Waynflete junior Dominick Campbell reacts after drawing a foul during Waynflete’s 53-41 win over Boothbay in Thursday’s Class C South semifinal. Andy Molloy / Kennebec Journal photos

BOX SCORE

Waynflete 53 Boothbay 41

BBR- 13 6 5 17- 41
W- 14 13 5 21- 53

BBR- Crocker 4-0-11, Pearce 3-1-9, Morley 2-1-6, Rice 2-0-6, Davis 2-0-5, Ames 2-0-4

W- Dahia 5-5-16, Campbell 3-4-10, Levy 4-0-8, Johnson 3-1-7, Saade 2-0-4, Burdick 1-0-3, Holdridge 1-1-3, Kieffer 0-2-2

3-pointers:
BBR (9) Crocker 3, Pearce, Rice 2, Davis, Morley 1
W (2) Burdick, Dahia 1

Turnovers:
BBR- 9
W- 10

FTs
BBR: 2-3
W: 13-19

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AUGUSTA—For three seasons, making it to the regional final has been a dream and nothing more for Waynflete’s boys’ basketball team.

Thursday night, it became a reality.

The second-ranked Flyers were held in check for much of their Class C South semifinal against No. 3 Boothbay at the Augusta Civic Center, but thanks to contributions from starters and reserves alike, Waynflete was eventually able to wear the Seahawks down and go on to highly anticipated victory.

And even loftier heights await.

The Flyers scored the game’s first seven points, but only led by one, 14-13, after one quarter, as junior big man Dominick Campbell scored six points in the frame.

Boothbay drew even early in the second period, but a 9-0 run, highlighted by a 3-pointer from senior Diraige Dahia and a putback from senior reserve Chris Saade, put Waynflete ahead to stay and the Flyers would hold a 27-19 advantage at halftime.

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Offense was at a premium for both teams in the third quarter, as each squad only managed five points, but in the fourth period, Dahia came alive and scored eight points and Waynflete pulled away to prevail, 53-41.

Dahia led all scorers with 16 points as the Flyers improved to 19-1 on the season, ended the Seahawks’ campaign at 15-5 and advanced to battle top-ranked Winthrop (19-1) in the Class C South Final Saturday at 7:45 p.m., at the Augusta Civic Center.

“This means so much to me,” said Dahia. “Being (in Augusta) three years in a row and not making it (to the regional finals) hurt and we wanted to go farther this year. This is the most fun I’ve had on a team so far. We push each other in practice and in games, we’re like a family.”

Getting closer

After winning 17 of their 18 games this winter, the Flyers made quick work of No. 10 Traip Academy in Monday’s quarterfinal round, 55-29 (see sidebar, above, for links to previous stories).

Boothbay, which has been a contender seemingly for decades, won 14 times in the regular season and lost only to Winthrop (twice), Hall-Dale and Spruce Mountain. The Seahawks survived a scare from No. 6 Mt. Abram in their quarterfinal Monday, prevailing by a 59-54 margin.

Waynflete and Boothbay don’t play in the regular season, but had met three previous times in the playoffs. The Flyers took a 2009 Western C preliminary round encounter (54-42), but the Seahawks beat Waynflete in the 2013 Western C Final (70-42) and again in upset fashion in the 2018 Class C South quarterfinals (65-64).

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Thursday, the Flyers took care of business, but it wasn’t easy.

Waynflete got off to a fast start, as senior Soloman Levy hit a baseline jumper, junior Jared Johnson scored on a putback and senior Oliver Burdick drained a 3 for a 7-0 lead.

After Boothbay got a layup from junior Kaeden Davis, Campbell scored on a putback, but the next eight points went to the Seahawks.

A bank shot from senior captain Nick Morley got things started. After junior Benjamin Pearce drained a 3, Pearce took an inbounds pass from junior Sullivan Rice, made the layup while being fouled and added the free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play and a 10-9 lead.

The Flyers responded, as junior reserve Aidan Kieffer set up Campbell for layups on consecutive possessions and senior Diraige Dahia added a free throw, but just before the horn, a 3-pointer from Davis pulled Boothbay within a single point, 14-13.

Campbell had six points in the frame, but Pearce scored six for the Seahawks.

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In the second, Waynflete built its lead, but still couldn’t shake Boothbay.

A free throw from Morley started the quarter and pulled the Seahawks even, but the Flyers erupted for nine straight points, as Campbell broke the tie with two foul shots to put his team ahead for good, Levy hit a jumper, Dahia drained a 3 and with 4:44 to go in the half, a putback from Saade made it 23-14.

“I know I’m not going to light the world on fire, that’s not the player I am, but I’ll come in and do whatever I can to help the team win,” said Saade. “If that means banging with big boys down low, getting boards and getting in guys’ heads, I’m more than happy to do that.”

Pearce answered with a 3 to end the run and junior Kaleb Ames got a floater to bounce in to pull Boothbay within four, but Saade scored on a putback and with 27 seconds to go, two Kieffer free throws made the score 27-19 Waynflete at the half.

