PORTLAND—There will be no Gold Ball for Yarmouth’s boys’ basketball team this winter.

But the Clippers remain champions regardless.

As evidenced by a heroic comeback in an instant classic of a Class B South Final Friday afternoon at the James Banks Portland Exposition Building.

Second-ranked Yarmouth, the reigning state champion, which won its first title in a decade last winter in unforgettable fashion, made top-seed Oceanside work for 32 minutes, then for four more to survive and advance.

The Mariners looked as if they would run the Clippers out of the building in the first quarter, as junior Carter Galley shot unconsciously from the floor and his 13 points helped open up a 20-7 advantage.

When Oceanside scored the first four points of the second period, Yarmouth was on the ropes, but the proud Clippers settled in and chipped away and by halftime, only trailed, 33-24.


Yarmouth got as close as five in the third quarter, but the Mariners didn’t buckle and held a 46-38 advantage heading to what everyone expected to be the final stanza.

When sophomore Zeb Foster made a layup with 5:16 to play, Oceanside’s lead was 54-41, but Clippers refused to fold and crept closer and closer and closer until senior standout Stevie Walsh buried an improbable NBA-range 3 with 14 seconds to go to cut the deficit to two and after two missed Mariners’ free throws, junior Evan Hamm was fouled and showed tremendous poise to hit both attempts with 6.7 seconds showing.

And just like that, the score was tied, 62-62, and the game went to overtime.

There, Yarmouth twice took the lead, the second time, 67-66, on a Walsh 3, but an all-time great program victory wasn’t to be, as with 1:14 left in the four-minute extra session, a putback, foul and free throw from senior Alex Collins finally put Oceanside over the top.

Junior Cohen Galley added two free throws and the Mariners were able to eke out a 71-67 victory in a 36-minute epic.

Carter Galley finished with 31 points, Oceanside captured a regional crown for the first time in school history, improved to 20-1, advanced to take on either Ellsworth (20-0) or Orono (17-3) in a compelling Class B state final showdown next Saturday afternoon at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland and in the process, ended Yarmouth’s title reign, its 12-game win streak and its season at 16-5.


“It’s an awful feeling, but I love this group of boys,” said Walsh, who will go down in program lore for his ability to sparkle under pressure. “It’s a locker room full of winners. We went out and battled and gave our all. You can’t ask for more.”

Unforgettable effort

Oceanside and Yarmouth have been on a collision course for weeks and both squads have been able to navigate upset threats in the tournament (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

The Mariners, who lost just once in the regular season, had to rally to avoid a 1-vs.-8 upset in the quarterfinals, edging Cape Elizabeth by three points. Oceanside then held off rival and No. 4 seed Medomak Valley, 51-42, in Tuesday’s semifinal round.

The Clippers, meanwhile, were pushed by No. 7 Maranacook (68-59) in the quarterfinals and by No. 6 Lincoln Academy (54-50) in the semifinals, but managed to advance.

Oceanside, a school formed in 2011 by the merger of Rockland and Georges Valley, and Yarmouth didn’t play during the regular season (the Mariners did handily beat the Clippers in the preseason).


They met just once before in the playoffs, a 63-43 win for Yarmouth in last year’s quarterfinals en route to the championship.

This time around, the Clippers’ bid for another championship would be stymied by the Mariners, who will now play for a title for the first time.

Yarmouth started fast, as junior point guard Matt Gautreau knocked down a 3-pointer and after Cohen Galley banked home a floater, senior Nate Hagedorn tipped in a missed shot for a 5-2 lead.

But the next 15 points when to Oceanside, which seized control.

The run began with a driving layup from Cohen Galley, then Carter Galley simply put on a show, draining a 3 for the lead, adding a jumper, hitting a fadeaway jumper, then with 1:44 on the clock, burying a 3 for a 14-5 lead, forcing first-year Clippers coach Ilunga Mutombo to call timeout.

It didn’t help, as Carter Galley got another 3 to rattle in and while Walsh set up Gautreau for a layup to snap a 5 minute, 1 second drought, an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) in the waning seconds from senior Jack Elwell made it 20-7 Mariners after eight minutes.


Carter Galley scored 13 points in the quarter, while Yarmouth didn’t get a single point from Hamm or Walsh and gave the ball away an uncharacteristic five times.

Carter Galley then struck again to start the second period, scoring on a floater, before Cohen Galley’s up-and-under layup gave Oceanside what proved to be its biggest advantage, 24-7.

The Clippers then began to creep back, as Hamm scored his first two points at the free throw line, then he took a pass from junior junior Justin Dawes and made a layup.

The Mariners responded, as Carter Galley buried a contested 3 and after Gautreau sank two foul shots, Foster drove for a layup.

After Walsh hit his first 3, Carter Galley banked home a 3-ball and it was 32-16 with 4:33 to go in the half.

“I’ve seen (shooting displays like that) because I’m his coach,” said Oceanside coach Larry Reed. “As coaches, we look at each other and say, ‘Here he goes.’ When he gets in that zone, we just let him go.”


“Those were some tough shots,” Mutombo said. “We had our hands up, but he’s the hottest shooter in Class B. He’s phenomenal. One of the best shooters I’ve ever seen other than Stevie.”

