Waynflete seniors Willy Burdick, left, Will Nelligan, Abel Alemayo and Milo Belleau didn’t get to end their career with a coveted Gold Ball, but they did get the runner-up plaque after Saturday night’s 59-46 loss to George Stevens Academy in the Class C state final.
Brian Beard photos.
More photos below.
GSA- 14 11 15 19- 59
W- 7 15 13 11- 46
GSA- Schildroth 9-4-25, Slayton 5-0-13, Chase 3-4-10, Mattson 2-2-6, Szwez 2-1-5
W- Belleau 5-3-13, Nelligan 5-0-11, Brooks 4-0-8, Deng 3-2-8, Alemayo 2-0-6
GSA (6) Schildroth, Slayton 3
W (3) Alemayo 2, Nelligan 1
Waynflete’s season of nearly non-stop joy and triumph fell just shy of the ultimate prize Saturday evening at the Augusta Civic Center.
The Flyers played from behind almost the whole night against George Stevens Academy in the Class C boys’ basketball state final.
Waynflete led just twice, 2-0 and 5-3, before the Eagles went on a 9-0 run to take the lead for good.
George Stevens Academy was up, 14-7, after one quarter and shot to a 21-12 advantage in the second period after a 3-pointer from sophomore sharpshooter Taylor Schildroth, but the Flyers rallied and got within a point before a late jumper from junior Jarrod Chase made it 25-22 Eagles at the half.
Waynflete drew within a point again when senior Will Nelligan made a layup with 3:48 to go in the third quarter, but a bid from senior standout Milo Belleau for the lead was off target and Chase made it the score 35-32 with a jumper.
After Nelligan missed a 3 which could have tied the score, George Stevens Academy took a 40-35 lead to the fourth quarter.
There, the Eagles slowly pulled away behind a strong defensive effort and solid foul shooting and went on to a 59-46 victory.
George Stevens Academy finished 21-1, won its third Class C title, denied the Flyers their first and ended Waynflete’s excellent season at 19-3.
“You have to give credit to GSA,” said Waynflete coach Rich Henry. “They played very well on both ends of the floor, and they have some very good players, with Schildroth running the show for them. They’re easily one of the more athletic teams we faced, regardless of class, and their coach (Dwayne Carter) did a great job.”
Waynflete lost to Dirigo in last year’s semifinals, but behind a superb senior core, enjoyed a tremendous 16-2 regular season this winter, which included no shortage of last-minute drama.
The Flyers went into the tournament as the No. 4 seed and after ousting No. 5 Wiscasset, 66-47, in the quarterfinals, they avenged last year’s ouster with a 60-45 victory over top-ranked Dirigo in the semifinals. No. 3 Winthrop pushed Waynflete to the wire and then some in the Class C South Final, but the Flyers survived in overtime, 43-41.
George Stevens Academy, which lost to Calais in last year’s regional final, went 17-1 this winter, losing only to eventual Class B North champion Ellsworth. As the top seed in Class C North, the Eagles routed No. 8 Fort Kent (73-28) in the quarterfinals, downed fifth-ranked Schenck (68-39) in the semifinals and eliminated No. 3 Bucksport (55-43) in the regional final.
GSA had won two previous Class C titles: 79-71 over Boothbay in 1979 and 66-58 over Winthrop in 2003.
Waynflete’s lone prior state game appearance came in 2014, an agonizing 58-56 overtime loss to Houlton. In that one, then-sophomores Abel Alemayo (12 points) and Belleau (seven points) both played key roles.
Saturday, the Flyers had no answers for Schildroth and just didn’t shoot well enough to prevail.
Waynflete scored first, as sophomore Christian Brooks scored on a putback 65 seconds in, but the Eagles responded as Schildroth buried a step-back 3 in an ominous sign of things to come.
A 3 from Nelligan gave the Flyers a 5-3 lead with 4:51 to go in the first quarter, but GSA would go on a run to seize control.
A jumper from junior Beckett Slayton tied the score and with 3:45 to go, sophomore Max Mattson’s putback gave the Eagles the lead for good, 7-5.
After Schildroth scored on a jump hook, Slayton buried a 3 to cap a 9-0 run.
A jumper from Belleau ended the surge, but Slayton set up Schildroth for a layup and a 14-7 advantage after eight minutes.
In the first quarter, Schildroth had seven points and Slayton added five.
GSA threatened to run away in the second period, but Waynflete battled back.
