Waynflete senior Abel Alemayo goes up for two of his team-high 23 points during the Flyers’ 66-47 win over Wiscasset in a Class C South quarterfinal Monday night. Waynflete will face top-ranked Dirigo in the semifinals Thursday.
Brian Beard photos.
More photos below.
Wi- 12 10 15 10- 47
Wa- 20 16 15 15- 66
Wi- James 12-2-31, Lynch 2-0-4, Marr 2-0-4, Roberts 2-0-4, Hefler 1-0-2, Orr 1-0-2
Wa- Alemayo 8-3-23, Belleau 8-2-19, Nelligan 4-1-11, Deng 4-0-8, Burdick 2-0-4, Brooks 0-1-1
Wi (5) James 5
Wa (7) Alemayo 4, Nelligan 2, Belleau 1
AUGUSTA—Prior to the playoffs, Waynflete boys’ basketball coach Rich Henry said his most fervent wish was for his team to put together four quarters of consistent, “Waynflete basketball.”
Monday evening at the Augusta Civic Center, the Flyers weren’t perfect, but they sure produced their best 32-minute effort of the season and as a result, live to play another day.
And perhaps longer.
Waynflete hardly resembled a team that last took the floor a week-and-a-half ago, riding a pair of early 3-pointers from senior Will Nelligan to set the tone for a stellar performance against Wiscasset in a Class C South quarterfinal.
The fourth-ranked Flyers trailed only once and opened a 20-12 lead after one quarter, as Nelligan had six points, seniors Abel Alemayo and Milo Belleau added five apiece and junior Yai Deng had four.
Alemayo had a terrific second period as well, senior Willy Burdick came off the bench and made a couple key baskets and Waynflete opened up its lead to 36-22 at the break.
Fifth-ranked Wiscasset, behind its junior standout Ethan James, hung tough in the third quarter, but could never draw closer than 10 points and the Flyers took a 51-37 advantage to the fourth quarter.
There, Waynflete refused to let the Wolverines entertain any comeback hopes and they stretched their lead to as many as 21 points before settling for a 66-47 victory.
Alemayo had 23 points, Belleau added 19 and Nelligan had 11 as the Flyers improved to 15-4, overcame James’ 31 points, ended Wiscasset’s season at 14-6 and advanced to meet top-ranked Dirigo (18-1) in the semifinals Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in Augusta.
“We’re not quite there yet, but I was really pleased with the way the kids played considering we haven’t played in seemingly forever,” Henry said. “A couple weeks, but it seems like longer than that. This is such an exciting place to play and the kids were so keyed up to play, I was worried about the first three, four minutes, but that’s the beauty of having seniors. I thought they did a great job. The kids didn’t let a 10-point lead be enough. They kept playing.”
The top 11 teams in Class C South won a minimum of 11 games and six squads won 13 or more this winter, making the region arguably the deepest around.
Waynflete had another terrific season, alternating decisive victories with improbable late triumphs thanks to the heroics of Belleau, but even a 16-2 mark couldn’t garner the Flyers anything higher than the No. 4 seed.
Wiscasset had a solid 13-5 campaign, wound up fifth, then eliminated No. 12 Buckfield in a preliminary round contest Wednesday.
The teams don’t play in the regular season. Waynflete won both prior playoff meetings, 50-48 in an overtime thriller in the 2011 quarterfinal round and 59-48 in the 2012 quarterfinals.
Monday, both teams showcased their skills, but the Flyers had more standouts to turn to and that made the difference.
Nelligan was sizzling early, opening the scoring with a 3-pointer 14 seconds in, then, after Wiscasset junior Kevin Lynch hit a long jumper, Nelligan pulled up for another 3-ball and a 6-2 lead.
“Warmups went really well,” Nelligan said. “We had shoot-arounds the prior two days too. The only way to get over not playing is practicing hard. We brought the intensity in practice.”
The Wolverines then scored six straight to grab their only lead, as James connected on successive 3s, but Belleau set up senior Abel Alemayo to put Waynflete back on top, 9-8.