But Yarmouth closed the half on an 8-1 run to get back in the game.

After Walsh drove for a layup, Carter Galley made a free throw, but Walsh set up Dawes for a layup, Hamm hit one free throw and after a Dawes block at the defensive end, Walsh sank a long 3 and the Clippers were within double digits, trailing, 33-24, at the break.

Carter Galley had two-thirds of Oceanside’s points in the first half, but Yarmouth still had a pulse.

And the Clippers would make the Mariners regret not finishing them off when they had a chance.

Walsh opened the second half with two free throws, then Gautreau drove for a layup, but after Gautreau missed a 3-pointer which could have made it a one-possession game, Cohen Galley drove and banked home a shot to end a 5:40 drought.


Collins then added a free throw before another long 3 from Carter Galley made it 39-28 Oceanside.

Yarmouth again began to push the boulder back up the mountain, as Hamm scored on a putback and Walsh hit a short jumper, but a putback from senior Alex Bartlett stemmed the rally.

After Walsh drove and finished in traffic with his left hand, Carter Galley sank a free throw.

Gautreau cut into the deficit with two foul shots with 1:34 to go in the frame, but Cohen Galley responded by driving for a layup, junior Ben Tripp hit two free throws and while Dawes scored on a putback in the waning seconds, the Clippers still faced an eight-point deficit, 46-38, heading to the fourth quarter.

Where nothing would be resolved.

Cohen Galley opened the period with a jumper and after Walsh stole the ball and passed it to Hamm, who set up Gautreau in transition for a layup, Cohen Galley found Collins for a layup, Carrter Galley hit two foul shots and after Walsh sank one, a driving layup from Foster with 5:16 on the clock gave Oceanside a seemingly safe 54-41 advantage.


But no lead is safe against Yarmouth.


Walsh sparked a run with a 3, then after a foul shot from Bartlett, Walsh scored three points the old-fashioned way, scoring on a leaner while falling to the floor after a foul and adding the and-one free throw.

Gautreau then made a layup after a steal with 3:51 on the clock, but Walsh missed a 3 and senior Liam Hickey couldn’t convert the putback.

With 2:34 left, two free throws from Foster pushed the lead to eight.

Walsh countered with a putback, but with 2 minutes on the clock, a pair of Carter Galley free throws made it 59-51.


Hamm then came to life by driving for a basket while being fouled and adding the free throw and with 56.5 seconds remaining, Gautreau stole the ball and made a layup to make it a one-possession game, 59-56.

Carter Galley responded with a free throw 14 seconds later, but with 29.5 seconds left, Walsh was fouled and hit one free throw.

With 26.4 seconds to play, Cohen Galley sank two free throws to push the Mariners ever closer to victory, but with 14.1 seconds to go, Walsh launched a 3-pointer from well beyond the NBA arc and it kissed the net to make it a two-point game.

Carter Galley went back to the line six seconds later, but he missed both attempts and Hamm got the rebound and was fouled.

With 6.7 seconds showing, Hamm went to the line for the two biggest foul shots of his career and he calmly sank them both and suddenly, the score was tied, 62-62.

“I think this team is really mentally tough,” said Walsh. “Carter Galley couldn’t miss early on and it’s tough to come back from that, but we remained calm and confident and slowly worked our way back into it. You have to keep believing and we had so many people step up and hit big shots. Evan hit the two biggest free throws of his whole life. He’s so clutch. He worked so hard in the offseason and all year. He stayed calm and did his job.”


“Evan was on the free throw line in practice over and over again,” said Mutombo. “Who knew it would come down to him hitting those shots? He locked in and made them and sent us to overtime. It was phenomenal to see how much focus he had in that moment.”

Oceanside had a chance to win it at the horn, but a long prayer of a 3 from Carter Galley fell short and it was on to overtime.

Yarmouth had the all the momentum, but that dissipated when the start of OT was delayed a couple minutes by a scoreboard malfunction.

“Momentum was swinging our way,” said Mutombo. “We were energized and ready to go, but that three-, four-minute wait slowed us down. I’m not one to make excuses because we could have still executed.”

Overtime then began with Hamm winning the tip, but Walsh missed a shot and after the rebound went out and the ball stayed with the Clippers, Walsh missed again, but he got his own rebound and got the ball to Gautreau, who was fouled.

With 3:14 left in overtime, Gautreau sank two free throws and for the first time since the score was 5-4, the Clippers were ahead.


But not for long, as Cohen Galley tied it by driving and tossing up a bank shot with a little English that dropped.

The Mariners then went back ahead with 2:35 showing, as Foster stole the ball and made a layup.

After Walsh missed a 3, Foster missed a shot at the other end and Yarmouth got the look it was hoping for, as Hamm found Walsh in the corner and with 1:31 to play in OT, Walsh buried what proved to be the final 3-pointer of his illustrious career, putting the Clippers ahead, 67-66.

If Yarmouth had been able to get a defensive stop, it just might have pulled off the impossible, but after Cohen Galley’s shot was off target, Collins soared and put in the rebound while being fouled with 1:14 remaining. Collins added the free throw for a two-point lead.

