PORTLAND—It’s hard to believe that a defending regional champion with an undefeated record was flying under the radar, but there wasn’t much buzz around Waynflete’s boys’ basketball team entering Tuesday afternoon’s showdown with undefeated Western Class B contender Yarmouth.
It’s safe to say the Flyers’ anonymity is a thing of the past.
In an up-tempo showdown that lived up to the hype, there was virtually no separation in the first half, as the lead changed hands 10 different times.
Finally, just before halftime, Waynflete got a little breathing room as an 8-0 run put it on top to stay and it enjoyed a 30-26 lead at the break.
Offense wasn’t as prevalent in the second half, but the Flyers, paced by strong efforts from senior Harry Baker-Connick, juniors Milo Belleau and Tommy Silk and sophomore Yai Deng, saved their best for last.
Clinging to a 32-31 third period lead, Waynflete got a pair of hoops from Belleau and a three-point play from Silk to make it 39-33 heading for the fourth.
There, the Flyers wouldn’t be denied, as they scored the first nine points, sandwiched by a runner and two free throws from Baker-Connick. While Yarmouth attempted to rally behind senior Adam LaBrie, it wasn’t to be and Waynflete went on to a 53-43 triumph.
Belleau had 17 points, Baker-Connick added 13, Silk 12 and Deng seven, to go with a dozen rebounds, as the Flyers improved to 6-0 and dropped the Clippers to 7-1 in the process.
“This was a game people were looking forward to,” said Waynflete coach Rich Henry. “It’s a meaningful win for us. I told the guys coming in that this was the best team we’re likely to play. It’s a testament to them. We prepared, more mentally than physically. I’m proud of how the kids pulled it out.”
It’s quite possible that both of these teams could find themselves playing on the biggest possible stage the final day of February.
Each has been to the state championship game over the past three seasons (Yarmouth won its first title in 44 years back in 2012, while Waynflete fell an overtime loss short of winning its initial title last winter) and both are off to great starts this year.
The Clippers won at Kennebunk in the opener (75-49), then beat visiting defending regional champion Poland (68-48), edged host Greely (57-53) and prevailed over visiting Fryeburg Academy (62-42) before making their biggest statement, rolling to a surprisingly decisive 59-46 victory at Cape Elizabeth. A week ago, Yarmouth dug an 18-point halftime hole against visiting rival Falmouth, but somehow bounced back to prevail in overtime, 69-62. Saturday, the Clippers went to Gray-New Gloucester and won again, 65-51.
The Flyers, meanwhile, handled visiting Greater Portland Christian School (79-29), host Sacopee Valley (83-33), visiting North Yarmouth Academy (82-37), host Traip Academy (59-51) and visiting Old Orchard Beach (51-37) before Saturday’s scheduled game at Wells was postponed.
Tuesday’s battle was the sixth this century between the schools (see sidebar, below). Yarmouth had won three of the previous five, including an 86-64 shootout as the host squad last season.
This time around, Waynflete was hoping to beat the Clippers at home for the first time since Jan. 24, 2008 (69-54) and behind a terrific team effort, managed to do so.
The first period went as hoped, with both teams flying up and down the floor, making baskets.
The Flyers struck first as Deng set the tone, scoring on a putback on a third effort.
“I was mentally into it,” Deng said. “That was the only way we’d win the game. It was all effort. I crashed every time a shot went up.”
Yarmouth answered as senior Jordan Brown knocked down a 3-pointer, but Belleau drove to bank home a shot. After the Clippers went back on top on a 3-ball from junior Cody Cook, Baker-Connick set up Deng for a layup and a Baker-Connick layup after a steal gave Waynflete an 8-6 edge.
Yarmouth drew even on Cook’s driving layup, but on a give-and-go, Baker-Connick passed to Deng, who fed Baker-Connick for a layup. After Clippers senior Cote Sawyer made a free throw, Silk hit a baseline jumper, but senior Adam Clark hit a short jumper and after a steal, junior C.J. Cawley hit a bank shot to put the visitors back up, 13-12.