A layup from Nelligan started the quarter, but Schildroth hit a turnaround jumper, then, after a pretty crossover dribble, Schildroth made another jumper for an 18-9 lead.
After junior Yai Deng made a free throw for the Flyers, Belleau set up Brooks for a layup, but with 4:34 to go in the half, Schildroth sank another 3 for a 21-12 advantage.
Waynflete started to scratch back, as Belleau made a free throw, then, after taking a feed from Alemayo, Belleau drove for a layup making it 21-15.
The Eagles countered with a floater from Schildroth, but Alemayo sank a 3, Nelligan set up Deng for a layup and with 1:02 left in the half, Belleau set up Nelligan for a bank shot which cut the deficit to a mere point, 23-22.
GSA didn’t give up the lead, however, and extended it when Chase made a jumper with 45 seconds remaining and the Eagles had a 25-22 advantage at the half.
In the first half, Schildroth led the way with 16 points. GSA made 11 of 27 field goals. Nelligan paced the Flyers with seven points, but they only made 9 of 30 shots from the floor.
The third quarter was nip and tuck and ultimately was frustrating for Waynflete, which had a look at the lead, but couldn’t convert.
Schildroth set up Slayton for a 3 to start the second half scoring, but Belleau answered with a runner. After Schildroth extended the lead back to seven, 31-24, with a 3, Brooks scored on a jump hook.
A jumper in the lane from Slayton restored a seven-point lead, but Belleau made two free throws, Deng banked home a shot after a nice drop step and with 3:48 remaining in the frame, Belleau set up Nelligan for a layup (the shot was blocked, but goaltending was ruled) and just like that, the deficit was a mere point, 33-32.
The Flyers got the ball back and got the ball in the hands of Belleau, who took a shot for the lead, but it was off target and Waynflete would never again get so close to going ahead.
With 3:09 left in the quarter, Chase’s jumper made it 35-32.
Nelligan missed a 3-pointer which could have tied the score and Schildroth made the Flyers pay, setting up senior Nick Szwez for a layup.
Brooks fed Belleau for a layup-and-one, but Belleau missed the free throw and after Slayton hit a clutch corner 3 (coming at the end of a madcap flurry for a loose ball), Deng’s free throw made it 40-35 GSA heading for the final period.
There, the Eagles put it away.
Twenty seconds into the fourth, Schildroth fed Mattson for a layup, but Brooks countered with a jump hook.
GSA then rattled off seven quick points to establish its biggest lead.
Schildroth started the surge with a jumper that rattled around and in. After Mattson made two free throws, Szwez converted an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 49-37 with 3:44 to play.
With time getting short, Nelligan tried to spark a rally with a jumper, but Chase scored on a putback and two Schildroth free throws with 2:35 remaining put the Eagles on top, 53-39, effectively ending the competitive phase of the contest.
A layup after a steal from Belleau and a Deng layup with 1:44 left cut the deficit to 10, but the Flyers would draw no closer.
Two Chase free throws with 1:05 left were followed by two more Chase foul shots 20 seconds later.
With 32 seconds left, an Alemayo 3 finished Waynflete’s scoring.
Three seconds later, Schildroth, fittingly, brought the curtain down with two more free throws and GSA prevailed, 59-46.
“We battled back from some early deficits, but couldn’t get the lead after the first few minutes,” Henry said. “We cut the lead to one, but they would hit a big shot or make a big stop.
“If someone would have told me that we’d be 16-2 going into the tournament, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. I actually had some conversations with people about the likelihood that our regular season win/loss record might not be the same as the past few years, but that we’d be tournament-tested. Well, the team really exceeded my expectations there and that’s something to really take note of and appreciate.”
Schildroth led all scorers with 25 points. He also had six assists, five rebounds and three steals in a transcendent performance.
“I love this game,” Schildroth said. “Every game, I just play it like it could be my last one.”
Slayton added 13 points (to go with four rebounds and two assists). Chase had 10 points, Mattson six (as well as 11 rebounds and three blocked shots) and Szwez five.
“I would hate to play us,” Schildroth said. “If someone’s having an off night there’s someone else to step up.”
The Eagles turned the ball over 10 times, but made all 11 of their free throws, which all came in the fourth quarter.
“Physically, (the Flyers) were bigger than we thought,” Carter said. “We thought they were going to be a little shorter, but I thought our size and our rebounding and our defense was key.”