Belleau then set up Deng for an up-and-under layup and Belleau got in on the scoring act with a jumper to make it 13-8, forcing Wiscasset coach Dana Lawrence to call timeout.
Lynch muscled his way for a layup to end the Flyers’ run, but Belleau answered right back with a long 3 and Deng drove the baseline after a pretty move before finishing with a layup to make it 18-10.
Wiscasset junior Grant Hefler drove for a layup, but as time wound down in the very productive first quarter, Alemayo went coast to coast for a layup and a 20-12 lead.
Nelligan had six points, Alemayo and Belleau five apiece and Deng four as Waynflete, which didn’t turn the ball over once, an amazing stat considering the stakes and venue, built a lead.
In the second period, the Flyers stayed red-hot.
A jumper from senior Willy Burdick got Waynflete started. After James made a bank shot while being fouled and hit the free throw to complete an old-fashioned three-point play, Burdick drove into the lane and hit a runner.
“Willy always gives us energy,” Henry said. “He’s given us energy since his sophomore year. He’s the kind of kid we can bring off the bench and we know he’ll deliver.”
After Waynflete committed its first turnover over 10 minutes in, Belleau got a shooter’s roll on a jumper for a 26-15 advantage.
The Wolverines got two points back when Hefler fed junior Logan Orr for a layup, but Alemayo hit a 3 and Belleau added two free throws to make it 31-17.
Wiscasset went on a mini-run, as junior Cody Roberts hit a jumper and James converted another three-point play, but Alemayo calmly sank another 3 and inside the final minute, Alemayo’s floater gave the Flyers a 36-22 advantage.
“I like shooting here,” Alemayo said. “It’s a nice gym. In practice, we’ve worked on staying composed and not getting caught up in a bad play or a bad shot and sticking with our game plan.”
Alemayo led all first half scorers with 13 points. Belleau added nine. Waynflete committed a total of one turnover in the first 16 minutes.
In the third period, James did his best to rally the Wolverines, but the Flyers rose to the challenge.
James started the second half with a putback, then hit a 3, but Nelligan got a point back at the line and Alemayo fed Deng for a layup.
James made a layup after a steal, but Belleau answered with a jumper to make it 41-29 with 3:19 left in the quarter.
After Wiscasset got a driving layup from junior Russell Marr, Nelligan got a pass from Alemayo and finished a layup with his left hand. Marr hit a jumper, but Alemayo made a 3, then drove for a layup while being fouled and added the free throw to complete a thee-point play for a 49-33 lead.
James answered with a jumper and after Belleau made a floater, James scored on a putback to make it 51-37 after three.
In the fourth period, Waynflete put it away.
Just 14 seconds in, Alemayo fed Belleau for a layup. After James made a 3, Alemayo had a steal and passed ahead to Nelligan for a layup. Lynch scored on a putback and with 5:10 remaining, James made another 3 to make it a 10-point game, 55-45.
That’s as close as it got, however, as first Belleau got a lucky bounce after appearing to lose the ball, collected it and laid it in and the next time down, Burdick set up Belleau for a runner off the glass and a 59-45 advantage with 3:52 left.
After Flyers sophomore Christian Brooks made his first free throw, but missed the second with 2:33 to go, Alemayo hustled to grab the offensive rebound and keep possession. Alemayo was rewarded for his hard work when he drove for a layup seconds later.
Alemayo added two free throws and Alemayo set up Deng for a layup to finish Waynflete’s scoring. A bank shot from James with just under a minute to play accounted for the 66-47 final score.
“We had good looks to start,” Belleau said. “We got the offense moving. Once we got a fluid offense, backdoor cuts, that’s when it opened up.”
“We really shot the ball well and that’s a tribute to these kids,” Henry said. “We talk about taking good 3s, getting the defense moving.”
Alemayo got a well-deserved turn in the limelight after leading the Flyers with 23 points. He also had five assists, four rebounds and three steals.
