PORTLAND—When the Waynflete boys’ basketball team is on, it truly is a sight to behold.
Saturday afternoon, the Flyers put on a dizzying display of jawdropping first quarter basketball and the rival North Yarmouth Academy Panthers could only stand by and marvel.
After the Panthers scored the first basket of the game, Waynflete ripped off 24 successive points, scoring in transition, on second chance looks and behind strong shooting to effectively end the competitive phase of the contest.
After NYA crawled within 13 points in the second quarter, the Flyers ended all doubt by opening up a 39-16 halftime lead, as they boasted as many offensive rebounds (11) as the Panthers had total boards in the first 16 minutes. Combine that with the nearly unstoppable force named senior Serge Nyirikamba, the whirling dervish of excellence named senior Harry Baker-Connick and hot-shooting sophomore Milo Belleau and Waynflete was simply impossible to counter.
The Flyers pushed their lead to 58-22 after three quarters and went on to a 75-35 victory, as Nyirikamba led all players with 19 points and 16 rebounds, Baker-Connick stuffed the stat sheet, Belleau drained four 3-pointers and several other players stepped up as well as Waynflete continued to recover from its first loss earlier in the week, at Yarmouth, to improve to 8-1, snapping NYA’s five-game win streak and dropping the Panthers to 6-3 in the process.
“We’ve been trying to start better,” said Flyers coach Rich Henry. “Yarmouth gave us an example of how to start better and the kids really took that to heart. Yarmouth’s a quality club. They’re well coached. Their philosophy is to get off to a good start. You can talk about it and when you see the impact it has on the game, it’s easier for the kids to understand and apply it.”
Both NYA and Waynflete entered the season believing they could be in the hunt this winter.
The Flyers, a regional finalist last winter, opened with an emphatic 92-35 home win over Greater Portland Christian School and haven’t looked back, following that victory up with a 77-23 home romp over Sacopee Valley, a 66-42 triumph at NYA, a hard-fought 67-51 home win over Old Orchard Beach and a 52-38 victory at Traip. Last Saturday, Waynflete made a statement with a decisive 64-36 home victory over Western B contender Wells, but the Flyers finally stumbled Tuesday at Western B power Yarmouth, 86-64. Thursday, they got back in the win column with an 83-22 win at A.R. Gould.
The Panthers, who went 7-11 and missed the playoffs in 2012-13, edged visiting Traip in the opener, 51-50, then lost at home to Waynflete (66-42) and Old Orchard Beach (67-52). NYA then rattled off five straight victories, its longest streak since the 2007-08 season, downing visiting A.R. Gould (76-42), Sacopee Valley (76-51) and Pine Tree Academy (59-26) and host Seacoast Christian (51-48) and Hyde (44-42).
Waynflete’s win over NYA last month was its ninth in a row in the series, giving the Flyers a 17-11 advantage dating to the start of the 2001-02 season (please see sidebar, below). The last time the Panthers beat Waynflete was Jan. 3, 2009, a 37-33 victory in Portland.
Saturday, Waynflete made it 10 in a row, thanks to its first quarter surge (or Serge, if you prefer).
NYA appeared to get off to a promising start when junior D.J. Nicholas knocked down a 3 44 seconds in, but that would prove to be the Panthers’ highwater mark. They wouldn’t score again until the waning seconds of the first period.
It took the Flyers all of 40 seconds to take the lead for good.
Senior Henry Cleaves got Waynflete on the board with a driving layup and the next time down, Cleaves set up Nyirikamba for a layup. Nyirikamba was fouled on the play and added the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play for a 5-3 advantage.
That was just the beginning.
Baker-Connick delivered his first assist, to Nyirikamba, who made a layup, Nyirikamba then scored on a putback while being fouled and completed the three-point play with a free throw, then scored on a third-effort putback while being fouled and made another free throw for a 13-3 lead.
“As a team, we try to crash the boards, even the guards,” Nyirikamba said. “I take pride in that. As a big man, I’m always looking for second chance points. Those are the easiest points around.”
