AUGUSTA — Keeping a promise he made to himself nearly a year ago, Serge Nyirikamba did all he could Thursday night to keep Waynflete in the Western Class C boys’ basketball tournament.
Nyirikamba scored 28 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to lead the third-seeded Flyers to a 55-35 win against No. 10 Hall-Dale and help send them to the regional final for the second consecutive season.
“After last year when we lost (to Boothbay), I told myself I was never going to let that happen again,” he said. “We came so close before losing. It was motivation for me.”
Waynflete (17-2) will play No. 5 Maranacook (16-5) for the regional title Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center.
While Nyirikamba, a native of Rwanda, provided the bulk of the offense, it was Waynflete’s stifling zone defense that really kept the Bulldogs from getting into the game.
“They packed the 2-3 (zone) and they made us take uncomfortable shots,” Hall-Dale Coach Chris Ranslow said. “We weren’t scoring inside and we weren’t making free throws.”
Hall-Dale made just four of 20 shots from the field and six of 11 free throws in the first half.
“We definitely take pride in our defense,” Waynflete point guard Harry Baker-Connick said. “We play our offense through our defense. We try to get a good stop, get a steal and then push it.
“We definitely work harder at the defensive end. That way we don’t have to work as hard at the offensive end.”
Waynflete held a 26-15 lead at halftime.
The Flyers appeared to be on the verge of a blowout when they ran off 13 points during a five-minute span to move into a 15-5 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter. They hit six of seven shots during that stretch.
The Bulldogs (11-10) responded with a 9-3 run to make it 18-15 with 2:08 left in the second quarter.
The rest of the first half belonged to Nyirikamba, who scored all Waynflete’s points in an 8-1 run.
“Serge is everything you can ask for in a player, a person and a young man,” Waynflete Coach Rich Henry said. “He means everything to the team, and he’s a tough kid to guard.”
Hall-Dale started the second half by missing their first six shots, and Waynflete extended its lead to 32-15. The Bulldogs never got closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
“It would have been nice to come out and validate our (earlier) success,” said Ranslow, whose team beat an undermanned Boothbay team in the quarterfinals. “I wish we could have played better because we have the capacity to do that.”