Waynflete freshman Askar Houssein goes up with the left hand during the Flyers’ 53-44 win at North Yarmouth Academy Tuesday night.

Brian Beard photos.

More photos below.


Waynflete 53 NYA 44

W- 14 11 12 16- 53
NYA- 11 12 9 12- 44

W- Meahl 8-2-21, Houssein 5-0-11, Deng 4-1-9, Brooks 1-2-4, Abdi 1-0-3, Saade 1-1-3, Veroneau 1-0-2

NYA- Malcom 5-2-14, Cutko 3-5-11, King 4-1-9, Waldron 1-3-6, Jackson 1-0-2, Sinibaldi 0-2-2

W (5) Meahl 3, Abdi, Houssein 1
NYA (3) Malcom 2, Waldron 1

W- 16
NYA- 19

W: 6-12
NYA: 13-15

YARMOUTH—North Yarmouth Academy’s boys’ basketball team has a ton of heart.

But the Waynflete Flyers have the heart of a champion and Tuesday evening, the Flyers’ championship experience was just enough to hold off the valiant Panthers in a very entertaining and hotly contested early-season showdown.

Waynflete shot to a quick 9-2 lead and appeared en route to yet another decisive win in the series, but NYA, behind the strong play on both ends of the floor from senior Haven Cutko and the sharpshooting of senior Jake Malcom, roared back to tie the game before the Flyers went ahead, 14-11, after one period.

In the second quarter, the Panthers took their lone lead of the contest, 23-20, on a 3-point shot from senior Chandler Waldron, but Waynflete senior Jack Meahl scored five quick points to give the visitors a 25-23 advantage at the break.

When the Flyers opened the second half with eight consecutive points, capped by a layup after a terrific spin move from freshman Askar Houssein, NYA was on the brink, but again it rallied and cut the deficit to a single point on a pair of free throws from senior Nathaniel Sinibaldi.

Despite being burdened by foul trouble, Waynflete met the challenge and took a 37-32 lead to the fourth quarter and there, the Flyers got off the ropes time and again.

The Panthers drew within two when freshman Te’Andra King banked home a shot with 3:42 to go, cutting Waynflete’s lead to 44-42, but Houssein wasn’t about to let the Flyers leave town without a win, as he scooped home a shot in traffic in highlight reel fashion.

After Malcom made two free throws to again cut the deficit to two, Houssein stole the ball and fed Meahl for a layup, then stole the ball again and finished himself to deliver the dagger and Waynflete went on to a 53-44 victory.

Meahl led all scorers with 21 points and Houssein added 11 as the Flyers improved to 3-1 and dropped the vastly improved Panthers to 1-3 in the process, as they downed NYA for the 15th straight time.

“I was proud of how the kids handled the adversity,” said Waynflete coach Rich Henry. “We executed down the stretch and got key stops.”

Back in contention

Both teams have shown promise in the early going this winter.

Waynflete, which has lost in the Class C state final in two of the past three seasons, started the 2016-17 campaign with wins over visiting Sacopee Valley (67-38) and Freeport (55-30) before dropping a hard-fought 45-43 decision at Class B South favorite Yarmouth.

NYA missed the playoffs last year, but will be very much in the mix this season, as evidenced by its start. The Panthers lost in overtime in the opener, 54-46, at home to Old Orchard Beach. NYA then went OT to beat visiting Traip Academy, 47-43. Friday, the Panthers didn’t go to an extra session, but still played a down-to-the-wire thriller, losing, 55-54, at A.R. Gould.

Entering play, the Flyers had beaten the Panthers on 14 straight occasions, including twice last winter: 72-30 at home and 63-43 in Yarmouth.

Tuesday, NYA sought its first win over Waynflete since Jan. 3, 2009 (37-33 in Yarmouth), but the Flyers had just enough to do it again.

Waynflete started fast, as senior Yai Deng put back his own miss and sophomore Alex Saade buried a floater for a 4-0 lead just 52 seconds in.