Belleau, who produced a career’s worth of thrills just this winter alone, capped his marvelous run with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, four steals and a blocked shot.
“Milo certainly receives a great deal of attention and deservedly so,” Henry said. “His level of performance has improved each year and he’s added a maturity in his approach to the game that puts him in rare company in the state. Milo almost single-handedly won three games for us this year in the closing seconds – against Fryeburg, Traip, and of course, Falmouth. Two things that might go unnoticed, he did it on the defensive as well as the offensive end of the floor against Winthrop with the big block and he was quick to attribute his teammates for the play – they set the screen, they got him the ball in the right situation, etc. It goes as a testament to the kind of ‘team-first’ player that he is.”
Nelligan, who was at his best on the Augusta Civic Center floor, had 11 points.
“Will’s a coach’s dream,” Henry said. “Everything he did on and off the court provided an example to younger players in terms of how to go about your business. He played an increasing role from his sophomore year onwards. That old adage about putting in the work and having it pay off? All-Conference, top 10 in 3-pointers made, designated defender for the other teams best guard – Will did it all this year and barely said a word. Will is a true student-athlete with an outstanding academic record to go along with his athletic accomplishments. He provided the kind of quiet leadership that will be very, very hard to replace, but I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the chance to coach him.”
Brooks, who played very well late in the season, had eight points and 11 rebounds.
Deng also had eight points and Alemayo bowed out with six points.
“Abel has been a starter since his sophomore year, along with Milo, and his steady, cerebral play at the point was the catalyst for what this team was able to accomplish on offense and defense,” Henry said. “He had a total commitment to what we’re trying to accomplish and he held that standard up in words and deeds. He’s probably 140 pounds soaking wet, but he led the team in charges for three years in a row, as well as being the distributor that got the ball to the right people at the right time.”
The Flyers only turned the ball over six times, but shot just 5 of 11 from the foul line.
Alemayo, Belleau and Nelligan aren’t the only key seniors to depart. Willy Burdick, a sixth-man extraordinaire, will also graduate in the spring.
“Willy was our sixth starter,” Henry said. “Someone we could plug into the lineup based on injury, illness or matchup and never worry about his preparation or what impact it would have on the team. That’s extremely rare and one of the reasons for our success during his time here. Willy could literally change the tempo of the game with his defensive tenacity and penetration into the lane and we took advantage of that so many times during his playing days that I’ve almost lost count.”
In all, this senior class has left an indelible legacy.
“I’ve been really fortunate to have some great senior leaders over the years and have not had a better group of leaders, across the board, than this group,” Henry said.
Waynflete will certainly have some enormous shoes to fill in 2016-17, but the cupboard isn’t exactly bare. Brooks and Deng will lead the way and they’ll be joined by several players eager to make a mark.
Anyone expecting the Flyers to plummet down the standings will likely be surprised and disappointed.
“I think we’ll be a little more frontcourt-oriented than the past two years, with Yai and Christian as returning players,” Henry said. “We have (junior) Jack Meahl returning from an injury that kept him from playing in any games this year and that experience has him raring to go. We have seniors-to-be in Brandon Ameglio and Abdul Mohamed and we’ll be looking for major contributions from them. Juniors to-be John Veroneau and Abdi Mohamed should be ready to have an impact as well. Our freshmen didn’t get a lot of varsity time this year, but they have potential to step up and try to fill some big shoes. Alex Saade, Mossaid Mohammed, Burr Rhoads and Charlie Ngoal, all of them learned so much over the course of the year. A couple of them came up to me after the state game and said, ‘We get it now, we’ll be ready for next year.’ That’s about all you can hope for as a coach.
“The baton has been passed from that group of outstanding seniors. It’s up to the next group of players to step up.”
Bangor Daily News staff writer Ryan McLaughlin contributed to this story.
Waynflete senior Will Nelligan drives hard to the basket. Nelligan had 11 points in his final game.
Waynflete junior Yai Deng leans in for a shot.
Waynflete senior Milo Belleau drives past George Stevens Academy sophomore Taylor Schildroth.
Waynflete sophomore Christian Brooks shoots over George Stevens Academy junior Beckett Slayton.
Waynflete senior Abel Alemayo drives on George Stevens Academy junior Beckett Slayton.
2014 Class C
Houlton 58 Waynflete 56 (OT)
1979 Class C
GSA 79 Boothbay 71
2003 Class C
GSA 66 Winthrop 58