AUGUSTA—For 31-plus minutes, Falmouth’s boys’ basketball team flirted with near-perfect execution in the Class A state final against highly touted Brewer Friday evening at the Augusta Civic Center.

But the 32nd minute proved to be too much to handle and as a result, a near-seismic upset victory for the ages wasn’t to be.

The Navigators, who smothered the field in a run to their second straight regional crown, weren’t given much of a chance by most pundits and when the powerhouse Witches shot to a 15-5 lead after one quarter, getting Falmouth in foul trouble along the way, it appeared a long evening might be in store.

Guess again.

The Navigators turned up the defensive intensity, limited high-flying Brewer to just one field goal in the second period and pulled within three points, 21-18, at the break.

Falmouth then took an improbable lead in the third quarter and went up by as many as seven points before the Witches cut the deficit to 35-31 after the horn, when a technical foul allowed senior standout Brady Saunders to drain a pair of critical free throws.


The fourth period would prove to be an exhilarating battle to the finish, as Brewer rallied to tie the score, 36-36, on a Saunders hoop with 5:12 to go, but the Witches went cold again and two free throws from senior Paul Dilworth, who blossomed into a star once the calendar flipped to February, put the Navigators ahead, and two more Dilworth foul shots with 1:16 to play made it 40-36 and put Falmouth on the brink of what would have been its most unlikely and delicious title of all.

But Brewer saved its best for last, getting two free throws from senior Ryder Goodwin and after Falmouth senior Lucas Dilworth hit a foul shot to make it 41-38, it drew within a single point on a layup from Goodwin with 23 seconds remaining.

After Paul Dilworth missed two free throws to keep the door open, the Witches burst through and with just 3.9 seconds showing, an improbable hero, Cam Hughes, took a pass from senior Brock Flagg and made a layup for the lead.

The Navigators would get a final chance, a very good chance, to win it at the horn, but senior standout Judd Armstrong’s bid for immortality fell short and Brewer, some how, some way, rallied for a scintillating 42-41 victory.

The Witches won the first Gold Ball in program history, finished the year 21-1 and in the process, ended Falmouth’s unforgettable campaign at 17-5.

“I’m awfully proud of this group of boys,” said longtime Navigators coach Dave Halligan, who fell just shy of his seventh Gold Ball with the program. “The adversity we’ve been through, we weren’t even supposed to be in this game. We’re disappointed we lost, but we understand we gave our all and that’s all we asked.”


So very close

Falmouth had a powerhouse team a year ago, but lost in the state final to the Cooper Flagg-led Nokomis Warriors.

The Navigators weren’t quite as dominant this winter, but still wound up on the big stage (see sidebar for links to previous stories). Falmouth lost to Class AA state finalists Portland and South Portland, Class AA South powerhouse Thornton Academy and to Marshwood, but won its other 14 games and earned the top seed for the Class A South tournament.

Before the postseason began, the Navigators suffered what could have been a fatal blow when junior big man Chris Simonds broke his ankle in practice, but Falmouth closed ranks, tightened up on defense and completely frustrated Mt. Ararat. Westbrook and Marshwood en route to a repeat regional title.

Brewer, meanwhile, didn’t just stake its claim as the best team in Class A North this season, but in the entire state.

The Witches, who were the only team to beat Nokomis a year ago before losing to the Warriors in the regional final, went 17-1 in the regular season, with a 15-game win streak to start. A one-point loss to Skowhegan was the lone blemish, but Brewer would avenge that setback in the tournament.


As the top seed in Class A North, the Witches beat No. 8 Camden Hills (59-46) in the quarterfinals, then ran roughshod over fifth-ranked Cony (83-36) in the semifinal round before ousting No. 3 Skowhegan with ease in the regional final (70-33).

Falmouth and Brewer entered the game with no playoff history.

The Witches were seeking their first Gold Ball in three all-time appearances (see sidebar). The Navigators looked for their ninth title in a dozen appearances.

Ultimately, one point separated two extremely talented squads.

Brewer got the game’s first possession and scored four points, as Brock Flagg drove for a layup and was fouled and while he missed the and-one free throw, the Witches kept possession and Goodwin added a bank shot to set the tone.

