Waynflete senior Mike Veroneau is defended by NYA junior Bryce Bernier during the Flyers’ 58-40 victory Wednesday.

BOX SCORE

Waynflete 58 North Yarmouth Academy 40

NYA- 4 9 18 9- 40
W- 11 14 6 27-58

NYA- Hamblett 7-4-18, Welch 4-0-11, E. Oney 4-1-9, Poulin 1-0-2

W- Saade 5-3-13, Johnson 5-1-12, Kieffer 4-1-9, Hart 2-3-7, Kirby 3-0-7, Veroneau 3-0-6, Adey 2-0-4

3-pointers:
NYA (3) Welch 3
W (2) Johnson, Kirby 1

Turnovers:
NYA- 23
W- 17

FTs
NYA: 5-7
W: 8-15

PORTLAND—Wednesday evening was a night to celebrate the seniors on Waynflete’s boys’ basketball team, but it wasn’t just the Flyers’ veterans who came through against visiting North Yarmouth Academy.

After letting a big lead slip away, Waynflete turned to veterans like seniors Jared Johnson, Aidan Kieffer and Chris Saade down the stretch and they were bolstered by some clutch shots from freshman Nico Kirby in a staggering closing stretch.

The Flyers went ahead, 6-0, and 8-1 in the early going and held an 11-4 lead after one quarter, then went up by as many as 15 points before holding a 25-13 advantage at the break, as they forced 13 turnovers.

NYA then came to life in the third period, as senior Chris Hamblett took over the game, scoring nine points and bringing the Panthers all the way back to a 31-31 tie on an old-fashioned three-point play.

But Waynflete would dominate the fourth quarter, nearly matching its points total in the first 24 minutes, taking the lead for good on a layup from Kieffer, getting seven points in the frame from Kirby and closing on a 21-4 run to prevail, 58-40.

The Flyers were led by Saade’s 13 points, also got a dozen points from Johnson, nine from Kieffer and seven from Kirby as they improved to 6-2 on the season, dropping NYA to 5-3 in the process.

“I thought it was poetic justice to see two seniors and a freshman getting interviewed after the game,” said longtime Waynflete coach Rich Henry.

Last time in 2021

NYA and Waynflete each reached the Class C South semifinals last winter and would have been competitive again if this season had been a normal year, with a postseason.

Even in an abbreviated campaign, the Flyers and Panthers have enjoyed some memorable moments.

NYA opened with wins over visiting Sacopee Valley (59-42), host Richmond (54-32) and host Sacopee Valley (63-46). The Panthers then lost at home to Waynflete (53-37) and at Morse (62-36), before bouncing back to knock off visiting Richmond (47-31) and host St. Dom’s (46-38).

Waynflete started by splitting a pair of games against Cape Elizabeth (winning at home, 51-46, and losing on the road, 44-40), then the Flyers defeated Westbrook in a pair of nailbiters (43-42 at home and 46-42 away), defeated host NYA (53-37) and downed visiting Berwick Academy (48-43) before dropping a 30-25 home decision to Fryeburg Academy Tuesday.

In the teams’ first meeting this season, as the Flyers stayed unbeaten against the Panthers in Yarmouth since 2008, as Saade scored 16 points for Waynflete, while Hamblett paced NYA with 17 points.

Prior to the start of Wednesday’s game, Waynflete senior Mike Veroneau is honored with his parents, Vin and Nancy Veroneau. The Veroneaus have been an integral part of the Flyers program for the past two decades and their grandson, Niall, might become the next member of the family to suit up in a dozen years or so.

Thursday, prior to the start of the game, several of the Flyers’ seniors and their parents were honored. Included in that group were Mike Veroneau and his parents, Vin and Nancy, who have sent eight players through the program over the past two decades, including 1,000-point scorer Margaret Veroneau and 2013 Miss Maine Basketball Martha Veroneau.

Once the game started, the Panthers looked to beat the Flyers for the first time since Jan. 17, 2017 (41-37) and their never-say-die attitude made things interesting for awhile, but Waynflete got the job done when it mattered and made it 23 victories in the teams’ last 24 meetings.

Saade was undeniable early, scoring on consecutive putbacks to put the Flyers on top. Kieffer then fed Veroneau for a layup on the fastbreak for a 6-0 lead.

Three minutes in, Hamblett made a free throw to get NYA on the board, but a pair of free throws from junior Henry Hart made it 8-1 Waynflete.

Junior Elliott Oney made a pair of free throws for the Panthers, but Hart hit one for the Flyers and Saade added a pair before Oney countered with another to make it 11-4 Flyers after eight minutes.

After Johnson opened the second period with a free throw, NYA made its first field goal, a jumper from Oney.

The next nine points went to Waynflete, which appeared primed to pull away.

A layup from sophomore Matt Adey got the run started. After Adey scored on a putback, Johnson added a 3, then Veroneau scored on a putback to make it 21-6 with 4:10 to go in the first half.

The Panthers countered with a 3-pointer from junior Logan Welch and after Veroneau set up Kieffer for a layup, Hamblett drove for a layup and after a Hamblett steal, he fed Welch for a layup to cut the deficit to 10.

A Hart layup after a steal then put the Flyers up by a dozen, 25-13, at halftime.

In the first half, Saade had six points and eight rebounds and Waynflete forced 13 turnovers, but the Flyers weren’t in the clear just yet.

That’s because Hamblett would put on a third period show.

Hamblett opened the second half with a putback.

Saade then scored on a puback before setting up Veroneau for a layup and a 29-15 lead, but the Panthers would close the quarter on a 16-2 surge.

