Hall-Dale junior Josh Nadeau grabs a rebound away from Waynflete junior Diraige Dahia during the Bulldogs’ 65-58 victory in Thursday’s Class C South semifinal.

Andy Molloy / Kennebec Journal photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Hall-Dale 65 Waynflete 58

HD- 15 17 11 22- 65
W- 18 12 5 23- 58

HD- Byron 9-3-23, Abbott 7-2-17, Cookson 2-3-7, Nadeau 3-0-7, Stebbins 2-2-7, Rush 1-2-4

W- Scott 6-1-15, Houssein 4-2-12, Levy 4-1-10, Campbell 4-0-8, Dahia 2-0-5, Johnson 2-0-4, A. Saade 2-0-4

3-pointers:
HD (5) Byron 2, Abbott, Nadeau, Stebbins 1
W (6) Houssein, Scott 2, Dahia, Levy 1

Turnovers:
HD- 18
W- 11

FTs
HD: 12-17
W: 4-8

AUGUSTA—Waynflete’s boys’ basketball team faced its share of talented opponents this winter, but the Hall-Dale Bulldogs proved to be something else entirely and were too much to solve in a frustrating Class C South semifinal at the Augusta Civic Center.

The second-ranked Flyers got off to a great start, as consecutive baskets from junior Askar Houssein produced an early 13-5 lead, but the Bulldogs, behind a 3-pointer from senior Ashtyn Abbott, cut their deficit to just three points, 18-15, after the first quarter.

The second period was back-and-forth until two late free throws from Hall-Dale junior Patrick Rush put the Bulldogs ahead to stay and they took a 32-30 advantage to the break.

When Abbott made a layup midway through the third quarter, Hall-Dale had an eight-point advantage and while Waynflete cut the deficit to five, a buzzer-beater from junior Josh Nadeau gave the Bulldogs a 51-44 lead heading to the fourth period.

There, the Flyers made things very interesting with 2:18 on the clock, when Houssein converted a rare four-point play (3-pointer, foul, free throw), but despite two good looks at a tying shot, they couldn’t get any closer and senior Alec Byron capped his stellar game with three clutch free throws and Hall-Dale went on to a 65-58 victory.

Byron led all scorers with 23 points, Abbott added 17 and the Bulldogs improved to 19-1, advanced to meet top-ranked Winthrop (19-1) in the regional final Saturday at 8:45 p.m., in Augusta and in the process, ended Waynflete’s superb season at 15-3.

“We were right there with them, but you could see when we lost our composure several times and to me, that’s the difference,” said Flyers coach Rich Henry. “One team stayed together during times of adversity and the other team struggled.”

Highly anticipated

Thursday’s contest was one of the games that casual fans were most looking forward to when the pairings came out.

Hall-Dale won 17 of its 18 games this year, losing only 63-53 at Mountain Valley way back on Dec. 20. The Bulldogs then downed No. 6 Monmouth Academy, 83-57, in their quarterfinal Tuesday.

Waynflete, meanwhile, went 14-2 against a very tough regular season schedule (see sidebar, below, for links to previous games), then had little trouble with No. 7 Old Orchard Beach, 67-32, in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round.

The teams don’t play in the regular season, but they had met three previous times in the postseason, with a 54-40 Flyers’ victory in the 2015 Western C quarterfinals the most recent (see sidebar, below, for previous results).

Thursday, in front of a large and vocal crowd, Waynflete started fast, but over 32 minutes, Hall-Dale did enough to prevail.

The Bulldogs scored first on a 3-pointer from Byron, but sophomore Dominick Campbell made consecutive layups to put Waynflete on top, 4-3.

After Byron drove for a layup, Flyers senior Finn Scott hit a 3 and senior Alex Saade drove for a layup, but after scoring, Saade crashed to the floor, hurt his knee and had to leave the game (he’d return in the second period).

Houssein then entered the contest and made an immediate impact, faking out a defender with a nice crossover move before hitting a leaner, then making a layup after a steal for the Flyers’ biggest lead, 13-5.

Hall-Dale countered with a 3 from senior Austin Stebbins, but Houssein set up sophomore Jared Johnson for a layup.

The Bulldogs then got a putback from senior Tim Cookson and after Houssein was whistled for his second foul with 1:27 to go in the opening stanza, a turnaround jumper from Byron cut the deficit to three.

Senior Soloman Levy countered with a 3-ball for the Flyers, but with 19.8 seconds remaining, a 3 from Abbott allowed Hall-Dale to cut Waynflete’s lead to 18-15.

The second period would see three ties and three lead changes.

Houssein returned to the floor and promptly stole the ball and set up junior Diraige Dahia for a layup to start the quarter, but Abbott hit a leaner and Cookson made a layup.

After Houssein and Abbott traded foul shots, a driving layup from Byron put the Bulldogs back on top, 22-21.

Levy tied the score with a foul shot, but junior Caleb Peaslee passed to Byron for a layup and a two-point Hall-Dale lead.

After Johnson tied the score with a layup, Nadeau hit a jumper for the Bulldogs.

Levy tied the game again with a jumper, but Nadeau’s 3-pointer made it 29-26 Bulldogs.

Waynflete regained the lead, as Levy scored on a putback and after a pretty drop-step move, Campbell made a layup, but two free throws from Rush and another from Cookson made it 32-30 Hall-Dale at the break.

Byron led all first half scorers with 11 points, but he did pick up three fouls.

The Flyers got eight points from Levy and six from Campbell, who, like Houssein, also had three fouls.

The Bulldogs then got some separation in the third quarter.

A Byron 3 got things started. After Dahia countered with a long 3, Abbott began to take over, making a short jumper and after a Scott bank shot made it a two-point game, Abbott took a pass from Nadeau in transition and made a layup, then scored on a putback before taking a length of the court pass in stride from Cookson and making a layup for a 43-35 advantage with 4:17 to go in the frame, forcing Henry to call timeout.

Waynflete responded, as Levy hit a leaner and after Byron drove for a layup, Scott hit a runner, but that only cut the deficit to six.

With Houssein sidelined again after drawing his fourth foul, Hall-Dale remained aggressive and Abbott scored again, on a putback.

Campbell made a layup for the Flyers, but at the other end, Cookson’s two foul shots made the score 49-41.

In the final minute of the frame, Scott banked home a 3, but just before the horn, Nadeau contorted himself around a defender, hung in the air and made a shot from just inside the 3-point stripe which pushed the Bulldogs’ lead to 51-44 with eight minutes to play.

Waynflete tried its best to rally in the final stanza, but just couldn’t catch up.

Scott went coast to coast for a layup to start the fourth, but Stebbins countered with a long jumper for a 53-46 lead with 6:49 left.

Fifteen seconds later, Scott converted an old-fashioned three-point play, hitting a leaner while being fouled and adding the free throw to cut the deficit to just four.

Scott then had a look to draw the Flyers even closer, but missed and at the other end, Byron banked home a runner and with 4:43 to play, off an inbounds set, Nadeau passed to Rush for a layup and a 57-49 advantage.

Waynflete had one last push, as first Houssein made a long 3 and after Byron made a layup, Houssein banked home a long 3 while being fouled with 2:18 on the clock and Houssein’s free throw capped the four-point play and made it a one-possession game.

After a Nadeau miss, the Flyers had a chance to tie it, but Houssein missed a 3.

Levy kept possession alive with an offensive rebound and Houssein had another chance from behind the arc, but again, the shot was off-target and Rush got the rebound.

“I wish we could have those 3s back,” Henry said. “I wish we did a little more getting the ball inside first, but that’s the mindset that occurs in these games. I blame myself because I used all my timeouts. I should have tried to settle us down.”

With 1:08 to play, Abbott was fouled and made the front end of a one-and-one, but he missed the second.

Again, Waynflete couldn’t capitalize, as Levy missed a shot and Abbott got the rebound.

With 44.6 seconds showing, Stebbins made both free throws to push the lead to 62-56.

Saade countered with a driving layup, but with 37.1 seconds to go, Byron calmly sank two foul shots and the lead was back to six.

After Saade missed a 3, Abbott got the rebound and with 21.8 seconds remaining, Byron made one of two free throws and that put the finishing touches on Hall-Dale’s 65-58 victory.

“It was just an incredible win,” Byron said. “I’m pretty emotional right now. I heard so much chatter about how we wouldn’t get by Waynflete, that we had the toughest bracket, that our season was going to be over. I told myself this morning, ‘There’s no way I’m ending my career today. I want to keep going.’

“We came out and played as a unit and we pulled it out. Our team has the genes to keep fighting back. It’s in our DNA to not give up. We’re at our best when we deal with adversity. We dealt with it well in the first quarter, then came storming out in the second half and got the lead up to eight points and never looked back. We played great defense, took a lot of charges, limited their 3-point shots. We stuck together. They collapsed a little bit and we pushed through it.”

“We came out very timid and it didn’t appear we were ready for the moment,” said Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow. “We had several uncharacteristic turnovers, missed (layups) and we couldn’t convert at the free throw line. We ended up with 18 turnovers and that’s not a metric we’re proud of, but all that said, it was a pretty gutty effort. 

“We looked at our bracket and had Monmouth, a very strong six seed, then Waynflete of course, and those are two tough hurdles just to make it to the C South Finals. We’ve passed those tests.”

Byron had a superb game, making 9-of-10 field goals and 3-of-4 free throws for a game-high 23 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds.

“From a statistical standpoint, as far as shooting is concerned, you can’t do much better than (Alec) did,” Ranslow said. “He was clutch and he wasn’t afraid to take it inside against bigger guys.”

Abbott added 17 points and six rebounds.

“You have to tip your cap to (Abbott and Byron),” Henry said. “Those are two very good players. We were very focused on Ashtyn Abbott, but Byron is a very good player and he scored a bunch of points.”

Cookson tallied seven points (and had nine boards), Nadeau (five assists) had seven points, Stebbins had seven points and Rush (six rebounds) finished with four.

The Bulldogs had 18 turnovers, but made 12 of 17 foul shots.

Hall-Dale and Winthrop will meet Saturday in the regional final for the second year in a row.

The teams met way back on Dec. 28 and the Bulldogs won, 57-46, on the Ramblers’ home floor.

“I wanted to keep playing and I wanted to get to that Gold Ball game,” Byron said> “Second year in a row and this year as a senior, it’s an incredible feeling.

Not this year

Waynflete was paced by Scott’s 15 points and four steals.

Houssein, who was hampered by foul trouble much of the game, scored 12 points and had three steals.

Levy added 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots, Campbell had eight points and eight boards, Dahia five points, Johnson four and Saade four.

The Flyers had a 32-31 edge on the glass, but only made 4 of 8 foul shots and turned the ball over 11 times.

“We’re an emotionally volatile team and you could see the emotions get the better of us at times,” Henry said. 

“We talked about the season. The seniors talked in the locker room. There’s a level of frustration of getting to this point and not being able to get over the hump. Hopefully that frustration carries over to next year. I tried to remind the guys that the sting of the loss will fade and the memory of our hard work and dedication and the time we spent together is what they’ll remember.”

Waynflete graduates Saade, Scott, Musaid Mohammed and Burr Rhoads.

“Three of those kids, Alex, Burr and Musaid, have been on the varsity for at least three years, if not four, and they were the backbone of the team,” Henry said. “Finn joined the team and made immediate contributions. They gave us great leadership. I know they’re off to great things. They’re all going to great colleges and have a great life ahead of them. I rely on the seniors to set the tone. Each year I wonder, how will I ever replace them.”

The Flyers will be right back in the mix next winter when perhaps they’ll finally find a way to win the program’s first Gold Ball.

“I feel good about the kids coming back,” Henry said. 

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

Waynflete sophomore Dominick Campbell fights with Hall-Dale senior Ashtyn Abbott for a rebound.

Waynflete junior Diraige Dahia tries to knock the ball away from Hall-Dale senior Tim Cookson.

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