“We talk about the fact that we’ll see a lot of zone and zones create a lot of offensive rebounding opportunities,” Henry said. “(The guys are) figuring it out. Henry’s doing a great job of getting to the weak side. He gets one, then they have to worry about him and Serge gets one.”
If that wasn’t enough, Belleau hit his first 3 (assisted by Nyirikamba), Cleaves made two foul shots after being fouled on an offensive rebound, sophomore Pace Hutchinson scored on a putback, Baker-Connick showed his athleticism with a driving layup and with 51.3 seconds to go in the quarter, senior Joey Schnier was fouled after an offensive rebound and made both free throws to complete the sensational 24-0 run.
A bank shot from Nicholas with 14.1 seconds left ended a 7 minute, 2 second drought and pulled NYA within 24-5 at quarter’s end.
To their credit, the Panthers made things interesting for a time in the second period.
A leaner from junior Chase Gendron, a layup by freshman Haven Cutko off a feed from Gendron on an inbounds pass, and a leaner from Cutko pulled NYA within 13, 24-11, but Waynflete answered and put it away by halftime.
A layup by Cleaves (assisted by Baker-Connick) ended the Panthers’ 8-0 run and a 4:02 dry spell and Baker-Connick added a long 3 to make it 29-11.
After Gendron made two free throws, Baker-Connick found an open Belleau, who knocked down a 3-ball, Cleaves made two free throws and Nyirikamba scored on a putback to stretch the lead to 36-13.
Gendron countered with a jumper and Cutko made a foul shot, but with just 9.1 seconds remaining, Baker-Connick found Belleau again and Belleau again drained a 3 for a 39-16 advantage at the break.
“Without Harry, our transition’s a lot slower,” said Belleau. “It’s really helpful to have a guy who’s that quick. He makes our jobs simpler.”
In the first 16 minutes, the Flyers dominated on the glass, forced 14 Panthers’ turnovers and got 13 points and eight rebounds from Nyirikamba, nine points from Belleau (on three 3s), eight points from Cleaves and five points, four assists, three rebounds and a steal from Baker-Connick.
Little changed in the second half.
Waynflete’s first hoop of the third period was as easy as 1-2-3, as Baker-Connick (who wears number 1) found sophomore Abel Alemayo (number 2) and Alemayo hit a 3-pointer.
NYA countered with a layup from senior Jackson Cohan-Smith and senior Forrest Chicoine set up Nicholas for a fastbreak layup, but the Flyers would close the quarter on a 16-2 run, as Nyirikamba scored on a third-effort putback, Nyirikamba made a layup after a steal, Baker-Connick weaved through the defense for a layup, Baker-Connick set up Belleau for another 3, Alemayo selflessly passed up an easy hoop and set up Nyirikamba for a layup and after Cohan-Smith made a layup after a steal, Hutchinson completed a three-point play and after blocking a shot at one end, Schnier made a layup at the other to make the score 58-22 heading for the final stanza.
There, Panthers’ freshman Jake Malcom and Schnier traded jumpers, Nicholas tipped home a missed shot, but sophomore Willy Burdick made two foul shots for the Flyers. Senior Ryan Hemenway made a 3 for the visitors, but sophomore Will Nelligan was the recipient of a gorgeous pass from Baker-Connick and made a layup, then, seconds later, Baker-Connick again found Nelligan for a layup and a 66-29 lead.
“We’re getting better at pushing it off the break,” Baker-Connick said. “We didn’t run as much against Yarmouth and we learned from that. When we push it, it’s easier for us to score.”
Gendron made a layup, but Cleaves made a free throw, Baker-Connick made jaws drop with a gorgeous reverse layup after a steal and Burdick made a layup after a steal. NYA then got a spinning layup from Cutko after a steal. Freshman Charlie Lyall and Yai Deng made layups for Waynflete’s final points before a baseline jumper from sophomore Sean McMullan of the Panthers brought the curtain down on the 75-35 Flyers’ victory.
“This game, we came out and controlled the tempo the whole game,” said Nyirikamba. “Yarmouth taught us that on any given night, a team can beat us. I think it made us stay humble.”