Falmouth got on the board on a 3-pointer from Paul Dilworth and after Goodwin got a favorable roll on a hook shot, Lucas Dilworth drove for a layup to cut the deficit to 6-5, but the final nine points of the frame went to Brewer.


After Lucas Dilworth was called for his second foul, Goodwin got the run started with a free throw, then senior Evan Nadeau drained a long 3 and after senior Peyton Mitchell was whistled for his second foul, Flagg set up Hughes for a layup before Saunders buried a 3 to make it 15-5 after eight minutes.

The Navigators hadn’t faced a deficit like that all tournament, but they responded like champions in the second period.

Armstrong scored his first points on a spinner and after Flagg responded with a leaner in the lane (for what proved to be Brewer’s only field goal of the quarter), Lucas Dilworth drove for a layup.

Sophomore Stephen Youngs made two free throws with 4:51 to go in the half, but the next nine points went to Falmouth.

Armstrong started the surge by taking a pass from Paul Dilworth and slamming the ball home.

Lucas Dilworth then drove for a layup, Armstrong buried a 3 and Lucas Dilworth scored on a putback.


With 2:09 to go, Nadeau sank two free throws and while the Witches had a 21-18 lead at the break, the Navigators had the momentum.

Lucas Dilworth paced Falmouth with eight first half points and Armstrong added seven.

The Navigators then took the lead early in the second half, as Paul Dilworth drained a long 3, then Lucas Dilworth got a leaner to rattle home.

Goodwin tied the score with a layup, ending an 8 minute, 33 second field goal drought for Brewer, but with 5:05 left in the frame, two Mitchell free throws gave Falmouth the lead again.

Armstrong set up senior Eli Cowperthwaite for a layup and after Flagg drove for a layup, Paul Dilworth did the same, then Paul Dilworth hit a 3-ball from the corner.

Brewer tried to rally, as Flagg made two foul shots, then Saunders did the same, but with just 5 seconds to go, Lucas Dilworth scored on a putback while being fouled and he completed the old-fashioned three-point play to seemingly give Falmouth momentum going to the final stanza.


But after the horn, a technical foul was called on Cowperthwaite, giving Saunders an opportunity to shoot two free throws and he hit both to pull the Witches back within four, 35-31.

Brewer started the fourth quarter with a free throw from Flagg, but junior Henry Stowell countered with one of his own.

With 6:07 to play, Flagg scored on a putback, then with 5:12 left, a floater from Saunders tied the score, 36-36.

But the Witches wouldn’t score again for over four minutes.

At the other end, with 4:57 remaining, Paul Dilworth was fouled and sank both free throws.

After Nadeau missed a 3 which could have given Brewer the lead, the Navigators had multiple opportunities to extend the lead, but couldn’t do so.


After the Witches turned the ball over, then Hughes missed a shot and Saunders was well off-target with a 3-point attempt, Paul Dilworth went back to the free throw line with 1:16 on the clock and he made both shots to give Falmouth a two-possession lead, 40-36.

Twelve seconds later, Goodwin was fouled and he sank both shots to end a 4:08 drought.

With 50 seconds later, after Saunders nearly stole the ball, Lucas Dilworth was fouled. He missed his first attempt, then got his second to rattle in, but it remained a one-possession contest.

Out of a timeout, with 23.1 seconds showing, Goodwin fought his way to the basket for a layup and Brewer crept within a single point, 41-40.

Paul Dilworth was then fouled with 16 seconds to go and he missed his first attempt, then couldn’t convert the second either and Goodwin rebounded the ball.

Brewer raced into the front court and Flagg drew the defense and passed to a wide open Hughes, who laid the ball up and in with 3.9 seconds on the clock, giving the Witches their first lead since early in the third quarter, 42-41.


“I was sitting there for a few seconds,” said Hughes. “(Brock) gave it to me and I felt like I was staring at the backboard for 20 seconds. The rim looked tiny. I had to place it perfectly.

“Falmouth played keep-away. We fought for the ball and eventually it paid off. Coach (Ben Goodwin) screamed at us to play hard and play tough and that’s what we did. Falmouth’s a very physical team. We hadn’t played a team like that.”

