Anyone that told Falmouth High School boys’ basketball coach Paul Lundberg that his team would be playing in the championship game of the Cape Cup Tournament when the season began probably would have been laughed at by the veteran Clippers’ head coach. Lundberg would have signed up for that scenario in a heartbeat.
That’s exactly where Falmouth found itself last Fridayon February 26, though, with an opportunity to play for the postseason championship against a bigger, stronger Martha’s Vineyard team. Not only did Falmouth (11-5) make it that far, but the home team had an opportunity to add yet another upset to its laundry list of upsets for the season. FHS held an eight-point lead in the third quarter before everything fell apart, and the overachievers’ seemingly endless tank of gas finally ran out.
MV found another gear in the third quarter and pulled away from Falmouth to win the title, 58-46. A 17-0 surge by the visiting team did the trick as they turned that eight-point Falmouth lead into a nine-point deficit and ran away from there.
“They went inside and got some easy baskets, and then opened things up from the outside and then they could hit some threes,” Lundberg said. “For what they accomplished, double sessions that first week, and then we started getting going and then we got shut down for 11 days and then all of a sudden we won 10 out of last 12 and came in second place.”
Lundberg could not hide the pride that he felt for his team that was almost always overmatched in terms of talent, but never overmatched when it came to toughness and grit.
“We had a lot of heart,” Lundberg said. “It was a great job by the kids. They worked hard every game. Even after every game, the referees are coming up to me and saying, ‘Your kids work hard, they play hard,’ and that’s the referees saying that.”
That hard work had Falmouth out front through the entire first half, but the Clippers were never able to make their lead large enough to put MV away. Senior Gerald Mahoney caught fire in the first quarter, scoring 10 of his team-leading 21 points in the opening quarter, with two three-pointers. Falmouth jumped to a 17-16 lead after one, and held a 28-27 edge at the half. In the third quarter, behind another great showing from Mahoney, Falmouth looked like it might pull away. Mahoney added a couple of threes, and Sam Cavossa knocked down a big mid-range jump shot that put Falmouth ahead, 40-32 with a little over two minutes to go in the third.
Had the student body been allowed in to watch the game, they would have been out of control at that point. The family members who were there were whooping it up, but then were silenced as the Vineyarders struck back. Eight quick points before the end of the quarter tied the game at 40-40 and then the bigger MV squad really hit its stride. Another nine quick points, capped by a three-point play from Nilo DePaulo, gave MV a 49-40 lead with 4:43 left in the game.
A free throw from Taylor Frye finally stopped the drought for Falmouth, but the wave that the Vineyard was riding had not yet crested. MV went up by as many as 13 with two minutes left and never looked back.
“We were getting one shot, and no offensive rebounds, and then a couple of turnovers and that’s what killed us,” Lundberg said.
Ramon Dos Santos was too much for Falmouth to handle inside. The big man put on a show for the Division III college scout who was there to scout him, scoring 21 points and dominating inside. Guard Mike Trusty had 16 for MV and kept his team in the game in the first half.
MV did a great job against the Clippers’ backcourt. FHS, which had rode the shooting of Timmy Lang and Frye throughout the tournament, could not get the quality perimeter looks that they’d live by all season. Lang was held to five in the game and Frye had eight. Julian Hendricks scored seven.
“Losing’s not fun, but these kids worked so hard. They have so much to be proud of,” Lundberg said. “No one thought that we’d be here.”