Waynflete senior Milo Belleau jumps for joy and is mobbed by his teammates after his four-point play late in overtime leads the Flyers to a stunning 48-47 win over Traip Academy Monday night.
Brian Beard photos.
More photos below.
T- 14 11 10 7 5- 47
W- 15 14 9 4 6- 48
T- Succi 5-3-15, Cavanagh 5-0-14, Foye 4-1-9, Pelkey 2-0-5, Cornell 1-0-2, Driscoll 1-0-2
W- Belleau 5-6-18, Nelligan 3-0-8, Alemayo 2-1-6, Brooks 2-2-6, Deng 2-2-6, Burdick 2-0-4
T (7) Cavanagh 4, Succi 2, Pelkey 1
W (5) Belleau, Nelligan 2, Alemayo 1
PORTLAND—This is just getting ridiculous.
Just when you think all is lost for the Waynflete boys’ basketball team, senior Milo Belleau steps out of a Hollywood script and saves the day.
Monday evening, some 17 days after his bank shot 3 from an impossible angle stunned powerhouse Falmouth at the horn, Milo’s Magic reappeared and as a result, the Flyers’ continue to surge toward the finish line.
Belleau was honored with three classmates prior to the game on Senior Night and Waynflete appeared en route to a second decisive win in less than a week over visiting Traip Academy, but the Rangers pulled within a point, 15-14, after one quarter, and after the Flyers opened up a 13-point lead in the second period, Traip pulled back within four, 29-25, at halftime.
The second half would be a grind until the end.
Every time Waynflete appeared ready to pull away, the Rangers answered, and a 3 just before the third quarter horn pulled the visitors within three, 38-35.
After Traip tied the game, 40-40, the Flyers got a floater from Belleau with 4:03 to go in regulation, but he and his teammates couldn’t score again. The Rangers then tied the game again on a long jumper from junior Joey Cavanagh with 3:14 to go.
Waynflete held the ball as time wound down, but senior Abel Alemayo and junior Yai Deng both missed 3-pointers and the game would go to overtime.
There, Traip twice went up by three, but the Flyers had the Rangers right where they wanted them.
With 14.6 seconds to go, Belleau buried a 3 while being fouled and he added the free throw to complete the rarely seen and optimally timed four-point play.
And after a defensive stop, Waynflete celebrated its latest in a series of breathtaking victories, 48-47.
Belleau led all scorers with 18 points, the Flyers won their fourth game in a row, improved to 15-2 and dropped Traip to 5-12 in the process.
“It was Senior Night and I’ve been in this gym a lot since I was in sixth grade,” Belleau said. “You can talk about luck, but it just made sense. That’s all I can say.”
This winter marks the sixth straight season that Waynflete has posted double digit victories. Each of the previous five saw the Flyers reach at least the semifinal round of the tournament and there’s a very good chance that streak will continue as well.
Waynflete opened with wins over visiting Sacopee Valley (57-24) and at Freeport (63-23), then lost at home to Class B South power Yarmouth (58-44). The Flyers then hit their stride, winning at home over North Yarmouth Academy (72-30) and Wells (55-40) to end 2015, then starting the new year by defeating host Old Orchard Beach (44-37), visiting Freeport (63-54), host Fryeburg Academy (46-45), visiting Greater Portland Christian School (79-30) and host NYA (63-43). Waynflete got its signature victory Jan. 15 when Belleau’s buzzer beater shocked visiting Falmouth, 44-43. The good times continued with a 52-35 home win over Old Orchard Beach. After the Flyers’ nine-game win streak was snapped by host Lake Region (51-43), they won at Poland (58-45), at Traip Academy (65-49) and at home over Gray-New Gloucester (59-34).
Traip won two of its first three games, but took just three of its next 13.
In the meeting Jan. 26 in Kittery, Waynflete was paced by 15 points apiece from Belleau and senior Will Nelligan, as it beat the Rangers for the 10th straight time.
Monday, Traip hoped to beat the Flyers for the first time since Jan. 11, 2011 (59-47 in Kittery) and the first time in Portland since Jan. 16, 2010 (51-43), but Waynflete broke the Rangers’ heart in improbable, yet familiar fashion.
Belleau, Alemayo, Nelligan and Willy Burdick were honored before the game in a Senior Night ceremony and the Flyers took a quick lead, only to give most of it back before the end of the first quarter.
Just 31 seconds in, an Alemayo 3-pointer got things started. Traip got on the board with a free throw from senior Alex Foye, but after a Nelligan steal, Burdick drove for a layup and a 5-1 lead.
After Foye scored on a leaner, Burdick grabbed an offensive rebound and set up Belleau for a layup. Belleau was fouled on the play and hit the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play for an 8-3 lead.
After senior Coleman Pelkey made a layup for the Rangers, Alemayo set up sophomore Christian Brooks (who replaced Deng after Deng got his second foul) for a reverse layup.
Senior Isaiah Cornell hit a jumper for Traip, but Belleau set up Brooks for a layup and with 3:09 to go in the opening stanza, after diving on the floor to gain possession on the defensive end, Nelligan buried a 3 for a 15-7 lead.
Waynflete then got sloppy and the visitors closed the quarter on a 7-0 run.
First, sophomore Charlie Driscoll drove for a layup. After junior Angelo Succi stole the ball, made a layup and after being fouled, added the free throw for the three-point play, Foye put back his own miss to cut the deficit to 15-14.
The Flyers restored order early in the second period, going on a 12-0 run.
Belleau started the frame with two free throws. After Alemayo made a layup after a steal, Belleau hit another foul shot, Alemayo set up Deng for a three-point play (layup, foul, free throw), Belleau blocked the ball at one end and fed Nelligan for a short jumper at the other and with 4:33 to go in the half, Alemayo set up Deng for a short jumper and a 27-14 advantage.
Waynflete couldn’t stand prosperity, however, and Traip closed the half strong.
A leaner from Foye with 3:55 left ended the 12-0 run and a 4 minute, 12 second drought. Cavanagh sank a 3 and after Brooks made a free throw at the other end, Cavanagh made a second 3 to cut the deficit to six. Brooks added another point at the line, but as time wound down before halftime, Cornell set up Cavanagh for a third 3 and the Rangers were only down by four, 29-25.
In the first half, the Flyers got six points apiece from Belleau and Brooks and five each from Alemayo, Deng and Nelligan, but were hindered by 11 turnovers.
Offense would be at a premium in the second half and the game remained tight as 32 minutes weren’t enough to decide a winner.
Alemayo started the third period with a free throw, but Succi countered with a leaner.
After Belleau sank a 3, Succi made two foul shots, then Succi made a 3 to cut the deficit to a single point, 33-32.
Out of a timeout, Waynflete countered with a 3 from Nelligan and a floater from Belleau, but with just over a second left in the quarter, Succi’s 3 pulled Traip back within a possession, 38-35.
After mustering nine points in the third period, the Flyers only put up four in the final stanza, but they managed to survive into overtime.
With 5:40 left in regulation, seconds after Succi missed a 3 for a lead, a runner in the lane from Burdick put Waynflete up five, but Cavanagh buried a 3 and Foye sank a shot from the corner (originally thought to be a 3, but his foot was on the line) to tie it, 40-40, with 4:22 remaining.
The Flyers retook the lead 19 seconds later on a floater from Belleau, but they wouldn’t score again until overtime.
After Deng missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Rangers tied the game again, 42-42, on a long jumper from Cavanagh with 3:14 to go.
Neither team would score again in regulation, although both would have chances.
Waynflete got the ball with 1:46 left and milked the clock to try and win it without Traip getting another chance, but Alemayo was just off on a 3 from the corner and after Nelligan hustled to retain possession, Deng’s potential game winning 3 was also off the mark and it was on to overtime.
In high school basketball, teams play one four-minute overtime and continue with another if the game remains tied.
Only one would be necessary on this night, thanks to Belleau’s bravura performance.
The Flyers won the opening tip in OT, but Foye stole the ball away and Foye set up Pelkey for a 3 and Traip’s first lead, 45-42.
After Belleau got a point back at the line, Nelligan stole the ball and that led to Deng being fouled. Deng made one free throw to cut the deficit to 45-44 with 2:29 left.
Nelligan again stole the ball, but Deng was called for an offensive foul.
The Rangers took advantage, as Succi forced a shot over Deng and banked it home with 1:29 to go, pushing the lead back to three, 47-44.
When Alemayo missed a 3 at the other end, Succi got the rebound and had a chance to extend the lead after being fouled, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Brooks got the rebound and Waynflete got a chance to pull closer, but out of a timeout, the Flyers turned the ball over as Driscoll stole the ball.
With 26 seconds left, Foye was fouled and had a chance to essentially put the game away, but he too missed the front end of a one-and-one and Deng got the rebound.
Belleau didn’t get a chance to bury a winner in regulation, but he got the ball late in overtime and made the most of the opportunity.
Belleau dribbled the ball up top, got a little space and fired. The shot was on target and found nothing but net.
“In regulation, I wanted to get the ball, so on that play, I made sure I got a look,” Belleau said. “I got a screen, they hedged on it completely. I don’t know if I got fouled, but that guy was closer than he should have been. I got a good look and it went in. It felt good off my hand.”
