PORTLAND—The Waynflete boys’ basketball team made a spirited run to the Western Class C semifinals a year ago.
This winter, the Flyers might be even better.
Wednesday evening in their tiny gym off Spring Street, Waynflete entertained rival North Yarmouth Academy and wasn’t exactly a gracious host.
The Flyers started fast, scoring the game’s first 19 points, 30 of its first 32 and went on to a 57-18 victory, their fifth in a row this season and fifth straight over the Panthers, who fell to 1-4.
Ten different Waynflete players made it on to the score sheet and all 13 Flyers who saw action made their presence felt, continuing a season-long trend.
“We’re a deep team this year,” said Waynflete coach Rich Henry. “The deepest I’ve had. The guys work hard in practice. It’s a challenge for me to get them meaningful minutes. I want to reward them and get them out there.”
Waynflete didn’t make the playoffs in 2009-10, but went 11-5 in the regular season last winter before riding the heroics of Joe Veroneau to a 50-48 double overtime win over Wiscasset in the quarterfinals. While the run ended with a 55-37 loss to Dirigo in the semis, the Flyers had arrived as a Western C contender.
Mix in the fact that several basketball players were in key roles this fall when the Waynflete boys’ soccer team won its first Class C championship and the Flyers had a lot of momentum entering the winter.
“I think Augusta really meant a lot to the returning players,” Henry said. “They liked it there, saw what it took to get there and wanted to sustain that. The success they had with soccer helped as well. A lot of the kids have the mental mindset you need.”
Waynflete opened with wins over Old Orchard (53-35), Traip (77-45), Lake Region (41-40) and Sacopee (86-41).
NYA fell short of the postseason in 2010-11, finishing 7-11.
This winter, Jackson Nadeau is the new coach and he only has one player, senior Asad Dahia, returning who has seen major minutes. As expected, the Panthers have struggled, but they’ll consistently improve. NYA opened with losses to Freeport (61-40), Sacopee (39-19) and Traip (57-40), but got in the win column Monday by virtue of a 46-33 home victory over Pine Tree Academy.
Last winter, Waynflete edged visiting NYA, 41-40, in the opener, then won in Yarmouth, 40-27.
Over the past decade, NYA holds a 10-9 edge over Waynflete, but the last time the Panthers downed the Flyers was Jan. 3, 2009 (37-33 at Waynflete).
Wednesday, it was clear early on that an NYA win wasn’t in the cards.
Just 18 seconds in, a layup by junior Paul Runyambo put the Flyers ahead to stay. Junior Max Belleau followed with a layup and a putback for a 6-0 lead. Junior Jack Cutler then made a free throw, hit a pullup jumper and made a layup to make it 11-0. After senior Chris Burke hit a jump shot, junior Mohammed Suja made two free throws and a runner from senior Mitch Newlin in the final minute gave Waynflete a commanding 17-0 advantage after one period.
Forty seven seconds into the second quarter, sophomore Serge Nyirikamba made a layup to push the lead to 19-0. Finally, with 6:30 to go before halftime, a layup after a steal by Dahia put the Panthers on the board.
That was a momentary hiccup for the home team as senior Abdul Yousaf made a baseline jumper, Nyirikamba scored on a layup, Suja hit a foul shot and Yousaf and Suja drained 3s to make it 30-2 Flyers with 2:39 to go in the first half.
A putback from Forrest Chicoine and a Chicoine 3 momentarily stemmed the tide, but a free throw by Burke gave Waynflete a 31-7 lead at the break.
The Flyers put eight different players in the scoring column in the first 16 minutes and the second half was more of the same.
Newlin started the second half with a layup after an offensive rebound. After Dahia did the same, Newlin struck again with a layup after grabbing a teammate’s miss. Ryan Hemenway drained a 3 for NYA, but Runyambo scored on a putback and Cutler fed Newlin for a highlight reel reverse layup. Runyambo followed with a 3-ball and Waynflete had its biggest lead, 42-12.