The Flyers produced a marvelous team effort.
Nyirikamba led the way with 19 points and 16 rebounds, both game highs. He also had a pair of steals and a blocked shot.
“People might not know how good he is, because Serge is so unassuming and not very demonstrative,” Henry said. “He just plays his game and plays it well. There’s no wasted motion. He leads by example. He’s a pleasure to be around.”
Belleau sank four of his team’s six 3-pointers for 12 points. He also had five rebounds and three steals.
“If I get off to a good start, it’s really helpful,” Belleau said. “If I make them, I’ll keep shooting.”
“Milo has grown up a lot,” Henry said. “He’s really worked hard over the summer and he’s seeing that hard work pay off. The game seems slower to him now, which you like to see.”
Baker-Connick had nine points, nine assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
“Everyone has their roles,” said Baker-Connick. “I’m more of an assister and play tough D.”
“I can’t say enough good things about Harry,” Henry said. “As great as a player as he is, he’s an even better leader and a better young man. He’s just a pleasure to coach and a pleasure to have in the program.”
Schnier played a key role off the bench with six points. five boards and a block.
“Joe’s a glue guy,” said Henry. “He had a knee problem, then he had his wisdom teeth out. We’re trying to work him back into the rotation. He’s played four years. He knows what it takes.”
Cleaves added nine points, six rebounds and four steals, Hutchinson had five points (and six rebounds), Burdick and Nelligan had four apiece, Alemayo three and Deng and Lyall two each.
Waynflete almost doubled up NYA when it came to rebounds, 48-25. Nearly half (21) were on the offensive glass. The Flyers also had 16 steals.
Waynflete committed 17 turnovers, but forced 25, and finished 13 of 20 from the free throw line as it continued its recent dominance over the Panthers.
“When I first got here, (NYA) had unbelievable teams with unbelievable players and they were someone we looked up toward,” Henry said. “We still have a great deal of respect for them.”
NYA was led by Nicholas with nine points. Gendron had eight (and a team-high five rebounds), Cutko seven, Cohan-Smith four, Hemenway three and Malcom and McMullan two apiece. The Panthers attempted just five free throws and sank three.
“We’re disappointed with the score being what it was,” said NYA coach Jason Knight. “We played them tough for two-and-a-half quarters the first time at home. They just played great defensively. We knew that coming in. Their intensity, switching, their help defense really caused us problems. We didn’t do a good job getting the ball inside to establish rhythm. We had some success with that the other day against Hyde. Our defensive transition wasn’t there either. They have such great shooters. Milo was tremendous. Harry’s just a tremendous visionary. He sees the floor well. I wasn’t happy with our rebounding effort. We worked hard on that in practice. We knew they were very active. We tried to control the boards, but that set the tone.”
This winter, for the first time in a long time, NYA and Waynflete are in different classes, meaning Saturday’s game was the last time they’ll see each other.
The Panthers returned to Class D this winter for the first time since the 2004-5 season and have a shot to be a factor come February. First, NYA (now sixth in the Heal Points standings) needs to win some games to help its cause.
The Panthers are back in action Tuesday at home versus A.R. Gould. Trips to Richmond and Hyde and home tests against Traip, Richmond and Old Orchard Beach also loom large.
NYA is seeking to end a four-year playoff drought and won’t be content just getting there.
“I’m very pleased so far,” said Knight. “I think we’re where I hoped we’d be. We had a key injury early to (junior) Eoin Anderson, but our freshmen and D.J., who’s new to the program, have stepped up. Eoin is still a couple weeks away. I’m looking forward to getting fully healthy. We’re looking forward to the second half of the season. I feel like we can make noise in the tournament. The guys have the expectation of making a deep run. A lot of the D teams beat up on each other. We’re playing a tough schedule which will help us down the road. Wherever we end up, as long as we’re in, I like our chances to make a run.”
The Flyers are now fourth in Western C. They play a pair of Western B teams next week, Lake Region Tuesday at home and Poland on the road Friday. Tough tests also remain against visiting Traip and Hyde and at Old Orchard Beach.