The Panthers got on the board when Cutko was fouled on a drive and made both free throws, but Meahl drained a long 3 and Deng hit a jumper for a 9-2 advantage.

Back roared NYA with seven successive points, as Malcom banked home a shot, Cutko made a layup after a steal and Malcom buried a 3-pointer to tie the game.

A Deng putback gave the Flyers the lead back, but Malcom countered with a jumper.

With 20.7 seconds left in the first period, Houssein knocked down a 3-ball and Waynflete led, 14-11.

In the first eight minutes, Malcom had seven points for the Panthers, while Deng countered with six for the visitors.

There wasn’t much separation in the second quarter.

A floater from Houssein pushed the lead to five, but NYA again came right back, as Cutko made a layup after a steal and Malcom drained another 3 to tie it, 16-16.

Junior Ilyas Abdi put Waynflete back on top with a 3 and Deng added a free throw, but Cutko sank two free throws, senior Wallace Jackson banked home a hook shot to tie the score and with 2:31 left in the half, in transition, Malcom set up Waldron for a 3 which gave the Panthers a 23-20 lead.

That would prove to be NYA’s lone lead of the night and it only lasted 33 seconds, as Meahl countered with a 3, then scored on a putback to put the Flyers ahead, 25-23, at halftime.

In the first half, Meahl had eight points and Deng seven, while Malcom led the Panthers with 10 points and Cutko added eight.

As it did to start the game, Waynflete began the second half with a flurry, but it couldn’t deliver the knockout blow.

After Houssein set up Deng for a layup, Meahl banked home a floater and junior John Veroneau knocked down a baseline jumper, forcing NYA coach Jason Knight to call timeout.

It didn’t immediately help, as Houssein scored on a layup after shaking a defender with a spin move, but as the Flyers’ fouls started adding up, the Panthers again made things interesting.

First, King scored on a putback while being fouled and he added the free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play. After Malcom hit a turnaround jumper, Waldron was fouled after a steal by Houssein (who joined Deng and junior Christian Brooks with three fouls) and Malcom made both free throws. Seconds later, Sinibaldi made both ends of a 1-and-1 to cut the deficit to 33-32 with 2:14 to go in the frame.

Waynflete responded, as Meahl stole the ball and made a layup, then Meahl finished in transition off a feed from Houssein to give the Flyers a 37-32 advantage heading to the final stanza.

There, the Flyers held serve and prevailed.

Waldron started the frame with a free throw, then King made a layup, but Brooks preserved the lead by finishing Saade’s feed with a layup for a 39-35 lead with 5:57 to go.

After Cutko set up King for a layup to again cut the deficit to two, Brooks made two free throws and Meahl sank a clutch 3 from the corner for a 44-37 advantage with 4:49 to play.

Back roared NYA, as after King blocked a shot at one end, Malcom set up Cutko for a layup. Cutko was fouled on the play and added the free throw for the three-point play.

With 3:42 to go, King banked home a shot and once again, it was a one-possession contest, 44-42.

That set the stage for Houssein to make perhaps the shot of the night.

With 3:08 showing, Houssein got into the lane, ran into traffic, then he somehow scooped the ball up and in to extend the lead to four.

“I did what I had to do to help us win,” Houssein said. “I had no choice (on that shot), but I thought it was good as soon as it came off my hand.”

“Askar is a very talented player,” Henry said. “He’s still figuring out when to assert himself and when not to. He’s very interested in making plays for others, which we love, because that’s infectious. You can see what he’s capable of. He’s a special player already.”

With 2:16 left, Malcom made two free throws for what proved to be the Panthers’ final points.

When Waynflete turned the ball over on its ensuing possession, NYA had a chance to tie or take the lead, but Houssein stole the ball back and passed to Meahl, who made a layup with 1:45 remaining, making it a two-possession game again.

Twenty seconds later, after another Houssein steal, this time the freshman phenom kept the ball and finished for a 50-44 advantage.

“Askar is a pretty energetic player,” Meahl said. “He’s good under pressure and he’s a good leader.”

After the Panthers couldn’t convert on their next possession, Deng was fouled. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Saade soared for the rebound to keep possession. Saade then made the front end of his 1-and-1, but missed the second, only to again grab the rebound.

With 16.3 seconds to play, Meahl went to the line and he iced it with two free throws.

NYA had no answers from there and Waynflete went on to a 53-44 victory.

“We stayed more composed in the second half,” Meahl said. “We were frantic in the first half. Down the stretch, we were more heady with the ball.”

“We did a better job tonight getting good shots after stops,” Henry said. “It was frustrating that we made the decisions to foul like we were. Part of that was it was a close game on the road. Those things will happen.”

Meahl led all scorers with 21 points, including some clutch shots along the way. He also had five steals.

“Jack has great leadership, great shot selection, great ball-handling and great finishing around the rim,” Henry said.

Houssein overcame foul trouble to play long enough to score 11 points and register five rebounds, five assists and four steals.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Houssein. “In the second half, I had to stay more composed on defense. I feel like I fit in on this team. We have great veteran players. We have a lot of support.”

Deng added nine points (and six rebounds), Brooks four (and a game-high 10 boards), Abdi and Saade (nine rebounds, three assists) three apiece and Veroneau two.

“It was tough, but we had great contributions off the bench,” Meahl said. “John Veroneau played well. Ilyas came in and gave us big minutes.”

Waynflete outrebounded NYA, 39-20, overcame 16 turnovers and made half of its 12 free throws.

Getting closer

The Panthers were paced by Malcom’s 14 points and six rebounds.

Cutko did a little of everything, scoring 11 points, registering seven steals, seven assists and three rebounds.

“Haven played probably his best game on both ends of the floor and Jake’s just been steady,” said Knight.

King had nine points (and eight boards), Waldron six and Jackson and Sinibaldi two apiece.

NYA made 13 of 15 free throws, but turned the ball over on 19 occasions.

Prior to Tuesday, the last time the Panthers played within 10 points of Waynflete was Dec. 10, 2010 (a 41-40 loss in Portland).

NYA has certainly closed the gap.

“It was a great basketball game,” Knight said. “We played with poise most of the game. We didn’t panic when they went on a run early in the second half. We were down 10, but the experience factor played into it. We played smart offensive basketball. We couldn’t take advantage of some foul trouble they were in. We wanted to get ball inside more, but it was tough to get inside their zone. It’s a very disciplined defense.

“The boys are buying into it. The wins and losses don’t show it right now, but we’ve been competitive with everybody. We haven’t had confidence against Waynflete over the years, but this was a stepping stone as a program for us. A win is always what we want to get, but there are many positives we can draw from this.”

High aspirations

NYA is at Richmond Thursday as it wraps up the 2016 portion of its schedule.

“Richmond will be a tough matchup,” Knight said. “We have a good rivalry going with them. It should be a competitive game. We have to tighten some things up. We’re in every single game and that bodes well. I’m proud of our efforts.”

Waynflete doesn’t play again until Jan. 3, when it goes to Wells.

The Flyers appear poised for another very successful season if they continue to improve.

“We have to play smarter,” Meahl said. “We’ve played rushed and that’s when it falls apart. If we slow it down and play composed, we’ll be fine.”

“I love working with this team,” said Henry. “They’re younger than I’m used to, but they’re sponges and they’re absorbing everything. Now we have a little break. We’ll play some good teams in the Expo in the holiday tournament, then we’ll get right back at it in January.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Waynflete senior Abdul Mohamed drives on NYA senior Chandler Waldron.

NYA senior Haven Cutko hangs in the air for a shot as Waynflete junior Christian Brooks defends.

NYA senior Jake Malcom launches a shot.

Waynflete junior Christian Brooks and NYA freshman Te-Andre King battle for the ball.

Waynflete senior Jack Meahl drives on a defender. Meahl had a game-high 21 points.

Waynflete junior Christian Brooks shoots over NYA senior Jake Malcom.

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