Deng set up Silk for a layup to put the hosts back in the lead and junior Abel Alemayo added two free throws, but LaBrie hit back-to-back 3s before Belleau drove for a layup, was fouled and added a free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play in the waning seconds, tying the score, 19-19.
In the first eight minutes alone, there were seven lead changes and the second period would feature more of the same.
Just 23 seconds in, Belleau knocked down a 3 to put Waynflete back on top, but Sawyer made two free throws and junior Musseit M’Bareck drove for a layup to give the Clippers a 23-22 lead, which would prove to be their highwater mark.
With 3:47 to go before halftime, Belleau scored on a putback to put the Flyers ahead for good and spark a run.
Baker-Connick drove for a layup, Baker-Connick drove and banked home a shot and Alemayo added two foul shots.
With 45.5 seconds to go before halftime, LaBrie knocked down a 3 to end a 4 minute, 46 second Yarmouth scoring drought, but Waynflete had a 30-26 advantage at the break.
The play of Belleau (10 points), Baker Connick (eight points, three rebounds) and Deng (four points, nine boards) led the way and counteracted three 3s from LaBrie.
Both offenses turned stagnant in the third quarter, but the Flyers refused to relinquish the lead.
After Brown made it a two-point game with a putback, Waynflete got a huge break as Belleau was credited for a basket on a ball that Sawyer actually tipped into his own basket.
With 4:47 to play in the third, Brown hit a three, cutting the Clippers’ deficit to 32-31, but that’s as close as they would draw.
After Belleau hit a floater in the lane, he drove again and made a layup. Cook answered with two foul shots, but Yarmouth wouldn’t score again for quite awhile and a late three-point play from Silk (a layup off a nice pass from Baker-Connick, foul and free throw) put the Flyers up, 39-33, with eight minutes to go.
Then, instead of sitting on the lead, Waynflete extended it in the final stanza.
Just 30 seconds in, Baker-Connick scored on a baseline runner. The next time down the court, in the highlight reel play of the game, Flyers junior Willy Burdick delivered a breathtaking pass to Deng, who made a layup while being fouled, then hit the free throw to culminate a three-point play which pushed the lead to double digits, 44-33.
After Baker-Connick set up Silk for a backdoor layup, Baker-Connick sank two foul shots and it was 48-33 with 5:06 to go.
Seventeen seconds later, Yarmouth finally ended Waynflete’s 12-0 run and a 5:21 drought when LaBrie set up Sawyer for a layup, but Silk made a free throw and Silk made a layup with 3:21 to go for a 51-35 lead, virtually ending all suspense.
After Cook set up LaBrie for a layup after a steal, Belleau hit a foul shot, but LaBrie made a 3 to make it 52-40. Baker-Connick added a free throw and in the waning seconds, LaBrie made another 3, but it was far too little, too late and the Flyers went on to the 53-43 victory.
“It was just momentum,” Belleau said. “We broke the press. Once we got going, we just ran with it. We had a good crowd. Being at home helped out too. It was a chance to prove something and I think we did.”
“Coming into this game, we knew Yarmouth was one of the best teams in the area, if not the state and we just wanted to make a statement,” Baker-Connick said. “We figured if we played defense as well as well could, we’d see what happens in the fourth quarter. I think our effort on defense and our mental toughness on offense were the difference. We got the ball where we wanted to. We got mostly layups.”
“I was a little worried in the third quarter when our offense was stagnant, but we rebounded,” Henry added. “I was very proud of the guys. We tried to emphasize the ability to get layups against the press and we were able to do that more in the second half than in the first. We got great contributions from kids off the bench, especially our guards.”
Waynflete rode a team effort to victory.
Belleau had 17 points and four rebounds, while Baker-Connick added 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“It’s such a sense of comfort knowing I have Harry and Milo there,” Henry said. “Having those two guys in the backcourt really helps.”
Silk was tremendous off the bench with a dozen points.
“We knew Tommy Silk would be a difference maker,” said Henry. “He’s a great player, a great athlete. The kids love playing with him and they look for him.”