Waynflete’s goal is simple. It wants to get back to the regional final and take the next step.
“If we play with intensity like today, we’ll be in every game,” Belleau said. “Our offense and defense both run through transition. If we can get out and run, that controls our success. We know we can always play better.”
“Whatever seed we get, we’ll be happy with,” said Baker-Connick. “We want to get better every game. We got really far last year. To lose on that stage did not feel good. All the returning players know how that felt and we don’t want to feel that again.”
“Next week’s big for us,” Henry added. “January’s basically the basketball season. We’re more than halfway through. The kids know that.”
Waynflete sophomore Abel Alemayo brings the ball up the court.
Waynflete senior Harry Baker-Connick runs the offense. Baker-Connick did a little of everything in the victory.
Waynflete sophomore Milo Belleau, who had four 3-pointers, runs the break.
NYA senior Forrest Chicoine launches a shot.
Waynflete senior Henry Cleaves goes hard to the basket.
NYA senior Jackson Cohan-Smith goes up for a layup.
NYA junior Chase Gendron shoots over Waynflete senior Serge Nyirikamba.
Waynflete senior Serge Nyirikamba leans in for a shot.
@ Waynflete 66 NYA 42
@ Waynflete 70 NYA 28
Waynflete 80 @ NYA 42
@ Waynflete 57 NYA 18
Waynflete 63 @ NYA 35
@ Waynflete 41 NYA 40
Waynflete 40 @ NYA 27
Waynflete 39 @ NYA 22
@ Waynflete 42 NYA 34
@ NYA 40 Waynflete 35
NYA 37 @ Waynflete 33
NYA 50 @ Waynflete 40
Waynflete 62 @ NYA 59
Waynflete 47 @ NYA 43
@ Waynflete 58 NYA 42
@ Waynflete 53 NYA 37
@ Waynflete 45 NYA 43 (OT)
Waynflete 55 @ NYA 39
@ NYA 49 Waynflete 40
NYA 62 @ Waynflete 45
@ NYA 71 Waynflete 52
@ NYA 55 Waynflete 31
NYA 67 @ Waynflete 43
NYA 76 @ Waynflete 37
@ NYA 73 Waynflete 33
@ NYA 64 Waynflete 47
@ Waynflete 51 NYA 46
Western D First Round
@ Waynflete 56 NYA 53
Waynflete senior Serge Nyirikamba defends North Yarmouth Academy senior El Tayeb Dahia during the Flyers’ 75-35 win Saturday afternoon. Nyirikamba had a game-high 19 points and 16 rebounds.
Jason Veilleux photos.
More photos below.
NYA- 5 11 6 13- 35
W- 24 15 19 17- 75
NYA- Nicholas 4-0-9, Gendron 3-2-8, Cutko 3-1-7 Cohan-Smith 2-0-4, Hemenway 1-0-3, Malcom 1-0-2, McMullan 1-0-2
W- Nyirikamba 8-3-19, Belleau 4-0-12, Baker-Connick 4-0-9, Cleaves 2-5-9, Schnier 2-2-6, Hutchinson 2-0-5, Burdick 1-2-4, Nelligan 2-0-4, Alemayo 1-0-3, Deng 1-0-2, Lyall 1-0-2
NYA (2) Hemenway, Nicholas 1
W (6) Belleau 4, Alemayo, Baker-Connick 1
NYA (25) Gendron 5, Dahia, Nicholas 4, Chicoine, Hemenway 3, Cutko, Sturgess 2, Cohan-Smith, Malcom 1
W (48) Nyirikamba 16, Baker-Connick 7, Cleaves, Hutchinson 6, Belleau, Schnier 5, Nelligan 2, Alemayo 1
NYA (9) Cutko 3, Cohan-Smith, Nicholas 2, Chicoine, Gendron 1
W (16) Cleaves 4, Baker-Connick, Belleau 3, Nyirikamba 2, Burdick, Hutchinson, Meahl, Nelligan 1
NYA (4) Dahia, Gendron, Malcom, Nicholas 1
W (3) Belleau, Nyirikamba, Schnier 1