Hamblett got the comeback started with a putback. He then set up junior Bryce Poulin for a layup. After taking a pass from Poulin and making a layup, Hamblett converted a pretty reverse layup to make it a six-point contest, 29-23.

Johnson momentarily restored order with a leaner, but Welch sank a 3, Hamblett made two free throws and with 56.3 seconds to go in the third, Hamblett, stole the ball, raced in for a layup while being fouled, then added the and-one free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play to tie it up, 31-31, a score which held into the fourth period.

“Chris is a dynamic player,” said NYA coach Jason Knight. “He’s a great athlete. He’s a great finisher. We needed him to step up. He’s been the guy who has found a way to make it happen. I’m proud of his effort tonight.”

“Chris Hamblett is such a pivotal player for them and he got going,” Henry said. “We were tentative and you saw what happens. I wanted to play faster, but we got out of control fast.”

In the final stanza, Waynflete reawakened and put the game away.

Fifty-eight seconds into the fourth, Saade set up Kieffer for a layup and the Flyers were on top to stay.

“What I liked was that the senior leadership really took over in the huddle (after the third quarter),” Henry said. “Chris, in particular. was really vocal and we were able to put some things together.”

Saade then fed Johnson for a layup and after Welch made a 3-pointer, Kirby first made his presence felt by making a leaner in the lane with 5:44 to go to.

Thirty seconds later, Hamblett made a nice stop-and-start move en route to a layup and the Panthers were within a single point, but they’d never get over the hump.

Off an inbounds set, Hart passed to Johnson for a layup, then at the other end, with Welch open and calling for the ball for a potential game-tying 3, Hart stole the pass and drove in for a layup to make it 41-36.

Kirby then scored on a putback and with 3:36 to go, Kirby sank a 3 and just like that, Waynflete was back on top by 10, 46-36.

“Being on varsity as a freshman is a big thing,” said Kirby. “I got focused and was able to hit those shots. I made one shot and I got confidence. I look up to the upperclassmen in school and in basketball. I like how they work me in.”

“(Nico’s) going to be a problem,” Saade said. “He comes to play hard and that’s what you look for from young guys. The freshmen work us hard in practice. They have a bright future.”

“Nico’s been a great athlete in middle school and I knew he’d be a big contributor this year and he’s stepped up,” Henry added. “You can see the inherent confidence he has in his game.”

A runner from Oney ended the 9-0 Flyers’ run, but Saade converted a three-point play, Kieffer made a layup, Johnson scored on a putback, Saade converted a leaner and a three-point play from Kieffer accounted for Waynflete’s final points.

Oney hit a jumper with 38 seconds left and that was it for scoring as the Flyers prevailed, 58-40.

“The pressure we put on them in the fourth quarter helped us get energy,” Johnson said. “They made a run, but we shut it down. Coach just asked us what we were doing and that was enough for us to rally. We beat them before, so we knew what we could do against them.”

“NYA came to play and we lost focus for a few minutes,” Saade said. “They took advantage and we came back, but we bounced back well and hit some shots.”

Saade had a team-high 13 points, as well as 11 rebounds and four assists.

“Having all the seniors on the court together tonight was great,” Saade said. “I’ve played with these guys for four years, so that was awesome. I think we’ve done the best we could with what we have. I’m able to play every day with my friends and I love it. Times are tough, but we have basketball, so that makes it so much better. I miss the crowd and the hype in games like this.”

Johnson also had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Kieffer added nine points, Hart (five steals) tallied seven points and Kirby did as well. Veroneau (seven rebounds) scored six points and Adey finished with four.

The Flyers had a 31-28 rebounding advantage, overcame 17 turnovers and made 8-of-15 free throws.

NYA was paced by Hamblett’s 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Welch also finished in double figures with 11 points, Oney (six boards) had nine and Poulin added two (to go with seven rebounds).

The Panthers made 5-of-7 free throws, but turned the ball over 23 times.

“It’s nice we dug deep,” Knight said. “The boys don’t quit. As long as you don’t give up, good things will happen. It was a fantastic basketball game, especially that third quarter. A couple mental mistakes and some key turnovers in the fourth quarter gave them some room. We’re a work in progress, but we battle. We love the Waynflete battles. In this crazy season, to have the normalcy of this rivalry is great.”

A season to remember

NYA finishes at home versus St. Dom’s Friday.

“I’m very pleased with how it’s gone this season,” Knight said. “It’s the largest group I’ve had in my tenure. We have some promising players for next year. We’re using this opportunity to try some things and see where the pieces fit. Like anybody else, we’re just happy to be playing. Wins are nice, but being on the court and socializing is the most meaningful part.

“I’m hoping we have a normal summer. We’re not used to playing into March. Summer’s going to be here before we know it.”

Waynflete will visit Fryeburg Academy Friday, then closes with two games against Old Orchard Beach, March 11 on the road and March 13 at home.

“I look forward to a normal season next year,” Kirby said. “I do think we have a bright future.”

“We want to win out,” Johnson said. “We have a chance to get back at Fryeburg after taking a tough loss to them. Hopefully, we can bounce back.”

“I always wonder how am I going to deal with losing a group of seniors,” Henry added. “I thought that last year, I think that this year. They’ve been great. I can’t overstate the seniors’ resilience and flexibility. We had three days of practice, then we had to pause, then we came back and had games right away. We’re still playing in March. There’s no tournament. It’s hard to wrap your head around. Particularly for coaches because we like structure.

“We go into every game hoping we’ll play well and win. I want the kids to have great memories of this year and build something for next year so the underclassmen see what it’s all about. I’d love to have a normal summer, but if we can start in November, that’s my fervent hope.”

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

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