Deng stuffed the stat sheet with seven points. a dozen boards, three assists and two blocked shots.
“I love the way Yai played,” Baker-Connick said. “He played really strong in the high post. It was awesome to see.”
Deng credits his growth to learning from last year’s standout, Serge Nyirikamba.
“Last year, I watched everything Serge did,’ Deng said. “This year, I’m putting that into my game to help the team.”
“Yai’s the kind of kid I only have to say something to once,” Henry said. “He set the tone with those offensive rebounds. Serge worked with Yai a lot last year. I knew he’d have a good year this time last year because he was already beginning to acclimate himself.”
Alemayo added four points for the Flyers, who committed 16 turnovers, yet made 12 of 18 foul shots and held a 33-30 advantage on the glass.
For Yarmouth, LaBrie led the way with 17 points, as five of his six field goals came from behind the 3-point arc. He also had five rebounds, three assists and a steal. Brown added eight points (and six boards), Cook finished with seven (to go with five rebounds, three assists and two steals), Sawyer five (as well as eight boards) and Cawley, Clark and M’Bareck two apiece.
The Clippers committed 12 turnovers and made 5 of 7 free throws.
“If we don’t play hard, we’re going to lose,” said Yarmouth coach Adam Smith. “(Waynflete) outplayed us for 32 minutes. We didn’t answer the intensity level they had tonight. It’s a great lesson. Hats off to Rich and his boys, they played great tonight. When teams outwork you, everything becomes more difficult. We were taken out of it physically and mentally.”
Each contender will now refocus their attention on more traditional foes.
Yarmouth (second to Morse in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) hopes to bounce back when it plays host to Traip Thursday, then welcomes revenge-minded Cape Elizabeth Saturday. Next week, the Clippers go to Falmouth, then host Greely.
“This is a great lesson for us, if it is a lesson,” said Smith. “We’ve got two more games this week to find out how it affects us. It’s a tough stretch.”
The Flyers (now fourth in Western Class C) are at NYA Saturday. Next week, Waynflete sees two more Western B squads, Lake Region and Poland.
The sky’s the limit for this group.
” Our main goal is to get back and win states,” said Deng.
“We can be as good as we want to be,” Belleau said. “Our offense is proven. It starts on defense.”
“This can’t be our high point, it needs to be our baseline,” Henry added. “If people weren’t paying attention to us before, they certainly will now. I think we can be successful long-term. The composition of this team is still slightly different from last year, but I think we’ll get there. Each year, you hope there’s a foundation and I think we have it.”
Waynflete junior Abel Alemayo soars over Yarmouth senior Cote Sawyer.
Waynflete junior Milo Belleau, who tied for a game-high 17 points, drives on Yarmouth senior Adam Clark.
Yarmouth junior Cody Cook handles the ball.
Yarmouth senior Adam LaBrie, who had 17 points, is defended by Waynflete junior Milo Belleau.
Waynflete junior Tom Silk, who was huge off the bench with 12 points, drives on a defender.
@ Yarmouth 86 Waynflete 64
Waynflete 62 @ Yarmouth 38
Yarmouth 52 @ Waynflete 45
@ Yarmouth 69 Waynflete 49
@ Waynflete 69 Yarmouth 54
Waynflete senior Harry Baker-Connick drives to the basket as Yarmouth senior Jordan Brown defends during the Flyers’ 53-43 home win Tuesday afternoon.
Brian Beard photos.
More photos below.
Y- 19 7 7 10- 43
W- 19 11 9 14- 53
Y- LaBrie 6-0-17, Brown 3-0-8, Cook 2-2-7, Sawyer 1-3-5, Cawley 1-0-2, Clark 1-0-2, M’Bareck 1-0-2
W- Belleau 7-2-17, Baker-Connick 5-3-13, Silk 5-2-12, Deng 3-1-7, Alemayo 0-4-4
Y (8) LaBrie 5, Brown 2, Cook 1
W (1) Belleau 1