North Yarmouth Academy senior Te’Andre King absorbs a charge from Winthrop junior Noah Grube during the Ramblers’ 40-25 victory Thursday night. Andy Molloy / Kennebec Journal photos

BOX SCORE

Winthrop 40 North Yarmouth Academy 25

NYA- 2 5 9 9- 25
W- 11 10 5 14- 40

NYA- Hamblett 4-2-11, Sinibaldi 2-2-7, Bila 2-0-4, Bernier 1-0-2, King 0-1-1

W- Baird 6-6-21, Hachey 3-0-8, Grube 2-1-5, Steele 1-1-3, Perkins 1-0-2, Smith 0-1-1

3-pointers:
NYA (2) Hamblett, Sinibaldi 1
W (5) Baird 3, Hachey 2

Turnovers:
NYA- 29
W- 21

FTs
NYA: 5-7
W: 9-13

AUGUSTA—The defensive effort of North Yarmouth Academy’s boys’ basketball team was something to remember.

The Panthers’ offense, however?

Definitely something to forget.

In a Class C South semifinal at the Augusta Civic Center Thursday evening, fourth-ranked NYA held No. 1 Winthrop to its lowest points output of the season, but the Panthers simply couldn’t score enough to spring the upset.

NYA opened the game with 13 straight misses and only made one of its first 23 shots and that was enough to dig an insurmountable hole.

The Ramblers scored the game’s first nine points and enjoyed an 11-2 advantage after one quarter.

Winthrop, which didn’t exactly shoot lights-out itself. gradually grew that lead to 21-7 at the half, thanks to a solid defensive effort and a near double-double (nine points, 10 rebounds) from senior captain Ryan Baird.

In spite of their struggles, the Panthers got back in the game in the third quarter, as junior Chris Hamblett helped NYA draw within 10, 26-16, heading to the final period.

There, the Panthers made it an eight-point contest before Winthrop went on a 12-2 run to end all doubt and the Ramblers went on to a 40-25 victory.

Baird had 21 points and 15 rebounds and the Ramblers’ defense held NYA senior standout Te’Andre King to a single point as Winthrop improved to 19-1, set up a Class C South Final date with No. 2 Waynflete (19-1) Saturday at 8:30 p.m., at the Augusta Civic Center and in the process, ended NYA’s season at 15-5.

“What I told the boys in the locker room (after the game) was that if somebody told me we’d give up 40 points and we’d lose, I would have said, ‘You’re nuts,'” said Panthers’ coach Jason Knight. “Defensively, it was a great effort. Our defense has been a hallmark for us all year. It was right in our wheelhouse what we did, but that’s only half the game and we didn’t put the ball in the hole.”

Off target

NYA won 14 of 18 regular season games, losing only to Traip Academy, Waynflete, Old Orchard Beach and Richmond. The Panthers avenged their loss to the Bobcats in Monday’s quarterfinal round, as King went off for 34 points and 14 rebounds in a 54-37 victory (see sidebar, above, for links to previous stories).

Winthrop (along with No. 2 Waynflete) has been the class of Class C South throughout and only lost once in 18 regular season contests, at Spruce Mountain. The Ramblers ousted No. 9 Monmouth Academy, 53-24, in their quarterfinal Monday.

The teams don’t play in the regular season.

In the only prior playoff meeting, Winthrop prevailed, 52-29, in the 2017 semifinals.

Thursday, the Ramblers won again, as they generated just enough offense to advance.

Winthrop grabbed the early lead on a free throw from senior Jevin Smith and a 3-pointer from senior Cam Hachey.

Junior Noah Grube added an old-fashioned three-point play (leaner, foul, free throw) and Baird added his first points on two free throws before the Panthers finally broke through with 1:10 to go, when sophomore Bryce Bernier scored on a putback. Junior Ian Steele then hit a leaner to put the Ramblers up, 11-2, after one quarter.

NYA coach Jason Knight buries his head in his hands in frustration after one of the Panthers’ many missed shots Thursday night.

Things didn’t get much better for NYA in the second period either.

After two Baird free throws, King picked up his second foul. Grube sank a couple free throws before Baird drained a 3, then Baird hit two foul shots for a commanding 20-2 advantage.