“That was a really great play by (Collins),” Walsh said. “It’s tough to do that, then knock down the free throw.”

Yarmouth then turned the ball over and with 25 seconds to play, Cohen Galley hit two free throws to make it a two-possession game again.


Hagedorn then missed a 3 and Bartlett was fouled. He missed both shots, but the Clippers couldn’t capitalize, as Walsh and Gautreau each missed 3-pointers, Bartlett rebounded and at 5:46 p.m., Oceanside was finally able to exhale and celebrate a scintillating 71-67 overtime victory.

“This has been our goal all year,” said Carter Galley. “We talked about it and we did it. We knew we had to lock up on defense, we did it and it happened. (Before overtime, we) got in the huddle and talked about defending and rebounding and winning the game at the defensive end. People have said we haven’t been battle-tested, but our first two (tournament) games got us mentally prepared for this game.”

“It was a little more fun than I might have liked,” said Mariners coach Larry Reed. “My Fitbit thinks I’ve been in a dead sprint. I was glad we had that little extra break because (Yarmouth) was on a momentum high. It gave us a few extra seconds to get our thoughts about us. I knew we weren’t going to give up. We weren’t going to let it get away. You don’t ever think you’re going to win (easily). They’re defending state champions for a reason. They didn’t play very good at the beginning of the season, but they’re on fire now and we beat a very good team. I’m very proud.”

Carter Galley was sensational with a team-high 31 points.

“Coach told me we hadn’t shot well the first two games here and he said it would be our game and we came out here and hit everything,” Galley said.

Cohen Galley finished with 18 points and three assists.


Foster had eight points, Collins six (to go with four rebounds), Bartlett (five rebounds) and Elwell three apiece and Tripp two.

The Mariners only turned the ball over 10 times in 36 minutes of action and hit 19-of-28 foul shots.

Oceanside now turns its attention to finishing the job next weekend and it wouldn’t be wise to bet against the surging Mariners.

“It’s a surreal feeling and I’m so excited to play in the state game,” Carter Galley said.

“I’ve coached between Rockland and Oceanside for 20 years and I’ve been head coach four years,” Reed said. “I feel like this gives us validation. Ellsworth and Orono are both very tough, but we’ll be ready.”

The stuff of legend


Walsh, who has to be considered the most clutch player to even put on a Clippers uniform, bowed out with a game-high 32 points, as well as four rebounds and three steals.

To say he’ll be missed would be an epic understatement.

“It’s been an unbelievable two seasons,” said Walsh, who plans to take a post-graduate year next year before hopefully playing collegiate soccer, basketball or both. “Both years, we’ve been so tight as a team. It’s been an awesome feeling to be a part of that.”

Gautreau added 17 points, while Hamm was also in double figures with 12 points (as well as eight rebounds).

Dawes had four points and Hagedorn finished with two.

The Clippers had a 29-20 rebound advantage, hit 17-of-24 free throws and turned the ball over 16 times, but they left the Expo with their heads held high.


As they should.

“We had a couple fouls, the ball went a certain way, they won the game and props to them,” Walsh said. “They’re a special team. We lost a little bit of momentum, but there’s no one to blame but ourselves. They executed a good game plan in overtime and unfortunately, we didn’t get the job done.”

“I’m beyond proud,” Mutombo said. “I want to thank God for the opportunity I have with Yarmouth. The fact that they gave me an opportunity means so much to me. This hurts because we put in so much work. We wanted to go all the way, but we fell just short and it hurts to not see the seniors hoist the (Gold Ball). As long as you have warriors, fighters, no matter what, we’ll compete. We fought, they fought. I kept saying we’re not out of the game. As long as our heart was beating, we had a chance. No matter the score, the guys kept believing and we chopped it down little by little and we were this close to finishing. Resiliency and grit are something we preach. We preach being consistent and being committed and communicating. As long as you have those three ‘Cs,’ you’ll be a competitor and we never gave up. We gave everything we got and at the end of the day, Oceanside did what they had to do. They made the shots and the free throws that counted.

“I told them how proud I was of them and their commitment. The boys really wanted something big. As a coach, it’s tough to see them not get what they wanted. It’s hard. These guys, I’ve known them for three years now. Just seeing their commitment to this program under Coach (Jonas) Allen, I’m so proud of the work he started. This year, it shows if the program is in the right place, you can always compete.”

The loss of the seniors, Walsh especially, as well as Hagedorn, Hickey and Spencer LaBrecque, will be tough to overcome, but Gautreau and Hamm will lead a strong nucleus, which features to be bolstered by some key additions next winter.

Don’t be surprised if the Clippers make another deep run in 2023-24.

“The juniors and sophomores in the locker room will use this pain to fuel them and hopefully go out and get the job done next year,” Walsh said.

“I’m looking for some time off to reflect on things, but when the summer comes around, we’ll be ready,” Mutombo said. “We ended up in the ‘could have’ side of things and now we have to be in the moment, understand the pain and go back to work on specific things to make us a better team moving forward.

“Hopefully next year, we can put everything together again and be ready to compete.”

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

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