Even better for the hosts, a foul was called on Pelkey and Belleau had a chance to go to the line to give his team the lead.
And he did exactly that, as his free throw tickled the twine for a 48-47 lead.
“The (3-point shot) was more important, so there wasn’t pressure on the free throw,” Belleau said. “I felt confident after making the shot. I feel like this (game-winner) was more realistic. The other play (against Falmouth) was just getting a shot off. I had to time to think about this one.”
“What can you say about Milo?” Waynflete coach Rich Henry said. “Serge (Nyirikamba) was a great player. I’ve had other great players, but when you think about what Milo did in soccer and what he’s doing in clutch situations in basketball, it’s unbelievable.
“I wanted to push the ball back for a trailing 3. I thought Will Nelligan, or Milo, or even Yai would be open. Milo wasn’t looking to take the shot until he had to and he got the screen and sunk the 3. He got fouled and hit the free throw too.”
The Rangers had a chance to win it as time wound down and the ball came to Driscoll behind the 3-point line. As Driscoll shot, Belleau and Nelligan soared at him and Nelligan got a piece of the ball as the shot carried well short.
Just before the horn, Pelkey caught it and had a chance to put home the winner, but his shot didn’t fall and the Flyers survived, 48-47.
“I thought we played very good defense, but that was scary (at the end),” Belleau said. “We went man (to man defense) and trusted ourselves. We always have good games with Traip. They’re aggressive and for some reason, that always bothers us. It was really emotional to start. Focusing on the game was tough for awhile. We realized we’ve played together so long and the importance of this game was so huge. We were able to put it together.”
“I always have relied on my seniors,” Henry said. “After four years of putting up with me, they know what to do. I let them lead and make suggestions. This group, more than any other senior group, from top to bottom, has had so much involvement. We have a special group of seniors. I told the team before the game, it was my easiest pregame speech, but it was also the toughest because of the emotion. I think sometimes my emotion gets into the team and affects the way we play adversely. I told the guys, ‘If you want to see how to play in crunch time, the seniors deliver.’ Will Nelligan gave us extra possessions. Willy Burdick gave us extra possessions. Abel ran the show.”
Waynflete got 18 points from Belleau, who also had four rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and a steal.
Nelligan had eight points (to go with four steals, four rebounds and a block), Alemayo (four steals, three assists), Brooks (six boards) and Deng (seven rebounds) all had six points and Burdick added four.
The Flyers overcame 19 turnovers and 11 of 21 foul shooting.
Traip was paced by 15 points from Succi (who also had six rebounds and two steals). Cavanagh made four 3s en route to finishing with 14 points (and six steals). Foye (five rebounds, four assists) added nine points, Pelkey had five and Cornell and Driscoll each contributed two.
The Rangers turned the ball over 22 times and hit 4 of 7 free throws.
“Traip is always a very scrappy, athletic team,” Henry said. “They play very hard. It’s hard when you play a team back-to-back. They were more familiar and played harder. I tip my cap to (Coach) Jeremy (Paul) and his guys. They played a great game.”
Traip Academy closes at home versus Old Orchard Beach Thursday. The Rangers are currently ranked 15th in the Class C South Heal Points standings, but only 12 teams make the playoffs.
Waynflete (fourth in the ever-fluid Class C South Heals) finishes at Sacopee Valley Thursday, then gears up for what it hopes will be another deep tournament run.
“We’re a different team this year,” Belleau said. “It took awhile to realize ourselves, especially myself. Last year, I was more of a scorer, but this year I have more of an overall role, helping in a number of ways. We’re hitting our stride. Games like this definitely help. We’re looking forward to Augusta.”
“I feel good about our chances,” said Henry. “We’ve had these close games. My fondest wish is for us to put together four quarters of consistent basketball. That’s what we’re shooting for, four quarters of consistent Waynflete basketball and this group of seniors is the group to do that.
“Dirigo and Winthrop are well-coached. They have unbelievable players, but what I feel good about is the schedule we played this year. I challenge any Class C team to play our schedule and come out of it with the record we have. The kids have put forth a great effort.”
Waynflete senior Will Nelligan goes up for a layup.
Waynflete senior Willy Burdick drives past Traip sophomore Charlie Driscoll.
Waynflete junior Yai Deng is slowed by a Traip defender.
Waynflete senior Abel Alemayo is trapped by two Traip defenders.
Waynflete sophomore Christian Brooks soars to the hoop.
Waynflete senior Milo Belleau goes up for a layup.
Waynflete’s bench erupts with joy late in the victory.