With what appeared the entire School Administrative District 40 community in the building supporting it, Medomak Valley put it all on the line Friday night, March 1 in the state Class B high school boys basketball championship game at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

The Eastern Class B champion Panthers faced, without question, their greatest challenge of the season in Western Class B titlist Falmouth, which had outscored opponents by an average of nearly 30 points in the team’s 20 wins leading into Friday night’s contest.

While Medomak Valley (19-3) put forth a valiant effort, the Panthers, one can believe it with two players over 6 feet 5 inches, proved to be undersized and, above all, outmatched against the talented Yachtsmen, who surged to a 62-39 win to claim the state crown.

Photos appear at the bottom of this story.

Click for more photos.

The win gave the Yachtsmen (21-1) their second state title in four years.

“We played hard,” said veteran Medomak Valley coach Nick DePatsy. “We did some good things out there, but when you play a team like this, you’ve got to execute and you’ve got to hit your shots and we didn’t shoot the ball that well. And that’s a testament to their defense. They’re long and lengthy. It’s like playing a college team.”

“It feels great,” said Falmouth coach Dave Halligan of winning the state crown. “It never ceases to amaze me what a good feeling you have when you end up with a season like this, especially with kids like this. Medomak [Valley] was a worthy opponent, and that makes it feel that much better when you beat a good team. And they’re a very good team.”

Falmouth has won seven state titles overall, including five state Class C crowns in the 1980s and 1990s. Based on their current enrollment the Yachtsmen appear poised to make the jump to the Class A ranks this fall, which would be quite a transformation from many years in Class C, a few in Class B and then to Class A.

Historically, the Panthers are 2-3 in state title contests, with their last state championship coming in 1980 — 33 years ago — when the coach Art Dyer-led Panthers beat Schenck of Millinocket 80-59. MVHS also won the state crown in 1977.

Falmouth’s last state title also came against a talented Midcoast squad as the Yachtsmen defeated Camden Hills of Rockport in overtime 72-65 at the Bangor Auditorium in 2010.

Grabbing the momentum

On Friday night in Portland, Falmouth jumped on the Panthers early and never trailed, leading 26-15, 38-24 and 48-32 at the quarter breaks.

Pacing the champs were Jack Simonds with 21 points; Thomas Wilberg, 15; Thomas Coyne, 14; Grant Burfiend, seven; Justin Rogers, three; and Charles Fay, two. Simonds tallied 15 points and Wilberg 11 in the first half, when the game essentially was decided.

Falmouth made three 3-pointers and 17-of-20 free throws (85 percent), including 9-of-10 (90 percent) by Coyne and 7-of-7 (100 percent) by Wilberg.

For the Panthers, who had several players sport unique haircuts and hairstyles for the game, John Murray finished with 11 points; Micah Williamson, nine; Ryan Ripley, eight; Kazu Tibbetts, seven; and Jonathan Hendrickson-Belloguet and Zach Starr, both two. Medomak Valley netted three treys, two from Williamson, and 6-of-7 free throws (86 percent).

Coach DePatsy said the Panthers tried to get Murray more involved early, but the Yachtsmen did a nice job bottling up Medomak Valley’s 6-foot-8-inch Mr. Maine Basketball semifinalist most of the game.

“Their pressure was phenomenal,” the coach said. “And their length and the way they get in the passing lanes. It’s a tough task.”

Ten of the players on Falmouth’s roster are more than 6-2 and four of its players are over 6-5.

Falmouth’s story all season has been both its consistency and balanced scoring attack, which it showed in spades against Medomak Valley. Simonds was unstoppable in the first half, accounting for 15 points and helping the Yachtsmen essentially put the game out of reach in the opening 16 minutes.

“You can’t really key on any one player,” said DePatsy. “They got all the pieces to the puzzle. They move the ball like a college team as far as executing their offense. They’ve won three championships in three different sports, so what’s that tell you? They’re a very athletic bunch and they’re a very good team.”

“All season long we’ve had three or four guys in double-figures [in points],” said Halligan. “In the Western Maine tournament we had five guys average double-figures, so it’s not just one person. Everybody’s doing their job and everybody plays together. It was a terrific team effort."

Fast pace

The Yachtsmen like to push the pace and did so throughout the first half. Though Medomak Valley did its best to slow the tempo in the second half, Falmouth had an answer for each of the Panthers’ scoring runs.

After a fast-paced first half, neither team scored through the first three minutes of the third quarter, a drought that Ripley ended. Ten seconds later the Yachtsmen responded with another baseline jumper from Simonds.

“It’s hard to play a team like that,” said DePatsy. “You might get 2-3 baskets and then they come right back at you.”

Both teams combined for only five field goals in the final stanza, but the Yachtsmen were 9-of-10 from the charity stripe down the stretch to help them pull away.

Falmouth scored the first five points of the game and jumped to a 17-5 lead in the early going, but the Panthers battled back as Ripley canned a baseline jumper and Tibbetts drained a 3-pointer from the corner to drop the Panthers’ deficit back to nine points at 19-10.

Simonds and Williamson traded 3-pointers later in the stanza to make it 24-15, but Falmouth ended the quarter with a methodical possession as Burfiend penetrated and converted a layup as the horn sounded.

Falmouth kept Medomak Valley at arm's length the rest of the game as the Panthers did not get closer than eight points the rest of the game as they did when Murray converted a coventional three-point play with 4:19 left in the first half to make the score 30-22.

Falmouth then rattled off eight straight points — six of which came on jumpers from Simonds — as the Yachtsmen began to run away with the game.

Hendrickson-Belloguet launched a shot from three-quarter court at the end of the third quarter that drew the front of the rim.

Panther fan support

While disappointed, coach DePatsy was gracious in defeat and was grateful that his players had the opportunity to play for Class B’s richest prize — the coveted gold ball.

“It was a good turnout [for the game],” he said of the Panthers' community support. “We’ve had great support all year. The community was up for this and I’m happy that these kids brought home an Eastern Maine championship for themselves, for the community and for everybody else. We represented Medomak [Valley] in a good way, we just came up a little short tonight.”

In the Eastern Class B tournament, 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, which gave the league title to the higher-ranked Panthers.

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, which avenged the Yachtsmen's only loss of the regular season.

This season, the Yachtsmen were considered by many as the top high school hoop team not only in Class B, but in the entire state, regardless of class affiliation. Thus, the Panthers were expected to have their work cut our for them Friday night, and, ultimately, that was the case.

Courier Publications sports staff can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at sports@courierpublicationsllc.com.