PORTLAND—It’s looking like 2012 will be very good to the Waynflete boys’ basketball team.
After going undefeated in its pre-holiday contests, the Flyers made a huge statement Wednesday evening in their bandbox gymnasium off Spring Street, dominating Western B power Cape Elizabeth from start to finish.
Waynflete’s defense smothered the Capers, who were state finalists a year ago, and tremendous ball movement and unselfishness on offense led to numerous easy hoops.
The Flyers jumped out to a 24-11 lead at halftime and even though Cape Elizabeth got as close as 11 points in the fourth quarter, Waynflete closed the game with a 9-4 run and defeated the Capers, 52-36.
The Flyers, who were led by 19 points from sophomore Serge Nyirikamba and 10 from junior Jack Cutler, are now 6-0 and dropped Cape Elizabeth to 4-3.
“It’s certainly a statement win,” said Cutler. “We’ve never beaten Cape. They’re always a powerhouse. We knew they’d be tough, but we took care of business. It’s certainly a big win, especially on our floor.”
Waynflete enjoyed an inspirational run to the Western C semifinals a year ago, losing to Dirigo, and won all five games prior to the holiday break.
The Flyers opened with a 53-35 win over Old Orchard Beach, beat visiting Traip, 77-45 and after a narrow 41-40 triumph at Lake Region, routed visiting Sacopee (86-41) and North Yarmouth Academy (57-18). Waynflete then took part in the St. Dom’s holiday tournament in Auburn, where it beat Monmouth (29-14) and Lee Academy (61-52) and lost to Poland (53-43).
Cape Elizabeth pushed Camden Hills to the brink in last year’s Class B state final before falling, 68-59. The Capers lost four seniors to graduation, most notably state game hero Theo Bowe, and were expected to come back to the pack this winter, which they have.
Cape Elizabeth opened with a 60-37 loss at Falmouth, then won three in a row: 53-35 at Freeport, 63-38 over visiting Fryeburg and 63-56 over visiting Gray-New Gloucester. After a 59-47 setback at Greely, the Capers held off visiting Lake Region, 52-43. They then took part in the annual holiday tournament at the Portland Expo where they lost to Scarborough (46-37) and Susan Wagner of New York (60-29).
The teams have played each of the past four seasons with the Capers winning all four meetings by an average of nearly 26 points, but a year ago, Cape Elizabeth struggled to beat Waynflete at home, 43-34.
Wednesday, the Flyers left no doubt that they’re for real.
Waynflete put the pressure on defensively and flummoxed the Capers from the get-go although the visitors did score first on a putback from junior Henry Babcock 49 seconds into the game.
With 5:54 to go in the first quarter, a long 3-pointer from junior Max Belleau put the Flyers on the board. After senior Matty Pierce fed senior Rob West to give the Capers a 4-3 lead, Belleau set up junior Paul Runyambo for a layup with 4:10 remaining to put Waynflete on top to stay.
The tandem hooked up again 45 seconds later and Cutler added two foul shots to make it 9-4. After Cape Elizabeth junior Chris Robicheaw scored on a putback after a pair of offensive rebounds, Nyirikamba made his presence felt, setting up senior Chris Burke for a layup and an 11-6 advantage after one period.
Nyirikamba got the second quarter started with a free throw, then took a pass from Cutler and scored on a breakaway layup. When junior Mohammed Suja hit a jumper with 4:53 remaining in the half, the Flyers had a double-digit lead, 16-6.
With 3:56 to go, two free throws from Capers senior Max Gore ended a 4 minute, 38 second scoring drought, but senior Mitch Newlin fed Nyirikamba for a layup and after a Newlin steal and pass to Suja, the ball came to Nyirikamba for another layup and a 20-8 lead.
A 3-ball from Pierce momentarily stemmed the tide, but Cutler hit a jumper in the lane and Runyambo fed Belleau for a layup to allow Waynflete to take a 24-11 advantage into the locker room.
Many on hand expected Cape Elizabeth to rally, but the Flyers kept the pressure on.
A jumper from Belleau started the second half scoring. After Babcock made two free throws, Runyambo made a layup. Robicheaw answered with a jumper, but at the other end, Burke did the same to make it 30-15.
A free throw from junior Kyle Snowden and a Robicheaw putback after another offensive rebound (he had six on the night), cut the deficit to 12.
But any momentum the visitors may have had disappeared at the other end when Suja calmly drained a 3. Babcock hit a floater, but Nyirikamba put home a miss of his own shot to make it a 15-point game again, 35-20. The Capers did make things interesting, however, as Babcock scored on a putback, then hit a jumper as time expired to make it a 35-24 contest with eight minutes to go.
On four occasions, Cape Elizabeth drew within 11 in the final stanza, but never got closer.
Nyirikamba (assisted by Burke) made a layup 24 seconds in. After a layup by Babcock, Suja hit a jumper. Babcock made a floater, but Cutler set up Nyirikamba for a layup. After a Babcock putback, Cutler passed to Runyambo for a layup.
With 3:01 to play, the Capers got within 11 one final time when a left-handed finger roll from freshman Eddie Galvin made it 43-32, but again, Suja drained a dagger of a 3.
