Waynflete gets a scare, fights off Wiscasset in quarterfinal

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AUGUSTA—The score at the end of three quarters was Waynflete 49, Wiscasset 33. The Wiscasset fans seated behind media row were growing frustrated and it seemed all that was left was to play out the final eight minutes of the game.

However, after third-seeded Boothbay fell to sixth-seeded Old Orchard Beach by 30 points in the earlier game of the day, the smell of the upset still hung heavy in the air at the Augusta Civic Center. The final score was Waynflete 59-48, but that wasn’t indicative of how competitive the fourth quarter was.

“(In the fourth quarter) we started passing a little bit more than we had. That’s the other side of having a balanced team,” said Waynflete head coach Rich Henry half-jokingly after the game. “Our team doesn’t just see us doing something well and keep going back to it, they tend to try other things and diversify. There was a moment there we got a little shaky handling the ball late, but once we set our screens and ran our offense the right way, we got it straightened out.”

That diversity helped Wiscasset cut the lead of the Flyers to just four points with 1:11 remaining after Wiscasset senior Caleb Bryant, who finished with four points in his final game, hit two free throws to make it 52-48.

Waynflete’s offense, which had been held without a field goal and only four total points in the fourth quarter, finally re-awakened on the ensuing possession, as junior Paul Runyambo drove the lane for two and the foul, scoring Waynflete’s first field goal of the fourth quarter and making it 54-48 (he missed the free throw).

Wiscasset was unable to score on the other end and it was time for more heroics from Runyambo, this time converting the old-fashioned three point play after sinking a driving layup while getting fouled. That made it 57-48, and the final dagger had been driven into the hearts of Wolverines.

“Paul is such a good athlete,” said Henry, of Runyambo, who finished with 11 points for the game. “He’s a great soccer player and he can jump out of the gym. We wanted to be able to use his athleticism and we were able to do that tonight. If he gets up in the air, he’s tough to stop.”

Waynflete had the size advantage and took full advantage of it, cleaning up point-blank misses from Wiscasset from start to finish, altering and blocking shots making going down-low difficult for Wiscasset. Runyambo also had a huge block late in the fourth quarter on Wiscasset freshman Travis Padilla, taking momentum away from the surging Wolverines.

“When I go back after this game, we’ll see that we lost this game in the paint,” said Wiscasset head coach Dana Lawrence. “We don’t have a lot of height, but Caleb (Bryant) and Jason (Weatherbee) did everything they could down low. We had chances, but in the end, it just wasn’t enough.”

Wiscasset was led by sharp-shooting senior guard Jordan Jones, who finished with 17 points, 15 of which came off of 3-pointers. Guard Devin Grover finished with 13 points in spite of injury.

Before the game, Henry was sitting with his team, watching Boothbay fall to the Gulls.

Did the No. 2 seed have any fear the same thing could happen to them?

“When we were in the stands watching, I think we were split,” said Henry. “Half of us wanted to see Old Orchard win because they represented our conference, but the other half know when you see a six seed beat a three seed, you’re thinking ‘Hmm, seven seed versus two seed, what’s going to happen here?’“

Junior guard Jack Cutler was on the side thinking about the upset and was a little worried.

“Jack was one of the nervous ones,” said Henry. “I told him to go out during warmups, dribble the ball a bit, shoot around, get knocked around a little and you’ll get it all out of your system. When he keeps his head in the game, we’re in good shape.”

Serge Nyirikamba had 13 points in the game, including three 3-pointers and junior Max Belleau finished with a team high 14 points for the Flyers.

Coach Henry praised his team’s balance after the game.

“We have balance, which is a blessing and a curse,” said Henry. “A blessing because you know you can weather the storm, the curse being you don’t know who is going to weather it. Max is probably our most versatile player, when he has the ball in his hands, good things happen.”

The advice worked as Cutler finished the first half with nine points, pacing the Flyers to a 32-24 halftime lead.

“Coach talked about coming out hard, and playing smart,” said Cutler, who finished with 10 points. “It seems like we play Wiscasset in the first round of everything, soccer, basketball…they fought hard and we had a little of bit of a lull. When you realize it could be your last game, the energy level picks up. Jordan Jones is a great player and a great shooter and you could tell he didn’t want this to be his last game. We played a really good team tonight and we’re glad to be able to move on.”

“We’ve been trying to pride ourselves on our defense,” said Henry. “We have some kids who are starting to realize we could be on the verge of something very special.”

Semifinal showdown

Waynflete advanced to face Old Orchard (12-7), a team they have beaten twice already this season.

“You know the old adage about beating a team three times in a season,” said Henry. “They are very well-coached, they are familiar with us and they are coming in on a high right now. As you saw in the first game, they are playing really well.”

Waynflete is facing a brand new Old Orchard team, one that has won 10 of it last 11 games, and is coming off of a 30-point victory.

The first matchup between these teams occurred on opening night, Dec. 9. Waynflete jumped to a 31-15 halftime lead and never looked back in a 53-35 win. The rematch was also won by Waynflete, although Old Orchard Beach got to within four points of the Flyers in fourth quarter before Waynflete pulled away for a 54-41 victory.

The winner will advance to the Western Class C Final, which is Saturday, also in Augusta.

Waynflete’s Abshir Horor blows past a Wiscasset defender.

Waynflete’s Jack Cutler fends off a defender on the dribble.

Waynflete’s Jack Cutler floats a shot over a Wiscasset defender.b

Waynflete’s Max Belleau lines up a shot.

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Waynflete’s Paul Runyambo soars about a Wiscasset defender during the Flyers’ 59-48 victory in a Western Class C quarterfinal Monday afternoon.

More photos below.

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