PORTLAND—Last February, Waynflete’s title hopes were dashed by Old Orchard Beach in the Western Class C semifinals.
Tuesday afternoon, the Flyers gained their second dose of revenge and even better, are now in optimal position for a top playoff seed as they seek to return to Augusta and finish the job.
Waynflete raced to a 40-19 halftime lead over the Seagulls, thanks in large part to absolute domination on the boards, but the visitors slowly rallied and drew within nine points heading for the final quarter. There, the Flyers slammed the door, riding the 25-point, 15-rebound performance of junior standout Serge Nyirikamba to a 61-50 victory, improving to 8-1, while dropping OOB to 4-5.
“We were playing the way we’re capable of playing (in the first half),” said Waynflete coach Rich Henry. “I’d like to see us extend it to more than a quarter or two and do it for an entire game. We haven’t done that all year.”
Waynflete beat the Seagulls in both regular season meetings a year ago, but in the game that counted most, OOB pulled away for a 63-42 triumph in the semifinals.
The Flyers entered 2012-13 with optimism and have lived up to their billing. Waynflete got to avenge its playoff loss in the opener, back on Dec. 7, when it built a big lead, then escaped at Old Orchard by the skin of its teeth, 50-49. The Flyers then won at Traip (48-39), at home over Lake Region (65-54), Sacopee (71-33) and North Yarmouth Academy (70-28) and over Greenville (58-28, in a game played in Augusta). Waynflete opened 2013 by losing at Western B power Cape Elizabeth (52-34), but bounced back Saturday with a hard-fought 47-44 home win over Fryeburg.
OOB came in at 4-3, bouncing back from the Opening Night Waynflete loss with wins over NYA and Traip. After losses to Wells and A.R. Gould, the Seagulls defeated Sacopee and Richmond.
Tuesday, the Flyers started fast and never looked back, although things got interesting in the second half.
The first basket came 58 seconds in when senior captain Max Belleau fed senior captain Paul Runyambo, who is rounding back into top condition after a hamstring injury, for a layup.
Nyirikamba made his presence felt with a 3-pointer 12 seconds later and with 5:02 to go in the first period, Runyambo fed Belleau for a layup and a quick 7-0 lead.
The visitors got on the scoreboard with 4:47 to go when senior Quincy Grace, who made life miserable for Waynflete in last year’s tournament, scored on a left-handed hook, but Runyambo countered with a jump shot.
The Seagulls then pulled within 9-7 on a 3 from senior Anthony Langella-Laws and a layup after a steal from junior Joey Gildard.
Single free throws from Nyirikamba and senior Jack Cutler were countered by a leaner from Gildard.
After Runyambo scored on a putback, OOB again got back within a basket, 13-11, on a layup by senior Jimmy Strohm, but the Flyers closed the quarter on a 7-0 run, getting an old-fashioned three-point play (putback, foul, free throw) from Nyirikamba, a Nyirikamba layup (set up by Belleau) and a Cutler putback for a 20-11 advantage.
A Gildard bank shot opened the second quarter, but Waynflete junior Joey Schnier made a free throw, Cutler scored on a driving layup, Belleau hit a free throw and Nyirikamba fed Runyambo for a layup and a 26-13 lead.
Grace stemmed the tide with a baseline jumper, but Nyirikamba (fouled after getting his own rebound) made two free throws, Belleau buried a 3 and Runyambo set up Nyirikamba for a layup and a 33-15 advantage.
A 3-ball from junior Zach Seamans cut the deficit to 15, but Nyirikamba (a layup from senior Mohammed Suja) and Nyirikamba again (on a putback) scored to make it a 37-18 game.
After Gildard made a free throw for OOB, Schnier knocked down a 3 to give the Flyers their biggest lead, 40-19. The Seagulls got two points back before the half on a pair of foul shots from senior Jake Douglas.
Waynflete appeared totally in control, but memories of the Seagulls’ comeback in the opener were fresh and in the locker room, Henry warned the Flyers that the game was far from over.
The lesson didn’t stick.
After Nyirikamba scored on a putback to open the second half, OOB began to stir, getting a layup from senior Nick Carlin, a leaner from Grace and a Grace turnaround jumper to cut the deficit to 42-27.
