Panthers, Yachtsmen to battle for state Class B crownMedomak Valley, Falmouth meet on court for all the marbles March 1
Portland — After a 33-year wait, the Medomak Valley High School boys basketball team is back in the state Class B championship game.
After securing the regional title over Mount Desert Island Feb. 23 at the Bangor Auditorium, the Panthers now will represent Eastern Class B in the state championship game, set for Friday, March 1 at 9 p.m. at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.
Medomak Valley last competed in the state final in 1980, when it won the gold ball, under the direction of coach Art Dyer, with an 80-59 win over Schenck of Millinocket.
Standing in the Panthers' way this time are the Falmouth Yachtsmen, a perennially strong program that won the state Class B crown three years ago, knocking off Camden Hills of Rockport 72-65 in overtime. Falmouth has won six state basketball titles, five of which came in Class C during the 1980s and 1990s.
The following is a synopsis of Friday night's state championship showdown:
Who: Eastern Class B titlist Medomak Valley (19-2) versus Western Class B titlist Falmouth (20-1).
What: State Class B high school boys basketball championship.
Where: Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.
When: 9 p.m.
How they got here: The Panthers, who have two state titles to their credit (1977 and 1980), were one of the top teams in Eastern Class B for much of the regular season, but did not take over the No. 1 spot until near the end of the campaign, a spot they clinched late to make them the top overall seed. Medomak Valley defeated No. 8 Camden Hills 52-47 in the quarterfinals, 13th-ranked and Cinderella story Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft 53-30 in the semifinals and clinched its first regional title in 33 years with a 56-50 victory over No. 3 Mount Desert Island in the regional finals. The Panthers also won the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship (Medomak Valley was scheduled to face Oceanside, but the game was canceled due to inclement weather, giving the league title to the higher-ranked Panthers).
The Yachtsmen have been considered by many the top team not only in Class B, but in the entire state, regardless of class affiliation. Thus, the Panthers will have their work cut our for them. Falmouth, the top seed in Western Class B, defeated No. 8 Maranacook of Readfield 58-30 in the quarterfinals, No. 4 Mountain Valley of Rumford 58-22 in the semifinals and won the regional championship with a 67-46 decision over No. 2 York, avenging the Yachtsmen's only loss of the regular season.
Maranacook, which competes against KVAC Class B opponents, lost twice to Medomak Valley this season. The Panthers earned a 56-54 win at Readfield in their first game of the season Dec. 7 and defeated the Black Bears 65-43 at Waldoboro Jan. 29.
Projected starters, Medomak Valley: John Murray (6-foot-8-inch senior center, 16.3 points per game in regional playoffs), Ryan Ripley (6-5 senior forward, 13.3 PPG in regional playoffs), Jonathan Hendrickson-Belloguet (6-1 senior guard, 9.3 PPG in regional playoffs), Brandon Soper (6-1 senior guard, 4.3 PPG in regional playoffs) and Micah Williamson (6-1 sophomore guard, 3.7 PPG in regional playoffs). Nicholas DePatsy (6-2 freshman guard/forward, 3.7 PPG in regional playoffs), Boone Olson (6-2 senior guard/forward, 1.3 PPG in regional playoffs) and Kazu Tibbetts (6-1 senior guard) all are key contributors off the bench for the Panthers.
Projected starters, Falmouth: Jack Simonds (6-5 sophomore forward, 12 PPG in regional playoffs), Grant Burfiend (6-2 senior guard, 10.7 PPG in regional playoffs), Charlie Fay (6-5 senior forward, 11 PPG in regional playoffs), Thomas Wilberg (6-3 senior, 10.7 PPG in regional playoffs) and Justin Rogers (6-4 junior guard, 1.7 PPG in regional playoffs). Thomas Coyne (5-9 freshman, 7.3 PPG in regional playoffs), Jake Horning (6-6 center), Nick Burton (6-3 junior guard) and Andrew Thornton (6-7 center) all are key contributors for the Yachtsmen.
Outlook: For the Panthers, the team's bread and butter is the interior game with Murray and Ripley, who typically have dominated both size-wise and skill-wise against league and regional opponents. Both student-athletes have played big in big games, leading the Panthers in scoring in the playoffs. Both players have nice footwork and can shoot the mid-range jumper, while Murray's shooting extends beyond the arc. The team also has strong ballhandlers in Soper, Hendrickson-Belloguet and Williamson and each are dependable shooters as well if the team's big men draw more attention in the paint.
The Yachtsmen, which could be playing its final season in Class B based on their increased enrollment, are hoping to go out on top with a state crown before likely making the jump to the Class A ranks next fall. Falmouth, which outscored opponents by an average of 29.8 points this season in its 20-team wins, feature a balanced scoring attack, with four of the team's five starters "consistently in double figures" all season in Burfiend, Simonds, Fay and Wilberg, with that quartet also averaging double-figures throughout the regional tournament. They have the size to cause difficult matchups for the Panthers (four players over 6-5), play strong defense, run the floor well and have superb athleticism.
Despite those facts, coach Dave Halligan and the Yachtsmen are not taking the Panthers lightly.
"We know Medomak's a very good team," said Halligan, who led the Yachtsmen to the state Class B crown two years ago and also coached Falmouth to three state Class C crowns in the late 1990s. "They're 19-2, they're well-coached [and] they have outstanding players. I know the big kid is a semifinalist for Mr. Basketball and well deserved. They've got another big kid inside, they have excellent guards and they're a pretty balanced team or they wouldn't be where they are. We know we're going to be in for a battle."
DePatsy said Falmouth presents Medomak Valley its biggest challenge of the season, and said the Panthers will have to have an almost flawless performance if they hope to knock off the Yachtsmen.
"We have to make sure we execute and make sure we have a good game as far as not turning the ball over," he said. "That's going to be key."
Coach DePatsy said he may have to dig deeper into his bench not only to spell Murray and Ripley — who will have four tall players rotating on them defensively — but also to rotate his guards and keep everyone fresh against the athletic Yachtsmen.
He added another concern is when Falmouth extends its 1-2-2 zone defense, which the veteran coach conceded is "very good."
"Even though we're a team that likes to run, this is a game where we don't want the game up over the 50s and 60s," coach DePatsy said. "Every possession we've got to treat like it's our last and we've got to make sure we take good shots, because we know they are a very good rebounding team.
'We've just got to make sure we take good shots and we take care of the ball. That's my main concern."
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.