PORTLAND – G-NG needed a long list of things to go just right when they faced off with Yarmouth in Saturday’s 4 p.m. quarterfinal at the Expo: Leading scorer John Martin needed to catch fire, the Patriots’ other perimeter shooters needed to knock down a whole heap of threes, the team needed to shut down – if no one else – Clippers’ titan Aleksandar Medenica, and their young bigs needed somehow to compete on the glass.
None of it quite worked out. G-NG briefly held a lead at the start of the first, and senior Captain John Henry Villaneuva broke double-digits by the end, but the Patriots simply couldn’t keep pace with the Clippers and ultimately succumbed 71-44.
“Their physicality is at another level in our league,” G-NG head coach Ryan Deschenes said of Yarmouth. “That’s what separates them: their size, physicality and athleticism, and we just couldn’t get going offensively. Defensively, we actually played okay in the first half; it’s just, they had spurts, and we had no spurts. That gave them the good separation early.”
Villanueva opened the scoring with a three, and a momentary burst of G-NG hope; Medenica responded with a two, a three and another two to shunt Yarmouth out front 7-3, however. Shortly thereafter, one by Jake Kackmeister at the line and three by Josh Magno from beyond the arc brought the Patriots as close as they would again come to the Clippers, 9-7. From there, Yarmouth pulled away.
Deschenes remarekd on the Clippers’ defense. “What Yarmouth usually gives you is the three-pointers,” he said. “But they took that away from us today. They stayed connected to our shooters…we didn’t have the driving kicks we thought, we didn’t have the skip passes we thought. We knew we needed to make about 10 threes and production from our bigs to have a chance.”
“Our bigs battled today; we went in with a mindset, ‘We want to battle those bigs today; we want to give them our best shot,'” Deschenes said. “But Yarmouth is just bigger; they’re longer than us, they’re stronger than us, they’re more experienced than us. We got some looks early, but they alter a lot of shots. It’s human nature to see that size and not want to shot-fake them and not want to go through. That’s what it was; it was their size, their length, their strength – you name it, they had it.”
Hunter Colby and Ryan Lachance in particular work well underneath for the Patriots, but they’re still young – just sophomores. In fact, most of the team is comprised of sophomores.
The Clippers closed the first quarter on top 15-8, and the first half on top 36-15. For their part, the Patriots got a moment to savor just before the break, when Josiah Rottari nimbly ducked an airborne Yarmouth defender and pulled the trigger on a picturesque buzzer-beater just inside the paint.
The Clippers kicked off the third with a 7-0 run before Tanner Mann hashed a pair of consecutive twos for the Patriots; G-NG also closed the quarter with back-to-back strikes, on another three by Magno as well as Martin’s first bucket of the day. The stretch was G-NG’s most competitive: Yarmouth outscored them, yes, but only by one, 14-13.
Deschenes talked about Martin’s relative silence. “Obviously, Yarmouth went in and tried to stop him; wherever he cut, they were right there with him. They closed the gaps well on his penetration – he got going well, penetrating in the second half. But yeah, they keyed on him.”
The Patriots posted their best quarter in the fourth, when they tallied 16, but still the Clippers did better, with 21. Colby hit two from the line and powered home two from underneath, Kackmeister added two, Villanueva and Martin both hit two from the line and Connor Myatt notched a big three. Oliver Grant capped G-NG’s season with two from the line.
Villanueva earned the Patriots’ team-high, with 10. Magno followed with six, Colby with five; Myatt, Mann and Martin added four apiece. Rottari, Grant and Ryan Lachance each contributed two. Medenica earned the game-high, with 22.
Deschenes commented on Medenica, and the Patriots’ efforts to stop him: “We had some moments. Their bigs screened a lot for each other, so we wanted to try to switch that, and stay connected to them. He’s a great player; he had 22, and for the most part, I thought we made him work for it. He had some openings here and there. But at the end of the day, great players are going to make great plays at this venue, and he did.”
Not a single point of Patriots’ deficit at the end is a reason for them to hang their heads. The team finishes 10-10 after going 9-9 through the regular season and upsetting No. 8 Lake Region in the prelims – all this after last year going 2-16 and missing the playoffs by a mile.
G-NG says goodbye to just two seniors: Villanueva and Mann; the rest of the outfit is comparatively young, and will return next season, sharper than ever. “We’re extremely excited we got a chance to be here,” Deschenes said. “What’s neat is, just coaching this team for five years, and coaching at St. Dom’s before, G-NG would have one every four years, they’d get into the tournament. Now we’re in this year, and we get a lot of guys back, and we feel we’re going to take the next step next year.”
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME
Ryan Lachance battles a pair of Clippers, all three boys airborne beneath the net.
Oliver Grant drives forward, leading a G-NG possession.
Patriot Josiah Rottari looks for dish options while shouldering away a Yarmouth opponent.
Josh Magno nailed a couple critical threes for G-NG vs. Yarmouth.
John Martin drives inside for the Patriots in their quarterfinals loss to Yarmouth.
John Martin, one of the Patriots’ seven sophomores, can put up heaps of points. The Clippers, however, managed to hold him mostly silent.
G-NG’s John Henry Villanueva pushes forward into the paint.
John Henry Villanueva lofts up a free-throw for the Patriots. A senior, Villanueva posted the team’s high-score vs. Yarmouth, 10 points.
Patriot Jake Kackmeister, one of the team’s seven sophomores, vies in midair with a pair of Clippers.
Tanner Mann fights toward the glass, loomed over by a Yarmouth defender.