After senior Sam Donnelly hit a jumper in the lane for Cape Elizabeth to make it 46-34, Newlin set up Nyirikamba for a layup, Burke then did the same and after a Donnelly leaner in the waning seconds, Burke set up Nyirikamba for one final layup and Waynflete brought the curtain down on its inspirational 52-36 triumph.
“We just moved the ball on offense and broke their press,” said Nyirikamba. “Once we did that, we got a lot of easy baskets. We came in confident and knew we had to rebound and move the ball. We did so and got the win.”
“It’s a big win for us,” added Waynflete coach Rich Henry. “Primarily because of the quality of their program and the respect we have for them. Some of the guys live in Cape Elizabeth, as do I. It’s nice to not get shellacked and have to keep my head down walking through town.
“This was big. We weren’t looking past anyone, but we were thinking about this game as a big test for us. It’s such a mental game. From shooting to knowing you can get stops. We’re showing that now. Hopefully we can draw on that later. Cape’s going to be in the middle of things, so hopefully this win will be a gift that keeps on giving.”
Nyirikamba led all scorers with 19 points. He also had three rebounds and an assist. Suja added 10 points, which included a pair of 3-balls. Runyambo finished with eight points (four steals, two rebounds and an assist), Belleau seven (along with three assists, two boards and two steals) and Burke (three assists, two rebounds, a steal and a block) and Cutler (five boards, three assists, two steals) had four apiece. Newlin didn’t score, but played stellar defense, snaring eight rebounds and registering four steals.
“We had a lot of teamwork and a lot of passing,” said Cutler. “We had less dribbling and we got open layups, especially on the break. I wasn’t surprised to be that far ahead the way we were playing. (The Capers) started showing what they had in the third quarter. Babcock and Robicheaw are great players, but the dynamic of our team overcame it. We have a lot of legs on the bench that we can use.”
“I’ve got 13 guys that I won’t hesitate to put in at any point,” Henry said.
The Flyers did commit 17 turnovers, but made 3-of-4 free throw attempts and had a whopping 13 steals and 14 assists.
“This team, unlike some teams I’ve had, really enjoys passing the ball and it shows,” said Henry. “It’s infectious.”
Cape Elizabeth was paced by Robicheaw, who had 12 points and nine rebounds. Babcock added 10 points, six boards and a steal. Donnelly (four points, two steals), Pierce (three points), Galvin, Gore and West (two points apiece) and Snowden (one point, with three rebounds) also scored.
The Capers gave the ball away 20 times and wound up 5-of-6 from the charity stripe.
“(Waynflete’s) a good team,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Jim Ray. “They’re going to win a lot of games. You have to give them credit. They played hard, they played tough, they made shots, they rebounded hard. They did a lot of good things. Rich does a good job with the kids he has. They have a little more experience under their belts and it showed tonight.
“We haven’t been shooting very well, so there were some restrictions on the type of shots we were supposed to be shooting. As it worked out, we didn’t get to the foul line tonight, which was a goal. Everything’s a perimeter game and we haven’t been shooting well. We have to get better at figuring out how to play with some rules since I’m starting to dictate a little more. In the second half, we were pressing and we’re not a good pressing team. We didn’t want to press, but we had to. We had guys get caught in no-man’s land. It led to layups. It’s frustrating that we weren’t where we were supposed to be.
“Every day, the guys come in and work hard in practice. As a coach, I need to break it down into simpler terms. We’re not doing anything well enough. Because of the success we’ve had, I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking we’re capable of more than we really are and I have to fix that.”
Cape Elizabeth has a tough home test with dangerous Poland Friday (tip time has been moved to 7:30 p.m.), then has a pair of challenges next week, at Wells (in a playoff rematch) Tuesday and at home with Yarmouth Jan. 12.
“It’s tough, but there’s a lot of season left and a lot of good games left,” said Ray. “Poland’s very good. They have weapons and work hard on defense and play well together. We only have one day to practice.”
Waynflete is back in action Friday at Fryeburg and visits Old Orchard Beach Tuesday.
“This will carry us through the rest of the season,” Cutler said. “We’ll look back on this victory.”
“We need to keep playing fast-paced, playing smart and rebound,” Nyirikamba said.
“We play a tough team on the road,” added Henry. “It’s going to be another nice test for us. Now we have to take our show on the road.”
CE- 6 5 13 12- 36
W- 11 13 11 17- 52
CE- Robicheaw 6-0-12, Babcock 4-2-10, Donnelly 2-0-4, Pierce 1-0-3, Galvin 1-0-2, Gore 0-2-2, West 1-0-2, Snowden 0-1-1
W- Nyirikamba 9-1-19, Suja 4-0-10, Runyambo 4-0-8, Belleau 3-0-7, Burke 2-0-4, Cutler 1-2-4
CE (1) Pierce
W (3) Suja 2, Belleau
CE (25) Robicheaw 9, Babcock 6, Clarke, Snowden 3, West 2, Gore, Peterson 1
W (23) Newlin 8, Cutler 5, Nyirikamba 3, Belleau, Burke, Runyambo 2, Suja 1
CE (7) Donnelly 2, Babcock, Galvin, Gore, Robicheaw, West 1
W (13) Newlin, Runyambo 4, Belleau, Cutler 2, Burke 1
CE (1) Robicheaw
W (1) Burke