Nyirikamba countered with a leaner, but Grace scored on a putback and Carlin sank a 3 to make it 44-32.
Cutler answered with a leaner, but a jumper from Seamans and an improbable scoop shot by Gildard cut Waynflete’s lead to just 10, 46-36.
Runyambo answered with a floater. After Langella-Laws and Belleau traded foul shots, Gildard sank a late 3 and the Seagulls were only down nine, 49-40, heading for the fourth.
“Guess what we talked about at halftime?” said Henry. “Not doing what we did the first time we played them. I think I’ll change my approach at halftime. I won’t talk about what I don’t want them to do.”
The Flyers turned the ball over eight times in the third period, several of those on travelling violations.
“There were a lot of travels being called and we didn’t do a good job adapting to that,” said Henry.
Belleau hit a 3 to start the fourth period to give the hosts a little breathing room, but OOB got a jumper from Gildard to make it a 10-point game.
Cutler made a layup with 5:02 to go, but Seamans hit a jumper to again make it a 10-point contest, 54-44, with 4:12 left.
That’s as close as the Seagulls would get.
Nyirikamba hit two free throws and Cutler scored on a putback to stretch the lead to 14, 58-44.
After Grace scored on a putback, Runyambo fed Nyirikamba for a layup with 2:04 remaining and the Waynflete lead was 60-46.
With 1:17 remaining, Gildard made a 3 and Grace added a free throw 25 seconds later, but the Flyers were able to run down the clock and with 10.8 seconds left, Cutler made one of two free throws and Waynflete survived, 61-50.
Nyirikamba had himself a day, scoring 25 points, while adding 15 rebounds, a block and a steal.
“Serge is great,” said Henry. “We have to get him the ball more. He’s working on being more strong in the post. He’s doing better at that.”
Cutler added 12 points, seven rebounds and three steals, Belleau (five boards) and Runyambo (seven rebounds, two steals and a block) each had 10 points.
“Paul had a nagging hamstring injury,” said Henry. “It takes a long time to come back from, even at his young age, but he’s worked hard to get back into shape. He’s huge for us. He’s very versatile.”
Schnier added four points.
Waynflete doubled up OOB on the boards, 42-21, which included 13 of the offensive variety. The Flyers did commit 23 turnovers (14 in the second half) and made 11-of-19 free throws.
For the Seagulls, Gildard led the way with 17 points. Grace added 13, Seamans seven, Carlin five, Langella-Laws four and Douglas and Strohm two apiece. OOB had 15 turnovers and made 5-of-11 foul shots.
While OOB (now eighth in the Western Class C Heal Points standings) hosts Poland Friday in its next outing, top-ranked Waynflete goes to A.R. Gould Thursday. The Flyers then host Traip, undefeated Hyde and dangerous Western B contender Wells in successive games and still have trips to NYA and Sacopee to finish up.
A high playoff seed is within reach, but Waynflete still has work to do to be at its best come February.
“We need to be more consistent,” Henry said. “We need to be mentally tougher. We need to recognize what goes well and do more of that and recognize what doesn’t go well and stop doing it.”
OOB- 11 10 19 10- 50
W- 20 20 9 12- 61
OOB-Gildard 7-1-17, Grace 6-1-13, Seamans 3-0-7, Carlin 2-0-5, Langella-Laws 1-1-4, Douglas 0-2-2, Strohm 1-0-2
W- Nyirikamba 9-6-25, Cutler 5-2-12, Belleau 3-2-10, Runyambo 5-0-10, Schnier 1-1-4
OOB (5) Gildard 2, Carlin, Langella-Laws, Seamans 1
W (4) Belleau 2, Nyirikamba, Schnier 1
OOB (21) Douglas, Langella-Laws, Seamans 4, Gildard, Grace 3, Strohm 2, Scott 1
W (42) Nyirikamba 15, Cutler, Runyambo 7, Belleau 5, Baker-Connick, Schnier 3, Suja 2
OOB (8) Gildard, Langella-Laws, Strohm 2, Douglas, Grace 1
W (7) Cutler 3, Runyambo 2, Belleau, Nyirikamba 1
OOB (1) Carlin
W (2) Nyirikamba, Runyambo 1