Falmouth Boys' Basketball Championship Reign Ended
By: Rich Maclone
Standing outside his team’s locker room, Falmouth High Head Coach Paul Lundberg combed his fingers through his hair, let out a soft sigh and spoke the truth. “We just got beat by a better team tonight,” the longtime coach of the Clippers said, accepting the statement as it left his mouth.
It really was that simple. On Tuesday night at Bridgewater-Raynham, the red hot Warriors of King Philip High School, behind their star forward Jake Layman, took it to Falmouth in the second half and eliminated the defending DII EMass champs by a 59-49 score at Bridgewater-Raynham High School before a packed house.
Layman, who is collecting Division I scholarship offers like trading cards, was as good as advertised. The KP forward was the difference maker in the game as he collected more than half of his team’s points and put his stamp on the game from start to finish. Layman was the only member of his team not affected by the big stage of the Division II south semifinals as he brought his ‘A’ game early on, which kept the Warriors in the contest. Once his teammates caught up to him in the second half, the Warriors pulled ahead and never looked back as they held back FHS throughout the final two quarters, which included limiting Falmouth to just six points in the third quarter and turning a 27-24 FHS halftime lead into a 40-33 advantage on their part after three.
King Philip’s best player lit it up from the start, scoring 18 of the Warriors’ 24 first-half points en route to a 34-point outburst. He also had 12 rebounds, five steals and a couple of blocked shots. Falmouth threw a high-pressure box-and-one at Layman throughout the first half, running a rotation of Mackie Joyce, Wyatt Hamilton and Mansfield at him nonstop, but despite their best efforts, the Clippers could not keep him in check.
But it was King Philip’s team defense in the second half that secured a spot in the DII south finals against Hopkinton for the Warriors on Saturday night. KP extended their defense in the second half, taking away Falmouth’s ability to reverse the ball to open shooters. Falmouth’s top scorer, Nelson Baptiste, was most affected by the uptick on D by the Warriors.
After hitting for 11 first-half points, mostly on free throws after driving to the rim, King Philip all but took him away after the intermission, limiting him to just one third-quarter field goal. Backcourt mate Andrew McGill was also taken out of the game offensively as he had just two points in the game. Dillon Mansfield, Falmouth’s other big perimeter threat, hit for eight in the first half but was shut out in the second half.
The third quarter was the turning point in the game. A Connor Layman (10 points) 3-pointer out of the gate knotted the score and then a free throw by Christian Fair put KP up by one. Falmouth regained the lead on a jumper by Kyle Kasprzyk (4 points), but then Fair drained a 3-pointer to put the Warriors up by a bucket at the midway mark of the period.
That’s when things got bloody, literally. As the teams played plodding, physical ball, FHS star center John Lavin took an elbow from Jake Layman in the face while they battled for a rebound. Lavin, who is headed to Bryant University on a football scholarship, did what football players do when they’re bloodied. He sucked it up and kept playing.
The KP players, to their credit, kept telling the referees that Lavin was bleeding and rules dictate that a bleeding player must leave the court to have it stopped. The refs agreed and made him leave the floor with 4:31 to go in the third. The FHS defense did not allow a point in his absence, although the Clippers also didn’t score, but it was on Lavin’s return that things got ugly for the Clippers.
Wearing a spare jersey, Lavin returned to the court almost exactly a minute later, turning in his usual No. 5 shirt for No. 32. As he reported to the scorer’s table to check in, one of the three referees came over to make sure that the scorebook noted the change, while Coach Lundberg also made sure that everything was correct. One of the other referees, though, did not hold his whistle as the team got things in order and put the ball into Falmouth’s hands under the basket for them to inbound the ball. With plenty of confusion going on while things were sorted out, the ref who put the ball in play whistled FHS for a technical foul for having six men on the court.
Despite Falmouth’s insistence that the referees get together and resolve the issue, the call was never reversed. KP was awarded two free throws and the basketball. Layman hit both free throws and a few seconds later took it to the rack for a lay-up and a two-point game became a six-point game just like that.
Lundberg took the high road when questioned about the situation. He simply called it “a communication issue” and left it at that.
Like a boxer stunned by a haymaker, the Clippers struggled to make it through to the bell that signaled the end of the round. Over the final 3:30 of the third quarter, the Warriors built their 31-29 lead into a 40-31 advantage. FHS got a pair of Kasprzyk free throws in the last seconds of the quarter to shave the lead to seven after three.
At crunch time the Clippers could never truly get back into it. A Damien Reid 3-pointer with 4:17 to play in the game trimmed the Warriors lead to 49-43, but the seventh-seeded Warriors answered with a 6-0 run–all scored by Jake Layman– to push the lead to 12 with 2:50 to go. FHS scored five quick points over the next minute but still trailed by seven with 1:35 left. Without any perimeter shots falling, FHS could not overcome their foes at the end and suffered through the final moments of their championship reign.
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