove and banked home a shot, then Mitchell made a free throw, but at the horn, Dunphe was fouled while shooting a 3 and he hit two of his shots to cut Falmouth’s lead to 38-31 going to the final quarter.

Early in the fourth, Seavey nearly pulled Westbrook within four, but his 3-pointer went in-and-out.

Armstrong then made two free throws before driving for a layup to restore a double-digit lead.

After Taylor scored on a putback with 4:52 to go for what proved to be the Blue Blazes’ final points, Lucas Dilworth sank a free throw, then Paul Dilworth made two more.


With 1:16 on the clock, Paul Dilworth was fouled and a technical foul was called as well and Dilworth hit three of four free throws.

With 15 seconds to go, junior Charlie Wolak made two foul shots and that slammed the door on the Navigators’ 52-33 victory.

“We’ve worked hard in practice making sure we execute our plays,” said Paul Dilworth. “When we work as a team, it makes things a lot easier. We watch a lot of film and knew we had to take away their star players. It was just a matter of executing and we did.”

“It felt like we were in control the whole time,” said Armstrong. “Defensively, we out-performed them all game and our offense came along with that. We’re not afraid to be physical. We took it to the rim. We just ran our plays. It wasn’t anything special. Everyone did their job.”

“It started on the defensive end,” Halligan added. “(Westbrook) set a Class A record for 3s last game and they didn’t make one tonight. Our philosophy is not to win the game, but to win each possession. If you score, we have to work hard to score. If we win most of the possessions, we’ll win the game.”

Paul Dilworth had a breakout game at the right time, scoring 17 points and grabbing five rebounds.


“My teammates helped a lot,” Dilworth said. “A lot of attention was on Judd, so someone else had to step up. I hit my first shot, got confidence and it kept rising during the game.”

“(Paul) hit some big 3s and knocked down some free throws,” Armstrong said.

“It’s tournament basketball,” Halligan added. “They took away what we like to do and we took away what they like to do and someone had to step up. Paul’s come along every game. He’s a competitor. When he’s in control, he can finish.”

Armstrong added 15 points, three rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocked shots. Lucas Dilworth finished with 12 points, three rebounds and two steals.

Mitchell had six key points and was stellar on defense.

“Peyton played some of the best defense I’ve seen in a long time,” Paul Dilworth said. “Props to him. That was a game-changer.”


“(Peyton’s) job wasn’t offensive tonight,” said Halligan. “His six points were a bonus. He did his job and was the star of the game.”

Wolak tallied two points.

Falmouth hit 14-of-20 free throws and only turned the ball over 10 times.

“We didn’t have Chris and Eli at the beginning of the year, we didn’t have Judd against Portland and we don’t have Chris for the tournament, but the guys are used to this,” said Halligan. “You can’t expect one player to step up and replace (Chris), but we expect everybody to do a little bit.

For Westbrook, Taylor had 11 points and six rebounds, Dunphe tallied eight points and also contributed seven rebounds and three assists. Eugley had seven points (three rebounds and two blocks), Lombardo four, Seavey two and Custodio (four rebounds, three assists) one.

The Blue Blazes didn’t make a single 3-pointer, turned the ball over a dozen times and sank 7-of-10 free throws.


“We just didn’t play well tonight,” Westbrook coach Bryan Hoy lamented. “We were a little bit off. As well as we played against Greely, this was the opposite. Nothing was falling for us. Credit to Falmouth. They did a really good job defensively keeping us from getting good looks. They’re a little bit of a matchup problem for us. They have a physical guard, who matches our physical guard. They have tall players who can get to the rim. Their role players just don’t make mistakes. They played really clean. It’s hard to beat a team when they don’t make mistakes. We just didn’t execute what we wanted to do defensively. We weren’t in good help-side situations, so it opened up the paint for their guards driving and it was easy for them to score.

Westbrook more than lived up to preseason billing.

“Our senior class was fantastic and everyone else bought in to what we were doing,” said Hoy. “We had success this year at all three levels (freshman, junior varsity and varsity). The seniors led by example. You won’t get a better leader than Kolbyn. He knows what I want them to do before I know what I want. The example he set caught on with everybody. It’s infectious. We’ve had a lot of success and I think we’ll have success going forward because the younger guys got to see what that’s all about.”


Falmouth split with Marshwood this winter, winning 48-34 on the road Jan. 3 and falling, 46-43, at home 10 days later.

The Navigators won both prior playoff meetings with the Hawks: 59-38 in the 2020 quarterfinals and 48-32 in last year’s regional final.


Falmouth is still two wins from its goal and is confident that it will get there.

“We have to practice hard, come up with a good game plan and execute,” Paul Dilworth said. “I’m excited for it. We’re ready. We lost states last year and that was hard, but that motivates us.”

“We’re just going to prepare, work hard and play our game and we think we can win it all,” Armstrong said. “I know we all want it badly. We’ll do whatever it takes.”

“Marshwood’s very good,” Halligan added. “They’re another senior-laden team. They have outstanding players and they’ll be a load. Each game gets a little bit more difficult, but we’ll compete. The guys are happy they won this game, but they’re really not excited yet. They’re ready for the next step.”

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

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