After Dahia made a leaner, Newlin grabbed another offensive board and this time, scored with his left hand. After Chase Gendron made a layup for the Panthers, Belleau converted a turnaround jumper and Suja scored on a putback as the horn sounded to make it 48-16 Flyers after three.
In the fourth quarter, senior Abshir Horor hit a floater, Suja converted an old-fashioned three-point play and Horor made another floater for a 55-16 bulge. With 5:54 to go, Dahia’s putback gave NYA its final points. With 3:36 showing, senior Ray Bliss scored on a putback and that accounted for the 57-18 final score.
“It was a team effort all the way,” Newlin said. “The defense is what led the way. We got a lot of offensive boards and played great defense. Joe and (Alex Hadiaris) set the tone last year. We were able to maintain the defense and this year, we have more scoring ability. Everyone’s a year older, a year stronger. That’s a huge part of our success.”
“It’s been a great early season,” Henry added. “What I told them in the locker room is that they’re playing for each other and it’s obvious. I don’t have a lot to do with that. They create that and sustain it.”
Waynflete stuffed the stat sheet.
Suja led all scorers with 11 points. He also had five rebounds and a steal. Newlin was dazzling with 10 points and seven boards.
Runyambo added seven points (to go with six rebounds and a steal), Belleau six, Cutler and Yousaf five apiece, Horor (three steals) and Nyirikamba (10 rebounds, two steals and a block) four each, Burke (five boards, two steals) three and Bliss (six rebounds) two. The Flyers turned the ball over 16 times and made 5 of 13 free throws.
“Serge is only a sophomore,” Henry said. “We’ll try to get him in the weight room to get him a little bit bigger. He’s quick off the floor. “We have some athletic kids. It’s been a great early season.”
NYA was paced by Dahia’s eight points. he also had 10 rebounds and three steals. Chicoine’s five points, Hemenway’s three and Gendron’s two rounded out the Panthers’ scoring. Michael McIntosh had six boards, while Josiah Henderson finished with five rebounds and a pair of steals. NYA was 0 for 3 from the foul line and had 20 turnovers.
Both schools now take a holiday hiatus until January.
The Panthers return to action Jan. 4 when they host Hyde.
The Flyers are also home Jan. 4 against defending Western B champion Cape Elizabeth.
Waynflete is eager to measure itself against some top competition.
“We haven’t played our toughest opponents yet,” Newlin said. “We have Cape, Fryeburg and Yarmouth right after the break. Those will be tougher games. We always need to work on limiting turnovers, being focused and finding the open guy. Little things like that.”
“We may not win every game, but the chemistry we have will get us through adversity and it well help us in close games,” Henry added. “We have a lot of potential. Offensively, we’re pretty talented. The question is, when it comes down to a close game, can we execute under pressure and stop people?”
Waynflete senior Ray Bliss battles NYA’s Forrest Chicoine for a rebound.
Waynflete sophomore Serge Nyirikamba goes in for a layup. Nyirikamba had 10 rebounds in the win.
NYA senior Asad Dahia drives on Waynflete senior Abdul Yousaf. Dahia led the Panthers with eight points.
Waynflete senior Abshir Horor scores on a floater during the second half.
Waynflete junior Paul Runyambo swats away a shot by NYA’s Josiah Henderson during the Flyers’ 57-18 win Wednesday night.
More photos below.
NYA- 0 7 9 2- 18
W- 17 14 17 9- 57
NYA- Dahia 4-0-8, Chicoine 2-0-5, Hemenway 1-0-3, Gendron 1-0-2
W- Suja 3-4-11, Newlin 5-0-10, Runyambo 3-0-7, Belleau 3-0-6, Cutler 2-1-5, Yousaf 2-0-5, Horor 2-0-4, Nyirikamba 2-0-4, Burke 2-1-3, Bliss 1-0-2
NYA: (2) Chicoine, Hemenway
W: (3) Runyambo, Suja, Yousaf