With 2:23 to go before halftime, Hamblett made a 3-pointer to end Winthrop’s 11-0 run and a 6-minute, 53-second scoring drought.

Steele countered with a free throw and with 1:11 remaining in the half, King picked up his third foul.

In the final minute, Hamblett sank two free throws, but that only drew the Panthers within 21-7.

NYA actually got its offense going a bit in the third quarter and made things interesting.

After Hamblett drove for a layup, Baird countered with a bank shot.

Panthers’ sophomore Joaquim Bila made a layup, but Baird answered with a 3.

NYA then finished the period strong, as Hamblett made a layup after a steal, then junior Sam Sinibaldi made a 3-pointer to pull the Panthers within 26-16 with eight minutes to play.

Winthrop junior Gavin Perkins looks to pass as North Yarmouth Academy junior Sam Sinibaldi defends.

When Sinibaldi made a layup to start the final stanza, NYA entertained dreams of an improbable comeback, but those dreams were quickly squashed by Baird, who made a layup and scored on a putback.

Junior Gavin Perkins added a layup, Hachey knocked down a 3 and Baird did the same to make it 38-18 with 4 minutes to play, ending all doubt.

After King finally got in the scoring column with 3:12 to go, making the second of two free throws, Hamblett made a runner in the lane and Bila added a layup.

A Hachey layup accounted for the Ramblers’ final points before a pair of Sinibaldi free throws brought the curtain down on Winthrop’s 40-25 victory.

Baird nearly matched NYA’s scoring output himself, as he finished with 21 points. Baird also had 15 rebounds and four steals.

“Baird was a tough matchup and we got in foul trouble,” Knight said. “Te’Andre and Bryce had three fouls in the first half. When that happens, ‘T’ is reluctant to be as aggressive as he usually is.”

Hachey added eight points, Grube had five, Steele three, Perkins two and Smith one.

The Ramblers overcame 21 turnovers and hit 9-of-13 free throw attempts.

Winthrop and Waynflete don’t play in the regular season and have split two prior playoff meetings.

No matter how you slice it, Saturday’s contest should be a thriller.

“We probably put basketball back about 45 years (tonight) with our offensive play, but, hey, like I’ve said before, you always have one ugly game in the tournament and it’s always better to have that ugly game and to keep going than to say goodbye to your kids and I don’t want to say goodbye to these kids yet,” said Ramblers’ coach Todd MacArthur.

Plenty to be proud of

NYA was led offensively by Hamblett, who had 11 points. Sinibaldi added seven, Bila had four, Bernier two and King was held to one (to go with 13 rebounds, three steals, two assists and a blocked shot) in his swan song.

“We played our system,” MacArthur said. “We wanted to make sure that any time a shot went up that Jevin Smith boxed (King) out. It just came down to fundamentals. Sometimes you over-complicate things and you say, well, what do we have to do defensively to stop this kid, and I felt like we were the better team. We didn’t want to change too much of what we were doing. We just wanted to make sure we kept him off the glass because that’s his greatest attribute, and Jevin did a good job of limiting his strengths.” 

“I made my rounds in the locker room and spent a few extra minutes with (Te’Andre),” said Knight. “I told him he’s a big reason why our program has progressed and is a consistent competitive opponent. The growth of his game and leadership skills are a big reason. He’s going to be missed. Twenty (points) and 12 (rebounds) a night. You just don’t find that. More importantly, his leadership and his infectious personality will be tough to replace.”

The Panthers turned the ball over 29 times and made 5-of-7 foul shots.

Each team grabbed 33 rebounds.

“We had some good looks in the first half,” Knight said. “‘T’ had good looks like the ones he made Monday night and they just wouldn’t fall. We got a little flustered and didn’t pass the ball and a few guys tried to do it themselves. We battled and I’m very proud of our effort and that we didn’t quit.”

King is NYA’s lone senior, but he’ll be impossible to replace.

However, the Panthers do have a promising young nucleus and can’t be ruled out as a contender going forward.

“Chris has grown as a player and leader,” Knight said. “He’s been a tremendous part of our success this year and our sophomore group as a whole with some maturity and offseason work, we’ll expect to be competitive again next year.”

Sun Journal staff writer Randy Whitehouse contributed to this story

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

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