North Yarmouth Academy senior Serena Mower goes up for a shot over the Waynflete defense during the Panthers’ 44-26 victory Thursday. Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald photos.

BOX SCORE

North Yarmouth Academy 44 Waynflete 26

W-8 11 7 0- 26
NYA- 13 16 7 8- 44

W- Ojut 5-3-13, Sherry 3-0-6, Connors 2-1-5, Aronson 1-0-2

NYA- Mower 4-2-10, Onorato 4-2-10, Larson 3-0-8, Huntsman 2-2-6, A. Drummond 1-1-4, Downey 1-0-2, E. Drummond 0-2-2, Reid 1-0-2

3-pointers:
W (0)
NYA (3) Larson 2, A. Drummond 1

Turnovers:
W- 33
NYA- 10

FTs
W: 4-10
NYA: 9-17

YARMOUTH—Coming off its first loss of the season, North Yarmouth Academy’s girls’ basketball team looked to get back on track Thursday evening.

The Panthers would do that, but visiting rival Waynflete wasn’t about to make anything easy for the Panthers in a midseason Class C South battle.

NYA never trailed, but thanks to the dominance of sophomore Margaret Ojut, the Flyers were only down by two points, 8-6 early. The Panthers then opened up a seven-point lead before Waynflete sophomore Jesse Connors hit a buzzer-beater to make it 13-8 NYA after one quarter.

Scoring picked up in the second period and while NYA tried to open up an insurmountable lead, the Flyers hung tough and were only behind by seven before senior Anna Drummond buried a late 3-pointer for a 29-19 Panthers’ halftime advantage.

Waynflete stayed as close as seven points in the third quarter and was down, 34-26, after a Connors free throw with 1:41 remaining in the frame, but the Flyers didn’t score again and the Panthers produced the final 10 points of the contest to close out a 44-26 victory.

NYA got 10 points apiece from senior Serena Mower and freshman Madilyn Onorato and improved to 7-1 on the season, dropping Waynflete to 0-8 in the process.

“We knew (Waynflete) would play well, being our rival,” said Mower. “We expected to have some competition tonight.”

Still in contention

A year after its first trip to the regional final in two decades, NYA is off to another strong start.

The Panthers started with victories at Traip Academy (51-41), Kents Hill (64-29) and Temple Academy (79-29). After a 62-50 home win over Sacopee Valley, NYA closed the 2019 portion of its schedule with a 75-26 romp at Buckfield, then opened 2020 with a 52-36 victory at St. Dom’s, but Tuesday, the Panthers lost at home to St. Dom’s, 33-30.

Waynflete, which missed the playoffs last winter for the first time since 2000, welcomed Andrew Leach as its new coach this winter, but hasn’t been able to get in the win column. The Flyers started with a 36-28 home loss to Sacopee Valley, then fell at Cape Elizabeth (37-20), at home to Old Orchard Beach (57-43) and Yarmouth (60-18), at Wells (67-33) and Old Orchard Beach (56-33) and Tuesday at home to Cape Elizabeth (42-17).

Last season, the Panthers beat the Flyers twice, 52-44 in Portland and 62-25 in Yarmouth. The first victory snapped Waynflete’s 26-game win streak in the series.

Thursday, Waynflete sought to get in the win column for the first time this winter, but NYA did enough to get back on track.

Thirty-five seconds in, senior Katie Larson hit a 3-point shot to give the Panthers the lead for good

The Flyers struggled offensive in the first few minutes, but after Ojut took the floor, they got on the board with 5:29 remaining in the quarter, when she banked home a shot.

Onorato countered with a jump shot and a free throw, then Mower scored her first points on a bank shot to make it 8-2.

Ojut then banked home a shot and scored on a driving layup to pull Waynflete within two points, but Drummond made a free throw, senior Emily Drummond drained a pair and Mower set up freshman Angel Huntsman for a layup before Connors hit a jumper at the horn to make the score 13-8 NYA.

The Panthers started the second period strong, as Onorato drove for a layup and Larson drained a 3 for a double-digit lead, but junior Kilee Sherry made a layup for a visitors.

Larson made it 20-10 with a runner, but Ojut countered with a layup.

After an Onorato putback restored the 10-point lead, Sherry hit a long jumper.

The back-and-forth continued, as senior Carly Downey set up Onorato for a layup and after a Sherry jumper, Anna Drummond set up Mower for a layup off an inbounds set to make it 26-16.

With 1:11 to go in the half, senior Sophi Aronson made a layup while being fouled and while she missed the and-one free throw, Ojut got the rebound, was fouled and made one of two attempts to pull the Flyers within seven.

Waynflete wasn’t able to take momentum into the locker room, however, as Anna Drummond sank a 3-pointer for a 29-19 NYA lead.

In the first 16 minutes, Onorato had a team-high nine points, while Larson added eight. A near double-double (nine points, 10 rebounds) from Ojut kept the Flyers within hailing distance.

Waynflete sophomore Margaret Ojut defends NYA senior Serena Mower.

Early in the second half, Waynflete threatened to make a run, as Ojut made a layup, then sank two free throws, but Downey made a jump shot and Onorato made a free throw to make it 32-23.

After Connors scored on a putback to draw the Flyers within seven, freshman Erin Reid hit a baseline jumper for the hosts.

With 1:41 to go in the third, Connors made the second of two free throws, but that would be Waynflete’s final point of the night.

Just before the end of the frame, Mower made two foul shots and the Panthers took a 36-26 advantage to the final stanza.

Where they completely smothered the Flyers and closed it out.

Mower gave NYA its biggest lead of the game so far with a coast-to-coast layup and after Huntsman hit a runner, Huntsman set up Mower for a layup and the game’s final field goal.

With 1:04 remaining, Huntsman made two free throws and that brought the curtain down on the Panthers’ 44-26 win.

“We have some quick players, which helps,” Mower said. “We maintained our lead and kept working together. We took good shots when they were open.”

“We have six new players in the rotation, but we’ve played well together,” said NYA coach Tom Robinson.

Mower didn’t just tie for team honors with 10 points, she also had seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.

Onorato impressed with 10 points. She also had seven rebounds.

“(Madilyn) had her first start of the season,” said Robinson. “She gave us good minutes and has size.”

Larson added eight points (and six steals), Huntsman had six (to go with three assists and three rebounds), Anna Drummond four and Downey (five rebounds and four steals), Emily Drummond and Reid two apiece.

NYA made 9-of-17 free throws and only committed 10 turnovers.

Waynflete got a game-high 13 points and 15 rebounds from Ojut, who impressed both coaches.

“Margaret plays inside-out for us,” Leach said. “She can get to the rim, she has a good outside shot and she opens things up for us.”

“(Ojut) is tough to guard,” Robinson said. “Everything goes through her. She’s a tough matchup for us.”

Sherry added six points.

Connors had five points and nine rebounds.

“(Jesse) plays tough,” said Leach. “She just has to get to the rim. She played very well tonight.”

Aronson finished with two points and eight boards.

The Flyers out-rebounded the Panthers, 47-40, but only made 4-of-10 free throws and turned the ball over 33 times.

“For three quarters, we defended and stayed in it,” said Leach. “The fourth quarter, we gave up offensive rebounds and that killed us.”

Second half

Waynflete will again seek its first win Saturday, at Lake Region. The Flyers host Traip Academy Monday in a makeup game, then visit Hebron Academy Wednesday.

“I feel like we’re making progress,” Leach said. “We’ve progressed so much from November, but we’re running out of time. We have to get healthy. If we continue to do what we’re doing, we’ll get in the win column. It’s just a matter of time.”

NYA visits Pine Tree Academy Saturday, then welcomes Buckfield Wednesday of next week.

“I think we’re pretty good,” Mower said. “I think we have a good chance to do well in the playoffs, so that’s exciting.”

“We need to keep getting better,” Robinson said. “We have to control the tempo better and not rush. We have to make teams play defense and keep control of the ball.”

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

NYA senior Emily Drummond defends Waynflete sophomore Margaret Ojut.

North Yarmouth Academy senior Katie Larson (33) and Waynflete senior Sophi Aronson dive for a loose ball.

North Yarmouth Academy senior Anna Drummond (5) and freshman Angel Huntsman and Waynflete junior Kilee Sherry (3) all go after a loose ball.

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