Campbell had eight points and five rebounds to lead the Flyers in the first two quarters, while Pearce led all scorers with nine points.

Waynflete senior Diraige Dahia has a shot blocked by Boothbay’s Kaeden Davis.

In the third quarter, neither team could do much offensively and while Boothbay held Waynflete to five points, it wasn’t able to cut into the deficit.

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It took nearly three minutes for the first points of the second half to be scored, a putback by Dahia.

The Seahawks then crept within five, as senior Hunter Crocker banked home a shot and Morley made a 3 from the corner, but with 1:10 on the clock, junior Ilo Holdridge converted a three-point play and the Flyers were still up by eight, 32-24, heading to the fourth quarter.

There, Waynflete finally wrapped it up.

Johnson started the final stanza with a three-point play.

Rice countered with a long 3 for Boothbay, but Dahia scored on a floater, then, after a Seahawks’ technical foul, Dahia sank two free throws, Johnson tipped home a missed shot and with 3:22 remaining, Dahia’s jumper made it 43-27.

“We started moving around a little more on offense, cutting and passing,” Dahia said. “I just looked for openings and took advantage of that.”

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“I don’t know if it was anything I said,” said Waynflete coach Rich Henry. “Nothing much happened in the third quarter, so we talked about the difference between being passive and being patient. I wanted us to be patient, but not passive and we kind of woke up.”

Waynflete’s Chris Saade and Boothbay’s Kaeden Davis fight for a loose ball.

Ames made a leaner for the Seahawks and after Dahia drove for a layup, Crocker made a long 3, then sank one from beyond NBA range to cut the deficit to 45-35 with 2:10 to play.

That’s as close as Boothbay would get, however, as Levy made a short jumper, then Levy took a pass from Dahia and made a layup to stretch the lead to 14.

“(Boothbay) sat deep in their press because they knew our strength is working it down low,” Saade said. “Give them credit. They played well, but we were able to break them down.”

Crocker answered with another 3, but Dahia made two free throws, then Campbell sank a pair for Waynflete’s final points before Rice’s 3-pointer accounted for the final points of the Flyers’ 53-41 victory.

“This means so much, for guys like Diraige who have been here for four years,” Saade said. “It fires us up even more. We’re fired up to move on.”

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“Boothbay is a really well-coached team,” Dahia said. “They played hard the whole game. We knew they upset us last time, so we knew we had to play 100 percent the whole game. What won this game for us was our defense.”

“It feels good and I’m really proud of how the kids played, particularly defensively,” Henry added. “We knew that Boothbay’s a very talented offensive team and I thought we did a good job taking them out of the things they wanted to do. ”

Dahia led all scorers with 16 points. He also had five rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.

“I’ve said it before, Diraige is the heart and soul of the team,” Henry said. “He does a lot for us. His level of competitive fire is very high. He wanted this game a great deal as you could tell.”

Campbell had 10 points and seven rebounds, Levy added eight points, Johnson had seven (to go with eight rebounds), Saade four (to go with six rebounds) Burdick and Holdridge three apiece and Kieffer two.

Everyone who saw action contributed to the victory.

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“(The reserves) take a lot of pride in what we do,” Saade said. “We work hard to get the starters some rest.”

“We said we’d do this as a team because we’ve gotten here as a team,” Henry said. “We thought our bench would be an advantage for us and it was. Ilo and Chris, both of those guys, made instant contributions seconds after stepping on the floor. That showed they were mentally prepared.”

The Flyers controlled the board (a 33-15 advantage), only turned the ball over 10 times and made 13-of-19 free throws.

For Boothbay, Crocker had a team-high 11 points, as well as three steals. Pearce added nine points, Morley (six rebounds, three assists) and Rice each had six, Davis five and Ames four.

The Seahawks took just three free throws (making two) and only committed nine turnovers.

The top two

Waynflete and Winthrop (which beat No. 4 North Yarmouth Academy, 40-25, in its semifinal Thursday) have seemingly been on a collision course all winter and the clear and obvious top two teams in Class C South will finally meet with a regional championship at stake Saturday night.

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The teams don’t play in the regular season and had split two prior playoff encounters, with the Ramblers taking a 74-42 decision in the 2006 Western C quarterfinals and the Flyers prevailing, 43-41, in overtime, in the 2016 Class C South Final.

Waynflete will be playing what might feel like a road game (Winthrop is just a few miles down the road and its fans travel well), but the Flyers know how close they are to reaching the state final and are ready to come out and get the job done.

“We just have to do what we’ve done all season,” Dahia said. “Play well on offense and defense and take it to them the whole game.”

“We know (Winthrop’s) program pretty well,” Henry said. “They’ve invited us to come up and play them in the summer and around Thanksgiving. They’re a great team who will play hard and play smart, but we’ve gotten comfortable playing our style. We hang our hats on our defense.”

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

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