Falmouth took a timeout and drew up a great game-ending play.

Mitchell inbounded the ball from under his basket and hit a cutting Armstrong near halfcourt.

With time rapidly winding down, Armstrong dribbled and raced to his right and neared the 3-point line before pulling up for a great look.

Which hit the rim and harmlessly fell to the ground.


“We had a chance at the end,” Halligan lamented. “A good look. We wanted the ball in (Judd’s) hands. We got the ball where we wanted to and got the shot we wanted.”

At 9:17 p.m., Brewer was finally able to exhale and exult as it managed to prevail, 42-41.

“It’s so amazing,” said Hughes, who was mobbed in the postgame by fans, teammates and media alike. “I told everyone I wasn’t going to cry, but I started sobbing. I was so excited. The emotions were pouring. We grinded. I’ve played with these guys since first grade. I can remember my first grade team at the YMCA, coached by one of our coaches. There’s a few of our guys who were on that team. I absolutely love these guys.”

“The kids kept grinding and believed we’d win and we finished it out,” said Ben Goodwin. “It’s just amazing for the town, for the kids. We had amazing support. To bring this Gold Ball back to Brewer for the first time is just amazing. You heard how loud it was when Cam made that basket. I didn’t know how long 2.7 seconds can be, but it seemed like a very long time. (Armstrong) got a decent look, but lucky for us, it hit the rim.

“They’re one of the best defensive teams we’ve played this season. They did an outstanding job on our guards. They made it tough for us to get good looks. We knew we’d have to grind it out defensively. We knew they’d take long possessions. We just dug in and played hard-nosed defense and took our opportunities when they came.”

The Witches were led by Flagg, who had 11 points, eight rebounds and two assists (including the one on the biggest basket in program history), and Ryder Goodwin (11 points, four boards).


Saunders added nine points, while Hughes finished with four points (including a basket that will ensure he never has to buy a meal in Brewer again), five rebounds and three assists. Nadeau had five points and Youngs finished with two.

“We’ve preached since I’ve been here we can’t be a Brady Saunders, one-man team,” Ben Goodwin said. “He probably didn’t have his best game tonight, but other kids stepped up and played and that’s what’s made us such a great team all year long.”

Brewer only managed two 3-pointers (both coming in the first period) and hit just 13-of-40 field goals, but made 14-of-19 free throws, had a 22-20 rebound advantage and only turned the ball over eight times.


Falmouth’s effort was paced by Paul Dilworth, who grew into a star before our very eyes over the past week-plus. Dilworth had 15 points.

Lucas Dilworth bowed out with 14 points and six rebounds.


Armstrong had seven points and four rebounds in his swan song.

Cowperthwaite (three blocked shots) and Mitchell both had two points, while Stowell finished with one.

The Navigators made half of their field goal attempts, but only converted 9-of-16 free throws, while turning the ball over 11 times.

“We went down by 10 and had eight fouls to none, but we didn’t quit,” Halligan said. “We think we can win every game.

“We got caught up in the atmosphere at the beginning. We started rushing things. We clawed back one possession at a time. We started to attack the pressure and good things happened for us. It was team defense. Peyton Mitchell (who guarded Saunders) has been a top defender all tournament-long. It’s his grit. We told him it’s not one-on-one, but one-on five. Our defense keeps us in games. Defense is hard work.”

Falmouth will be hard-hit by graduation, as Armstrong, Lucas Dilworth, Paul Dilworth and Mitchell, along with reserve Rocco Mancini, all depart, but never, ever write the Navigators off.

“We knew we’d go as far as the seniors would take us,” Halligan said. “We have two football players, a golfer, a baseball player and Judd. The guys bought in and brought grit. This group overachieved. If you told us at the beginning we’d have to play without Chris, without Judd, we could have made excuses. No one made excuses. The seniors were phenomenal. Brewer’s one of the best teams in the state. They appreciated the game because they didn’t blow us out by 30. They knew they beat a good team.

“We’re glad the younger players experienced it and hopefully we’ll be back.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at

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