AUGUSTA — Waynflete jumped ahead and stayed ahead. Now the Flyers will keep playing basketball.
With a dominating defense and fluid offense, Waynflete defeated Maranacook 62-38 for the Western Class C boys’ basketball championship Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center.
Second-seeded Waynflete (18-2) will return to Augusta on Saturday to play in its first state championship game against unbeaten Houlton.
The Flyers’ regional title berth continues their progression in the Class C tournament. Last year, they reached their first Western Maine final, where they lost to Boothbay.
Waynflete was led by Serge Nyirikamba, a 6-foot-3 senior forward who capitalized on inside drives and offense rebounds to score 22 points. He received the C. Harry Edwards Award as the outstanding player of the tournament.
Point guard Harry Baker-Connick scored 17 points. Milo Belleau added 11 and Joe Schnier came off the bench to score 10.
Taylor Wilbur led fifth-seeded Maranacook (16-5) with 15 points.
The Flyers allow an average of 39 points a game. Their only two losses have come to Class B teams Lake Region and Yarmouth, and they have a win over Western Class B champion Poland.
Waynflete used an aggressive zone defense, contesting the Black Bears’ shots and passes.
The Flyers took a 13-9 first-quarter lead, which they extended to 35-22 at halftime. Waynflete held the Black Bears to 26 percent shooting in the first half (6 for 23) while causing 10 turnovers. Baker-Connick and fellow guard Abel Alemayo were especially pesky on defense, tipping passes and grabbing loose balls.
Inside, Nyirikamba and Henry Cleaves were a defensive duo underneath. Forward Pace Hutchinson subbed in and also played solid defense.
Nyirikamba made one of the top plays in the first quarter when he blocked a shot, got possession and raced down the court for a layup. He was fouled and sank the free throw.
At times, Maranacook double-teamed Nyirikamba underneath, but the Flyers’ ball movement kept their offense in sync.
The 5-7 Baker-Connick was fearless with his drives, drawing fouls, making layups, pulling up for jumpers or dishing inside.
Maranacook did not score a field goal for more than six minutes in the third quarter as the lead grew to 44-26. But the Black Bears, led by Wilbur, closed to within 48-33 at the end of the third quarter.
Maranacook turned up the pressure in the fourth quarter. The Flyers did not score for nearly four minutes as the Black Bears forced turnovers and missed shots, closing to within 48-38.
But Waynflete’s defense did not crack, and Maranacook did not score another point.
Schnier swished a 3-pointer for a 51-38 lead. Belleau sank two free throws, and then Waynflete began to stall and the Black Bears had to foul.
Maranacook sent in its subs with 1:41 left, down 59-38. Both teams’ backups finished it from there.
Maranacook was trying to get back to the state championship game for the first time since 2008 when it beat Cape Elizabeth for the Class B title.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: