North Yarmouth Academy freshman Te’Andre King goes up for two of his game-high 19 points during the Panthers’ 52-29 loss to Winthrop in Thursday’s Class C South semifinal.

Brian Beard photos.

More photos below.

AUGUSTA—A season to remember ended with a game to forget.

Thursday evening at the Augusta Civic Center, some 72 hours after the program’s biggest win in years, the North Yarmouth Academy boys’ basketball team hoped to produce another fond memory, but instead, the Panthers’ Class C South semifinal showdown against top-ranked Winthrop resulted in a nightmare scenario as NYA’s hopes were quickly dashed in a flurry of turnovers and fouls.

Despite turning the ball over eight times and losing senior point guard Haven Cutko for several minutes due to two quick fouls, the fourth-seeded Panthers hung tough in the first period and thanks to a heroic effort from freshman sensation Te’Andre King, they only trailed by a point, 10-9, after eight minutes.

The top-ranked Ramblers then pulled away in the second quarter, winning the frame, 16-2, as they made shots, took advantage of NYA turnovers and got Cutko to pick up his third and fourth fouls and senior Jake Malcom to be whistled for his third as well en route to a 26-11 halftime advantage.

Winthrop ended all doubt in third quarter, ending the competitive phase of the contest by going up, 41-19, and the Ramblers went on to a 52-29 victory.

The Panthers turned the ball over 35 times, were whistled for 27 fouls, had four players foul out and despite 19 points and 11 rebounds from King, had their season end at 14-6 as Winthrop improved to 20-0 and advanced to face No. 3 Madison (17-3) in the Class C South Final Saturday at 8:45 p.m. in Augusta.

“That was a tough way to end the season,” said NYA coach Jason Knight. “We had a great season. Lots to be proud of and that was the message in the locker room. We hadn’t gotten this far in 11 years.”

Eleven years in the making

In 2006, NYA lost to Boothbay in the semifinals and until Thursday, hadn’t been back to that round.

This year’s Panthers team has been something special, however, and after a solid 13-5 regular season, NYA earned the No. 4 seed and earned a bye into Monday’s quarterfinal round where it battled fifth-ranked Hall-Dale. The Panthers overcame an 18-point deficit and rallied for a stirring 59-55 victory to advance (see sidebar, below, for links to previous stories).

Winthrop lost in overtime to Waynflete in last year’s regional final and has been the team to beat all winter, going 18-0 before handling No. 9 Wiscasset, 76-42, in the quarterfinal round.

NYA and Winthrop don’t play in the regular season and came into play having never squared off in the tournament.

Thursday, the Panthers trailed almost the whole way.

The Ramblers started fast, as senior standout Jacob Hickey set up sophomore Cameron Wood for a layup and after Cutko received his second foul less than two minutes into the game, Wood scored on a putback while being fouled and added the free throw to complete the old-fashioned three-point play for a 5-0 lead.

The Panthers got on the board when King made two free throws, but Wood scored on a putback.

King then pulled NYA even by making a layup, hitting a free throw and with 1:25 to go, making another layup.

A 3 from sophomore Nate Leblanc put Winthrop back on top, but with 42.8 seconds to go in the first, King, despite being triple-teamed, made a layup to pull the Panthers within 10-9 after eight minutes.

In the first quarter alone, King had nine points, five rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal, but NYA was hindered by eight turnovers.

In the second quarter, the Ramblers got some breathing room as the Panthers’ foul trouble mounted.

Wood started the second period with a layup and after Cutko got his third foul and Hickey made two foul shots, Malcom was called for a charge, his second foul, then picked up a technical foul for his third, and with 4:35 remaining in the half, Hickey drained two more free throws for a 16-9 lead.

Knight called timeout to settle his team, but it didn’t help, as Hickey was fouled again and again made two free throws and with 3:39 left before halftime, senior Garrett Tsouprake scored on a putback to make it a double-digit (20-9) advantage.

With 2:27 remaining, Cutko set up King for a layup, snapping Winthrop’s 10-0 run and NYA’s 6:15 drought, but Tsouprake made a layup and after Cutko was called for his fourth foul, Hickey hit two more foul shots and as time wound down, senior Bennett Brooks made a layup after a steal for a commanding 26-11 halftime advantage.

Wood had nine points and Hickey added eight in the first 16 minutes.

King had all of the Panthers’ first half points, but 17 turnovers and foul trouble proved to be too much.

In the third period, NYA hoped to rally, as it did in the quarterfinals, but the Ramblers wouldn’t have any of it.

Malcom got a jumper to bounce in 36 seconds into the second half for the Panthers’ first non-King points, but Wood made a layup, Brooks added a foul shot and after Cutko fouled out with 5:56 left in the third period, Hickey got a leaner to fall and Tsouprake set up Wood for a layup and a 33-13 advantage, essentially ending the competitive phase of the contest.

King scored on a putback with 4:41 to go in the quarter, but Hickey countered with a floater. After King scored on a putback, Winthrop sophomore Jared Mclaughlin canned consecutive 3-pointers to push the lead to 41-17.

Late in the quarter, seconds after grabbing a rebound to give him a double-double, King scored on a putback that cut the deficit to 22 after three quarters.

The fourth period was academic and a lot of reserves saw time.

Winthrop senior Spencer Steele started the scoring in the final stanza with a layup after a steal. Senior Andrew Pazdziorko added a floater for a 45-19 lead. 

Malcom countered with a driving layup, but Wood made a free throw.

After Malcom set up King for a layup, Malcom hit two foul shots, cutting the deficit to 46-25 with 5:12 to play.

A Hickey 3 was answered by a Malcom layup and two free throws from senior Davis Newell, but Pazdziorko hit two foul shots (after King fouled out) and sophomore Sam Figueroa made one (after Malcom picked up his fifth foul) to bring the curtain down on the Ramblers’ 52-29 victory.

“We knew it would be a tough task tonight,” Knight said. “Credit to Winthrop. We knew what was coming. I thought we played well defensively in the first half. We had fouls and turnovers and we couldn’t get an offensive rhythm going and that’s a credit to their defense. When your All-Conference point guard is sitting on the bench, that’s frustrating. Jake ran the point, but that’s not where I wanted him to play. It threw off our rotation.”

Winthrop was paced by 15 points from Hickey and 14 from Wood. Mclaughlin added six points, Pazdziorko and Tsouprake had four apiece, Brooks and Leblanc added three each, Steele finished with two and Figueroa had one.

The Ramblers made 14 of 24 free throws and overcame 19 turnovers.

King for a day

King was NYA’s bright spot, scoring 19 points and adding 11 rebounds.

“Te’Andre was huge again tonight,” Knight said. “The best thing about him is that he’s a great kid. He was leading the cheers on the bench at the end of the game. He was in the locker room giving a speech about how fun the season was for him. We’re looking forward to having him back as a big piece of our future.”

Malcom had eight points in his swan song. Newell added two points.

The Panthers were doomed by 35 turnovers and committing 27 fouls (four different players fouled out).

NYA finished with a 23-16 rebounding advantage and hit 7 of 8 free throws.

“We thought we’d have a good season coming in and make the playoffs, but not many people thought we’d be here in the semifinals,” Knight said. “We won 14 games, beat Waynflete for the first time in years and got to the semifinals. This group had fun. We had a chemistry we haven’t had in my time at NYA. It’s a tough loss, but the guys will rebound nicely in life moving forward.”

Speaking of moving forward, not only do the Panthers lose Cutko and Malcom, they also part with Newell, Joey Hogan, Wallace Jackson, Nathaniel Sinabaldi and Chandler Waldron. 

“This wasn’t the way for the seniors to go out,” Knight said. “They were great leaders and great kids. They did a lot for the school and this program.”

The 2017-18 Panthers will start with King and build from there. NYA is hoping to become a regular visitor to Augusta.

“(Te’Andre’s) a great building block after losing seven seniors,” Knight said. “I’m hopeful and optimistic about next season.”

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

NYA senior Chandler Waldron brings the ball up the floor.

NYA senior Haven Cutko goes up for a shot.

NYA senior Jake Malcom lines up a shot.

NYA senior Davis Newell brings the ball up the floor.

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