PORTLAND—In a microcosm of their season to date, the Waynflete boys’ basketball team came out sizzling Saturday afternoon and went on to a fourth straight victory.
Hosting Sacopee, the Flyers snapped an early 3-3 tie with a 28-6 run, capped by a 3-ball at the first period horn from junior Serge Nyirikamba. Waynflete was up 41-22 at halftime, then dominated the third quarter to the tune of 23-2 and cruised from there to a 71-33 triumph.
The Flyers placed 11 players in the scoring column, led by Nyirikamba’s 20 points and forced 27 turnovers as they continued to dazzle.
“We did what we need to do,” said Waynflete coach Rich Henry. “It’s hard to be mentally focused in a game like this, with guys coming in and out, but we did a good job establishing the pace we wanted.”
Waynflete has reached the semifinals two years running and is highly regarded this winter. The Flyers opened with wins at Old Orchard Beach (50-49) and Traip (48-39), then held off visiting Class B foe Lake Region, 65-54.
Saturday, against a Sacopee squad which had dropped its first three outings, it didn’t take long for Waynflete to seize control.
Just five seconds in, sophomore Harry Baker-Connick hit a free throw. Junior Henry Cleaves added a layup to make it 3-0 before the visitors tied it on a 3-point shot from Eric Martineau.
That would be the highwater mark for the Hawks.
With 6:09 to play in the opening stanza, senior Jack Cutler buried a 3 and the Flyers were ahead to stay.
Sacopee answered with a bank shot from Alex Fenderson, but Nyirikamba made a 3, then scored on a driving layup.
Two free throws from Dominic Locke pulled the Hawks back to 11-7, but the hosts got the next 13 points to gain some breathing run.
The surge started with a pair of layups from Cutler. Nyirikamba made a layup, senior Max Belleau made a pair of layups, Cutler converted another layup and with 1:50 left in the first quarter, Belleau sank a free throw to make it 24-7.
A bank shot by Locke ended the run, but junior Joey Schnier hit a leaner, Nyirikamba made two foul shots and as time expired in the period, Nyirikamba threw up a 3-pointer that went in, making it 31-9.
“We came out early and got easy, open shots,” said Nyirikamba. “It was a good team effort. Coach put in some plays this year and they’re working well. “
Henry substituted regularly in the second quarter and play was more even, but Schnier stole show early with a couple layups. Consecutive 3s from Martineau kept the Hawks somewhat within hailing distance, but at the break, Waynflete had a 41-22 lead.
Any Sacopee comeback hopes were quickly dispelled at the start of the second half.
With the starters back on the floor, Cutler made two free throws and hit a layup, Belleau made a layup and Nyirikamba scored on a putback for a 49-22 advantage. After the visitors answered on a jumper from Fenderson, Belleau made a layup, Nyirikamba made three straight layups, senior Paul Runyambo hit another layup, Schnier scored on a leaner and freshman Abel Alemayo converted an old-fashioned three-point play (layup, foul, free throw) after a steal for a 64-24 bulge after the third quarter.
Down the stretch, both teams emptied their benches and Waynflete went on to the 71-33 victory.
The Flyers got a game-high 20 points from Nyirikamba, who also had four rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot.
“I’m trying to get Serge to explode more around the basket, which is something he can work on, but he’s such a smooth player,” said Henry.
Cutler added 13 points, four rebounds and four steals. Belleau had nine points, three rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals. Schnier impressed off the bench with eight points and six boards.
“We stayed mentally tough,” Schnier said. “That was the big thing before the game. We have a really deep team this year. It’s nice to have a bench that’s so deep. So many people can contribute.”
“Joey always plays hard,” Henry said. “He’s a great athlete. He’s getting good minutes this year.”
Also scoring were sophomore Pace Hutchinson (six points, four rebounds), Alemayo (five points, three boards, two steals), Runyambo (four points, two rebounds, a steal and a block), Cleaves (two points), freshman Willy Burdick (two points, three boards), senior Mohammed Suja (one point, three steals, five rebounds) and Baker-Connick (one point, five assists, four steals and two rebounds).
It was quite a team effort, which featured 45 points from the starters and 26 more from the reserves.
“We got playing time for guys who don’t get to play much,” Henry said. “They work hard in practice. We know they’re skilled. They got a chance to demonstrate it.”
Waynflete turned the ball over 16 times and made 14-of-22 free throws. Sacopee went 7-of-10 from the stripe.
Waynflete (for the moment, ranked first in the Western Class C Heal Points standings) is back in action Wednesday when it hosts rival North Yarmouth Academy. Next Saturday, the Flyers will “host” Greenville in a game played at the Augusta Civic Center, site of the regional tournament.
In the new year, Waynflete has tests against the likes of Western B contenders Cape Elizabeth, Fryeburg and Wells and reigning Class B state champion Yarmouth.
The Flyers have excelled early on, but know they still have a long way to go.
“Everything can get better,” said Nyirikamba.
“We’re stressing fundamentals because we have an athletic team,” Schnier said. “As long as we stress fundamentals, we’ll be in good shape. We just focus on each opponent, no matter who it is. We want to keep coming out strong.”
“I’m happy with our record, but I think we could have a better identity defensively,” Henry added. “We’re not as crisp defensively as I’d like.”