BANGOR, Maine — Offense got Yarmouth to a quick start Friday night and defense provided the staying power as the Clippers defeated Gardiner 65-53 in the Class B state championship game at the Bangor Auditorium.
Josh Britten scored 29 points and Chris Knaub added 14 for the 18-4 Clippers, who gained their first state title since winning the Class C crown in 1968.
Gardiner, playing in its first state final, finished its season with a 19-3 record.
“Our kids played hard,” said Gardiner coach Jason Cassidy. “We executed our game plan, but I think we ran into a real tough ball team tonight.”
Britten scored 22 points in the first half alone, 11 in each of the first two quarters, as Yarmouth built a 35-30 lead at the break.
The Clippers then limited Gardiner to four third-quarter points while building a 16-point lead, and the Tigers got no closer than eight points over the game’s final eight minutes.
“Uncharacteristically, our offense really pulled us through in that first half,” said Yarmouth coach Adam Smith, a 1981 graduate of Nokomis Regional High School in Newport. “We usually rely more heavily on our defense, but Gardiner did a good job of breaking us down in the first half.
“But in the second half the key for us was getting back to playing solid defense, and we limited them to some tough looks. We got some steals, we got some turnovers, and those gave us some good offensive looks.”
Britten, a 6-1 senior guard, made the first five shots he took from the field, including a 3-pointer, to stake the Clippers to a 13-4 lead four minutes into the game. Britten then picked up his second foul, and went to the bench for the final 3:43 of the period.
Gardiner immediately gained control, running off seven unanswered points and eventually forging a 15-15 tie when senior center Aaron Toman — who also made his first five shots from the field during the opening period — hit a 15-footer.
Yarmouth regained an 18-15 lead by the end of the quarter on a second-chance three-point play by point guard Sam Torres with 2.3 seconds remaining — a play that resulted in Toman’s second foul.
Britten returned for the second quarter, and while he missed his first shot he was quickly on the attack again, making four of eight field-goal tries during the period.
But Gardiner maintained contact behind senior guard Jake Palmer, who buried three 3-point goals, including back-to-back shots to rally the Tigers to a 28-28 tie with three minutes left.
Yarmouth then ran off six straight points — two free throws and a bank shot from the lane by Britten around a Chris Knaub drive — to take a 34-28 lead with 1:10 left.
Toman had 12 points on 6 of 7 shooting and Palmer had 11 points at the break for Gardiner, which was hurt by 10 first-half turnovers compared to just two turnovers for Yarmouth.
Britten missed his first three shots of the second half, but his 3-pointer from the left baseline, followed by a fast-break layup, a 3-pointer and a pull-up jumper from the lane by Knaub — his first two scores after Gardiner turnovers — represented a 10-0 run that gave Yarmouth a 45-32 lead midway through the third quarter.
That run grew to 15-2 by the end of the period, with Christian Henry hitting a 3-pointer from the left wing with one second left to give the Clippers a 50-34 cushion.
“They had a great defensive game plan to go with being red-hot on offense,” said Cassidy. “We got too far behind in that third quarter to come back.”
Toman opened the fourth quarter with seven straight points to draw Gardiner within 50-41, and a subsequent three-point play by Alonzo Connor closed the gap to 52-44, but Knaub hit a 3-pointer from the left wing as he was being fouled and Britten later added two free throws to restore Yarmouth to a 57-44 cushion with 3:20 to play.
Sam Torres added nine points for Yarmouth, as well as an air-tight defensive effort against Palmer that limited the Eastern B tournament MVP to no points on just three field-goal attempts in the second half.
“Josh Britten played an unbelievable first half, just carrying us,” said Smith. “I did not think that was going to last another 16 minutes, but having other guys step up as they have this year, guys like Chris Knaub and Sam Torres, really propelled us to a total game in the second half and that allowed us to get some separation.”
Toman finished with a team-high 26 points for Gardiner, while Palmer finished with 11 points and Matt Hall grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.