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- The Forecaster
AUGUSTA — Nearly six minutes into Monday’s Western Class C quarterfinal, the Waynflete and Monmouth boys’ basketball teams had generated a hockey score.
That was the classic good news/bad news scenario for the Mustangs, who opened the game with a series of defensive stands they would have concocted in their dreams.
Offense was a nightmare, though, and those early struggles ultimately were No. 10 Monmouth’s downfall in a 78-47 loss to No. 2 Waynflete at the Augusta Civic Center.
The scoreboard high above center court was frozen at 2-0 for more than four minutes of clock time before Jack Cutler scored six points in a 29-second personal highlight film to send the Flyers (18-1) on their way.
“That was huge for us,” Waynflete junior forward Serge Nyirikamba said. “It got us going.”
Monmouth (6-13) missed its first 10 shots.
“I felt like that first four minutes we honestly played a little bit better than them,” Monmouth coach Lucas Turner said. “We just couldn’t make the two-footer. I don’t know if that was ‘take the boys out of Monmouth on the big floor syndrome’ or what it was.”
And once the Flyers’ lead reached double digits midway through the second period, they simply flaunted too many weapons.
Senior sixth man Mohammed Suja crafted one of the most unusual lines in tournament history. He scored 27 points, all in the even-numbered quarters and largely on the strength of seven 3-pointers.
“My teammates were finding me, swinging the ball,” Suja said. “There were a lot of open shots.”
Nyirikamba added 18 points and Max Belleau 17 for Waynflete. They combined for 26 in the second half.
Billy Cummings scored the first seven points to breathe life into Monmouth’s attack and finished with 17. Marcques Houston added nine and Drew McFarren contributed eight.
Forced into six turnovers and 5-for-12 shooting in the first period by Monmouth’s 2-3 zone, Waynflete gave it away only twice in the second stanza while Suja worked his magic.
“He has come out and done that. He’s a streaky shooter, but he brings a lot to the game, not just shooting,” Waynflete coach Rich Henry said. “When his 3s are going, everyone loves getting him the ball. He’s a funny kid, a good kid, so we like seeing him doing that.”
Suja and Belleau combined for nine unanswered points, staking Waynflete to a 30-11 advantage with two minutes left in the half.
Houston, Kasey Smith and Brett Wilson countered with six straight for Monmouth before Suja’s buzzer-beater from beyond the arc.
“They are fast, athletic and can shoot the 3 well. And they’re fast, athletic and can shoot the 3 well.” Turner said with a laugh. “Once they started making shots we were in trouble.”
Monmouth crept within 15 points twice in the third period on buckets by Cummings and McFarren.
With the suddenly frenetic tempo ideally suited to Waynflete, though, the Flyers went on a 9-0 binge to put it away. Nyirkamba scored on a putback and found Paul Runyambo for two more, followed by a 3-pointer and fast break layup from Belleau.
“The first half we fouled a lot. That was probably the thing I gave the kids the hardest time about at halftime, because it slowed the game down,” Henry said. “We don’t want the game to be slow. We want to get up and down and get into a flow, and we were able to do that in the second half.”
Waynflete advanced to meet No. 3 Dirigo in the semifinals Thursday.
Monmouth’s Marcques Houston goes in for a shot between the defense of Waynflete’s Serge Nyirikamba, right, and Paul Runyambo in the first quarter of their game Monday in Augusta. The shot was knocked off balance and missed its mark and the Flyers went on to the quarterfinal round win.