“(Abel) hit some 3s which opened up everything else,” Nelligan said. “He was able to get to the hoop.”
“Abel has been on this floor since his freshman year and has been starting since his sophomore year,” Henry said. “He’s the floor general. He sets the tempo emotionally and with how we distribute the ball and run our offense. He’s just a very smart player. He plays within himself and makes everyone else better.”
Belleau quietly put together another terrific game, scoring 19 points, grabbing eight rebounds, dishing out six assists, grabbing two steals and blocking a shot.
“I was patient and let the game come to me,” Belleau said. “The mid-range jumpers were there. I was trying to get to the hoop, so I was frustrated there.”
“Milo gets the ball and everything opens up,” Alemayo said. “Everyone focuses on him.”
“Milo never forces anything, which is the mark of a great player,” Henry said. “He’s like (former Waynflete standout) Serge (Nyirikamba) that way. He’s a tough matchup.”
Nelligan provided the spark early and he also wound up in double figures with 11 points.
“Will has been such a key for us, stat-sheet-wise and off the stat sheet, just with the leadership and consistency he brings, his demeanor,” Henry said. “He even passed up a couple 3s. He’s such a conscientious kid. He’s a good kid. I’m fortunate to coach him.”
Deng added eight points (four rebounds and three blocks), Burdick had four points and Brooks one.
Waynflete’s ball-handling was sensational, as it committed only three turnovers.
“I was very pleased with our ball-handling,” Henry said. “We have very strong guards and when they’re into the game mentally, that helps.”
The Flyers sank 7 of 11 free throws.
Wiscasset was led by James’ transcendent effort (31 points, seven rebounds and a steal).
“He’s a great shooter, a great player,” Henry said. “He stayed composed the whole way. I was really impressed with his skill set.”
Lynch (seven boards), Marr and Roberts had four points apiece, while Hefler and Orr (three assists) finished with two each.
The Wolverines also took good care of the ball (seven turnovers) and made 2 of 6 free throws.
Each team had 20 rebounds.
Last season, Waynflete’s bid for a repeat regional title was denied by Dirigo in the semifinals (58-36). That gave the Cougars a 3-1 all-time lead in the postseason series, which dates to 2009 (the Flyers’ lone victory came in the 2013 semifinals).
Dirigo (which lost to Calais in last year’s Class C state final) went 17-1 in the regular season and eliminated No. 8 Richmond in its quarterfinal Monday, 82-36.
The Cougars feature one of the state’s elite talents in senior Riley Robinson and he’ll be Waynflete’s focal point Thursday night.
The Flyers are eager for the challenge and believe they have what it takes to continue their season.
“We’ve been here before,” Belleau said. “We’ve had veteran teams in years past, but our ‘core four’ have worked hard the entire year and we’re ready for the moment. We’re excited for it. We wanted (another chance at Dirigo). We have to take care of Riley Robinson. There’s no stress. We just have to go get it. We know we can play with anybody.”
“Our schedule helped us prepare us for the tournament,” Alemayo said. “We have to stop Riley Robinson. He’s a force. He’s only gotten better from last year. We remember winning (the regional title) sophomore year and we want that feeling again. The seniors have grown up playing together. We know it’s our last shot.”
“Everything we’ve focused on so far has led us to this point,” Nelligan said. “We’ll leave it all out on the court.”
“They have a very talented player and they’re very well-coached,” Henry added. “Travis (Magnusson) and I are getting to know each other. We’ll watch film and put together a game plan in the next few days.”
Waynflete senior Milo Belleau drives past a defender and makes a layup.
Waynflete junior Yai Deng looks for a shot.
Waynflete senior Willy Burdick drives past a defender.
Waynflete senior Will Nelligan goes up for a shot.
Waynflete senior Abel Alemayo looks to pass.
2012 Western C quarterfinal
Waynflete 59 Wiscasset 48
2011 Western C quarterfinal
Waynflete 50 Wiscasset 48 (OT)